Almost everyone can mark the day their innocence walked out the door and harsh reality took its place. It’s that day when your vision of what the world is, where it’s going, and how you are moving through it changes course. Can you remember yours?
Awareness had been stalking me for weeks but had successfully been shoved out of the spotlight by denial, leaving it panting at the periphery of my conscience, anxious to break in and give me news I didn’t want to hear.
My naive mind didn’t want the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place but instead stay scattered across the table. My detective mind wouldn’t let those clues go and kept working on that puzzle. Because the signs were there.
I was in my 40s and I had had an impacted wisdom tooth removed
Up until then, I had my tonsils, my appendix, and all my wisdom teeth. For my generation, it was unusual to have all three.
The doctor had told me I would need the oxycodone pain medication he prescribed. I insisted I didn’t need it but he argued he had to put his foot on my jaw in order to pry that wisdom tooth out of my head. A root canal had followed and he was predicting massive pain.
Like I tell most physicians, Torridol works great for me, far better than opioids but at this point doctors were so pushy about the opiates, it was hard to tell them otherwise. I told the doctor point blank that it made me feel ill and I didn’t want it.
When I had undergone brain surgeries years prior for a tumor, I had them put a bright red band around my wrist to advertise the fact there would be no oxycontin or oxycodone dispensed to the patient wearing it. The bracelet was the wall between me and that awful medicine that had given me nightmares and worse.
I remember being questioned at the hospital several times around the surgeries in 1999 and 2003 and had to be adamant but the bright red bracelet did the trick.
Around 2011 or so, oxycodone was (and still is) regularly prescribed after many dental surgeries despite its high rate of addiction and the efficacy of other medications. Just so you know, adolescents, the ones usually getting pain meds after wisdom tooth removal, are almost twice as likely to become addicted. (Oxycodone is an opiate with Tylenol.)
We had had issues with Charles and drug use
Alcohol and marijuana mostly but a pattern of abuse had emerged already at age 15. He was numbing something but we didn’t know what and we’d have never guessed he was masking thoughts of suicide. He was a hugely popular kid with a revolving door of friends.
The dental surgeon didn’t give up, and approached my husband, appealing to him by saying, “We have to get in front of the pain.” Despite expressing my wishes loud and clear, my husband took the prescription and filled it without telling me because he was concerned. The doctor had used the very approach that worked, scaring the spouse with tales of potential suffering.
I came home, rested a bit, took an ibuprofen, and decided to go for a short run since the sky was threatening a storm in the next hour or so. Clearly, the medication would have been overkill. No agony and just a bit of soreness.
When I came downstairs, the oxycodone prescription my husband had filled “just in case” sat like a single lonely object on the white Formica table screaming at me. It was out of concern he had filled it but my anger swelled because I was unaware the doctor had sidelined him and scared the crap out of him. He’d certainly seen his wife in pain enough times.
I didn’t want this stuff in my house at all and definitely not around Charles given our issues with him and substance misuse. Mortal fear of addiction was a constant worry.
A recent presentation by a DEA agent about substances with abuse potential in the home had alerted me to medications like Robitussin cough medicine, and RediWhip, in addition to leftover prescriptions. The house had been gone over closet by closet and drawer by drawer and anything that could be abused was shuttled to a drug takeback, thrown away, or otherwise locked away in a safe.
The media was just picking up the scent of news about heroin and opiates but the volume was still down on that radio in terms of consumers paying attention. This mom was definitely paying attention.
The sky was threatening rain and my empty wrist reminded me my watch was upstairs so I bounded up taking two stairs at a time, strapped it on, and whizzed back through the kitchen and out through the garage.
Something was nagging at me
I hit the bike trail, picked up speed, and one block later, I stopped cold. The puzzle had assembled itself and the reality of what was missed hit me like blunt-force trauma to the chest. My lungs went vacant, breathing shallowed and my chest stayed tight–not from being out of shape but from shock.
The oxycodone prescription that had been on the table when I had bopped upstairs for my watch was missing less than one minute later when I came through the kitchen and headed out the door. My plan had been to get it off the center of the table before my son came home and the empty wrist had delayed me from carrying it out right then. It turns out Charles was home and he thought it was his lucky day.
My distorted fantasy thinking had led me to believe that out there in the county, far from the city center and all the bad drug use, our parental presence would be like a wall between opiates and my son. They weren’t going to find him out here in the ‘burbs with this momma lion protecting her cub.
Helplessness wrapped me in her embrace
There was no stopping his use and this was not something I could control despite all the internet searches for magic answers. It wasn’t something that “taking away the car keys” was going to resolve and you can’t shame someone into recovery or abstinence. No lectures on scientific data were going to overcome a teenager convinced that a euphoric opiate high wasn’t chasable and repeatable. We had a problem, a big one. What could we do next?
I’ve written an entire book about what we did and how it all unfolded. And even if I had done something different, all the right things, heroin was likely going to find my child, make his life amazing before it made his life and ours h#ll.
8 thoughts on “The day my naïveté left me stranded”
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years. I still remember the deep sadness I felt for your family when I read your post on Facebook letting us know about Charles. Both then and now I so admire you for deciding to be emotionally naked and help others. And that you’ve done in spades, as have other loved ones of those who died by suicide and have shared their stories. God bless you all!
You were one of my first subscribers Leigh. And the one who shared the article I couldn’t move myself to share at first. Thank you for your loyal and thoughtful support.
What happen to lady that took over this wonderful writing platform
I am still here!
Sending extra prayers, hugs & love to you this week my friend.
My prayer is for God to surround you with his loving arms & fill your mind with calm & peace.
You are so good at helping everyone else. It’s our turn to love on you.
Your books, Diary of a Broken Mind & A Teacher’s Guide to Prevent Suicide are must reads for every parent and educator.
Also , Diary of a Broken Mind for anyone who is contemplating suicide or struggling!
You have helped me so much my friend when I was in a dark place from illness. Your sharing your family’s story & pain, saved my life. I can’t begin to thank you enough.
You continue to help me in my new found health & self confidence ! Thank you so much!
Made me cry Genevieve. It helps to know his life meant something and still does.
God Bless you as you continue to give encouragement, hope, and strength to others. I read your book Diary of A Broken Mind, it touched me deeply. Thank you for being emotionally naked.
Thank you for your comment and encouragement. And for reading the book. I would love if you’d leave a book review on amazon if you would. https://amzn.to/2pw5id8