Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Phone Call

It was one of the coldest mornings of the winter of 2014 in Minnesota. After a late night with Angela who was sick, I was buried under the blankets of our bed, sound asleep when the  phone rang at 6:00 am. I looked at the number but didn't recognize it. I was going to ignore it, but instead at the last second slid the green "answer" icon.

I waited a second before saying anything, you know, to just remind the person it was really too early to be calling people. It wouldn't even be light out for another 2 hours!



My heart skipped a beat. I hadn't heard his voice in months. 

"Mom. I'm so cold. Can you come get me?"

"What? Cold? Where are you?"

"I'm in a barn. Mom its so cold. Please come get me. The guy left his phone on the back step for me to use but he told me he wants me out of here. Please mom. I'm so so cold. Tyler will know where I am. I'm at the barn in Waconia."

Tyler had spent the night with us. "Tyler, wake up. We have to go get Noah. Hurry, get up!" 

The sun hadn't come up yet. It had been snowing and drifting for the previous two days, and we made the 50 mile drive as fast as my minivan could safely navigate the roads. Tyler directed me to a dirt farm road. We drove a ways before he pointed. "Here. I think this is the driveway." It was hard to tell since it was drifted over. On the prairie, its hard to tell how deep the snow is if you're not familiar with the terrain. We could see someone had driven through the snow earlier, but it was starting to drift over again. It was a long driveway, and the thought of getting stuck in the cold, in the middle of nowhere made me hesitate.

But then I looked past the driveway and saw a small barn near the house. My boy was in there. 

"Hang on!" I said, as I punched the gas, plowing through the snow drifts, praying with each slide to the left and right that we woudln't get stuck. 

I pulled into the central area between the barn and house, just as he appeared in the door of the little barn. I got out of the van and went to him. His face was deathly white, his teeth chattering uncontrollably, so cold he could barely speak. I hugged him, and realized he was wearing several layers of sweatshirts.

He started sobbing. "M-m-mom. Its so c-c-cold. What t-t-took you s-s-so l-l-long? I c-c-couldn't stay aw-w-wake anymore b-b-but I w-w-was s-s-so afraid to f-f-fall asl-e-eep." 

I pulled him to the side door of my van. "Get in. Get all those shirts off. They're holding cold air and you need the heat of the van to warm up." I helped him pull of layers, shocked at the skeletal figure that was my son.

"C-c-c-can you g-g-get m-m-my s-s-s-tuff?"

I looked at Tyler, and together we got out of the van, shutting the doors to  keep the heat inside while we went to retrieve his things from the barn. 

To this day I wish I'd had the forethought to take a picture. Somehow I knew years later I would want it, to show him on the days he needs a reminder.  Inside the barn was a small room, about 10x10. I don't think it was insulated, just tin walls. I guess I don't really remember. What I DO remember were the conditions. A bare mattress on a dirt floor. Well, I'm assuming since it was a barn it was a dirt floor. It wasn't visible under the foot of empty booze bottles and trash. Just the thought turns my stomach into knots that my kid was living there. My "kid" who was 26 years old.

Tyler and I gathered up the few things he wanted. When we returned to the vanI asked when he had eaten last. "Two days ago my buddy bought me a couple hamburgers from McDonalds."

We got him home where his clothes were immediately deposited in the washer and him in the shower. Once he was warm, clean, and had a full belly he went to bed. He slept for the next 28 hours. Drugs will do that to you.

I prayed then he would come around. That he would realize this wasn't a way to live. That *this* would be his "rock bottom". That as an adult he was responsible for his own decisions and couldn't blame anyone else. He could't blame me, his dad, his former step-dad. This was all on him. I knew not to accept any blame for those same choices, nor would I support those decisions if he continued to make them. Yes, I know all about enabling.

We had been down this road so many times before. We had a meeting, he, Dean and I. I layed it all out on the table once again. He was using and could not stay here. No questions. If he agreed to treatment I would help him get it sorted out. If he completed treatment and was clean he could stay for a few months while getting his feet back on the ground. The choice was his.

He left the next day.

He chose the drugs over love from his family. That is the lie a drug addict believes, that the drug is better. Always better.

Being the parent of someone with a chemical addiction is not easy. You love your child and don't want to see them fail while at the same time knowing you cannot enable the behavior. But where is the line? What is "enabling" vs "actually helping". If you are living with someone with self-destructive behavior and/or addictions, get yourself into Al-Anon or similar group, and learn about enabling and co-dependent behavior. Being supportive of your adult child who is using is NOT the same as enabling, but being supportive does NOT mean you have to let them stay with you while you fix it for them. You, the parent, cannot accept blame for the decisions of the grown adult sitting before you. I do not accept responsibility for the decisions of my adult child. His choices cannot be blamed on anything from my life or his father's life. They are his own choices and he alone has to accept responsibility for them. If he is making a concentrated effort to fix his life then he has my full support. But he has to be sober.

If you are struggling with a teen or adult child who is using, please get support for yourself. Learn about enabling and co-dependent behavior. You can read more about it here.


Kimberly Jackson said...

Addicts do not become addicts by accident. I have 3 siblings that prove otherwise. I have been to the meetings.

Addictions are caused by using a substance to cope with the feelings of depression, anxiety, not feeling unconditional love.

Is it a choice...well yes it is. But sometimes it is the only choice that person feels they have.

They do not have anyone to turn to.Parents deny any wrong doing....they were doing the best they knew how.

Leah Spring said...

I wonder, were you around when I was raising my adult kids? Do you have any idea at all what type of parent I was then or am now? (Because I am not the same parent I was, say, 20 years ago when I thought I knew it all.) I know how my son got involved in his drug use. I know how it started, and what caused it to continue. I know of the history of mental health problems on his father's side, and how some chose to cope. I know how available I was or was not. As a parent I did all the things I knew to do. I know what tools and opportunities he was given to cope with stress in his life as a teen. At 15 he chose to live with his dad in another city, a decision I supported because he didnt remember ever living with his dad and he wanted that chance. And his dad wanted that chance. And ultimately teens in that situation talk with their feet. A choice that was supported by counselors he was seeing at the time (remember those tools he was given?) I remained available and my door open to my son. He chose to close the door, time, and time, and time again.

Melissa said...

Oh Leah. You are so NOT alone in this. I have to tell myself everyday that she CHOSE, she WANTED, she TOOK, every opportunity to trash the brilliant mind, and the limitless potential that she had. Supporting and being supportive of healthy decisions, yes. Destructive ones, no. Hang in there mama. The Lord does have a plan. I have to believe that.

Unknown said...

I've been following your blog for years now, ever since you've brought Asher into your home. Thank you for sharing your fascinating life with us. The good, the bad, the ugly, as well as these skeletons. I hope you write a book about your life and trials with motherhood.
Today I went to go visit my father whose never seen my daughter, and although he was articulate and intelligent in our coordinating e-mails he was higher than a kite. He was always extremely well respected in our small town, being the principal of our only school in town my teachers blamed my mom for his developing drug abuse, and when she removed herself from the equation, my middle and high school teachers to me aside and preached at me to be more helpful and supportive of him. It wasn't her fault. Some things don't change, and we can't change people. I digress though.

Thank you so much for writing this, and I know it's selfish to think this post was "meant for me" but this flashback of yours couldn't have come back at a better time.

Kimberly Jackson said...

Well...I first got to know you about 14-15 years ago. No offense intended to you but I did know you quite a long time ago.

I have bit of experience with a mentally ill mom and dad. A alcoholic dad, a mentally ill sister, an adopted sister, sibling classes for addicts, classes for adult children of addicts.

I personally was raised by parents that spent all of their energy on my siblings issues but denied any personal responsibility for the way they raised their children. OH HOW MANY times I have heard I was doing the best I knew how!!!

Just getting the feeling from reading your blog that it is actually easier to raise children with Downs Syndrome than raising able learner children.
It appears that way to me from what you write here.

From what you write it appears that Downs Syndrome kids "need" you and you transform them from institutional care.Which is a wonderful thing and I commend you as you have excelled at this!!

But able learner children hit a point where they do not need you and test limits, and need boundaries.

We cannot all be everything to all children. Some parents are good at somethings and others are good at others.

Allison said...

Wow! You're a real trip. How nice it must be to know it all. About everything, but mostly about Leah's family. From a blog. That only gives you a tiny glimpse into her life. Just wow.

Cassandra Lowe said...

I personally know quite a few addicts or recovering addicts who had everything going for them in life, but they CHOSE to use drugs. They weren't running from anything, killing any pain, fighting any depression, they thought it was a good idea and would be fun so they tried.

Those recovering know they have no one to blame but themselves. They are above putting blame for their choices on others. They know better than that. Those still under the control of the drugs blame everyone around them. There is always a reason they turn back to drugs and its never their fault.

Yes you are a product of your environment, but at some point you have to rise above and take responsibility. There is a difference when mental illness is involved of course.

Unknown said...

Holy Shit! Is this Kimberley person for real? Way to be a judgmental horrible person.