“We love our children above all else and we never do anything to intentionally harm them.” (Revised words of wisdom from my mom that if she had been living she would have repeated to me.)
When did it begin? Almost immediately. Assuaging my guilt has been attempted by family, friends, individual and group therapy and through all the books I have read and do read. Initially it helped and in some ways still does. Sometimes I think I might come to some peaceful terms with William’s death, but I fear and feel I will never come to terms with my guilt.
Of course there is the guilt over my pettiness for fussing at him for leaving the kitchen sink faucet in spray position and having water spray in my face, or putting a knife or dish away incorrectly of for not taking the garbage out. How trivial that all seems now. Now I wish only I could hug him and laugh and tell him it’s ok.
My lack of knowledge to grapple the drug situation, my denial, my fears, my weaknesses, my cowardice feelings and inability to keep my son close, to save him and keep him alive are and will be with me the rest of my life. Ultimately I take responsibility for my son’s death. How could I as a mother not keep my own son alive?
William took his first pill when he was 13 offered to him by his brother/son#3. This fact William told me when he was 19. At age 12 he had his stomach pumped for alcohol poisoning. He would never confess from whom he got the alcohol or what it was. It was a horrible scene to see this sweet little boy in this predicament. Again after his death his x girlfriend told me another story he confided in her and that was that brother/son#3 and son #3’s girlfriend held him down and made him drink alcohol through a straw. Is this sickening? Why did I not know? Why wouldn’t he tell his other 2 brothers (son #1 and #2 his stepbrothers- my first 2 from my first marriage)?
So let me explain how I caused his death. I didn’t do enough. The therapist suggested I oblige to William’s request for a dog that would provide companionship for the depression and thoughts of suicide he suffered. So we went to the animal shelter and both of us fell for the black jack russell lab mix. She wasn’t as cute as one of our other choices, but her congeniality and want of a friend seemed to be a perfect match. Eventually, William wasn’t caring for the dog as needed. He wouldn’t get up from bed to let her out at night and he wouldn’t get up in the morning to let her out or feed her. So I would get her to let her out and then the older brother son #3 who was at home recuperating from a near death experience after a 3 month hospital stay, began encouraging the dog to sleep with him. He was on the first floor and William was on the second floor. Son #3 also began taking care of the dog. He’d feed her, let her out and eventually began walking her. He kind of took over William’s dog and I guess I allowed it because all William did was complain to me, but I do realize William wouldn’t do anything more than allow the dog to sleep with him. I can’t help but feel somehow I should have made this work so that William would have maintained ownership of the dog.
The list goes on with my mistakes. Many things I didn’t know about William until after his death when his x girlfriend and I talked endlessly. She confided in me all that William had shared with her over his suffering and how he was traumatized by son # 3 beginning when William was 12 or 13. I was so busy trying to save son #3 that I had no idea what was going on and I feel so guilty and ashamed. Eventually son #3s face was disfigured due to an accident after which he was in the hospital for 3 months and went on to have a dozen surgeries.
Eventually, taking the hard core approach upon an x friend’s advice I moved William into an apartment three months prior to his 18th birthday. I paid for his rent through his 18th birthday then gradually weened him off of financial support. I helped him find a job. I don’t think I ever felt good about this decision. I just didn’t know what to do with William. He’d previously dropped out of school officially when he was 16, but he’d quit going to high school before then. He only achieved a 9th grade education and this kid had even been in advance classes. He lied around the house and really wouldn’t lift a finger. At one point a social worker set up home visits to see why I wasn’t making William go to school. Explaining to her that I physically couldn’t carry him there was nothing more I could do. No amount of effort from me in forms of talking, motivational attempts or threatening him would help. During this time period William told me kids at school were making fun of him because of his brother’s/son #3’s disfigured face. Thinking this was quite cruel I listened to William and tried to understand. Was he bullied? I wonder just how deeply this pained William. Again I feel guilty for not having known what to do to protect my son.
Also, another incident occurred and I turned my back on William. I didn’t believe what was actually occurring or didn’t understand the depth of the problem. I just thought he drank and took some drugs and passed out. Once again I thought I cannot support that behavior. This is what I told my other sons during their teen years approaching adulthood. It seemed all of my sons needed to figure it out on their own, which I think they did. The oldest two are married and I am blessed with four grandchildren between the two of them. However, not understanding the depths of William’s drug problems, I now understand it was a seizure caused by Xanax. Yes, when son #2 called to report the seizure while William was at work I didn’t believe it. So I let William be taken in an ambulance with me not there. Hailey, girlfriend at the time came to the hospital with her mom to pick him up the next day. Hailey told me this piece of the story after William died. I feel so horrible and guilty
There’s more. Eventually once he gave up taking care of his apartment he moved in with his dad and brother/son#3. I’ve been told the house was a despicable filthy dirty mess with darkness as the curtains remained closed all day creating an atmosphere of depression. Also I was told his brother/son #3 in a drugged out rage once threatened him with a knife chasing him around the house threatening to kill him. All this being said x girlfriend stated they had happy times together before he moved in with his dad and during the time he was at his dad’s even given the depressing state of the house. X girlfriend, Hailey and William stayed together at his dad’s house and sometimes at her parents’ and were rarely apart.
At one point Hailey confronted me with William’s drug problem. Exhaustedly and painfully I listened, but embarrassingly I admit that my mind wasn’t open. Denial was certainly there. Overwhelmed with all I’d been through with son #3 and other 2 sons in their teen years and now this put me over the edge. In the past decade I’d lost both my parents. Twice over I’d been a single mom. I was wanting to move on. It’s not that I didn’t care, and believe me I loved my son immensely but I didn’t know what to do. Why would he listen to me now? Also this was just prior to 2016 before we all knew what most of us know now regarding the drug crisis. Hailey told me I had to do something. I couldn’t force him into treatment. So I simply confronted him and he admittedly agreed that he had a drug problem. So I asked him what he was going to do about it and he said he was working on it. Unfortunately I believed him and left it up to him.
At one point he seemed to be doing well. So I thought this would be a good time to help him a little more by inviting him to live with me. So for most of the 2016 year William and Hailey lived at my house. Eventually, Hailey left for Hawaii for an internship. It seemed obvious that William might start to flounder without Hailey around, but he hung in there and was working hard in a new position as a chef. Even after his moped was stolen from the restaurant he persevered and cycled the 10 miles back and forth. Eventually William seemed to decline. One morning I woke up to hear William vaguely screaming for help. He’d had a seizure. Insanely, I didn’t believe him and only thought he had passed out from too much alcohol and some pills. Admittedly, I’d passed out in college from too much alcohol so this didn’t seem so odd. I just thought he was being a stupid kid like I was at one time and I’m still alive. I wiped up his blood, put a pillow under his head and covered him up. He was still on the floor where he had fallen down the steps. He said he couldn’t move, but I still assumed he was ok. So I went upstairs and got ready for work. Shortly thereafter I came back downstairs to check on him and he’d made it to bed and again he seemed fine. Asking me to take him to the doctor just seemed foolish. He’d pulled this trick in the past saying his back hurt and then having his dad take him to the hospital so he could get some pain pills. Later that afternoon I discovered his dad had taken him to the hospital and that they were monitoring him for the seizure that he actually did have.
Eventually, William’s work ethic declined and he seemed to be slipping back into that apathetic attitude as he had once been in high school. Feeling intolerance for this behavior I asked him to find a place on his own, because I felt otherwise he’d continue a life of lethargy and uselessness. He moved in with a skateboarding friend who was alcohol and drug free. What a great opportunity. However, late one night his friend called to report that William was in a drugged rage flaunting a gun. Shortly thereafter William moved back in with his dad. Son #3 was also living with his dad again and these two brothers together are not a good combination.
William kind of drifted out of my life for a while as we communicated little. Eventually, we came to better terms as I found out that he’d admitted himself to rehab. Later I also learned he’d lived with an aunt for a couple weeks to help keep him clean. Feeling hope for William and a means to now more meaningfully communicate with him I reached out to him. We spent the last couple months of his life communicating and eventually spending time together. We also made future plans not just for dinner or to watch basketball games but we planned to do some traveling for together. However, some guilt creeps in here as well. Once again I wanted to help William out and considered having him move in with me and he wanted to. It pains me now though as I visualize him standing in my doorway as I felt I needed to rescind my offer. He said he understood when I explained how I would be interfering with his opportunity to do this on his own. Apparently through this drug rehab program there were promises of housing after some number of months. I felt if he moved in with me he would not be motivated to work with the program. Also his brother/son#3 began calling me and I felt that unsafe interference was occurring and that scared me. So I thought just like I floundered as a kid and eventually grew up, as well as how his brothers managed to mature and reach adulthood that William would find his way and grow into an independent though struggling adulthood.
William didn’t grow up but he was growing up. He had recently voted in his first election. He admitted himself to drug rehab. After I found out he was finally doing all this on his own I was almost beginning to feel like maybe some of my parenting of William was beneficial. I knew William and I would have years ahead to talk about all this in his past and what direction he was going in as a young man and on into what lie ahead in his future. I am so proud of him for trying. I love him so much. I wished I’d know and if only I could have done something or anything I would have.