By Mary Cucarola – 12/1/18

“When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen.”  Ernest Hemingway

He said he was nervous to go to high school and be a freshman.  He said he hoped he could make friends and be popular.  He said he wanted to play sports – golf, basketball, baseball.  He hoped he was good enough.  He said he felt a lot of pressure to succeed.

He said it was hard to keep his grades up and focus in class.  He said he felt overwhelmed.  He said he wanted to fit in.  He started smoking and drinking.  He changed some of his friends.  His grades dropped and he became ineligible.  He quit caring about his appearance.  He wouldn’t wear his letter jacket.  He wore the same hoodie every day.

No one was listening.

He got a nice car for his 16th birthday.  He had a big surprise birthday party with all of his friends and family at the clubhouse.  He seemed sad instead of happy.  He acted distant and like he was undeserving, and at the same time, he eagerly learned how to drive a stick shift and proudly showed all his friends how, too.

He got stopped for speeding and received a ticket for having drug paraphernalia in his car.  He had a marijuana pipe in his glove box.  He hid the ticket in his top drawer in his bedroom until the day before court.  His mom sent him to a counselor, who asked him what he was most proud of about himself.  He attempted suicide.

He went to a different counselor, recommended by his pediatrician.  He told her he smoked a lot of pot.  She concluded he had ADHD and met the criteria for the predominantly inattentive type.  She prescribed him Ritalin and his pediatrician agreed with her diagnosis.  He was 17 years old.

No one was listening.

He went back to school as if nothing happened.  His parents split up shortly after.  He thought it was his fault – it wasn’t.  He started failing his classes and gave up on school.  His junior year his English teacher briefly mentioned she thought he might be an alcoholic, like her own son.  He was always sleeping in class and had bloodshot eyes.

His dad asked him what was wrong over and over, day in and day out.  He had no answers.  He had no answers he heard.  He had no answers anyone heard.

He tried college away from home.  He abused alcohol and drugs.  He abused his prescribed Ritalin.  He called his mom from college to tell her he felt like he did in high school.  He said he felt depressed.  He said he was afraid and anxious.  He wanted to come home.  His mom said no, that he needed to stick it out.  She said he was just homesick.

No one was listening.

He flunked out.  He came home and got a job at a gourmet food market in the produce department.  He tried to be normal.  He wanted to be normal.  He rented his own apartment with a nice roommate.  He couldn’t stop drinking and drugging.  He told his mom he thought he needed to go to rehab – he was 21 years old.  He said he couldn’t stop and asked politely if he could to go to rehab.

His mom was shaken.  His girlfriend was supportive of the idea.  He went to rehab for 28 days in Estes Park.  He saw someone in rehab he knew from high school – her boyfriend was there.  He was embarrassed and ashamed he was there, too.

His mom, his girlfriend, and his dad went to the family program.  They each had to write an “affects” letter – how his addiction affected them.  It made everyone uncomfortable.  His mom learned about Al-Anon in the family program.  He relapsed two weeks later.  He relapsed again and again.

No one was listening.

His mom started listening – listening completely.  She started learning about addiction and depression.  It was a vicious cycle she learned – a cycle of self-medication.  It was an imbalance in the brain chemistry and 60% genetically predisposed.  She researched it obsessively.  Her son became her addiction.

He went to four more rehabs and she went to four more family programs.  It cost thousands of dollars.  His insurance wouldn’t pay – addiction was not covered.  She tried to help him over and over again.  Sometimes she helped, sometimes she enabled.  She did the best she could with what she knew at the time.

He overdosed and died on September 25th, 2013, when he was 26 years old.  He was gone.  He was done suffering.

Everyone is listening.

Mary Cucarola – 12/1/18