- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
Shannon is the 56-year-old mother of three sons that are 34, 31, and 26 years old. The oldest and the youngest son have battled with addiction for many years, but her middle son has been spared from the disease. Shannon hopes it will stay that way.
Shannon’s oldest son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was fifteen. Around that same time, they realized he struggled with addiction after he almost killed himself with vodka. He was in such serious condition, he had to go by ambulance to the hospital with severe alcohol poisoning. He went through two psychiatric facilities before he was 18 years old, while they tried to stabilize him before became an adult.
Still, he would leave treatment, and his return was often a nightmare for the entire family at first. He showed destructive behaviors toward the family and helped get his youngest brother addicted to drugs. “We didn’t understand the enormity of what did happened there,” Shannon said. “The unhealthy interactions of the siblings wasn’t obvious to us at first. My oldest son was very sick.”
Shannon and her husband enabled her oldest son’s drug and alcohol consumption, wanting the best for him, but unaware of how to help. She and her husband were never on the same page on how to deal with their son and his addiction.
What followed were days, weeks, month and years of not knowing what to do, and it peaked in a total of six suicide attempts from her oldest son. Of course her younger sons saw all this happening and were involved in the problems at home. “It was tough for me, it is quite a journey,” Shannon says.
Her oldest son struggled with severe abandonment issues. While they tried to help him and put him in facilities before he turned 18, he felt that he was being kicked out and left alone; he felt punished for having a problem. “There was nothing else we could do because he was so destructive,” stated Shannon, “and in his twenties he became really crazy.”
When this all happened, her oldest son’s psychiatrist told the family that he would end up in an institution, dead, or in jail. All three had become true very quickly. He was in mental health facilities, was almost dead, and faced a judge on several occasions.
In 2009, opiates came into play. He started to break into houses in desperate need for opiates or money to get drugs. He got caught and was facing severe charges. In 2011, Shannon started to investigate and went to local hospitals to see if her son has been hospitalized there. She found 16 suicide attempts and 6 Baker Acts involving her son and she realized that it is way worse than she ever thought. She talked to the state attorney and he gave him another chance and ordered him to treatment.
Her oldest son is smarter and older today. He told his mom that he finally became tired of the roller coaster and that he wanted help. He is currently in long-term residential treatment in Miami. “I was tired of all this, and needed to protect myself, too. My marriage broke over the problems and I’m divorced now. I’m happy he’s doing well in treatment now and hope that the next six months will bring some change for him and me,” says Shannon.
Her youngest son was doing pot and later other drugs, as he got supplied by his older brother. Shannon had learned in the meantime from the past not to enable. He went to three different treatment centers without any long term recovery success at first until Shannon told him that she is done and tired of all this and that he can’t come back to the house until he has it figured out for himself. He always went to treatment, came home and kept using until Shannon expressed clear boundaries. “I kept telling my youngest son, that with drugs you loose your car, you loose your family, you loose your job, but you don’t loose your problems,” Shannon says.
“It has been dark for me for a very long time.”, so she says thinking back. Her youngest son made it into recovery and stayed sober for a good while. Then he had a very serious Motorcycle accident, where he almost died. His severe medical condition due to his injuries made it necessary that he needed to take opiates, in the hospital and afterwards, so he was hooked on it again and another treatment was needed to get him off it again.
“I haven’t done much for myself in the past years. I just have been so exhausted from all the things happening around me. Now I start to go again to runs and become active in the recovery community again.”, mentions Shannon. She understands today, that it’s not her fault. Nobody wanted this to happen, not they as parents, nor her sons in addiction. “It just happened. Now we have to deal with it and be strong. Nobody chose to become an addict, and nobody chose to become an addict’s mom.”