Friday, June 25, 2010

12 year old Suicide and my Son's drug use

Unfortunately I am not referring to a suicide that took place 12 years ago. On June 19th, a beautiful 12 year old girl that is a part of my extended family, succumbed to the injuries she suffered days earlier, when she hung herself and her mother found her unconscious and nearly dead. This has hit me on so many levels and I can't seem to push through it.

For one, my son is 12. I cannot imagine him feeling endless hopelessness at his age. For two, I don't understand how in this specific case, everyone missed all the signs. It is such a tragedy.

I had intended to come here to blog about my son for some time. I fight to be aware of what is going on in his life on all levels and to stay tuned in. He has made new friends in this neighborhood that we moved to over winter break. They are different then his usual crowd. His grades and his interest in school plummeted. He changed his hair and dress style. He started caring less and less about consequences and more about "hanging out" and sleeping.

I knew something was up. Being that we drink, and there is alcohol in the house, and Bryson smokes, we decided it was time to take inventory and start counting/marking the bottles inconspicuously before bed. The first day Bryson woke up and everything was accounted for. he went to work and I left Destin and a friend at home while I ran some errands with the girls. When I came home the boys were gone and I decided I better check again. One beer was missing. I was furious. I called over to the friends and they were there. I told Destin I was coming for him immediately and that he better be able to tell me where the missing beer was by the time I got there.

He denied it even being gone initially. I told him I was taking him to the police station for a Breathalyzer and that if it came back positive then social services would probably get involved again.  His final story was that he let the other kid take it but he didn't drink any of it and that we could go do the Breathalyzer because he really didn't drink any. After a very long conversation about why he no longer had any privileges, or the trust of either of us, and how that was going to change our relationship, I decided that I would let him suffer through the guilt for awhile alone in his room.

I was reeling at Bryson about it and it occurred to me that it was highly unlikely this was the first or only incident. I went back up to his room where I found him sitting on the floor twiddling something in his hands. I sat on the floor next to him and told him we had more to talk about. I told him that I was going to Walgreens for a drug test and that he needed to tell me what I was going to find out before the test did. I couldn't believe my ears when he started crying and said he was so scared to tell me the truth, but that he really wanted to. The truth that he had been smoking cigarettes since he was 10 and had been smoking weed since we moved here in December. I cried. TWO YEARS?

We cried together for a minute. He hugged me and said he was so sorry but also so relieved and that he wanted to quit because football this fall was so important to him. He also said that he doesn't drink because he is scared since drinking is what caused the illness that took his father's life when he was 4. It took me a  minute to compose myself and I decided this was the best time to tell him my own truths so we could start working on that open and more adult-like relationship that I feel is going to be crucial for him during his teen years.

I told him of mine and Bryson's meth addiction. I told him about all of the things that happened because of it. I was actually shocked that he had no idea. He was in second grade when they were taken away from us. I also talked to him about all of the risks of different drugs and them being cut or laced. About overdosing and about legal consequences. I had plenty of family who have lost their kids or are in prison to use as examples. I talked about more immediate possible consequences, like Social Services getting involved or him starting out life with a juvenile record like my brother did. Consequently my brother is in jail right now at the age of 21 because he never stopped making those same choices. He is also well aware of Uncle P who was just paroled here, proceeded to get arrested after a month, and is now facing 4-12 years in prison because of drugs.

I told him that he had no choice but to quit. Honestly I was more upset about the cigarettes. Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in CO and is growing in popularity as a "healing herb." I don't condone it, but I also realize that with it available on every other corner in dispensaries, that talking responsibility is the key.I tried to talk more about how he needs to be of legal age before he chooses ANY legal habit (drinking, smoking, weed) and that he also needs to have the means to support his own habit without stealing. He said he would get the cigarette butts left in Bryson's ash tray. He told me who he had smoked weed with and who had supplied the weed and the paraphernalia. He also said he had stolen some from Uncle P. I am not naive enough to assume I got the whole truth, but I know enough to change the options he has.

I enrolled him in an alternative school, with very small class sizes and much more available guidance throughout the day, for next year. The kids in this neighborhood are off limits for now. He will have to reconnect with church friends or kids from our old neighborhood that I trust. He can no longer be left alone with his friends and no adults. Bryson is now soaking his cigarette butts in water so there are none available here. He isn't allowed to leave the house without us, so no walks looking for butts either.

It has been 3 weeks since I found out. The first week Destin was an irritable, grouchy, shaky mess. We encouraged him to talk about how bad he felt and be honest when he was having cravings. He said going without weed din't bother him, just without cigarettes. We encouraged him that he would feel better and that it would pass. He is uncomfortable around other people smoking in public and says he feels good that he did it. He even said he feels strong that he quit smoking when Bryson can't ;)

I didn't think it would happen so soon, but I was sure experimenting would be a part of his life. I know I can't hold his hand all of the time and there will be plenty more opportunities where he will have to choose what he is going to do. I have to equip him with education about the dangers of drugs and hope he will make good choices.

I was feeling overall confident about how it has played out thus far until the death of this little girl rocked my world. Obviously kids can have completely separate lives from what their parents ever see. Her parents say there were no signs. I saw several status messages that referred to her committing suicide and that no one would care. Even worse, out of her over 100 friends on there, not one commented back that they did care or suggest she talk to someone or tell her parents! Why wasn't anyone paying attention?!?!?

I am into what my kids are doing to a fault. I am on their myspaces. I have their passwords and I do check their phones. They have to ask for permission to be on the computer and I have parental controls that limit what they can do. I also check the browser history to see what sites they go on. Amazingly they don't seem to mind. They ask for my help to do their backgrounds and we look at their friends statuses and pages together. I have always told them they do not have a right to privacy over safety and that I care enough to know what they are doing. Is it enough?

I'm sure I will have more to say on this. I am overwhelmed with it all right now.

I am helping to participate on a facebook group that focuses on childhood bullying and depression and am speaking out in Brianna's honor. Hopefully the loss of her life can save another. I know it will help me to be even more increasingly aware of what is going on in my children's lives and take the time to talk to them and show them I care. I had a really awesome talk with Destin about depression and suicide last night and even how drugs can lead to either. We talked about how friends come and go and that if anyone is ever making him feel worthless he needs to talk about it. I showed him pictures of Brianna, and all the things that her friends are posting in the group, that I know they wish they could have said before it was too late. Drug addiction, depression, and suicide run rampant in our families, and I am not going to sit idly by and lose my children to any of them, if I can help it.

I would like to share the link to Brianna's page as well as her memorial fund. If you can show any emotional or financial support to the people that are grieving an unimaginable loss, it would be appreciated. If there is someone that you can share her story with that it may help, please do.

In Memory of Brianna: Let's put an end to bullying


Forever Brianna