My son Cain exhibited a unique and joyful spirit from the very beginning. At age seven he asked for a tuxedo and a Bowflex for Christmas. In the second grade Cain dressed up as Bill Gates for his private school’s "Famous People Day." Growing up, his favorite toy was a cash register and Cain would open up little shops and sell things to me. Despite excellent grades in school, he had some behavioral problems and I took him to be tested for ADD. The results determined Cain did not have ADD, but rather he had an extremely high IQ; he wasn't being stimulated in school and would finish his work before everyone else.
At a young age Cain proved to be an exceptional martial artist and was presented with his second Dan (rank) black belt at just 11 years old. As soon as he picked up a football he joined a league and, within two weeks, he replaced the coach's son as quarterback.
Cain’s personality was larger than life. He could carry on conversations with anyone, no matter their age, and had a contagious smile. Despite Cain’s popularity and leader persona in school, he always befriended the underdog. He also taught himself how to play the guitar and in weeks, he was writing his own songs. Cain and I shared an unbreakable bond. He was truly gifted and his life seemed blessed - I truly loved him.
When Cain was older he started using alcohol and marijuana, which began to affect his school work and his personality. I sent him to a 28 day treatment facility and later to an outdoor-education program in an attempt to try and discourage his drug usage. However, each time Cain returned home he went right back to using.
When Cain and I moved into town, there would be people coming and going from our house at all hours. I saw evidence of pills and he admitted to using them. I started losing control over Cain’s actions and every time I went downstairs, the den in my house had a haze of pot. I tried to set boundaries, all of which were ignored. Thus, I retreated to my bedroom, only getting up to throw people out if I had the strength to muster. When I slept, it was always a-light - I felt I had to remain vigilant - hearing things break and sometimes hearing nothing at all, which was even worse.
I started to notice that my spoons were going missing and the ones I did find had black marks on the bottom. I also was finding bits of cotton and Q-tips everywhere. I still had no idea of what was going on. Once I discovered a needle, I understood.
I began having to take regular trips to the Emergency Room when I would find Cain passed out on the floor. I then sent Cain to another treatment facility and, on his return, to AA and NA meetings. I watched my son go from a robust young man, to a pale, skinny kid with broken out skin. I accompanied him through many self-detoxes and was by his side when he underwent various withdrawal stages - the chills, fevers, diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and him pacing for hours. But in the end, Cain went right back to using.
I used to say all addiction was the same, but I now know opioid and heroin are in their own class, and there is limited treatment available to address opioid addiction specifically.
One day, in the early hours, the police came knocking at the door asking if the boy they found face down and blue in the driveway, was my son. Cain was arrested for being in his car, unresponsive, a needle at his feet, with heroin residue.
The attorney fees, plus the treatments and hospital visits wiped out a good part of my savings. Cain started to steal my jewelry and pawned it for cash. Cain also stole my debit card, spending hundreds and only would return it for more money. I then started to sleep with my wallet and car keys. I hid. I hurt. I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing. I enabled him Cain completely. Finally, Cain failed a urine test and was sent to jail for three months.
While Cain was in jail, I would send him some money to purchase junk food from the prison’s commissary store. In turn, Cain would send me letters that showed promise of change. In those months I found some strength and when Cain was released, I kicked him out of my home. Afterwards, Cain was clean for 11 months and started to get his life back on track. He attended AA meetings and exchanged his former druggie friends for models of sobriety. He started kickboxing, going to the gym, and working long, hot hours as a landscaper. We would talk or text on a daily basis and Cain would occasionally come over to talk more. Cain promised me he would pay me back for everything and began making these payments.
Things were looking up; I was getting my baby boy back. Then, four days of silence during which, in my heart, I knew was not good. I got a knock on the door to find an officer and a police chaplain. I was devastated, but also relieved that Cain’s battle was over - though mine was just beginning.
Cain died July 17, 2015, and had been dead for four days, according to when he last used his key card. Cain’s housemates called the landlord because of the smell protruding from his room; his body was only identifiable by his dental records due to the decomposition.
For Cain’s service, I told the director we probably only needed one room. However, it ended up that they had to open up all the rooms due to the amount of people who showed up. People were surprised I spoke about what actually killed him because of the stigma still surrounding addiction. It was as if the dam broke and every week afterwards there was a story of another overdose in the local paper. I realized that if he'd died of cancer, or in a car crash, I'd be getting casseroles; but there were no casseroles. There was just me and my devastated house - holes in walls, doors, broken windows. My house had become my prison.
I miss Cain every single day.