Our Story

This section is a personal narrative. It also reflects our opinions, based on our experiences with our son’s addiction to prescription drugs. It is something that will affect our entire family for the rest of our lives. We are faced with many struggles in our lives many of which we have no control over but how we choose to react to these challenges will determine our future. 

 Since I began to tell people about my family’s experience with our son’s OxyContin addiction the most frequently asked question has been “ why was he prescribed that drug?” Two things are true for most young people addicted: 1) they are/were taking the drug for the euphoric feeling and 2) it is VERY easy to obtain a wide-variety of pain KILLERs especially from “pain management doctors.” Your home medicine cabinet is also a great source for prescription drugs.

At Christmas time, we went on a family vacation, but he made it clear that he didn’t want to come with us although we had taken these vacation for years and always had a great family time.  I wrote it off to a college kid who is used to being on his own.  He stayed in his room much of the time watching TV, and we concluded he didn’t want to be with us at that time.  I discovered later that he had only enough pills to last him for a week and he was paranoid of running out...his tolerance was increasing.

My son mentioned to me that he was smoking pot and enjoyed it more than alcohol. I knew a lot of kids smoked pot particularly today... I told him I didn’t like it and it was illegal but I wasn’t emphatic and should have begun drug testing and told him if he was positive we’d withdraw him from school...stop paying for everything (at this time he didn’t have enough money to live on without our help). I knew many people use pot before moving on to stronger drugs but I didn’t realize how much stronger and more addicting it is today than it was 20 years ago. And, of course I thought my son was different and wouldn’t use other drugs. The myth of prescription drugs being safe because they are legal lures many innocent people into using these drugs.

After Christmas, we saw him and a friend once in February for his birthday. They seemed to stay up late and sleep in until early afternoon.  Again, typical of college students— except that they seemed unusually lethargic at times and liked to stay in my son’s bedroom with the door closed.  Again, I missed the warning signs.

Like many people suffering with addictions, he began to withdraw from his family and focused on getting high.  Over Christmas, he had told us that he had saved $14,000 from working as an assistant to a disc jockey—on many evenings, he said, he had earned over $200/night.) I was worried when I heard how much money he had, but we couldn’t get him to put it into a savings account. He put a heavy duty safe in his apartment room. By now, we suspected something was wrong, and we stopped paying his expenses, except for school and rent on his apartment.

By the end of May, we learned later, he had spent all but a couple thousand dollars on his drug habit and a new computer. Soon, he was broke. One day, while waiting for his next batch of pills from his dealer, the man was arrested in front of him. 

He also had recently watched an intervention show. This and his other mounting problems led him to reach out for help. He e-mailed me with an apparently innocent idea. He said he was thinking of coming home because he didn’t like his apartment and most of his friends had left for the summer. (What he said about “friends” was not true. He had few friends. He spent most of his time alone in his apartment on OxyContin highs. He preferred using drugs to spending time with people). As a mother I read between the lines and told my husband we needed to go and get him.

We called and told him we wanted him home. He agreed—but with reservations—so we had to act fast. His co-user, his so-called “best friend,” was in tears and tried to convince him to stay. He insisted they could beat their addictions together. (This friend was still using and dealing.) We picked up our son the next day and one day later he entered detox. Don’t delay taking action.

When he left detox, unfortunately the only thing we were told was that his recovery would take a year to a year and a half. I didn’t get an answer as to what that meant. I asked, “Does this mean he will need bed rest or can he get a job?” Three of the four people who were in detox with my son were using within a week; he began using a month later. He actually used for over two months before we had any idea. (See Get Organized page.) He got a job, got money, got drugs. I decided things were going to change. I was going to change, life was going to change... if he wanted to live at home he had to change.

After his relapse, we vowed, it was going to be different! I began to do my research, talking to people, getting on e-mail lists, making phone calls and putting this website together.

Interesting enough, most of the people I have spoken to have asked me what injury he had for initially taking the drug. When I reply that it was purely for pleasure, that he had gotten them (repeatedly!) from some self-styled “pain-management” doctor for absolutely no medical reason, and that these drugs are very easy to get—they are astounded—as was I when we first began learning about this addiction.

It is beyond upsetting and sad that so many people have died, continue to become addicted and struggle daily with recovery—and basically nothing has been done to reclassify this drug and STOP the unnecessary distribution of this pain-KILLER.

Please, PLEASE do what you can to help!

UPDATE May 2010

It has been three years and I should have written long before this... I truly wish I had kept a journal or blog. It has been a long road down the path of recovery. I am proud to say ... there is hope. My son is doing well and has renewed some of his lifelong dreams that he lost even before his addiction. (The disease of addiction doesn’t begin the minute a person uses or misuses a substance...it often begins to cultivate long before the person uses chemicals...see addiction link.) 

I have begun pursuing a Master’s degree in Substance Abuse ... my prayer is to bring hope to families who feel helpless.

What have I learned this past years...the website has a lot of specific details but I would summarize that addiction and recovery are complex and very individualistic. There are great programs but no one answer. Spending money on an expensive program doesn’t mean the treatment is better or that the results will be better. In my opinion, these are some keys to success in the recovery process:

   * Alone time can bring about temptations- Addicts typically spent time in isolation. When they are alone (i.e. in the house by themselves) this idle time may give the addict too much time to think of the “good old day,” may be too tempting to return to familiar habits and/or trigger familiar habits. If possible plan to have someone with the addict at all times. This took a great deal of temptation and possibility for an unhealthy/irrational decision. (For over 4 months someone was home at all times with my son.)

   * AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery and other support groups can truly enhance recovery and build a strong support network of friends with common goals. Unfortunately there are more and more young people joining these groups daily which is may help a younger person feel more welcome.

   * Support groups NOT therapeutic groups. Seeking the help of a counselor, therapist or psychologist should help a person with addiction learn to make good rational decisions, become aware of triggers and educate themselves on addiction and recovery.... Most importantly these professionals are not there to give advice but to help a person develop the personal skills to live a healthy productive life. Family counseling can be a key to successful recovery for everyone.

   * Seek help that offers a spiritual dimension... Spirituality is not religion but a means to give a person hope and a purpose in their life. A reason to live. Even if you or your family weren’t particularly spiritual in the past adding this dimension to your lives will benefit everyone. Hope is essential in recovery.

   * Relapsing and/or slipping is often part of the recovery process don’t get discouraged just try to help make this period as short as possible.

   * Addiction is a family disease. If you (the parents) feel helpless that everything you have done doesn’t seem to help them maybe you need to change your strategy. Take a deep breath and pray that you can find the answer that will best help your child. This may not be an easy decision but it may be necessary... if you haven’t read the book I recommended above you may want to consider reading it. There is a difference between helping versus enabling your child (no matter what their age).

If you missed this recommendation on my other pages you may want to purchase this book: The best book I have read ... Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children- Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling by Allison Bottke

Update May 2012- It is truly hard to believe it has been 5 years since our son since we realized our son had a major problem with prescription drugs. After his relapse I decided I was going to try to figure out addiction and recovery. I did pursue a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling.

 I learned a great deal about counseling but mostly I learned that addiction and recovery are very complex and individualistic. Heredity is the main factor in addiction however other important mediating factors include the environment, traumatic event (abuse, neglect....), personality i.e. risk-taker, and presence of mental disorders. People often turn to drugs to feel what seems “normal” to that person or to alleviate the side-effects of mental disorders. Due to the fact that many people who suffer from substance problems have other mental disorders the recovery process becomes even more complex. (see addiction and recovery links for more information). Recovery is a process not a one step fix-it solution. Please don’t equate the cost of a program to the quality and success rate. One definition of success is how long a person is fully functioning/remains unimpaired after completing a program. See essential elements for more information.

One of the most upsetting facts was that medical doctors typically have less than 3 hours of addiction education even if they will be prescribing opiate or other addicting medicines. You might consider asking for alternative medications for pain relief rather than beginning with opiates. Ask questions, find a good pharmacist- ask questions, and see what you can find on the internet for alternatives to medication or therapies to reduce pain.

Five years ago today I didn’t recognize my son as he was being discharged from detox. As any parent can imagine this was a sickening feeling and one I will never forget. Proudly, I would like to say on May 5th he and I graduate from college along with another son. They received Bachelor degrees in Business and I received my Master’s degree in Rehab and Mental Health Counseling. Thank you for everyone who has been supporting us through prayers. Remain hopefully, do your homework, educate yourself and other family members and friends. The real key to addiction is prevention not rehabilitation. Prayers have been answered. And yes, I still pray everyday.