My perspective that needs sharing about the moment trauma induces a long term stress response.
Losing my daughter to murder was one of the single most traumatic events in my life. I was devastated and unable to move from moment to moment without despair and distress. The day of her funeral was the day my son started the journey that has led him to where he is today. He came to hug me and support me when it was over and everyone was gone. In the midst of that hug, my grief overwhelmed me and I could no longer hold myself upright, sinking from his embrace and to the floor. I felt his arms let go and saw the desperation in him as he didn’t know what to do. His grief overcame him and he walked away. Within the next half hour I watched as we left the funeral home and he pulled from the parking lot at an irresponsible speed without looking for other vehicles. That was it, the beginning. His risky behavior increased and the young man who never gave me any trouble, shared EVERYTHING (even things I didn’t want to know) was gone. I guess I blame myself for all of this for not being stronger in that moment.
There were many more risky behaviors that followed, all totally out of character for my son. Driving too fast, having small accidents, shoplifting, drinking and soon drugs. Many times he cried to me and just wanted to stop it all. In Aroostook County that is near impossible without disappearing for a long while. There have been rare occasions when my son returned over the last sixteen years, but it has taken incarceration to bring him back to the person he was. Not completely, but he is on his way.
I sit here and think about his journey as I await a mental health evaluation that I fought to have done and finally got the court to agree to. Of course, he has given permission to his attorneys and doctors to share any and all information with me as I fight to make it the best it can possibly be for him. I spoke with his psychologist after his first meeting with her. This is what she told me;
“Your son is incredibly intelligent and charming. He openly shared everything about his life and talked at length about his poor choices, his hopes for the future and how he is going to do things differently. He even gave me carpentry advice as I’m doing some remodeling. But then, I mentioned his sister’s death. He immediately teared up and was unable to talk about it at all.”
As I await her report, I already know that he suffers from adult ADHD and post traumatic stress disorder and could have done that diagnosis myself if he weren’t my son. If you know anything of ADHD, you also know that it is treated with stimulants that help the brain to focus in persons with this diagnosis. That is already two strikes in his ongoing need of stimulant drugs.
- To overcome his grief, guilt and heartache of his sister’s murder
- To help him focus to get done what he needs to do.
Now none of this is an excuse, but an explanation of how mental illness and trauma can lead to drug addiction. How that addiction can lead to the necessity to do things that are illegal and inappropriate. Looking at the young people my son grew up with, several of which have battled similar addictions, I remember the moment trauma entered their lives as well.
When I see, “Trauma is the gateway drug” I know that it really is.