My son, Spencer, started experimenting with marijuana at 16 then it escalated to other drugs, which were then replaced with medical marijuana. Now he is dead. Oh, but they said it wasn’t a gateway drug! Sure!
It was a difficult 30+ years. My husband and I had hoped that our son would hit rock bottom for many years. He once told us he’d used every hard drug out there, but meth seemed to be the most common one.
When he was in his mid-30s, he quit a decent job that provided him with good insurance. He had diabetes, and insulin was a necessity, so he needed insurance. This was the beginning of the end…
The following January, he jumped off a barn. He said the angels told him he could fly. He had moved on to using meth. He had one neighbor living right next door, and he attempted to crawl on two broken heels into their dog’s house that had straw on the ground, looking for baby Jesus. Later, he crawled to his own house. Somehow, he called for an ambulance.
The hospital called me the next day and gave me the details. The only reason the hospital did call, usually they didn’t due to HIPPA laws, was because they felt he tried to commit suicide. The next day, they took him off the suicide watch at the hospital, and would not tell us anything else. We learned that he had shattered both heels when he jumped. They operated on one heel, and the other was so messed up, they couldn’t. Due to his diabetes, his feet wouldn’t heal, and since he’d quit his job, he couldn’t afford insulin. He was living on his 401K money, which he wiped out eventually, and later qualified for disability income, which did come with Medicare. I will share another concern at the end about HIPPA laws for people such as my son.
Spencer later ended up having one toe amputated, then another, and eventually, a foot. The doctor said he should have the other foot amputated, as the infection would never heal. He had been on a kidney transplant list for about a year, until the infection. Again, the doctor told him he had to decide if he wanted a new organ or keep his foot. One or the other. He chose the latter, therefore, was taken off the transplant list.
I went years without hearing from him, not knowing if he was dead or alive. When he’d surface, he always wanted money, or for us to rescue him from one thing after another. I know I enabled him, but at the time, I thought I was just giving him that boost to move forward. Not! It’s amazing what hindsight reveals to us.
About 5 years ago, he stopped communicating with us, again. Since I lived only about 25 miles from him, I’d drive by his apartment about every 2-3 weeks just to see if his car was there, or if the shades were up or down. I always felt if they were up, that meant he was having an ok day, and if the shades were down, then not so much.
He was on kidney dialysis for several years. Sometimes he would skip dialysis for months at a time, and the medical staff would call me to let me know. Eventually, he’d end up in the hospital before they would accept him back to dialysis again.
About 1 year ago, he called me one night crying, “Mom, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…. I love you and I miss hearing your voice. I don’t think I’ll make it through the night. Dialysis took too much fluid off this morning, and I can’t breathe. The ER sent me home”. At that point, it had been about 5 years since I spoke with him. I asked if I could come over and he said “no”, so I asked him to text the next morning. Surprisingly, I had peace…. knowing if it was his time to go, he’d be in a better place. I do believe he was a Christian.
The next morning, he texted, and I asked if I could come over. He said, “yes”. It was a bittersweet time and went well until I mentioned his sister. His mood then turned on a dime, and he went into a psychotic rage, yelling and slamming his fist on the counter. His brain and memory were mixed-up and he believed lies about his sister. This was the psychosis. He’d been using medical marijuana at this point and was off the other drugs.
He’d been saying to me for years that he had to raise himself, had to feed himself, and I was never at home. That was so false, that it was almost funny. But I grew to learn that his psychotic brain was so damaged that he really believed it and nothing I could say would change his mind. He would say people were following him, spying on him, and that they could see him through the TV. I knew this was psychosis, and I thought he had schizophrenia!
He eventually told me to leave and, for some reason, I froze and didn’t leave. He said, “I’m going to call the police if you don’t leave,” and so I got my purse and started to leave. He said, “Where are you going?” and I said, “I’m not going to be here when the police come”. He didn’t call the police. He took me by the hand and led me to the patio. We sat and had a decent conversation, although he kept repeating the delusions about growing up, but I bit my lip and didn’t say anything. Tears flowed down my face as my heart ached. It was painful to know that he really believed this stuff. I finally said I needed to leave, and he walked me to my car, gave me a hug, we said our “I love you’s” and I left.
After that, he started texting mean outrageous things to me, so I finally blocked him. My husband texted him informing him that I had blocked him and he was to text him from then on. Spencer was out of his mind at this point. He had told me he was using pot, ‘medical’ marijuana. I had read it was much more potent and dangerous than years before. Now I know it is. I kept a notebook of ALL his texts over the years for my protection. My notebook is 3” thick. His text messages were mind-boggling. Spencer said he was going to send the law after me for this or that, he was delusional. So, that’s why I decided to write this testimony for Every Brain Matters. I want people to know that medical marijuana causes psychosis too, just like meth did.
On October 1, 2021, about 5 weeks later, my husband and I were out of state, and my phone rang.
“This is the police, and we are sad to say we found your son dead in his apartment today”.
I’d pictured this day for years. I always feared that he would die alone in his apartment and no one would find him for a month until someone realized he was not paying his rent.
The dialysis center was trying to call him because he’d missed his Monday appointment. On Wednesday, when he missed his appointment again, the dialysis center called the police for a wellness check. The police had to break in the door to get in and took him to the coroner’s office. Later the coroner said he thought Spencer had died on that Monday…2 days earlier.
After returning from our trip, my daughter, me, and my husband (Spencer’s stepdad, his biological father had died 18 years ago), went to his apartment. It was a mess which was surprising because he was always very clean. The coroner’s office said Spencer had gone into a diabetic coma. We found on his calendar that he’d written on that Monday “Not going to dialysis, blood sugar too low”. So, that confirmed it: he died from diabetes but the drugs led him down this path, and the medical marijuana only increased his psychosis.
When we found his phone, we were shocked!!!! Literally, his phone had thousands of pictures and videos of him talking crazy, talking to someone as if they were in the room with him. He was talking to a picture on the wall, zooming his phone in on a reflection outside or on a screw head. He was always seeing things in reflections and was paranoid. He took an electric wall plate off the wall because he thought that someone was spying on him through it and had 3 hand-written pages of car tag #’s that were parked in his apartment complex, which gave us more evidence of his paranoia. It was so sad to see how he lived and how miserable he was.
So, at 49 years old my son was gone. He was such a handsome young man who had excelled in high school, football, and baseball. He was voted outstanding athlete in his high school graduating class of 300 and received a scholarship to play college baseball, but he didn’t finish his first year of college. We learned he was using drugs during college after we found paraphernalia in his truck.
It kills me to write this testimony!!!! But the truth is drugs destroyed him. Yes, no one forced drugs on him. It was his choice, and he paid a huge price and so did his family! Marijuana, among other drugs, destroyed his brain. It’s sad that people with addiction don’t realize that they need help because using drugs, especially marijuana, seems normal to them.
That’s my story. At first, I think I was just relieved that my pain and my son’s pain were over. I know he didn’t have a future in the condition he was in, but now about a year later, the sadness is hitting me very hard as I think about what he could have been. Spencer was fun, very sensitive, and loved his family. His anger towards his sister was so strange. Maybe he was lashing out at her because he felt guilty and I know the drugs distorted his memory.
But as I look back, I realize the conversation we had 5 weeks before he died was God giving us time and the ability to say our last goodbyes. It had been 5 years since we spoke. That day, Spencer said what he needed to say, and I needed to hear how much he loved me and missed me. I’ll never forget how he said he missed hearing my voice. That day was a gift from God. He could die peacefully, knowing I knew that he was sorry for all the misery he put me through. I’m eternally thankful and his words ring in my ears and will until my death.
Regarding the HIPPA laws, it is so upside down! I wonder if my son, and others like him, could have been helped more if these laws were different for people with addiction. They say if they are of “sound mind”, the medical industry will abide by those laws. I pose the question, “Is an addict of ‘sound mind”? You can’t imagine how many times my son would let me know he was in the hospital, but when I called, he wouldn’t answer his phone, nor would the nurses tell me anything. One time, I went to the hospital and stood outside his room but was treated awfully. I wasn’t allowed to talk to his doctor or go in to see him. The nurses wouldn’t tell us anything, all due to my son’s orders. My son seemed to be able to sound coherent, when necessary, even while under the influence of drugs. He knew how to beat the system! ONLY that ONE time when they suspected suicide, did the hospital call me. Only that ONE day! That incident in itself is not NORMAL or something someone of “sound mind” would do.
From another sad mother about her son, a young man who destroyed his life from drugs…. Sue