Stuck in the Cycle of Addiction

(Editor’s note: An anonymous testimony highlights that the harms from using marijuana outweigh any harms caused by criminal justice system, at least 80% of the time. We’d be wiser providing youth with the evidence as to why never to use–not because they could lose a scholarship or go to jail, but because of the harms to their brain, and the addiction.)
My son has always been very popular and has a vast assortment of friends. He has an above average IQ. Girls consider him very good looking. He is very secure in himself and outgoing and has never changed any of that throughout this whole ordeal. He is almost 19 and has never had a “steady” girlfriend, but many girls.  My son began experimenting with drugs — I believe it was around age 15. He was into baseball (because I was) and played well enough to make little league all-stars, but was cut from the freshman baseball team. I was devastated but kept my feelings inward. It seemed political for our town is loaded with very prosperous families and kids with zero talent but lots of wealth made the team. I am in construction. He did not seem too upset by it and we tossed it off as political.

He played freshman football, but it was not his thing, or ours. He then got into music, starting with guitar but gravitated to drums. He played drum kit in the marching band, and this is where the drugs were. He started smoking marijuana and tried mushrooms, and I don’t know what else.

My wife and I did not see it until afterwards, but an obvious change in his appearance had occurred. We look back on high school website band photos and see him behind the drums. He looked terrible. Very heavy bags under his eyes. We believe he smoked heavily during this period. Between ages 15 and 16, he had small breakdowns. One time, he was just very emotional and crying at friend’s house. So we went to pick him up. Another time, a friend said he started crying while jamming with a couple buddies. We are sure he was smoking every day and night during this period. He then went through some stressful incidents (a rear-ender car accident, a broken wrist while skateboarding, his uncle dying of cancer, and a couple other things).

One day at school a note was found in girl’s restroom that the school was going to be shot up or blown up on a certain day. The high school closed down the next day. But then they decided to open back up on the date that was in the note. Because my son was off school the day before, he smoked more than usual, not thinking they would go to school on THE DATE. He was still too young to drive; my wife was taking him and his sister to school. He was against going, but my wife assured him the school was clear, and he would have to go. His first class was psychology. He sat by the window constantly looking over his shoulder out the window and ignoring the teacher. She became suspicious something was very wrong.

The Psychotic Break and Afterwards.

The teacher asked Joey to step outside and he had a full blown psychotic breakdown, screaming, yelling but not directed at anyone, just worried that someone might get hurt so he felt he had to protect everyone. He went to the principal’s office and crawled under his desk. He was screaming and not calming down. They 5150’d him and he was handcuffed. He was put in an ambulance and taken to the nearest youth psychiatric unit.  The paramedics during the ride, said he was confused about what year it was. I’ll condense the story and just say he was “out of it” for almost 2 weeks. They put him on many medications until they felt they had the right combo. He acted very paranoid. We thought we had lost him.

After two weeks he returned to “normal.” He left there on two or three meds. He hated the meds. We think he started not taking them and hiding them shortly after coming home. We stopped all meds after approximately nine to ten months. He has had nothing even remotely similar to this incident since the episode. It has been approx. two years. He is now in junior college, still living at home, and still smoking, but probably 1/2 the amount, if that.

He says the “stressors” caused the incident, not the pot. He is very argumentative when told pot is dangerous. I can’t get out of my depression. I feel this happened yesterday and it has been two years. I want him to stop smoking. I obsess about it daily. It has changed me. I am the father of 3 daughters and a son. He is the namesake of our family. No more boys to carry on the last name. I worry so much about him and worry about the breakdowns happening again. I don’t do enough things with him. I feel I do not talk to him enough.

Anyway, that is the story and it tortures me daily. We have had counseling but it seems like the only one with a problem is me. He is having fun which I think 18- year-olds should. My wife is very stable and practical, as is my 17-year-old daughter. My other 2 daughters from my first marriage are older.I guess I want reassurance, I want to feel secure that he is “OK”.

– Anonymous Dad asking for advice