July 5, 2024 – The first time my son, Zack, died was just after his 18th birthday. The kind, funny, charming young man who never failed to light up a room, died slowly. Though his physical body remained, the person I knew and loved gradually slipped away while being replaced, piece-by-piece, by a burgeoning addict.

It is like watching a terminally ill cancer patient who, despite best medical efforts, cruelly suffers and fades away until they are no more; meanwhile, we as parents are forced to stand by helplessly and witness their heartbreaking decline. I know of nothing more emotionally devastating than watching your child suffer and feeling helpless to fix it.

When we notice the first indicators that we have a child struggling with addiction, it is common to encounter what I have come to refer to as the “hope-to-despair” roller-coaster. As loving parents, we can’t help but be in some disbelief, even a level of denial and (justifiably) an unwillingness to accept the reality of the present situation. We remind ourselves constantly of how they were so good growing up, popular, athletic, happy, fun, etc. It is incredibly hard emotionally and mentally to accept that the once happy and healthy child is now a drug user.