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My Name is Janice and My Son is a Heroin Addict

Have you ever suffered a moment of clarity so violent, a nanosecond so severe, it produced a painful explosion of understanding? An instance in which truth and perception collide, causing such wincing, blinding hurt, you collapse in utter sadness, as you are forced to accept reality as it is and not as you wanted to believe it was. This is my nanosecond, when I finally admit that my son is not a victim of his circumstances; the circumstances are his victim. Hello, my name is Janice and my son is a heroin addict.

I was like most parents, believing since I told my children, “just say no”, they would. When I found the marijuana seeds and stems, I assumed it was normal teenage curiosity. Even after finding text messages and emails from his friends, I foolishly felt this was not an addiction, rather a phase.

Do not get me wrong. Despite my laissez faire attitude about the realities of his addiction, I did everything in my power to discourage or deter him from using. I alerted his counselors, teachers and the administration of his high school. I even performed random drug screens. After a few months, I gave up and turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the situation again.

The Symptons
He was 14 or 15 at the time. In hindsight, there were so many signs I ignored hinting of his progression from pot to oxycontin and eventual graduation to black tar heroin. He stopped hanging out or bringing his friend’s home, and when he did come home, he hid away in his bedroom, or spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom. He took up to three baths a day on some occasions. He suffered bouts of diarrhea and stomach cramps; this I attributed to his poor diet of junk food.

My son was difficult to get along with from the time he was twelve so his mood swings were barely noticeable at first. His grades never suffered; from the time he hit junior high, he stopped putting in the effort. He could have made A’s, but refused to do the homework, and so squeaked by with C’s.

Mysteries abounded in my house as well. Jewelry disappeared. He lost or had more cell phones stolen than I can count. He needed $20.00 for everything he did- bowling, going out to eat, school projects, a book, clothes. It was never $17.25 or $32.99, always $20.00. Pieces to Ballpoint pens appeared randomly, ink cartridges and springs, but the hollow tubes never appeared. Suddenly, we had no spoons for cereal, and I went through tin foil like toilet paper.

Close Calls
Two incidents in particular haunt me. We were cleaning up after dinner, on a rare night Stevie ate with us. He was in a hurry and I snidely remarked he must have been anxious to go smoke pot with his cagey friends. He replied, “ No mom, I am gonna go smoke black tar heroin”. I laughed, he laughed. “ Of course you are! Be home by midnight”, I dismissed it with triviality.

The other time, I performed a random drug screen, after yet again finding seeds and stems in his possession. Nervous, he bit his nails and rocked on the balls of his feet, while we waited together for it to develop. It was negative for marijuana, but the middle line showed positive.

I studied back and forth from the cup to the box, and finally shrugged my shoulders. “It must be defective. You are not doing opiates! Congrats on a negative screen son! I am proud of you”. Seriously. 

I wish I could say I had my ‘aha’ moment one these times, or when the Sheriff’s department reported the kids they chased, my son being one of them, with helicopters after his friend Money was arrested for selling pot out of his car. I wish I could tell you it was when other parents blamed my son for their own son’s behaviors. But it wasn’t then.

The Aha Moment
My nanosecond, my moment of clarification, that demystifying ‘aha’ moment occurred after I caught Stevie shooting up in my bathroom. It was Monday, September 7th. “I am going to take a shower, Mom.” He yelled as he slammed the bathroom door for the third time in a day. A nagging, makes you want to vomit, feeling surfaced and I chose not to ignore it. I went to knock, but the door was not latched. It opened, and there he was, shooting up. I startled him. The dope kit, which held tools of the trade, fell from his lap as he sprang up, the contents spilling across the floor. Blood dripped down his arm. His eyes held no hint of remorse or recognition– he had already emptied the contents of the syringe into his veins. I stare at my naked, strung-out son in shock.

Who was this boy in front of me? Where did my son go? I do not know how long we stood face to face, without words, without emotion, other than shared shock. And there it was. “Aha!”

Jan writes about Heroin Addiction on her There is No Hero In Heroin blog where she writes openly about her son Stevie’s struggle with Heroin. Jan best described her writing style as “Heartfelt, honest and raw, not happy ever after at all.” and we agree with her.