Already Gone

“My ma is on my case all the time because of the xanax but I still got high every night since I got home from the hospital.”

So reads one of the texts that I read on my son’s phone 6 days after was discharged from a 5 day in-patient stay in the adolescent unit of the psychiatric hospital.

It’s like a physical punch in the solar plexus; I lose my breath for a moment.

He’s been getting high every night since the hospital?

After 3 years of my teenager abusing drugs, I thought I was pretty saavy about detecting evidence of use.

But he still managed to fool me, trick us. And I feel foolish and defeated for believing he was clean.

“Playing video games would give me something to do during the day if I get bored or start to feel anxious.” This is what Son told me on the eve of his hospital release.

So I call in favors and borrow somebody’s old PS3. We go to the mall twice to get games for it. I buy him an extra controller so he can have friends over.

“I want to put my bed over here (by the window). You know how I like fresh air over air conditioning.” (It’s true, he does. Or he did, back in our Old Life.) So we move the bed. Although of course, it’s clear to me now that he wanted his bed near the window to smoke a bowl somewhere with decent ventilation.

“I really want a little spending money so I can go to movies with my friends and buy PS3 games and stuff.”

So I make calls, arrange several jobs around the neighborhood, the first one occuring on the very afternoon of his release from the hospital.

He ended up there because he was abusing Xanaxa and weed and alcohol and using psychelics. He lived away from home for 16 days. On the day before he was admitted, we went to therapy together. I pleaded with him to come home. Bargained. Offered incentives. He agreed.

The next day, he threatened to slit the throat of another boy who accused him of stealing a pipe. He tore up a kleenex box, shreds of tissue and pieces of cardboard all over the room. Took liquid body wash and sprayed the bathroom with it: floors, sink, mirror, ceiling, toilet. I didn’t recognize my son. This other person is never someone I would have willingly spent time with. After he swore he would slit the other boy’s throat, I called 911. That was how the intake started.

It took a long time. I had no idea how long. Six hours after we walked into the hospital, we left him there with the nurses and a molded plastic bed in his room. There were fish painted all over the walls. It was supposed to look cheerful, I think. Instead, it looked ominous. Subterranean because of the lack of windows and the special ‘safety’ window treatments. When we left, we took his shoelaces and his belt with us (house rules). He was shaking and looked angry and afraid. Later that night we brought him the comforter from his bed and some ‘athorized’ snacks (no cans, no glass, no caffeine). He begged us to take him home. It felt a little like nursery school with the paper-bagged snack and blanket. If he was smaller, he might have clung to my husband’s leg and shrieked with terror. It was a little like nursery school in that a parent KNOWS nursery school is safe and necessary and GOOD for the child. We knew all those things about leaving our son at the psych hospital. Still gut wrenching to leave.

Five days later, he was discharged. Sober. With a dual diagnosis of depression/anxiety and substance abuse. A brand new cocktail of medications to help stabilize him.

While he was gone, we cleaned and readied his room for his return. Hung his pictures and put fresh sheets on the bed and got him a new lamp and some books.

At the exit therapy session, we learned there was no ‘step down’ program that was appropriate for our son: too old for one, not AODA certified at the other, doesn’t qualify for partial hospitalization. “It’s definetly a gap in service,” cheerfully agreed the ‘family therapist’ whose best idea for C was to make himself a daily schedule. We protested and argued; I even burst into tears: “He is not ready to be on his own and just seeing a therapist once a week! He’s barely SOBER. If you release him now without a plan, I can promise you we’ll be right back here in a month. Or worse.”

As Jeff Goldblum wryly observes in Jurassic Park, “I sure do hate being right all the time.”

It didn’t take a month.

He is sick and he’s an addict and he’s a teenager.

He left again yesterday after we became suspicious that he was high. A search of his pockets and wallet revealed a new pipe, a dime bag of weed, a lighter, $20 and some skittles. His phone revealed many conversations like the one listed in the beginning of this post.

I called the therapist and told her their ‘gap in services’ resulted in a relapse. I told her I was furious and that we’d be contacting admistrators. Maybe a step down program wouldn’t have helped. But we’ll never know now.

I have decided that I have to let go. Son will be 18 in 3 days. He is already gone. We’ve been losing him slowly since 2013. Now he has left the building. I used to have three children. Tonight I have two.

“I know you are sad that C left again, Mom,” my 11 year old says gently as we are weeding the garden together this evening, “But it’s also a little good. Because now we don’t have to worry like we do when he IS home. We don’t have to worry about whether he is trying to steal stuff. And there’s a lot less fighting. Those are good things about C being gone. So the next time you feel sad or miss him, think about that part.”

I used to have 3 children. Now I have 2.

Two wise and observant children who used to have a brother they adored.

We are all in mourning. We will take care of each other.