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[ Staff Picks ] [ Personal Narratives ]

Mom’s-Eye View

He came out of the womb unhappy with the world, as though his skin was on upside-down and he was being rubbed the wrong way. Morning after morning, he would wake up, and cry for an hour, unable to soothe himself, unable to let himself be soothed. It didn’t matter what I did — he was just not happy. Holding him close didn’t help. Giving him space didn’t help. Food and drink didn’t help. Talking to him didn’t help. Nothing helped.

I didn’t like not being able to fix something. I grew angry at his inability to just be ok. In addition to my son, we also had a one-year-old and a two-year-old. We were living in our first home, purchased with the help of my husband’s employer, which was good, but located just feet from a busy train crossing, which was very, very bad. The train horns were unbearable if we were outside. By the time we moved from that home three years after my son was born, I was crazed from the stress of have to know where my precious babies were every second of every day, since the overwhelming threat of the monster train and its noises never relented.

Later, I discovered my son was highly sensitive to lights, to loud noises, to textures. He was born a few years before every other kid had a diagnosis of something. I think now that he may have qualified for a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder. Back then, all I knew to do was try harder.

He spoke his own language, fluently, until he was 3, and he started throwing some English in there that we could understand. He wore diapers until he turned four and I told him “No more diapers. It stops now.” We moved again when he was not quite four years old, and he had to get used to an entire new world. All I knew to do was try harder.

He was homeschooled until third grade, when he entered the world of public school. It was in the middle of his fourth grade year that his baby brother was born with Down syndrome. I became even less available to meet every need of all five kids. During Spring break of his 4th grade year, he told us he had been considering suicide because he didn’t know how to handle some girls who thought it was quite funny to be mean to him, both verbally, as well as slapping his face and kicking his shins.

I believe that I am not responsible for his choice to use drugs. But the dynamics of our home combined with his sensory needs, emotional maturity, and sensitivity surely played a part. If I could have done things better, I would have. If he could have handled what he was experiencing better, he would have. But we all did the best we could. And there is some sadness in the truth of that. I couldn’t give him what he needed, even though I did my best.

We consulted with our pediatrician; we took him to multiple counselors; we supported him every way we knew. He was a star soccer player, and my husband coached his teams for several seasons. He was so smart and so quick that often his teachers did not believe he had completed his work, and that cut into his heart deeply. He so wanted to be believed, and came up against it again and again where he wasn’t.

He has written about those early teen years when he was so disgusted with the world, so angry, and in so much pain. I find myself mystified that he experienced these things living in our family. We traveled to beautiful places; we enjoyed good stories, good food, fun times; he was adored as a soccer player by coaches, other players, parents, and, of course, his family. He was deeply loved by his parents. He was listened to, for hours; his emotions were validated; he had opportunities for fun and learning every day.

What happened?

I don’t have an answer and I WANT AN ANSWER. How does such a beautiful person, inside and out, hold on to lies about his worth and value? Once drugs got a hold of him, it was a long time before we were really aware of the severity of the problem. His father had used drugs as a teen, but quit cold turkey at age 21. I, his mother, had almost no experience at all with drugs.

He managed to function very well for quite a long time while using drugs, until it all fell apart, as I think it almost always does, eventually. When he got in over his head, he was quickly drowning, and each time I thought we might be making a little progress, he took on more water, and went under again.

Now one year after the crisis that caused us to evict him from our home, I have been humbled and constantly reminded that the way I solve problems doesn’t work for him. The things that are logical to myself and my husband don’t seem to penetrate the thinking processes of an addict. The risks that he takes that may put him behind bars, a place he professes to hate with all of his heart, astound me.

I still believe in him. But there are times when I don’t know how to persevere in the face of so many obstacles to overcome. I remind myself over and over to support, not enable. I remember that this is his journey, not mine, and I can’t control the outcome of it. But I still believe in him.