Posts Tagged ‘drug overdose’

It seems that for much of this year I’ve been writing blogs about drug addicts, and drug addiction. This is mainly due to our interaction with a special family that God joined us with years ago. For those who aren’t familiar with the background story of Carleen and her three kids, you may need to go back and read some of my old posts (i.e. “4 Days & Counting” 01/17/2014, “4 Days & Counting Update” 01/21/2014, “Back to the Edge of the Cliff” 03/06/2014, “Back to the Edge of the Cliff Update” 03/12/2014, “Back to the Edge of the Cliff – End of the Chapter” 03/18/2014, and “Relapsing” 04/16/2014). When I last wrote of this family, Carleen was losing her battle with addiction, while her 21 year old son Christian (who had intentionally overdosed on heroin & had been brought back to life) was entering a rehab program. At that time, it looked as if Christian might be able to turn a corner, while Carleen seemed destined to crash; but the evidence for both of those cases would have to be considered circumstantial at best. Ultimately, it’s what’s in your heart that makes the biggest difference, and nailing that down is a little tougher. The subsequent reversal of fortunes between mother and son can definitely be traced to their individual values and priorities.


Carleen took Christian’s overdose hard. Part of her felt condemned, because her own issues had helped to fuel his; while a darker side of her felt abandoned by her partner in addiction. When Chris left town for rehab her struggles increased, and last month, Children’s Services took her two daughters (ages 9yrs. & 13yrs.) from her. I’d always known that this would be the watershed moment for her, and I prayed that she’d survive it. Despite her many failures, she truly loves her kids, and I knew that this would be the only incentive for her to go on. When she called, I was out of town, and unable to get to her; but when she shared her suicidal intentions with me, I told her that surviving was the best thing she could do for her daughters. By the grace of God, she made her way to the hospital, and checked herself into the Psychiatric Ward before succumbing to that little voice inside her head. From there, she began the long and arduous process of regaining herself, and hopefully (down the road) custody of her girls. Though it’s just been a few weeks, her progress has been steady, and the transformation apparent. She’s currently working part-time, attending group therapy sessions, and taking parenting classes. Every day since she’s gotten out of the hospital she’s been bombarded with opportunities to fall, and so far she’s managed to pass those tests. Not surprisingly, her biggest test came last week when Christian returned to town.


The trajectory of Chris’ journey has been steadily downhill since his March overdose. As I explained in my blog (from March 18th), even after experiencing death first-hand, his commitment to the rehab process quickly waned. A couple of days after leaving the hospital, he told his story at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and actually said that he didn’t think he’d hit rock bottom yet. The woman running the meeting said, “You were dead! How much lower can you go?” In working with him I found that it wasn’t his love for, or his dependence on, drugs that created the problem. Instead, it is the fact that he does not want to adhere to anyone else’s standards or expectations. He essentially believes that no one should be able to tell him where to be, what to do, or how to live. While some younger folks may be able to relate to that mindset, we older folks know that, unless you’re independently wealthy, this way of thinking leads to starvation. Since getting a job would require showing up at a certain time, wearing certain clothes, and probably doing work he wouldn’t want to do, it was off the list. Going to rehab was the same way. They had a whole list of rules, and Chris believes that he shouldn’t have to follow rules that he thinks are stupid. After getting kicked out of the first rehab, I worked hard to get him into another program. I warned him that he was running out of options and that he needed to make this work. Though he lasted a few days longer than the first time, he was again dismissed. His call came within minutes of his mother’s suicide call, and he was clearly agitated that I wouldn’t come and bring him back to town. I told him that his opportunity to get help was much better in the big city than in a small town, where he was connected to every drug dealer in three counties. Despite his anger with me, he continued to call, and he eventually hooked up with one of his cousins and was contracted to build a pole barn. He continued to search for someone to bring him back home, but no one was willing to do it. That was the case until late last week, when someone paid Carleen to take them to the city, and when she agreed to give him a ride back.


Though Carleen made it clear that he couldn’t stay with her, and that she wasn’t willing to get high anymore, they did decide to go for pizza & a movie on Friday night. Carleen says that everything was fine at dinner, and that he said that he just wanted to stop by the room, where he was staying, before the movie. As she and some friends waited in the kitchen, it seemed like Chris was taking an inordinate amount of time, and so they went to check on him. Upon opening the bedroom door they found him face down on the floor, with no pulse. As one called 911, the other two began CPR, and blood began to pour from Chris’ mouth. They were able to restore a shallow pulse before the Paramedic’s arrived, but as the EMT’s went to pull off his jacket, a loaded gun fell out of the pocket.   This caused them to quickly back everyone out of the room, and for the police to be called in. Upon searching the room, they found a host of other drugs to go with the gun. Chris was at first taken to the local hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator due to respiratory failure. By the next the morning his kidneys shut down as well, and he was life-flighted to Ohio State Medical Center, in Columbus. As of this morning, he remains in ICU, on a ventilator, with major organ failure. If he survives, his prognosis doesn’t look good for a normal, functional life. If he emerges from the hospital, local law enforcement is going to have something to say about his near-term future, and will undoubtedly contact law enforcement agencies in neighboring counties, where they are likely to find additional warrants for his arrest. As I’d mentioned in a previous blog, I told Chris on several occasions that he needed to, “Seize the opportunity of a lifetime within the lifetime of the opportunity.” Today, it appears as though the season of opportunity has given way to a season of consequence. That’s not to say that there may not still be some opportunities down the line, but if there are, they’re going to be a lot tougher to grab hold of.


For her part, Carleen is still holding it together. She loves Christian, but recognizes that she can’t lay down and die with him. Part of her feels guilty for trying to keep moving on, but that’s exactly what she needs to do. She still has a long road, and every day is its own challenge. We’ll keep doing what we can to help her, and I know that God will continue to give her grace. Some might blame her for all of this, and to be sure, she shares some amount of responsibility. But in walking through these last four months with Chris, I can say that he really owns the state of his life. Despite the bad example he grew up with, he recognized that it was a dead end a long time ago, and he’s had many opportunities to walk away from it. He was not physically addicted to heroin, he just did it because that was the culture he chose to immerse himself in. For the last several years he’s been the beneficiary of a lot of generosity, from the hands and hearts of many different people. Even today, there are people who stand ready to help him, but they may never get that opportunity.


In as much as this may seem like an extreme story, about extreme circumstances, I can’t help but think that we all share in some aspects of this. Regardless of where we come from, and of what we’ve experienced, we all need to take ownership of our lives. We can blame it on our upbringing, or society, or bad church experiences, or bad marriages, or our economic state, or… But in the end, our lives are more a product of our will than of our circumstances. I firmly believe that all it takes to remain firmly planted on the path to destruction is someone else to blame for your condition.I suspect that if we could be truly objective, we’d see that (like Chris) we’ve passed up numerous opportunities to turn a corner. Years ago, I felt like the Lord said, “The fact that someone makes a bad decision does little more than qualify them as a member of the human race; and that ultimately it is the unwillingness to acknowledge and learn from those mistakes that eventually brands them a fool.” If we are not careful, we too will miss our seasons of opportunity, and quickly find ourselves reaping what we’ve sown. Please continue to pray for this family – God can make a way where there seems to be no way.

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I appreciate all of the prayers offered up on behalf of our friends Christian and Carleen, who I wrote about last week (03/06/2014) in my blog titled, “Back to the Edge of the Cliff”. As I mentioned in that article, Christian actually died and was revived several minutes later by his mother Carleen (who was formerly a Registered Nurse). While she offered no explanation for why her 21 year old son’s heart stopped suddenly, and blood came streaming from his mouth, those who know them would have to assume that these things were all the byproduct of a drug overdose, as both mother and son are addicted to heroin. The only real question would be whether it was intentional or accidental.

On a more personal note, it was somewhat surprising to hear that Christian was asking to see me, as we’d never been particularly close. Over the years of our friendship, most of my attention had been devoted to his mother and his two little sisters. Though I know that he appreciated those efforts it didn’t necessarily result in a deep bond between us. His biological father has never been a part of his life, and was already serving a 50 year sentence for attempted murder when Christian was a baby. Though I never sensed that he looked to me as any sort of father figure, I was blessed to hear that he wanted to see me, even though I had no idea what I should say. At first, the hospital prohibited visitors, but I eventually got the call that I could see him.

After much prayer, I felt that I just needed to let Christian dictate the conversation for a while, and to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me. Though the initial minutes of our time together were awkward, we finally settled into a relaxed conversation about nothing in particular. After an hour and a half of this small talk, I was wondering if this was really what God wanted, but Christian seemed to be engaged, so I just continued to roll with it. Then, after a brief interruption by one of his nurses, he suddenly turned back to me and calmly said, “You know that I was trying to end it?” While I wasn’t quite prepared for that, I tried not to give away my surprise; and without any discernible emotion, he proceeded to tell me the story of how he decided to end his life and what he did to execute that plan.

I have to admit that it was chilling to hear how little regard he had for himself, or for his family who witnessed these things. Sadly, his 13 year old sister was the one in the room when blood started issuing from his mouth and his heart stopped beating. In her young life she’s already been an eyewitness to her baby sister losing an arm to a lawn mower, and her father dying in their living room. Even worse is the fact that those events may not constitute the most horrific things she’s experienced, as she’s grown up in a house full of drug addicts. I have to admit that my heart was sick as I considered the carnage this family has known.

Within the story, there was a point where a window of opportunity seemed to crack open, as Christian admitted that he moved into the kitchen because he knew that no one would find him in the bedroom. As I asked about that, he disclosed that as the heroin quickly grabbed a hold of him, he had wondered if this wasn’t a mistake, and from there we spent the next couple of hours talking about fear, hope, suffering, eternity, God, religion, and life in general. I can’t tell you what, if anything, was accomplished in those hours, but it was as naked a conversation as I’ve ever had, and I sensed that it was exactly what both Christian, and God, wanted all along. Christian has a lot of questions, and I didn’t try to give him answers that I didn’t have. I think he appreciated that. I couldn’t help but think of the friends of Job, who cried with him for seven days, but then tried to explain what they didn’t understand. I did my best not to go there.

Looking back, I sense that he was sort of testing me. Would I even come; would I give up when things got inconvenient; would I preach at him; would I stay for more than 15 minutes; would I judge him; would I throw some tired religious platitudes at him; would I really care one way or another? When I finally had to go, he seemed to understand, but he sheepishly asked, “Can you come back tomorrow?” I guess that was his way of letting me know that it had all meant something to him too. As I went to leave I patted him on the shoulder, but despite being weak and full of IV lines / heart monitor wires, he insisted on getting up and hugging me. In that moment I could feel the utter void of love that this boy has ever experienced from a man who didn’t want something from him.

Our conversations in the days since have wavered between more small talk and the deeper issues that are going on in his life. Without us really addressing it directly, Christian decided that he wants to go to rehab at a local outreach ministry, if they’ll take him. At this point, he’s a risk even for the programs that were created to help people like him. And he’s opened up about his fears of being released from the hospital with nowhere to go, other than back to the life he’s always known. He seems to want to make a change, but he’s not sure he can do it, or exactly how to begin. From the outside it all seems pretty simple, but up close it looks nearly impossible. His mother has been the truest manifestation of love he’s known, and yet, her continued involvement in his life presents a real danger to his future. For Carleen, her kids have been her motivation to keep going, but her addiction now threatens their existence. Without the kids, will Carleen have an incentive to keep going? What if Christian needs a safe place to stay? Is it wise to bring him into my home with three teenaged kids? How will he feel if I’m not willing to do that? How far is God calling me to go with this? I’ve got all sorts of words, but talk is cheaper than ever in his world. This boy needs a miracle and only God can deliver it. Despite the encouraging events of the last few days, it’s still up in the air when it comes to tomorrow. Please lift this whole situation up in prayer, as apart from God, we can do nothing.

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