Regrets and my son Billy’s relapse

by Jenny Derr

Jordan, Jenny and Billy

October is a hard month, and the past couple of weeks even more so. Three years ago, Billy relapsed after seventeen months of sobriety.  I was in my Wednesday Nar-Anon meeting when I got the call.

I remember vividly sitting in that room in shock and disbelief

We thought we were done with the craziness of active addiction. I just couldn’t believe it. I remember walking in the house, my husband wasn’t home, Jordan was still in school at the University of South Carolina, and Harrison was home with me.

Billy was in the hospital in Boston, in ICU. Because he was over 21, I really couldn’t get anyone to speak to me. His good friends Evan and Matty were with him, as was Victoria, his girlfriend. They kept me filled in as they could, he was in a medically induced coma and was intubated and stable.

We couldn’t get a flight out of Richmond until early the next morning. When we flew into Boston we were met at the airport by Victoria and Evan, I remembered just standing there hugging Victoria so tightly while sobbing. I just didn’t expect this, it wasn’t on my radar at all. Billy was working at a Sober House, a job he loved. What had happened? The thoughts swirling around my head were many and so random and came at me from all directions.

When we arrived at the hospital, I again just wept

My beautiful boy was laying there with tubes coming out of everywhere, machines beeping and purring, the ICU is never a quiet place. The nurses told us what they could of what had happened, with Billy’s friends filling in the rest as they were learning it.

None of them knew he had relapsed and all were as shocked as we were. He was found in the bathroom at the sober house, blue and barely breathing. He was administered two rounds of NARCAN and when he came to he was swinging and had to be physically restrained by the EMT’s and police.

They began to reduce the medication to bring him back to consciousness and once he was awake they explained where he was and what was going to be done to extubate him (give him a tube). If you could have seen his eyes, he was at first terrified and then I think the realization of where he was and why hit him.

He was extubated and I was holding his hand and rubbing his forehead, I just kept saying “we’re here, you’re ok…” He began to cry, I said, “Do you want to say the serenity prayer together?” And we did. It was heartbreaking.

I think October is so hard because I now know it was the beginning of the end.

Even though we got Billy back into treatment after this, it wasn’t long enough or the right place. I spent hours on the phone the day he was released trying to find a place that could take him right then. I was also adamant that he go back on Vivitrol, so also needed a place that believed medically assisted treatment ( MAT) was a viable path to recovery, along with a 12 step program.

One of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t send him back to Caron in Pennsylvania, to a program for relapse specifically. When I go down the path of recriminations and I should have done this or that I have to literally say, “STOP.”

Billy did die of overdose later. And I know giving myself grief that I took the wrong step won’t bring him back and will only make me crazy.

I miss Billy every day. I am trying to continue to raise awareness and honor his life.

To Thine Own Self be True

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AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

9 thoughts on “Regrets and my son Billy’s relapse”

  1. Jenny,

    Thank you for your story. God is good…I just got off the phone with my soon who is an addict. The first thing on my Facebook page was your story.

    My son is in treatment (11 days so far) in Florida, and he is so angry. He stole my credit card information and bought a flight home, and arranged for an UBER pickup….all on my credit card.

    He is so angry with me that I won’t help him home. He is so angry that I can’t see that he is better. There is nothing more in this world I would love than for him to be healthy and home. He is none of the above.

    Your story gave me hope that my strength to say “No” to him will help him in recovery. I am so sorry for your loss, but know that Billy’s story has helped this Mom stay strong for her, John.

    Heartbroken in Richmond,

    1. Libby,

      Thank you so so much for sharing this! I think hearing from other families helps me know our story matters. 11 days is not well. He is exactly where he needs to be! There is a great group that meets on Wednesday nights in RVA. You can send me a private message on FB if you’d like to connect. Stay strong and take care of you too. 💙

  2. You’re amazing! You are making a difference for many families. It is difficult to show pain & vulnerability and I admire you & your family so much for sharing your store! Sending you & yours much love during this month & your continued journey of healing & helping others! 💙 Judy

  3. Jenny, so many of us have been touched by someone suffering through this addiction. I admire all of the work you are doing to create more awareness of this disease and honoring Billy.

  4. I love you, Jenny. I love your heart, the way you fought for Billy. I hold your heart in mine. When you go down that road of “should have” done this or that, please stop.
    On my side, I often think now, knowing you, “if only” I had had someone advocating for me like you or loving me so deeply. I, too, have to say STOP.
    I love you and my heart breaks for your grief and your regrets. I have no words other than i hold you in my heart, always. 💙

    1. Ro,

      My heart hurts for you and all you endured and continue to fight through every day. I have huge love and admiration for you every day. Keep choosing Joy! 💙

  5. Beautifully written Jenny. October is hard for me too. Whitten’s birthday.
    Look at it this way – when and if we were given signs and information, we did everything we knew to do. We were not trained professionals. We tried so hard to fix things. We are good moms.
    Love you.

    1. Thank you friend. I know that this is a hard month for you too, hoping all the many acts of kindness carried out in Whitten’s memory brought some comfort. Love you 💙

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