He’s an Addict; He’s My Son

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Teresa Woody is an Upshur County native and mother of two grown sons. She is a petroleum landman who enjoys cooking, baking, writing and hanging out with her Yorkie, Jax.

My Son once told me, “Mom, I don’t want to use drugs.  People don’t use drugs to get high.  They use drugs to forget, to forget the pain, to forget their problems, to forget reality, if only for a few hours.”

It took years for me to actually use the word “addict.”  I despised the word.  I was in denial for several years and did not want to label my son. 

My story of addiction began when Jordan was a teenager, and it carried over into his adult life.  I’ll never forget the first time he told me he had been using drugs and felt he had a problem.  Being naive, my initial thought was, “Well, you have to quit.”  I thought it was just a phase, that he was only experimenting and liked the feeling of being high.  Boy, was I wrong, and I had so much to learn about this monster called addiction.

My son and I have traveled the road of recovery many times.  There have been times we have steered to higher ground and outran this demon known as opiate.  It’s like being on a battle ground with unforgiving ground. 

While in active use, I barely recognize my son.  I always told my friends, “He’s not himself, not in his right mind.  I feel like I have to think for him.”  The fits of rage, the outbursts of crying and the pain are almost too much to bare.  As a parent, you are helpless.  It’s actually a living nightmare, a reoccurring nightmare.

When your son begs you to keep him within your sight to protect him from this demon, you do what you need to do.  You helplessly witness the wrenching pain of withdrawals, the sweating, the nausea, the horrid aches that bind his body. You hide the keys, your jewelry, credit cards, anything of value. You physically try to stop him from leaving the confines of your home and are desperate to get him through a minimum of five tormenting days of suffering no parent should ever have to witness.

For the addict and the family, this is a personal “war on drugs.”  As a mother, I have fiercely engaged amidst this crusade, a hellish battle.  I so desperately wanted to be a catalyst, without enabling. 

I’ll summarize my story.  It didn’t take me long to realize, there was not a quick fix.  He couldn’t just quit; it wasn’t that simple.  His body, mind and soul were addicted to opiates.  He came to me in 2011 for help.  He has relapsed several times since then. We have been in and out of rehab more times than I can count, and I discovered beds are not readily available in our state, another obstacle an addict endures. 

We visited the Coleman Institute, an outpatient detox program based out of Richmond Va., at least annually.   Nothing seemed to cure his cravings, even months after being clean.  He kept relapsing.  In 2014, I had seen enough and read enough that I tried to detox him myself.  Although I wouldn’t recommend this avenue to any parent, it worked for us, at least temporarily, several times. 

I’d throw my bags in the car, pick him up, and we would go somewhere, anywhere, out of Buckhannon and away from his “friends” who were dealing with the same situation.  We usually landed in Pittsburg or Charleston, too far for him to escape, no means to run.  I would begin the countdown; we needed five days, minimum. 

After a couple days, usually day three, so began the screaming, the arguing, the begging and pleading.  Just days before, he had been screaming, arguing, begging and pleading to just get away, saying he needed my help, that he wanted to get clean.  He had made a pact to do whatever needed to be done, swore he’d cooperate to get clean again.  But, when he was in full blown withdrawals, it was too much. It was too painful and too easy to forget the desperation and pleading that had initially brought us on this journey, swathed in prayer, love, heartache, compassion, sternness, disappointment, guidance, blame —- and bandaged with confusion. 

It’s truly a parent’s worst nightmare.  Do I try to help, again, or do I let him hit rock bottom?  Other parents had given the advice to let him sink, hit rock bottom.  He would then be forced to make changes in his behavior, be accountable for his bad choices.  I’ve tried both, the choice I presented didn’t matter.  It’s the addict that has to want change, even if it’s temporary.  It’s the beginning of recovery.

We, collectively, decided to try an injection called Vivitrol and it seemed to be Jordan’s saving grace!  It’s a monthly injection that blocks opioid receptors in the brain.  Studies have shown that it takes a minimum of a year for the addict to gain functions lost from drug abuse. Our journey is not over.  He will always battle his addiction.  He will have to struggle to overcome the urge to relapse his entire life.  Addiction is that powerful.  I will never give up on him as long as I am able to walk by his side through these valleys.  I have decided to share my story in hopes of encouraging other families struggling with addiction.

 I wrote the following words a few years ago as a testament to my son’s recovery:

Daily, he walks in the threshold of a storm.  He carries his anchor oh so close and “armors up” the minute he wakes up.  This shield was not effortlessly earned and is secured only by merit.  There are no forewarnings of a brewing storm, no signs of threat, no admonitions.  It just appears, out of nowhere, like a tornado in the night. It looms with immense strength in the company of wild determination.  The dark clouds hover and the winds growl.  He’s all too aware of this beseeching peril; the paradox will not prevail.  He evaluates his inner responses and ineptly grasps for shelter, frantically seeking refuge within his mind, heart and soul.  He clings to his anchor and rides out another storm, unscathed, again. His crusade is constant, but he is armed and prepared to confront and determined to overcome!  The storm clouds have once again dissipated.  He stands up, dusts himself off and readjusts his armor. Carry on my son… carry on.