Chesterton Tribune

Fighting drugs: Mothers' fears, sorrows, regrets

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the June 27, 2002, edition of the Chesterton Tribune. The Tribune is republishing it in the belief that it is as relevant today as it was two years ago. At 6 p.m. today the Chesterton Town Council is holding a workshop on the drug problem at the Chesterton town hall.

“Let me tell you about my neighborhood. There are 11 successful small-business owners who live here. There’s a retired federal agent who lives here. There’s an upper-echelon Duneland Schools administrator who lives here. And two heroin addicts.”

Welcome to Janice’s neighborhood.

Janice and her husband, Tom, live in Duneland with their two children, a son who’s graduated from Chesterton High School and a daughter currently enrolled there. Janice and Tom have been married 20 years. He works at the mill, she at a local business. Their house is nice. Their kids are good. Their family is like hundreds of others in Duneland, industrious and law-abiding. And the threat of drugs looms over their home “like a cloud.”

“My fear just grows and grows. You’ve always got to be shielding your kids.”

Janice agreed to speak with the Chesterton Tribune on condition of anonymity. “Janice” is not her real name.

Every new generation of parents faces its own special challenges, she says, but no generation before hers has ever had to cope with a culture in which drugs are so available and so tolerated. “My daughter and I were talking about drugs. And she says, ‘Well, Mom, kids smoke in the hall.’ ‘Cigarettes?’ And she goes, ‘No. Dope. By my locker. So I don’t go there very often.’ What do I do with that?”

Even parents whose children have so far stayed clean—and Janice has no reason to believe that her own have ever experimented—pay a price for the choices made by other children. The cost is intangible but enervating: anxiety, suspicion, tension.

“I don’t feel prepared for this,” she says. “I was prepared for the sex stuff, the smoking stuff, the drinking stuff. Those are all things I know about. I don’t know anything about heroin. So this is new territory for me. And I don’t like it.”

What frightens her? Pick a scenario. Someone’s dropping Ecstasy or LSD or Roofies into her daughter’s drink at a party. Or some new friend of her son’s taking him for a ride, just for a ride, to the projects in Chicago. “If it gets hold of my kid I can’t do anything about it,” Janice says. “I can’t stop it. It’s bigger than I am. I can’t change it. And I don’t think kids get that. They don’t see lines in the sand. All they have to do is try heroin once and that’s all it takes. I don’t think they understand that. Just once.”

“I’ll tell you something else that scares me to death,” she says. “My kid gets hooked on heroin or something and the rehab bankrupts us. I don’t know if we could afford it. We could lose our home. It could destroy us financially. And rehab is still a hit-or-miss proposition. My kid might never get clean. I don’t want to make it a money thing but that’s something else to throw into the pot.”

Drugs have inevitably taken their toll on her parenting, Janice says. Merely the threat—and she considers it a real one—is exhausting. “Part of me is tired. Part of me says, ‘Aren’t I done with this yet?’ And part of me doesn’t want my kids to be mad at me for badgering them. We have so little time together as it is. It all weakens me. So I’ve slacked off. I haven’t talked to my kids as much as I should about drugs. I haven’t been as diligent in my parenting skills as I was when they were younger, when I thought they needed it more.”

“I want to stay in the bubble,” she adds, “where nothing like that can get in. And I’m afraid that by saying something I’ll jinx it.”

Drugs take a toll on the kids too, although they’re too embedded in the anarchy of their culture to know it. “I think their childhood has just been snatched from them,” Janice says. “It’s really awful. They’re jaded, distrustful, sad. They’re certainly not mature but they’re not innocent either. I don’t think they know how dangerous the world is. They’ve never known it any other way. They didn’t have it like I did as a kid, when a kindergartner could walk home everyday and not worry about getting accosted or see kids smoking pot in the halls at school.”

“I always tell my kids when they’re going somewhere, ‘Okay. Be careful.’ They go, ‘Mom, I’m fine.’ And I say, ‘I know you are. It’s the rest of the world.’”


A mother's sorrow

On Oct. 22, 2001, John Edward Trowbridge, 23, was stabbed to death in Las Vegas by Michael Kane, 18. Kane was on an acid trip at the time of the stabbing. John’s mother, Robin Trowbridge-Benko of Chesterton, on her loss:

The knowledge that his killer’s drug abuse was obvious to his parents, his friends, his siblings, and went untreated sickens me beyond belief. I remember hearing kids say that why would someone care if they take drugs or not. “I’m not hurtin’ no one.” . .

It has been eight and a half months now and during that time I have had to deal with not only his death, the way he has died, but all that comes with it, a physical pain so deep you can’t get up some days. And the days you can you try to shut your eyes to the world because everything reminds you of what you lost. . . .

I don’t attempt to blame John’s death on anyone other than my son’s murderer. However, the fact that his killer was a known drug abuser and that his habits were ignored by his family and encouraged by his friends has led me to try to make people understand what drugs do to society as a whole. Everyone has heard how drugs affect society economically, how they can ruin a person’s life, but one never hears how far the long arm of drugs can reach. The domino effect that one person’s habit has on society is extensive. . . .

I think of what happens when a drunk driver kills a person, how we as a society mourn what has become of our society, how senseless the death is. But what society has ignored about drug abusers, well, I am simply disgusted. We have almost come to the point of accepting kids’ taking drugs. “It’s a phase” or “What can we do?” are heard too often. Having to deal with the death of a child is horrible in and of itself, but to have it aggravated by the senselessness of it all just adds salt to the wound. . . .

The other day I saw a young man bicycle past my house. I haven’t slept much since then because the last time John came to my house he had ridden his bike. And I never knew that as I watched him ride away it would be the last time I would ever see him again.


A mother's regrets

The ripples of an addiction can capsize the addict’s family. One mother, a resident of Valparaiso who wishes to remain anonymous, on keeping her head above water:

How do you weigh feelings of anguish when you tried to do everything right but things went so wrong? . . .

Of course there is guilt. Did we do something wrong? Did we not do enough? We thought we knew all the warning signs. We thought we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt if our children used drugs, but we never really thought they would. After all, we raised them better than that. But this has to be somebody’s fault, so it must be ours. . . .

Holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, and everything in between are not the same anymore, because either the addict child is away in treatment or possibly incarcerated or the addict child hasn’t been home in the past few days. It’s not only their presence that is missed, it’s the thought that the child would be graduating from college right now or this would possibly be their wedding to plan it if hadn’t been for the drugs. . . .

Whatever the cycle of addiction, your family is in turmoil. Life has revolved around the addict child. Other children’s needs haven’t always been met because of the crisis of the moment. Mothers and fathers deal with the situation sometimes separately and all relationships within the family suffer. Parents tend to be very suspicious of their other children and their friends now. The other children resent the implication. They are not only embarrassed by the behaviors of their addict sibling, but are very angry for what they see their parents are going through because so-and-so was so stupid to even use drugs and life as this family knew it was sucked from everyone. . . .

You awake every morning and then reality hits. You try to fall asleep at night with a heavy heart. But you do give thanks for the many blessings you have and hold tight to your partner, because you are trying to weather the storm together and you still have hope because your child is alive and this gives you strength to ride the rollercoaster of emotions again tomorrow.


Posted 3/22/2004