Kim Smyth

© Copyright 2020 by Kim Smyth

Photo of bottle of pills.

I don’t really know when it was my son started changing. I think it was around fifteen, he became what I described to my friends and family an “alien,” someone I no longer knew as my sweet, loveable, baby boy anymore.

He is the youngest of my three sons, back then at the time of this incident, he was about seventeen. We had noticed some changes in his behavior, sure, but he was still the same old Chris. He had played sports most of his childhood until someone got injured severely on the football field in his sophomore year of high school. That was it for him, he said the sound of his friend’s femur breaking just inches from his ear was the last straw.

Of course, my husband was disappointed, secretly I was relieved. I just knew the day would come that he would get hurt if he continued to play, he wasn’t a big boy, but he had guts, he would have given it his all while he still played. He remained active, he just focused his attention on new things. Things we were not necessarily aware of until the four-hundred-dollar phone bills started coming in. We asked him repeatedly what was going on and he denied knowing the reason for them.

Then there were the constant mood swings and anger at nothing. I couldn’t understand it, he had always been so sweet and easy-going before. His weight dropped before my eyes, yet I never noticed because my attention was on his brother Joshua and all his problems. Problems like ADD and behavioral issues at school. We were at his school more than we were at home in those days.

After a third expensive phone bill came in, my husband had had enough and by then we noticed other subtle changes in his appearance, dark circles under his eyes, and he had an irritable stomach most of the time. We finally had to sit him down and ask what was going on and tell us the truth this time. We couldn’t handle the truth as it turned out.

We sought counseling, started invading his privacy and watched him like a hawk. He had been using a drug called “ice” and selling my prescription pills at school. He had been stealing things from the house, my husband’s expensive pool cues we won at our tournaments and God knows what else. We were still clueless about the drinking, we found out later he had been sneaking around and drinking since he was fifteen, maybe earlier.

This was the “good” boy of the three, these things were not supposed to be happening! Not to him. He was our hope for at least one kid to turn out great. Now, all was lost it seemed. Yet we did not give up. We found a magnificent treatment center through his therapist, he agreed to go and after a tearful, emotional family meeting, we decided it was what it would take to save his life. The situation had become that dire. His brother felt like he was to blame, he was guilty of introducing him to the drug. Another fact that was lost on me. What was happening to my family?

Chris was the rock star, cute kid, a triple threat in the family. He had it all, looks, talent, work ethic, smarts, you know, the one most likely to succeed and all that. He always had a girlfriend or two, got good grades in school, minded what we said and cared about his brother’s welfare, even if they fought like cats and dogs most of the time. Being the baby and seeing all the mistakes his brothers had made, the pressure was on him to be perfect and not repeat what they had done.

So, we traveled the three and a half hours south of our DFW home to Center Point, Texas where we did the hardest thing as parents there is to do. We dropped our child off with strangers and left him there. We drove away, and I cried the whole way home, thinking of the way he looked at us as we left. Unforgiven. Hatred. Like nothing would ever be the same again. And it wasn’t. Not really. Things did get better, for a while. Then he backslid and ultimately, it was some time in jail and some soul searching that made him into the man he is today. He isn’t completely sober, but he will never touch those drugs again. He drinks but knows his limits.

He loves us and knows we saved his life by sending him there, yet there will always be that closeness between us that I feel was damaged somehow. Maybe it’s just that he is a grown man and hugging on mama isn’t as cool anymore, I mean I can’t expect him to want to live around the corner, but I miss him always being around. He is my heart and if I go more than a week without seeing him, I feel anxious and uncomfortable. He works too much, but that ‘keeps him off the streets’ as they say. I will always worry about him and his well-being because he is my baby. I’m glad he rekindled his relationship with his girlfriend, and he has his own home, lord knows the other two boys aren’t that far established and they are both older!

I will always feel a sense of sadness though, a sense of betrayal in his eyes, even though he agreed to go to treatment, even if he knows we did what we had to do. That feeling that I am unforgiven still lingers. A song by Hoobastank had come on the radio as we drove away from the rehab center. It was called “The Reason” and when I hear it today, it still makes me cry. Maybe I’m wrong and it is just my guilty conscience. We weren’t exactly model parents. Although we smoked and drank socially in front of him, it was still his choice to do those things himself, we never advocated it. All our friends assured me kids will do what they want, no matter how good of an influence you are, everyone’s heard the stories about the preacher’s daughter and such. Still, if we had it to do all over again, we would have paid more attention to what they were doing and focused less on relieving our stress. We would have been more consistent with the discipline, instead of operating on the idea that we should be more lenient because we worked all the time. Maybe we wouldn’t have missed the warning signs.

I’m happy to say I am still proud of the man he has become today, running jobs for the company he works with. Keeping his long-time relationship, paying his bills and not depending on us to do so. I wish I could say that about the other two boys. Some just take longer to grow up than others, especially in this day and age. Look at our current society. Yet Chris is thriving. So even if some secret part of him still doesn’t forgive me or can’t trust me as much as he did as a young boy, we still have a strong bond and I know he loves me. That will do for now.

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