This is the hardest post I’ve ever had to write, so I hope you will take the time to not only read it but share it with your children, your friends and anyone else who needs to hear it.
On the evening of August 31st around 10:30pm, I discovered our 17-year-old son, Max, in his room unconscious and not breathing. He was blue. He was [overdosing] after snorting part of a crushed 30mg Percocet that he had purchased from some dealer that day for $20. Thanks to my incredible husband who gave him mouth to mouth until the paramedics arrived 5 minutes later and thanks to the NARCAN that they are required to carry now, Max survived.
This Monday, Max entered a treatment facility where we are prayerfully hopeful that he will get the help he needs to conquer an addiction we did not know existed.
I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re feeling myriad emotions: shock, anger, fear, sadness. We’re with you, we feel them all on a rotating cycle hourly these days. Gratitude is the emotion we are choosing to focus on since God saw fit to spare Max. And I will tell you with great confidence that it was absolutely divine intervention that I found him when I did.
He had been happily playing XBOX only minutes before that. But something in my soul told me it was time for bed and to go upstairs. I heard what sounded like hard, sporadic snoring coming from his room. Max does not snore. So I knocked to say goodnight and when he did not respond, I opened his door (which thank God was not locked). The snoring sound was his body trying desperately to overcome the drug which told his brain to stop breathing. Had I been 5 minutes later, he would be gone.
We debated long and hard about whether to share the intense details of his story. Would it violate his privacy? Is it his story to tell? But after much prayerful consideration, we realized we could not live with ourselves if something happened to one of his friends because we did not come forth publicly and share this.
If you are the parent sitting here thinking, “Whew! Thank God our kids aren’t like that! They’re smart, athletic, popular. They’re looking forward to college, we go to church, our family is tight” blah blah blah. Hear this message loud and clear: THE DRUG PROBLEM IN OUR TOWN IS OUT OF CONTROL. If you think your kids would never, I’m here to tell you to think again. And as we dig through Max’s phone and laptop, we are discovering that it does not matter what your family life is like, how good their grades are, how bright their future may be–they have or are at a minimum experimenting. Weed, LSD, Xanax bars, Percocet, sharing their ADHD meds. Good kids. Smart kids. Kind kids. Kids involved in swim, soccer, lacrosse, band, drama, football, volleyball, kids in Governor’s school.
This is not like when I was a kid. Back then, there were “burnouts”—the fringe kids who did drugs on the regular. That’s not to say the rest of us never tried it. But it wasn’t the norm. And NO ONE had access to pills or even considered it. Today, smoking is the norm. We were horrified to find that 90% of the kids in Max’s phone were involved. NINE OUT OF TEN, FOLKS.
Full disclosure—we knew for a long time that Max was involved with weed. Truthfully, we were at a loss. We had no idea how to stop it. We hoped it would be a phase. We grounded him. Took away electronics. Benched him from the game he loves. Told him there would be no college for him if he wasn’t clean. Nothing worked. Chasing that high is POWERFUL. Max didn’t even tell his friends the true story of what happened that night. They have no idea how close they came to losing their friend.
But this pandemic and the isolation the kids have due to no school made the drug use escalate. They are self-medicating. They are bored. They have far too much free time, too much freedom and too many dealers to access in this area. When we asked Max why? Why would it even occur to you to do this, and on a Monday night alone in your room. “I was bored and had nothing to do until Thursday when we have class again.” Read that again.
Also, if your image of a dealer is a greasy-haired low-life, think again. Think PEERS. Clean cut teenagers. People who go to your church with their families. People who pose for family pictures on Christmas in their matching sweaters.
We felt guilt, constantly questioning every word that came out of his mouth. Was he really going to run with a friend? Or were they going to their other friend’s home to smoke? (And YES, it’s happening in the homes of their peers. Some parents know and look the other way, pretending it’s out of sight, out of mind.) No one wants to question every word uttered by their child. There should be some level of trust in a family, right? Yes, there should. But when that trust is broken repeatedly, BELIEVE YOUR GUT. Stop covering for your kids. Stop acting like it’s all fine in your house when it’s maybe not.
I was incredibly fortunate to have met two women who are brave enough to share their families’ stories of battling addiction in the past so that when this happened, I had people to turn to to ask for guidance.
Our family has a long road ahead of us. His sisters were devastated by this and are still processing it all. But none of us are interested in your sympathy, no matter how well-meaning. We are looking for ACTION. Check on your kids when they say they are going somewhere. Talk to the parents. Confirm confirm confirm. Trust, but confirm.
My son is a good, kind, smart young man with an incredibly promising future. He gives a great hug. He loves animals and babies and they love him. He’s a heck of a soccer player and he’s darn funny. This will not define his life. We will support him every step of the way in his recovery. But he has to do the work. And we hope that all of you who know and love our family, will pray for us daily. I can tell you with great confidence that our support system has shown how powerful they are in the last 10 days.
These kids NEED the adults in their life to hold them accountable. Coaches, teachers, pastors, friends’ parents. Every single adult they come in contact with should be aware that your behavior is noticed. If you’re constantly sipping wine, drunk every weekend, oblivious to what your kids are doing on a Saturday night, you are part of the problem. Sober up. Get involved. Set an example your whole family can be proud of. Your child’s life may depend on it.
A version of this post originally appeared on Facebook, published with permission.