In the summer of 2014, before Charles’ suicide, Charles wanted to go visit Nanny and Grandbobby, my parents in Fayetteville, NC. He loved family. But now I have to wonder if he was going to see them just in case he didn’t see them again.
So he took the train in October 2014, about eight months before his death by suicide. My mom woke up one night he was there and she was concerned because he was not in the house. It was around 3am.
Charles had had a rare sleep disorder since the age of two called DSPS, delayed sleep phase syndrome so sleep was always a challenge and he often prowled at night. And leaving the house at night was not a rare event. After all, when he’d been younger we bought an alarm system, not to keep criminals out but to keep him inside. Because we slept at night.
You can’t force someone to sleep. And he desperately wanted to be like everyone else and fall asleep. But for his entire life, this had been a struggle. In first grade, he’d be begging us to read him a story at 11:30pm. At this point, Charles is nineteen so far beyond the age when we had much control over his nighttime activity.
The morning after that visit, it was time for him to board the train home from Fayetteville, NC back to Richmond, VA and my mom called and was concerned because he was in the bathroom throwing up. She told me that he told her he’d be fine by noon and we both wondered about this.
How would he know that?
She called after he boarded and said that he was no longer sick and again, we thought that was odd. How did he get rid of a stomach bug that fast? Then my mom said something else. “Do you think he went out looking for drugs at 3am? He wasn’t in the house.” His past substance misuse had been why we’d sent him to residential treatment so it wasn’t a foreign concept. But I thought he was only using marijuana at this point. Not that I was happy about that but I never suspected any hard drugs.
At the time, I thought it was unlikely he’d leave the house prowling the streets of a city he didn’t know to score drugs. He wouldn’t know where to go would he?
It turns out, he probably did leave the house to go find heroin so he would not go into withdrawal. My son was addicted and we had no idea and wouldn’t know for seven more months. He was a snorter not a shooter so there was no paraphernalia like needles, spoons with burns or tin foil.
How did he know where to go? Is there some app that locates drug dealers when one is out of town? Or did he go somewhere on social media where people go for that? I’m going to guess it’s one of the two.
I thought that idea of him leaving the house for heroin was such a stretch. But it wasn’t. I was just naive.
Vomiting, the nods, and leaving the house at odd hours are all signs of heroin use. I wish I had known that.
As it turns out, Charles didn’t come with us at Christmas in 2014 and that October visit was the last time he saw my parents . I don’t know if he thought he should go in case he killed himself. I know he’d been having thoughts of suicide for years. Or was it that he loved family and wanted to connect with his grandparents? I’ll never know for sure.