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Posts Tagged ‘drug rehab’

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 thought I’d provide one last update on the situation I’ve been dealing with (and blogging about) for the last couple of weeks [see “Back to the Edge of the Cliff” – 03/06/2014 & “Back to the Edge of the Cliff (Update)” – 03/12/2014].  As I last wrote about the situation, we were facing the fact that Christian (a 21 year old boy who had intentionally overdosed on heroin, and was clinically dead for several minutes) was set to be released from the hospital, and had nowhere to go for several days, as he awaited the opportunity to enter the drug rehab program he hoped to get into.  At that time I was wrestling with what role I should play, and trying to discern how far God was calling me to go to help Chris.  Though I had no doubt that the bond we’d formed while he was in the hospital was meant to help him to the next step, I couldn’t help but question the wisdom of bringing a potentially suicidal drug addict under the same roof as my wife and children.  Though I didn’t sense that Chris posed any direct threat to them, his frayed state of mind made the possibilities a little daunting.  

Despite a lot of prayers, I still wasn’t sure what to do when the hospital called last Wednesday to tell me that they’d be discharging Chris from the psychiatric wing that afternoon.  Though I’d called several places, each one presented hurdles that I couldn’t seem to overcome within the given timeframe.  By the time I arrived to pick him up, I had only one potential shelter for him to go to and that was contingent upon him passing a drug screening.  That seemed unlikely since he’d just ODed on heroin, and was being treated with narcotics while in the hospital.  Nonetheless, I believed that if it was meant to be, God would make a way for us.  The more immediate problem was that Chris didn’t have any clothes or ID, and that all of his stuff was at his mother’s house, where she continued to succumb to her own addiction.  As I pulled up to the hospital, the snow was flying and the wind chill was down into the single digits, but Chris was wearing a pair of jeans from the lost and found (several sizes too big and held together by a plastic wire tie), an old scrub shirt, and a pair of flip flops.  Though I gave him my coat, we headed directly to the store to get something to wear.  On the way I told him about the shelter, but he made it clear that if I didn’t want him with us, he could find something on his own.  At that point, I knew that his only chance to stay clean long enough to reach rehab was to take him in.  So after we got him some clothes we headed home.

For the next few days we did our best to keep him safe and calm.  Bekah (my 14 year old daughter) volunteered to sleep on the couch, so he could have a bed; while he, and AJ (my 14 year old son) took to playing on the X-Box.  Other than those few little breaks, Christian was pretty much my shadow.  Everywhere I went, he seemed to be right behind me, and we talked endlessly, about a myriad of topics.  He really seemed to be enjoying the dynamic of being one of our kids, and I must admit that I was surprised by how well things seemed to go.

Despite those positives, there was some underlying tension for me.  One was that I wound up taking the rest of the week off without any prior notice.  I wasn’t sure how well that would sit with my boss, and it was a bit of a drain on my already depleted vacation supply.  Another thing was feeling as though I needed to be accessible to him at all times.  Given the many demands on my time, it was hard to maintain any sort of real balance or routine.  While I generally won’t allow anyone to take precedence over Anita or the kids, for these days Christian was priority one.  While I knew that was probably necessary, it was somewhat unnatural and disconcerting to me.  As the days went on, he began to stay up after we all went to bed, which also made for some restless nights.

On the less subtle side of things, there were immediate challenges as well.  The first of those came from Christian’s mother, who took offense that I was the one he wanted to talk to in the hospital, and looked to when he got out.  That offense grew exponentially when she began to recognize that, to some extent, I was shielding Chris from her.  While I didn’t keep them from talking, I was painfully aware that Carleen’s continued addiction made her a threat to his sobriety, and I would not allow them to be alone together.  As the weekend progressed, her anger and frustration continued to build.  I also looked into the rehab program Chris was holding out for, and from the criteria listed on their website, it was apparent to me that he wasn’t going to qualify.  When I told him this, he insisted that he still wanted to try.  At first, I thought this was because he really wanted that program badly, but in hindsight, I realize that he was already having his doubts and that he was simply stalling for more time.  Though I didn’t immediately nix the idea of waiting until Tuesday (or walking all the way through this program’s process), I began to push Chris to come up with a Plan B and it became apparent that he really had no interest in that.  By Saturday, the Lord was really opening my eyes to the unseen reality of the situation, which was that Chris felt pretty comfortable with us, and that his desire to go through the whole rehab process was beginning to evaporate.  At that time, I still had no real alternatives to the program he was after, and I began to pray earnestly for God to light the path for us.

On Sunday morning we went to church and wouldn’t you know that our Pastor had previously scheduled one of the men from the congregation to speak in his stead that day.  And isn’t it just like the Lord that this man (& his wife) are both recently recovered heroin addicts.  Before the service even started, and before he even knew this man’s story, Chris confessed to me that he felt like he “could go either way today”.  After the man spoke, and as we waited to talk to him, he also shared that he had a strong sense that “this day could end badly or awesomely”.  When we did get to talk to this brother, he shared his story and gave us the contact information for the rehab he went through, which Chris could immediately get into.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic, as I felt as though the Lord had spoken to us loudly and had made a way for us.  Chris, on the other hand, didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm.  He suddenly became very sluggish and non-responsive in our conversations, and for the first time, he began to leave my side, in favor of hanging out with the kids.  After we ate lunch, he even called his mother and invited her to stop by the house.  When she came by, I made sure that I was there, and I could tell that neither of them felt as though they could say what was on their mind.  His mother glared at me and after an awkward silence, decided to leave.  At this point, I knew that the tide had turned and that Chris’ heart wasn’t truly committed to rehab anymore.  Though he wanted to be free of the addiction, he wasn’t necessarily willing to go through the process to get there.  I also believe that if I hadn’t rudely inserted myself into that meeting, Chris may well have gotten in the car with his mother and headed home.

For the rest of the evening I kept Chris close to me and pressed him about what he really wanted.  I knew that we running out of time and I tried hard to get him to commit to heading up to the facility that night; but that same non-committal lethargy seemed to keep washing over him.  It was after midnight before I headed to bed, and I told him that the following day (i.e. Monday) was going to be D-Day.  Anita was going to stay with him throughout the day and I mentioned that he needed do his laundry, so we could pack him up and take him to rehab after dinner.  He didn’t really say much to that and I wondered if he might leave in the night.  But instead he spent all night playing video games and was still awake when I got up for work in the morning.  He finally fell asleep before I got the kids off to school, and sleep for most of the day. 

Not surprisingly, when I got off of work, I found that his mother had blown up my cellphone, and seemed desperate to reach him.  Just as the Spirit in me was letting me know that we were running out of time, so were the spirits in her.  When I got home, he hadn’t done the laundry and was in that same sort of stupor.  When his mom finally called the house and spoke to him, she wanted to know when he was leaving, where he was going, and most importantly, whether there would be a time when he’d be at the house by himself.  Christian’s low ebb, and lack of commitment to the plan I had laid out the night before, caused him to give her vague answers, which made it seem as though nothing had been decided yet.  Ultimately, I believe that those conversations convinced her that she didn’t really need to stop by for another heavily monitored conversation and that she still had some time.  After we ate dinner, and the laundry was dry and folded, I told Christian that it was now or never.  That if he didn’t make this commitment now, that he wasn’t likely to make it.

My old pastor used to say, “You need to seize the opportunity of a lifetime within the lifetime of the opportunity”.  I’m not sure if that was his or whether he read that somewhere, but it has always stuck with me.  There at the table, I laid it all out for Chris, reminding him of all the ways God had spoken to us both in the last few days and of the spiritual battle that was raging all around him.  I told him that the enemy of his soul wanted this to seem like a really complex decision, but that it was really a very simple one.  I explained that he was at a crossroads and that there were only two paths he could take.  One was a road he was intimately familiar with; it was in fact the road he grew up on, and the one that ultimately led him to take his own life.   And while the other road was one he’d never travelled, it was the only other alternative.  I let him know that it was alright to be afraid of what he didn’t know, but that he couldn’t let that fear drive him down the road of death.  I told him that if he didn’t feel strong enough to cross over this threshold, I was willing to carry him across if he’d let me.

I wish I could say that there was some big emotional bang, but he simply stared at me blankly.  After some uncomfortable moments of silence, he finally asked, “Do I have time for a shower before we go?” and I told him that he did.  It took awhile to get him out the door and even longer to get him in the door at the rehab, but late last night he finally took that first step down this new path.  He’s going to need to take a bunch more steps if he’s ever going to be truly free, but I can’t help but be incredibly grateful for this first one.  I’m not sure his mother will ever forgive me for “taking away her son”, but the truth is that I loved her enough to protect him from her.  I know that the mother in her wants him to get well, but the addict in her didn’t want to give up her partner in crime, and at least for now, the addict seems to be in charge.  More than ever, this family needs our prayers.  There are still two young (ages 10yrs & 13yrs) daughters living with this addicted mother, and I feel certain that God is about to deal with that situation as well.  Ultimately that will be a different chapter in this story.  Today I want to thank God for His faithfulness and patience.  Apart from Him, we are all profoundly lost!

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