How did we discover Charles was addicted to heroin?

You’d think after 4.5 years in a family drug support group I’d have zoned right in on the fact that Charles was addicted to heroin.

So if we didn’t figure it out, how did we find out?

Charles stole silver, the sterling I inherited from my family. And he stole Randy’s silver coins from his grandfather which were in the same box.

Addicts steal to support their habit. And it’s not uncommon for an addict to steal from his/her family.

I remember so vividly the day we found out about the missing silver. And no it was not thanksgiving. It was in April 2015. Charles had left to go walk one of the dogs he takes care of.

The police came by and showed me pictures of silverware that had been pawned. And of Charles. Apparently pawn shops are obligated to report if a certain amount is pawned over a certain period of time. When you pawn, you have to fill out paperwork and they take a picture.

Charles was making frequent pawn shop visits.

While they are sitting there telling me this, I am fighting for a calm exterior self. I am really imploding inside and I feel genuine panic.

At this point I am unaware that he is addicted to heroin. It does occur to me that it’s drug related. But my mind is going all over the place and I can’t park my brain long enough to think straight.

What do I do?

We had not had a good experience with the Chesterfield County Police in February 2015.  An officer had roughed Charles up and done some roadside torture while he was handcuffed then they sent him to jail on a rolling stop. Charles had reported the incident and they had been stalking him since–coming up to him at convenience stores and making threats.

Charles’ anxiety and depression had spiraled out of control since then and we’d been trying to help him find stability. I feel sure his heroin use escalated in February after he was pulled over.

So to say I had no trust in the department was an understatement.

They really seemed like nice guys and I have no ill will towards either of them then or now. One of the policemen tells me that oftentimes moms don’t know the silver is gone until the holidays.

I remain seated. I do not get up to check and see. That sense of mistrust rising like bile in my throat.

Then I told them both that the silver was Charles’ inheritance. Not untrue since it would go to him eventually but not entirely honest since it’s mine now.

I told the police that he sold his own inheritance and I also said I wasn’t happy about it but it was his to sell. So they left.

To this day, I have no idea what they would have done if I had told them he had stolen the silver. Do they then arrest him? I don’t know but I knew the judicial system always complicated everything. At this time they weren’t treating mental illness or addiction in jail either.

I go check out the silver box after they leave. The silver is almost all gone except for about 4 forks and a few luncheon knives. Thousands of dollars worth had been pawned. I take a deep breath and take a moment to calm myself.

Charles comes home and I call him upstairs.

I don’t get angry but I ask him about the silver and he ends up confessing.

He cries uncontrollably. I mean blubbering and it’s not an act. As he is crying his nose is running like crazy. Later on, I would find out that this much nose running is typical of an opiate addiction. But I didn’t know that at the time.

I do tell him that I know a drug habit is involved

He denies it and I just tell him I am worried about him. He makes up some bogus story. I don’t accuse. The real story will come out.  I tell him calmly that he has to submit to a drug test.

When he finally takes the test (I had some at home), he watches over me as I peel back the label. Then he starts planting doubt saying that it’s an out of date test. I almost believe him because 8 out of the 12 substances are positive. That seems crazy. I am confused.

He’s gazing at it, too and much later on I realize he doesn’t know all the crap they put in the illegal drugs he is using and he is curious himself. He probably did some pills he couldn’t identify as well.

He says, “I need help.” But at this point he’s still vague on what he needs help with. I hug him and tell him we’ll get back with him on what’s next. I tell him I am upset, I feel violated but I love him. I promise him we are going to help.

We tell him he is going to go to Atlanta to stay with his grandparents for a week until we can figure out the next move. This is where he eventually goes into withdrawal and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Had we known he was addicted to a drug, we’d have never sent him.

Later on, he tells me what he hears in his head before he steals

“Mom, it’s like I know it’s wrong and I don’t want to do it. It makes me feel terrible. But I start out telling myself I’m not taking any more silver. But I sit there and this voice keeps telling me that it’s OK. It tells me, ‘They hardly ever use it. They don’t care. They’d give it to you if they knew you needed it.’ “

He tells me this voice is so convincing and makes him do things he is so ashamed of. As his body craves the drug more, the voice justifies the stealing. He tells me he tries fighting it but it always wins. It makes him feel like he is possessed by the devil. He feels shame but is disappears with a craving so strong it scares him. He hates the control it has over him. But he needs it.

He tells me he hates himself for stealing the silver. He hates himself every time he has done it.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

4 thoughts on “How did we discover Charles was addicted to heroin?”

  1. Some of these are really hard to read. Your willingness to be so transparent is such bravery. Lots of love and healing for you friend. 💙

  2. I don’t remember when we realized Daniel was a heroin addict. I knew he was using drugs but heroin never crossed my mind. Even with all of the stealing. I think we just couldn’t or wouldn’t face it. How could this child that we raised have become a drug addict that steals from his family. It seems like a bad dream, one that we will wake up from, relieved.
    Thank you again for sharing your heart. I somehow helps to ease the pain of our loss as well.

    1. Your mind just can’t believe that your child would end up a heroin addict. It’s just not in our DNA to think it.

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