Storymaker's First Chapter Contest, Second Place, "High"
Sunday, October 7, 2012
So this is what a “rock bottom” looks like...
He's cut himself, and needs stitches. He's sitting back on the ER gurney trying to be brave, acting like it doesn't hurt. He looks scared, keeps making eye contact with me to make sure everything's going to be okay. He peels back the bandages he has, unbeknownst to me, fashioned for himself. Tears burn my eyes. My throat constricts, my pulse doubles. I can see that he’s carved craters into each upper thigh with the intention, he says, of trying to find an artery. Every mother knows it’s hard to see their child wounded, but this makes my own heart bleed.
Jake is thirty-one years old and I realize he is deadly close to killing himself. One way or another.
He'd told me a nearly a week ago that he needed help, that he was too addicted to stop using on his own. He says he's been an addict and alcoholic since he was twelve years old. He got sober once at age twenty-two, served an LDS mission at age twenty-three and relapsed at age twenty-seven. He's been riding the roller coaster of relapse and recovery ever since. Sometimes his sobriety has lasted a year or more. Other times it can't last an hour. He is fifteen credits away from a Bachelor’s of Science degree, majoring in psychology. He is also flirting dangerously with death. Running his car underneath a semi on the I-15 freeway was not his bottom. Almost freezing to death in mid-winter, nearly naked on the side of a mountain wasn't his bottom. Lying on his stomach in handcuffs on a sidewalk or bent over the hood of his car wasn't his bottom...several times. But this? This feels like rock bottom for both of us.
I am gradually learning the art of tough love. I no longer manage his money or his schedule since, in reality, I have no control anyway. I no longer give him money. I don't pay his bills. I don't make excuses for his behavior. I call the police when he uses an illegal substance or drives drunk. I become brutally honest. My next step is to ask him to leave my house, and I'm gearing up to take it when he comes to me and says the words I've been waiting to hear for what seems like eternity: “Mom I need help. I think I need rehab.” The miracle isn't just that he asks for help. It's that he already has the rehab, funding and transportation arranged. He says he wants to start taking responsibility for his life.
I am so proud of him in this moment, seeing him both as a mighty warrior and a scared little boy.
He has to have seventy-two hours of sobriety to be admitted to the facility he’s chosen. For someone who has recently been taking upwards of sixty Dextromethorphan pills a day along with alcohol and other assorted substances, this seems like Mt. Everest to a crippled climber. But he does it.
On day three we find out the facility won't be ready for him for a few more days. He stays sober for another two days, but on day six he crashes. He doesn't use substances. He uses a knife and for hours carves away at the skin I helped create. The cuts are both 3” long and almost an inch thick, inside his upper thighs. They look like someone has taken a dull tablespoon and dug out chunks of flesh.
I try to be stoic, but can feel a firestorm of emotions about to take me over. I excuse myself, and start running out the door to my car. I weep uncontrollably for a while. Alone, except for God. I plead for strength, for comfort, for the knowledge of what to do next. When I can catch my breath again, I re-enter the ER.
I meet my son’s eyes and manage a smile. He mouths “I’m sorry.”