My son just turned twenty. For the first time, we didn’t have a cake, ice cream, friends, balloons, or presents. He spent the day in jail. With vivid memories of his heroin-addicted evening in the ICU several months ago, we had nursed high hopes that his life would be on the mend. But healing takes time, and life doesn’t always deliver the happy ending we long for.
With still unanswered questions about my vial of insulin that went missing years ago, I decided to ask my son again for the truth. I explained that there would be no punishment for his honesty. His immersion into the drug world was surely punishment enough for his experimentation with drugs. This time, he opened up and told his story.
My son had been using drugs for nearly three years when he got the idea to try insulin. He would take anything that he could get his hands on to get high, even cough syrup or vanilla extract. With his friends, he’d experimented with an assortment of illegal drugs. One day, he took a syringe and my brand-new bottle of insulin from the butter compartment in the refrigerator and brought it to his room, where he spent some time thinking about it.
He had seen me inject literally thousands of times over the course of ten years. How bad could it be? He figured he would get some sort of high off the insulin because it was such an expensive drug and could make me act drunk if I went low enough. With no idea of my dosing calculations, he simply filled the syringe to the halfway point and began to stick it into his arm. He said that it hurt, and he got scared and pulled it out without pushing down the plunger. He never realized the tremendous risk of death involved. He was a teen, a teen who felt invincible and just wanted to get high. What if my own life-saving insulin had killed him?
My son has been to drug rehab twice and has attended countless narcotic anonymous meetings. He has been to therapy, to psychiatrists, and to faith-based homeless shelters, yet nothing seems to help. He was kicked out of rehab for making deals with another patient for meds. He has slept in train stations and at friends’ houses, and he has been arrested on drug charges on several occasions.
Now, as he sits in jail awaiting his next trial date, I look for the positive to cling to. I am thankful that he is drug-free for the moment. I am thankful that he has shelter, food, and people willing to do anything to help him succeed.
One night as my son visited for dinner, I contemplated hiding in the bathroom to take my insulin injection. I didn’t want him to see the syringe, the bottle, the injection. But I forced myself to act normal and take my shots in front of him as I always have.
This may not be the happy ending we’d hoped for, but as long as my son is here with us and the “end” of his story is a long way off, we are filled with hope.