Today on the broadcast, popular fiction author Melody Carlson joins writer and parent educator Kathy Pride to talk about the difficult journey their families have faced as their sons have struggled to beat their drug addiction.
Today on the broadcast, popular fiction author Melody Carlson joins writer and parent educator Kathy Pride to talk about the difficult journey their families have faced as their sons have struggled to beat their drug addiction.
Bob: When Luke Carlson was a teenager, he faced a very difficult decision. He had to choose between his home and his family and his drugs. Luke chose drugs. Here is his mom, Melody Carlson.
Melody: Where I live, it's a very extreme winter that will come on within the mountains; and I'm imagining a homeless person. This is my son who, as a little boy, was a flaming Christian. He loved God—the sweetest little boy you can imagine.
When he turned 14—just totally changed his appearance. He wasn't doing any drugs, yet; and he assures us of that, but he was starting to hang with kids who were experimenting with odd things like aerosols. There was this progression, then, of changes.
He went into meth, and he totally disappeared off the radar screen. He went down so deep, so hard. We were in fear for his life, and we did not know where he was. Finally, he got arrested.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Today, we will visit the valley of despair—a valley many parents find themselves in when a teenager is using drugs. We'll also ascend the mountain of hope. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When you and Barbara wrote the book, Parenting Today's Adolescent, you identified certain traps that face teenagers. I remember one of them was drugs and alcohol abuse. When you were writing that, did you really understand how dangerous and deadly that trap is; do you think?
Dennis: No. Now, that we've counseled and worked with a number of parents who have experienced drug and alcohol abuse among their children, especially during the teenage years and early adulthood, it's a crazy-maker. It creates all kinds of chaos in families. When this trap latches onto a child's life, it can be a matter of life and death.
Bob: It does latch on. We are talking about something that is addictive, both from a physical standpoint and also from an emotional or psychological standpoint. This is what some have referred to as a "besetting sin." It gets its claws in you, and it's tough to shake it loose.
Dennis: That's right, and it breaks a mom's heart. We have two moms with us who have experienced this heartbreak firsthand. Kathy Pride and Melody Carlson join us on FamilyLife Today. Ladies and moms, welcome to the broadcast.
Melody: Thank you.
Dennis: You know a little bit about the heartbreak because, Kathy, you've written a book, Winning the Drug War at Home. You had a son who used. Even though you weren't a Christian at the time, weren't a follower of Christ, you experienced the chaos that your son brought home along with—
Kathy: Total chaos.
Dennis: —along with the drugs. Melody, you experienced the same thing.
Dennis: You've written a book called Lost Boys and the Mothers Who Love Them. In fact, you co-authored that with a number of other moms. Your son, who was lost—
Dennis: —became found.
Melody: He did. It was a long journey, though. There were times when I just felt like it was never going to happen, and all I could do then was just pray. He started using, as we know, when he was about 17. Then, it was kind of up and down; and that was with marijuana. Marijuana, as we've mentioned, is a gateway drug. Of course, they act like it's not a gateway drug; but then, he slowly slipped into using the more serious drug of methamphetamines.
Dennis: That's highly addictive.
Melody: Highly addictive. They say it is as addictive as heroin. Some people say it's more addictive.
Bob: This is the one where you go get the cold medicine from the drugstore, and you can cook it up; is that right?
Melody: Exactly. Our cold medicine is banned where we live now. I think, because we're in the West Coast, and we're on the I-5 corridor, it became more commonly used. It slowly sifted its way across the country. I do remember when I wrote the book called Crystal Lies, and I was promoting it—that was about four years ago and doing interviews. Some people did not know what meth was—methamphetamine.
Crystal methamphetamines—there are a lot of words for it—crystal, ice. People weren't aware of it. Unfortunately, it's a very easy-to-make drug that anybody can make in their backyard, if they want to—if they can get the right ingredients—and you can find the recipe online.
Bob: So, your son went from marijuana use to starting to use meth—and was a meth user for how long?
Melody: Off and on for about—probably seven years.
Bob: Wow. Some of that time, he's in the home. Some of that time, he is out of the home; but it's never “not something that you're aware of or thinking about;” is it?
Melody: I'm always aware of—I'm always thinking about it.
Bob: There is not a day that you don't have in the back of your mind, "I wonder if he's using today?"
Melody: “I wonder if he's alive today,” because when he would be in the home, it would be times when he was getting clean, working; he had done some form of rehab. We know rehab pretty well in and out. Then, he would get on his feet again, get into an apartment. Through the course of this time, he got married. They had a child. I have an adorable granddaughter who is so unscathed by any of this—that it's just miraculous.
He held down some great jobs. When he is good, he's very, very good.
Dennis: But when they're bad?
Melody: It is horrid!
Dennis: I want to just comment on that. Kathy, you can help us here. When the child enters the home (even as an adult), the abuse, in terms of relationships in the family, is absolutely horrific. Comment on that, if you would.
Kathy: The chaos—even when they're good—even when they're very good and in successful mode—there is a shadow that follows them where one statement or one word can be a trigger for the parent in terms of a memory of a broken relationship, or a fight, or—
Dennis: — or mistrust.
Kathy: Absolutely, mistrust. When they're good, you're thinking, "Well, I do want to support them. I do want to give them the benefit of the doubt." Yet, you're walking that tightrope of, "Am I loving, supporting, and extending a hand of grace; or am I enabling?"
Dennis: What about the relationship with other siblings? I mean, they can really be abusive there.
Kathy: Well, they can. I remember one time where Matt came in and was so angry that there was a Cinderella castle that belonged to his sisters, and he kicked it against the wall. The girls were in the room. They saw this just horrible destruction, and they remember that. They remember that anger. There is a tentativeness, even still, sometimes in their approach.
The relationship between husband and wife—there was—it was so important for us to co-parent on this and be together in our approach to Matt; but I did a lot of undermining, initially. I have to say that this could very well have been subtitled "Confessions of a Control-Freak Mother." I would agree, up front, with my husband about how to approach a situation or how to approach the relationship; and he thought we were on the same page.
Dennis: This absolutely drains the romance, the life, and can destroy the commitment in a marriage relationship.
Bob: When do you feel like you can get to a point where you can say, “I can sleep at night knowing this nightmare is over?”
Melody: I think it will be a long time. I will tell you that I am sleeping at night much better than I have been in years. That’s because God has intervened in my son’s life. That makes all the difference.
Dennis: Well, there's the reason of mistrust.
Melody: —and the history.
Bob: You've got years of the other behavior.
Dennis: These young people earn the mistrust. Even though a parent's heart wants to trust, wants to hope, wants to love, wants to pursue, the child has this track record of deceit. A parent knows in his or her heart, “You dare not go there.” You can't give that child 100 percent trust again quickly.
Kathy: They've dug themselves into a very deep hole, backed into a tight corner.
Dennis: You mentioned that your son came to faith in Christ, well, recently.
Dennis: In rehab?
Dennis: What took place? I mean, he actually had relapsed. So, you had to get him back into rehabilitation again. I think what our listeners need to know approximately—and this is not a fun number.
Melody: No, it's not.
Dennis: 80 percent relapse.
Melody: Exactly, we have seen him relapse out of rehab twice already. Then, you know, up and down. He would say—we would do the whole confrontation thing and get the whole family around him. He would get himself clean for a while. He would say, "I can do this myself. I can do it myself. I know I can do it myself." There's really nothing you can do. You can't force his hand.
So, he'd go through a stint of being clean, impressing us, and having the job. Then, he'd fall. Finally, his big fall was last summer. He went down so deep, so hard; we were in fear for his life. No one would hear from him. He went back into meth, and he totally disappeared off the radar screen.
Bob: You didn't know where he was?
Melody: We did not know where he was.
Bob: Called the cell phone, no answer?
Melody: No, his cell phone was gone. He sold everything. He was a musician, also. He had some pretty fine music equipment. He sold everything, obviously, for drugs. We found out later he was staying with friends. You know, “That’s great.” I don't—
Bob: Did you think he was dead?
Melody: There were times when I thought he was dead. Those were the times when I would have the middle-of-the-night, just that sick feeling. Then, we were going into fall. Where I live, it's a very extreme winter that will come on within the mountains. You know? I'm imagining a homeless person.
Dennis: That's tough for a mom to think about; isn't it?
Melody: Oh! It is painful! This is my younger son. This is my son who, as a little boy, was a flaming Christian. He loved God. He would pray for people to get healed. He would go and testify at school, in public school, about Jesus in his life—the sweetest little boy you can imagine.
In my office where I'm writing books—writing is a great way to turn this off during the daytime. I have a little picture of him in the fourth grade, just these little buck teeth—and just—it was heartbreaking.
Melody: So, we went through, I think, the hardest summer. Then, towards the end of the summer, he kind of showed up and asked for help. We were just sort of patching help onto him because we were so glad he was alive.
Dennis: How low had he gone?
Melody: So low that he had meth sores all over him. Meth sores are like open lesions that will appear on the face because the meth chemical is so strong—your body is trying to get it out. So, it just forces it to the surface of your body. It's like you're being poisoned. It looks worse than acne. It's a very—
Dennis: Had he lost weight?
Melody: Lost weight—skinny, gaunt.
Dennis: They don't eat for days.
Bob: When he comes home, you said he was asking for help?
Melody: He didn't come home. He called us and asked us for money. Well, of course, we're not going to give him money.
I think I was deep in a book project, and I just said to my husband, “I was so glad to hear from him.” It’s like I wanted to drop everything. I said, "Just please go meet with him. Just talk with him. Tell him we'll get him in rehab. We'll get him in rehab. That's all we can do." So, he met with him. Of course, we're still in the lie state; and my son says, "I will do rehab." My husband says, "You can't come home because we know you're using."
We drew the line, "You cannot come home and use, but we'll put you up in a real sleazy-looking hotel.” I mean, he's been living in worse places. So, my husband paid for a week at this sleazy hotel while we were trying to set up rehab.
Well, of course, then, we'd meet with him to get him to rehab; and he would be gone. He would be completely gone. This happened over and over for a period of weeks. Finally, he got arrested. He was in jail, and he wanted us to bail him out. We said, "No, we're not going to."
Dennis: I want to comment on that because the tendency for parents in these situations is to rescue from the penalty of the foolish choices.
Melody: It's a mistake. I think God allows natural consequences in our lives, and being arrested is a great natural consequence. I'm thankful that he wasn't arrested for drugs because I think that would be harder to get out of—although laws are changing and they're starting to prescribe rehab instead of jail time.
Bob: When a user is in jail, he obviously can't be a user in jail.
Bob: That has to be a physically excruciating experience to be addicted and in jail, and you can't get your hands on your junk.
Melody: Yes, it's a forced detox. Anyway, he did that. Then, of course, then he was sorry; and he's really ready. He's been clean. So, we did bring him home. We live in an isolated enough place—for him to get to town, it's like a three-mile walk, and he didn't have a car. So, we went ahead and—you want to be God, you want to be gracious, you want to be the good Samaritan, you don't want to kick the traveler in the face and say, "Tough luck, kid."
So, we brought him home. We laid down the law. We said, "We are going to get you into rehab." By then, we're going, “It's November; it's Thanksgiving, and his birthday is around the corner.” He's like, "Well, can I just stay home until Thanksgiving? Can I stay home until my birthday?" Then, it's Christmas. The whole time we're on a waiting list—and that's the hard thing about rehab. You've got the waiting list thing.
The place that he had decided that he wanted to go—I just thank God for this—was the place where my grandmother had been born. My grandmother and my son, they had shared the same birthday; and he had been very close to her. He just loved his Granny. She's passed away, long since.
After Christmas, he went, literally, dragging his heels. He actually—we booked the flight. He was going in, and midway in the flight, he had a drinking binge. He hadn't been using at all; but he had a drinking binge, missed his flight. We thought, "This is the end of it." All we'd given him was enough money for the taxi. It was a little bit of a ways to the rehab place and a phone card.
So, he called us on the phone card. I'm thinking—but somehow—I think this is really miraculous; because usually, if you miss a flight, that's it. Somehow they got him back on the plane. We didn't have to pay anything for it. He got to the place. Of course, he'd tried to stiff the cab driver because he didn't have any money, and we had to wire that to the rehab place.
Then, he was there. I mean, that's how much he didn't want to go. He went there with long dreadlocks, pierced eyebrow—he'd taken out all his other piercings, but he couldn't get the eyebrow out. They said no piercings because it's a very conservative, southern rehab. I'm talking very southern, Christian Baptist. Anyway, he's there and doesn't want to be there. I think two weeks into it, he just had an amazing conversion—just knock you over—like Saul.
Bob: Does he call you one night and say, "Here is what happened?"
Melody: He wrote us a letter. He wrote everyone letters. The letters—when I got the first one, I thought, "Well, is he just trying to get out of it?" By now, because he's been arrested, the law has said, “If he does rehab, we will wash this away.” So, okay, this is what we're doing; so that was the pressure on him to go, too—besides us. Besides, he knew his life had reached a really horrible place.
So, he wrote everyone. He wrote his brother, he wrote us, he wrote his grandmother, his grandfather—
Bob: These are long letters of, "I'm sorry for all I've done—”
Bob: “—and I've found Christ, and—”
Melody: Yes, and more than that. I mean, there are things that I'm thinking, "If you're going to lie about this, if you're going to try to get out of it, it would have a certain sound to it." This had the ring of absolute truth. Yet, we didn't really want to believe it, we couldn't really believe it.
Dennis: Yes, back to the mistrust thing.
Melody: I know—years and years of this, it just—
Dennis: It's hard to believe it's true.
Melody: Yes. Unfortunately, it was a 65-day treatment program. I would have—that it had been longer. By the time he came home—and we'd had lots of letters and conversations on the phone—he sounded different. Everything was different, but you're still holding back.
When he got home, he looked like a different person. I remember I was on another book trip; and so, I wasn't there when he got home. I came home, and we went out for breakfast in this small town (again, Christian community). We're sitting there in the place where we know half the people in the café; and he said, "Do you mind if I pray, Mom and Dad?" I'm like, "No, go ahead."
So, he really—and he just does this prayer. I mean, I'm just about in tears. Then, we meet various people that he's known throughout the years—people in the publishing industry that's there. He walks up to them, looks them directly in the eye, shakes their hand, and says, "Hi," so-and-so, "how are you doing?"
These people—they've known Luke since he—we moved there when he was 15. So, they're stunned.
Dennis: Melody, as a mom, you've been to the valley of the shadow of death.
Melody: Oh, yes.
Dennis: I mean, you've gone to bed many nights, undoubtedly, in tears.
Melody: Oh, yes.
Dennis: To see this occurring before your eyes, emotionally, what was happening in your heart?
Melody: Well, I'm so happy. Yet, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall because we have this history and that really—it feels terrible to say that because it feels like a lack of faith, but it's also realism. So, at the same time as I'm feeling those feelings, I'm giving them to God. I'm just saying, "Okay, God, You know what You are doing. I want to be faithful." Then, I'm praying for my son.
He immediately linked up. We've been Young Life supporters, on committee, and all that. He linked up with a Young Life guy, started helping with the middle school. It's called Wild Life—just doing the car washes, doing everything, got a job.
I mean, no one could figure it out; I mean other than this is just a miracle.
Dennis: Well, regardless of what you're facing, Jesus is.
Dennis: He is who you need for forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, for hope, purpose, and wisdom to know how to navigate some difficult days. I just appreciate both of you being willing to take our listeners into your stories. I mean, this is incredibly personal, and the drama that surrounds this really demands a faith.
If we're speaking to a mom, a dad, perhaps a brother, or sister who has been in this chaos, I would just point them to Psalm 34. There's three points that I make out of that Psalm: God is near; secondly, God hears our prayers; and, third, God rescues; He redeems.
What we have to do in those situations is cry out to God with utter dependence upon Him. He doesn't promise He will rescue immediately. He doesn't promise He'll rescue your son or daughter instantly. In fact, you may be upset with God and His timetable in terms of why He does and how fast He does it; but He is God and we are not, and we're called to trust Him.
I appreciate both of you being on our broadcast and sharing your stories because, in many ways, you have embodied what that Psalm talks about—and I just appreciate your books, too.
Bob, as we think about couples going through a child who has a drug problem, those marriages really need to be protected. I'd like to encourage any couple who is going through something like this—or maybe it's something else—but the marriage is showing the signs of wear—call FamilyLife. Get a brochure, and go to the Weekend to Remember®. Those marriages need to have a game plan; they need to have the blueprints to know how to handle a valley like this that may last for a long time.
Bob: Yes. You need a weekend where you can focus on you, where you can kind of shut out everything else and just say, "Okay, let's get our bearings. Let's reaffirm some things. Let's get on the same page—”
Dennis: Right. Right.
Bob: “—and not think about our drug-dependent son or daughter; but let's think about us going the distance and how we get there.” That's one of the things that I think can happen at our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.
I want to encourage our listeners, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. We still have a number of these getaways happening this fall. Of course, next spring, we’ll be in more than
60 cities all across the country. You can find out when the Weekend to Remember is going to be in a city near you and make plans to go as a couple.
Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, if you need more information. 1-800-FLTODAY is the number, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, while you are on our website, you’ll find information about Kathy Pride’s book, which is called Winning the Drug War at Home. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. So, go online if you’d like to have us send you a copy of that book. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the book is called Winning the Drug War at Home.
While you are on our website, Dennis is right now working on a new book. Some of you know he wrote a book a number of years ago called Interviewing Your Daughters Date for dads, primarily, dads of teenage daughters. The book was well-received; but we also heard from parents of teenage sons saying, “We need some help because our sons are being pursued by aggressive girls.”
Dennis is working on that book right now. We’d love to have you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and send us a note if there are particular issues that you’d like to see Dennis address. If you’ve had experience having a teenage boy—with your son being pursued by girls—we’d love to hear your story and love to hear how you dealt with it, what you’ve done, how you’ve helped coach your son to be ready for girls who may be coming on to them, and how to deal with that.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link that says, “Aggressive Girls.” That’ll take you to the area of the site where you can leave us a note. We expect the book to be out sometime in the spring. Again, we’d love to hear from you at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Finally, a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Your financial support is what makes this daily radio program possible. We couldn’t do it without you. We really do appreciate your partnership with us.
This week, if you can help with a donation to support the ministry, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a book by Barbara Rainey. It’s a devotional book for families. It’s called Growing Together in Gratitude. Along with the book, we’ll include a Thanksgiving prayer card.
This is a great resource to have in time for your family’s celebration of Thanksgiving. There are seven short stories that you can read leading up to Thanksgiving or over the Thanksgiving weekend. All of them are designed to promote the idea of gratitude and gratefulness in our hearts and in our children’s hearts as well.
If you make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, look for the button that says, “I Care.” When you click that, you can make your online donation. We’ll be sure to send you Barbara’s book and the prayer card; or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. Just ask for a copy of Barbara’s book when you call us and make that donation. Again, we appreciate your support of this ministry. It is great to have you as partners with us.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about how we should understand our emotions in light of what the Bible teaches us about how God has made us. Can we trust those emotions? Should we pay attention to them? Should we listen to them? What are they telling us? We’ll talk about that next week. Hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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