My son’s father and I divorced when my son was about two years old, and unfortunately, we had a lot of bumps along the way, as many divorces do. My son lived primarily with his father, and I moved close by so that he would have both of us in his life. We were both business owners, and we worked long hours. My son went to private schools, was a relatively good student, and participated in sports and other activities. He was involved in the drama department in middle and high school and is very talented.
I noticed my son would go through periods of isolation in his room and signs of depression that I quickly dismissed as just part of growing up. I do not know how I missed that, as I have many mental illnesses in my family.
When my son was 15, my ex-husband called me, sounded upset over the phone, and told me he needed to see me. Once I arrived, he told me our son was smoking marijuana in his house. I was shocked because that was so out of character for him, but I was not too alarmed because I thought it was “just pot .”Our interventions were not successful at that point, and things continued. During the next few years, my son went from being an AP student to barely being able to graduate high school, all as a result of his marijuana use. At this point, he was no longer socializing or participating in family events and just wanted to be in his room smoking marijuana. The alarm bells had been going off for a while, and we knew it was time to act.
Neither my ex-husband nor I experienced drug abuse, so we hired an interventionist. Within weeks of graduating high school, my son went into his first drug rehab. At that time, my ignorance and naivety made me believe we were lucky because we caught it early so that it would be a one-and-done experience. My son graduated from the 90-day program, and it was there that he was exposed to more drugs, and within months he relapsed and began using cocaine. The interventionist found another 90-day program, a dual diagnosis drug rehab, that addressed my son’s mental health in Southern California, where we live, also known as “Rehab Rivera .”My son refused any medication. Unfortunately, his depression and other symptoms were not properly addressed.
My son graduated from the program and relapsed while in their sober living; this time, he left with someone he met there who had introduced him to methamphetamine. Now he was living in Los Angeles and selling drugs in exchange for getting his drugs. We lost contact with him at that point, and when we saw him again, he had arrived at my ex-husband’s house wearing only his underwear.
We decided to try another rehab, a faith-based program. My son also graduated from the program and stayed sober for almost two years. By this time, I was a member of Al-Anon, and I would meet with my son on Saturdays and go to a meeting together. My son had a group of sober friends that he had made and lived in a sober living. I remember looking at my son, and I could see the sadness on his face, and my heart sank. My son relapsed at one of the meetings one night. His sponsor and all the friends he made over those two years of sobriety shunned him. All his belongings were put in a trash bag and thrown out by the dumpster. I reached out to my son in hopes to see if he could get back on track, but unfortunately, this was the beginning of a relapse that lasted almost three years.
The details of these three years are heartbreaking, but it is the last year where I will pick up his story. His drug usage escalated, and he lost his job and ran out of money. My ex-husband contacted him and offered for him to come back home and live with his stepmom and teenage brothers and get his old job back. He knew he was not sober but hoped this could help get him back on track. My son accepted, and in the beginning, things appeared better. He appeared happy and was socializing more with his family. The one thing you would always see with my son was he had a vape and would vape all day long. We had no idea what he was vaping but assumed it was marijuana. Over the next six months, things were changing. He stopped going to work and began experiencing delusional thinking, along with mood swings. He started talking about strangers following him and other strange stories.
One night my son called me to tell me that he was on the freeway and was being chased, and the phone call ended. Within an hour, a police officer called me and told me that my son was involved in a car crash; he was driving on the opposite side of the road. Thankfully he nor anyone else was hurt, but his car was no longer operable. The police officer told me that my son appeared to be having a mental health break, and I requested he be taken in on a 5150, but the officer declined to take him in. My ex-husband also received a call and was coming to pick up our son. That night we tried to convince our son to allow us to take him to a psychiatric hospital for an evaluation, but he would not agree. My ex-husband gave him a drug test; the only drug he tested positive for was THC. We were shocked because we did not understand this since it was only marijuana.
His psychosis continued, and about a month later, my ex-husband called to tell me that things were getting worse with my son’s psychosis. We were trying to get him picked up on a 5150, but we did not want this to happen in front of his brothers. I picked up my son and took him to a hotel. That night he kept vaping and leaving, so I knew he was doing drugs, but I planned to call the police to get him picked up on a 5150. The next morning, my son became violent, bashed the TV in the hotel room, and left on foot. I called the police, and within 30 minutes, the officer told me that he had my son and was cooperating and sitting quietly in his car. He said other callers had reported him because he was throwing rocks at cars and dodging in and out of traffic.
My son was taken in on a 5150 to the local psychiatric hospital. Several hours later, I called, and the nurse told me he was in a very deep psychosis. They kept him for two weeks on a mandatory hold. After picking him up from the psychiatric hospital, he was given several psyche meds, and we went to the pharmacy to get them filled. He was diagnosed with a mood disorder but prescribed meds for schizophrenia. I arranged to take my son to a structured sober living with an outpatient treatment center. That was November 2021, and by late December 2021, my son was experiencing major depressive symptoms. He asked to leave and was willing to return to a psychiatric hospital. His dad allowed him back to live at his house while getting treatment at the psychiatric hospital. His depression was so severe it was anhedonia (reduced ability to experience pleasure) that we had never seen before. He was so withdrawn and only wanted to be alone in his room. We were so scared for his life; he was a shell of the person he used to be. He finished the program at the psychiatric hospital, and we discovered he was smoking marijuana again.
I then began asking questions about what kind of marijuana he was smoking. He told me about high-THC marijuana and the other marijuana products he bought from gasoline stations. He had no idea about how harmful these products were, but he did admit that he was addicted to them. That was April 28th, 2022, that night his dad and I talked to him about needing a long-term program. The next day he agreed to go, and the last time I saw his sweet smile, he kissed me and said, “See you in 90 days.”
My son is currently at that treatment center and has been sober for 14 months. He is working towards moving into phase 2 of their program, which could be another year or more.