I never imagined writing a blog post commemorating overdose awareness day; but here I am. In my naivette, I assumed our family would never be affected. After all, neither my husband nor I struggled with addictions; our sons were raised in a loving Christian home, in an upper middle class family where education was valued and encouraged. I was privileged to be a stay at home mom and we were both involved with our sons in sports and cultural activites. We ate meals together and took wonderful, memorable vacations! We played outside, went to Sunday school, vacation Bible school, the zoo, the park, the library; we did all the things Moms and Dads littles one do! We seemed to have to have a good grasp on this parenting thing, until we didn’t. While our son was the real victim, his use of drugs took its toll on our entire family.
Addiction does not discriminate. Lest you be too judgemental, it can happen to anyone at any time. It affects people from all socioeconomic groups, professions, races, intelligence quotients, personalities, and family histories; no one is immune.
Our son was a risk taker. He surfed at Folly Beach when one of the hurricanes hit Charleston! He donned a wet suit and his surf board, and off he went; after all, that is when one gets the “best” waves. I was made privy to this bit of information by his older brother after trying to reach Cullen unsuccessfully for hours. He was invincible; nothing would happen to him, until it did.
Cullen was very intelligent, creative and artistic. We kept many of his drawings and art projects he did while in school. He trained professionally as a chef at Johnson and Wales and was very talented and passionate about his work; presentation was everything to him! After all, we “eat” with our eyes before our food is ever tasted! He also learned woodworking from a friend and many examples of his work are in our home.
At present, approximately 72,000 people die of overdoses every year. Every one who dies leaves a heartbroken mother, father, sister, brother, child, extended family members, and friends. The life of each and every one matters; each person is created in the image of God with a purpose and a plan for his/her life, regardless of how sin has corrupted that design.
For several years before addiction took Cullen’s life, I feared “the call” everyday. Even though he lived away, we instinctively knew his lifestyle invoved the use of drugs….too much money went “missing”, his stories often did not add up, and countless times jewelry was stolen from our home. Too there were accidents, car repairs, tickets, incarcerations, and court costs that were a result of his addiction. Addiction is not only deadly, it is costly as well.
Amazingly enough, many overdoses occur when the person who is addicted has been “clean” for awhile. Cullen had been on MAT in an attempt to get his life back together for several years, and had done well in his efforts. He wanted to be free of the daily clinic visits and insisted that his dosages be reduced over a rather short period of time. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake. He struggled with all the symptoms of physical withdrawal: night sweats, cramping, stomach and digestive issues, depression, insomnia, and the like. While we knew of these struggles, he was still working everyday, maintaining his financial obligations with very litle help from us, and we mistakenly thought he was home free. It was not to be. On the morning of his death, he went back to the clinic and received 25 mg. of methadone and later that day secured heroin from his dealer. He even remarked to his dealer that he was afraid to use it because he had been clean for so long. But use it, he did; and that dose took his life.
When we arrived at his home, having been called by his girlfriend who had found him unresponsive, we had no idea his death was drug related. There was no drug paraphernalia present. It was not until we saw the autopsy report that we realized his addiction had won. It was a hard fought battle and we suffered the most casualties in the war.
Our family will never be the same. We miss him every single day of our lives. I am thankful for the thirty-two years we had with our beautiful boy, grateful for both the good times as well as the bad. I would do it all again in a heartbeat to be able to hug him, run my fingers through his hair, to hear his voice, to enjoy his sense of humor and his delicious food. We were blessed in that our prodigal did come to his senses; he sought the forgiveness of God and of us for his wrongdoing, he attempted to make amends to people he had wronged. He wanted nothing more than to regain the trust we had placed in him.
I wish I could tell others who are struggling on this path what to do, what works and what does not, but I can only share our story and hope that it might be beneficial to some. There are things we did right, and things we did wrong; but if love could have saved him, Cullen would not have died. His dad and I would have gladly given our lives in exchange for his. Cullen knew unconditional love; that was our best and most lasting gift to him.
I could have written so much of this about my own son Josh. His funeral was this day last year. I loved him unconditionally too and miss him more than words can describe. He was only 22 years old. There are far too many of these tragedies happening daily to our precious children!
Yes Karen, there are far too many of these tragedies! I am so sorry for the loss of your son, Josh. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Cullen died in 2013, so it has been a little over six years for us. Please be encouraged; you will always miss Josh, but the pain becomes less debilitating. It doesn’t mean you love him less, but rather you are more emotionally stable to recall/remember all the things you love about him, the things you enjoyed doing with him, the way you interacted with him. The anniversaries of the death and birthdays are particularly hard…those always seem to pose their own unique challenges. My prayers are with you as you face this anniversary. Hugs to you.❤️
My sister lost her battle January of 2018. We knew for many years that she had a disease that would take her life. I used to get upset with our Mom because I wanted someone to make her get help. Knowing the things i know now I know her addiction took her long before her death. It was close to 30 years of a struggle with opiates for her. She left behind a beautiful daughter that loved her beyond words. She is making goals and accomplishing all of them. People think we’ll they must have had bad parents or exposed to bad things. No we didn’t. She had a 4.0 in high school and the same through college and became a CAD programer. She had the world by the palm of her hand and she started wrecking cars, getting fired from jobs etc… I knew close to 10 years before my parents but I thought she had it under control and she was my older sister and I looked up to her. Over the years I had grown so cold to her and I thought I would not even care if something happened. I was so wrong. I became a grandma about 6 months before she died and I look at my granddaughter and I have to face the fact she will never even remember her. Our family has made some peace because addiction took her body but her soul is at peace and she can finally be happy and free of that demon.
Oh Kelly, I am so sorry your sister lost her battle with the demon of addiction. We had a psychiatrist who saw our son tell us that the disease would take his life as well. I hate that people think addiction is a result of bad parenting, that those who are affected are horrible people, incapable of being the loving, intelligent, compassionate, hard working, creative people those who love them know them to be. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and until one takes the time to educate oneself about it, that kind of erroneous thinking will continue to plague us. And really, how many people will take the time to educate themselves unless they are forced to do so…because someone they love has been affected. I am so glad your sister’s daughter is doing well; I know she misses her mom terribly. Our youngest son, who really bore the brunt of our family’s “trauma” and drama of dealing with our addicted son, became rather calloused toward Cullen and his older brother who also was addicted. (Our oldest son continues on MAT therapy and is making forward progress, but he hit a downward spiral when Cullen died as well. We honestly thought we would lose two sons to addiction, but thankfully, our oldest son has made progress in his life and is no longer using. People give him grief about MAT therapy, but at least he is alive.) But like you, our youngest son adored his older brothers and in spite of the fact that his growing up years in our home were not as pleasant as they should have been due to the chaos and drama caused by addiction, he knew he wanted nothing to do with drugs…of any kind. So the dysfunction he experienced growing up actually had a positive effect on him and on his career choice. He majored in criminal justice in college, is in law enforcement, and thinks he would like to eventually go the federal route.
Like you, we lost a piece of our hearts when Cullen died. Our youngest married shortly after Cullen’s death…and he says, “I hate it that my wife and any children we may have will never know him….”
Thank you for sharing your heart. Hugs to you.❤️
It is nice to hear people that don’t look at my sister or even our family and say I’m glad my child wouldn’t do that or I don’t know why they dont get help for them etc… until you walk in a families shoes that lives with addiction and open their eyes to the problem it’s going to keep getting worse. Life changed our family that day and it will never be the same again.
I have found in my years of parenting that none of us as parents know what our children will or want do. To say, “My child would never do this or that” is a dangerous, prideful statement. It is like playing with fire. And help for someone struggling with addiction is often counterproductive, in that the struggler, in his/her addiction, does not always see his or her need, or is unwilling to accept help. Addiction blinds those in its clutches to the truth. And like you stated so well, those families whose lives have been touched by addiction will never be the same.
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