All of a Sudden
All of a Sudden, It Was There
By Ned Wicker
“Hal” and I have been friends for years, but through a professional connection, so we check in every once in a while. It’s been a few years since we’ve worked together, so it’s only a couple of times a year that we get the opportunity to reconnect and tell old war stories. I’ve always enjoyed his company and his stories, only this time the story was anything but amusing.
For the last year or so, after graduating from high school, Hal’s son has been in and out of college. He had tried a semester at a state university and found it to be too much, so he decided to move back home and enroll in a local community college. The cost was much lower, the classes were smaller and he could live at home and save a lot of money.
It seemed like a good plan, only there was one thing that his son brought back from the big university that would get in the way. Without the supervision of his parents, he was out of control as a “party animal.” It went beyond the usual college binge drinking and pot smoking, as he started using heroin.
As Hal told the story, it was like his son just took a needle and started using. “I didn’t see this coming,” was his comment over and over. In the film “Ray,” Jamie Foxx portrays the late Ray Charles, who spent several years in the grip of heroin addiction. The film shows Charles getting in on the heroin experience by nagging his fellow musicians to let him try it. But that isn’t the norm. It’s often a slow build.
Hal’s son had to get the idea from someplace and Hal was the role model. Hal always had a few drinks after work every day, especially if he was on a business trip. While people did not come out and say he was an alcoholic, he was known for his excessive drinking. He loved to drink and to brag about how much he had and how he was still drunk the next day!
Hal and his wife were happy to have their son back in the house. The way they figured, he would go to school, work and soon he would be out of the nest and on his own. But it didn’t happen. The son never had any money, and Hal said he was always asking for money. “I still didn’t see it.” His son managed to get a couple of semesters under his belt, but was basically directionless and his three semesters of school had rendered only 18 credits.
One day, Hall discovered that a portion of his valuable antique gun collection was missing. His son had dropped out of college again and things finally came out in the open and the son admitted to stealing the antiques and selling them. Hal convinced his son to enter treatment. It was a tough go for Hal, because he always wanted the best for his three kids. Hal is always working, always pushing forward to provide for his family. He wanted his wife and kids to have the best. He wanted his kids to come from a “good family.”
He never saw the warning signs because good kids from good families aren’t supposed to do heroin. He is now just beginning to learn that addiction doesn’t care about good families. Addiction doesn’t care about bad families. Addiction doesn’t care at all about its victims and kids coming from upper middle class homes are targets, just the same as kids coming from the “wrong side of the tracks.”
He is beginning to learn that he and his family need help, just as his son needs help. He is also learning that through treatment and into recovery, he and his son are getting to know each other much better. His family has hope.
Ned Wicker is the Addictions Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center.
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