Trigger warning: Strong emotional content and suicide method mentioned.
Charles wasn’t living at home at the time of his suicide.
Not because we had thrown him out or asked to leave the house due to his drug use. He had been stealing from us (almost all my silver was gone) and we sent him to his grandparents so we could figure out our next step. It was their idea and it sounded like a good one.
So we put him on a plane to see his grandparents in Georgia. (We live in Virginia)
We thought the stealing had to do with drugs but we did not know or suspect a heroin addiction since he’d not been addicted before. And neither did his grandparents. He’d had suffered from depression, anxiety, a rare sleep disorder and ADHD.
On April 26th, his birthday, he calls me from his grandparents in Georgia and confesses that he is addicted to oxycontin (he fibbed and was actually addicted to heroin but he was so ashamed). Charles also says he’s been taking only hydrocodone and “stepped down” from his opiate addiction. He stated that he was fine.
I’m confused. No way it’s that easy. Right? But at this time there is not a ton of information on withdrawal and we are confused and new to this illness.
Soon after that conversation, he asks his grandfather if he can borrow his bike. It’s pretty early in the day. They tell him they’ll take him out on for his birthday dinner later that day. They are not in a populated part of Georgia and it’s pretty rural.
He doesn’t return for hours and hours.
He doesn’t answer his phone.
And they get worried.
We get worried. Where is he for 5 hours?
We still don’t know exactly what happened but we do know the bike went missing and he called his grandfather to pick him up well past dinner time. Apparently (we think) he went to go find drugs but was unsuccessful. Was the bike stolen? Did he sell it?
Meanwhile Charles, his grandparents and Aunt Janice get in the car to go to their condo in Florida the next day. He sleeps most of the way. Randy and I are painting rooms since our house is supposed to go on the market in a few days.
We’re not sure you can just get over opiate withdrawal so easily
Or could he? He doesn’t seem to be suffering any symptoms. We don’t know when the last time he had the drug either. All of this is confusing. Maybe he wasn’t addicted but thought he was?
You think we were confused? Imagine how his grandparents felt.
He ends up getting really sick and they take him to Patient First and they tell his Grandpa Richard he has to go to the Emergency Room. They try and hide behind HIPAA and avoid telling Grandpa Richard why they can’t treat him. But they’ve not met Grandpa Richard’s temper stream of well-chosen expletives and when they do, they ‘fess up and tell him his grandson is going through withdrawal.
At the ER, Charles lays his head on his grandmother’s shoulder. He is seen at the ER and then they end up recommending detox. In Florida.
Oh my God he is all the way in Florida. We feel terribly guilty. Grandparents shouldn’t be having to deal with all this.
After detox in Florida, Grandpa brings him back to Georgia and Randy drives to Georgia to pick him up and take him to Galax in the western part of Virginia for rehab. In approaching the center, Charles has a fit– he screams and cries, slams the dashboard and insists he is perfectly fine and wants to go home.
He was not a perfect patient
Handling a withdrawing opiate addict is way out of our league.
For 8 hours, Charles refused to go in. Randy stands in the driveway of the center trying to get him to go in and trying not to feel completely deflated.
Randy had to play hard ball and tell him that he was leaving and Charles could either go in the center and get help, or take his chances around the area. Other than the day of Charles’ death, no other day was as emotionally draining for my husband. He was wrung out when he came home that night and I was sorry he had to do it alone.
So Charles did go inside finally. Was it because of the young man who came out and talked to him? Or was it that the withdrawal pains starting hitting him again and he wanted the suboxone? I’m not sure.
Every single phone call from rehab the first two weeks was awful. He’d call and scream at me how he didn’t need to be there. They would extract the phone from him. I cried after every phone call, hope draining away. This illness is so difficult. Opiates the absolute worst. I could see he was not really ready. But I felt we had no other choice. What else would we do?
Insurance released him after 3 weeks
Of course. Cured! Time to go home!
I was so sorry because it was the last week that he started to like it, get into it and share his rap lyrics with the other patients. It was here that he loaned out one of his Family School rap lyric diaries, never to get it back. (Breaks my heart.)
According to the rehab center, he was a model patient. I know he talked two kids into going to the recovery meetings when all they wanted to do was hide under the covers. He gets an award from the center as well as a send off party.
Only Charles would have become so popular so fast. Only Charles could touch so many so quickly. I knew he needed more time.
He needed months. I was not fooled
While he’s in detox and rehab, I am dying. I am so scared that he is going to die. I tell very few people what’s going on.
No one asks anyway. Few ask about Charles at this point. When I talk about him, people change the subject.
I do tell my friend Karen I am not sure he will make it–a foreboding feeling washes over me. She listens without judgement. Charles is so fragile and heroin such an evil epidemic.
Meanwhile the stress of getting a home on the market is an emotional journey all its own. This should free up some funds. We are out of money. Mental illness and addiction are scandalously expensive even when insurance covers something. Will the house sell in time to help him if he needs it?
After rehab, we decide we will pay for a room for Charles in a sober house
This whole heroin addiction is beyond us and peer support is known to be more effective.
Randy goes to pick him up from rehab in the western part of the state. He had intended to take him straight to the sober house but realizes he has forgotten his checkbook to pay the downpayment for rent.
So he and Charles come in the door and my boy looks fantastic. He’s happy and lively. (I am so sorry I didn’t take a picture)
He is telling jokes again and I realize how subtle and slow the changes had been while he had become addicted. Slowly my son had been taken over by the vile drug known as heroin and now my child was back. My underlying feeling of panic washes away.
Later I would refer to him on this day as “Saturday Charles.” I can still see him now, sitting in front of me, telling me about all his future plans.
Randy and I can’t help but feel good. He looks good. His hug such welcome relief from the stress. There had been so little joy in the last several months we are starved for this. Charles tells me he’s going to leave opiates forever. Never again is he getting messed up with that stuff.
I don’t think it’s going to be easy for him. That I do know
Some hope has been restored and he’s not angry.
Randy tells Charles it’s time to go and he says he needs to get some shirts upstairs. This is important for a later story.
Before they leave to get checked in to his new temporary residence, Charles says he wants us all to go to lunch the next day together and we make plans to do just that. Charles loved his family so much.
Charles arrives at the sober house and listens to all the rules and he and Randy go to the grocery store to get food. Randy then tells Charles we will be by the next day to pick him up for lunch and leaves.
He looked so good. Sounded so good.
Who knew just two weeks later he would die by hanging.