We have sketchy information on the last two weeks of Charles’ life.
And at one point he insists he’s not doing drugs and wants to come home. But we have had multiple drug tests that say otherwise.
We tell him he has rent paid up at the sober house and he needs to stay there first. All he has to do is three days in detox and then he can go back to the sober house. That’s the path to home.
If he’s not doing drugs, it will be a piece of cake. And we are not entirely certain of his daily habit at this point. We know nothing.
I know by now we can let him do drugs in his room and put us all at risk and drag us into the mayhem.
Or let him be uncomfortable and hopefully force his hand to ask for help.
So far nothing we have done has gotten him off this path of self destruction.
We make it clear to Charles we will support recovery but not a habit. I can’t take more weird acting strangers in the house. I can’t have drugs delivered to my driveway anymore. I can’t have cooking at 2am with the stove burners left on and alarms going off from a smoke-filled kitchen.
On June 4th, he calls his Dad who is out of town. He makes the heartbreaking statement, “Dad, I have nothing.”
He asks for money. We know what it will be spent on and hold our boundary hoping he’ll come around.
He calls me next. He does not ask me for money. I feel utterly defeated and can’t understand the conversation. He doesn’t reveal much.
I hear despair and I know his Dad thought he’d be able to pick him up over the weekend and get him help.
He becomes so argumentative, I tell him I love him and I hang up.
I wait because I know he’ll call back.
He calls back and we try again for another hour. I don’t feel any closer to figuring out what’s going on. He goes from argumentative to manipulative and then childlike.
And then after that emotional storm of a conversation, he asks a vague question about rehab and I gently try to nudge him in this direction. But I don’t think I say the right thing because I don’t know where he is, what’s going on.
He gets angry when I mention heroin. He says he’s never touched the stuff and goes on a long rant.
So one call that’s an hour. Another one that’s an hour.
I am frustrated and emotionally tied in a knot. He starts screaming at me again.
So I tell him I love him and I hang up. And I don’t pick up the next call.
Traditionally when he was out of sorts about something, he’d call or text me incessantly, basically blowing up my phone. Usually, I’d have to let him cool off. So I silence my phone for a break to breathe and think while he calls over and over.
I feel like bullets are coming at me. I just can’t sort it all out.
The last text
Then I see a text come through from Charles.
When I have looked back before at this last text, I always saw the isolated ones on 6/4 and I would wonder why I didn’t react like a normal mother to an obvious cry for help.
This time, this week, I looked at the ones that came before to see it in context.
Miles of rants, denial and manipulation– a hallmark of the illness of addiction and mental illness. The ones that came before reminded me how conversations often went.
Of all the things I’ve written, this is the very hardest thing I have ever posted. It starts with his message about why he left the sober house.
What’s on 6/4 is the text he sent after the phone conversation we had. The blue is mine.
For many of you, it’s so obvious.
To me after, it was so obvious.
And I sound so dismissive when in fact, I’m just at a loss at what to say. I am also scared, overwhelmed and decision impaired.
Since his death, when other parents have called me who have been in the same situation, I see they are just as emotionally wrung out and equally as confused at this point. At least now I can be a voice of reason and say, “Yes, help!”
I realize now just how hard it is to go from tough love to rescue mode in an instant. I know now that “tough love” has no real definition and the uneducated are left to figure out what it means. It’s a big myth.
The forgiveness part
To move forward, I must forgive myself–to remember that message in the context of all the crazy manipulation and mayhem known as mental illness and addiction.
I have to remember that he always adamantly denied suffering from depression and I did not know he was in a deep depressive state. I didn’t know he was in withdrawal. I had no clue he was suicidal, that he was alone or much of anything else.
I have to stop torturing myself for hesitating to choose door A when I should have chosen door B in an instant. Because I had no idea that hesitation would cost me the life of my child. That he would take his life that night. I also need to understand that I did do some things right although my magnifying glass has been on that which I did wrong.
After the call, I thought I had time to call, ask advice and weigh options. I did not. I did call a support group member but that we didn’t dole out advice to each other.
I also know if I had saved him that day, Charles was not probably not going to make it through something as harsh as an opiate addiction. He was simply too fragile. I had felt it in my gut. He never had a lot of inner resources when it came to helping himself.
An opiate addiction is the most difficult kind of addiction, with multiple relapses and 7+ rehabs or more. He had adamantly refused treatment for his depression, which would have made sobriety that much more unobtainable. That you can hear in his song, I Don’t Want to Be a Patient.
I have to accept that 20 years of Charles was a gift. That this has to be enough. That he was not “mine” in the first place. That I had to give him back earlier than I wanted.
And I have to know that I will use this as a turning point in my own life to do something that will inspire positive change.