Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Mother blinded by love misses signs of son’s drug abuse

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 7/5/2014

It was late when Tammy Ruggles got the call about her son. “Travis is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. He’s been in an accident.”

“Is he all right? Is he hurt?” she asked. She wanted to know if he was alive, but she didn’t dare state the question out loud.

It was late when Tammy Ruggles got the call about her son. “Travis is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. He’s been in an accident.”

“Is he all right? Is he hurt?” she asked. She wanted to know if he was alive, but she didn’t dare state the question out loud.

She soon learned her son was injured but would live. However, as she wrote in her story “The Return of My Son,” published in one of our books on overcoming adversity, the more difficult process of recovery would come after he left the hospital.

A mother’s love is a powerful force, powerful enough that it can be blinding, which may be why Tammy, a social worker, didn’t see the signs of her son’s problem. He’d left the hospital with 50 stitches in his face, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and a prescription for painkillers. The last item would shape the next years of his life.

Tammy noticed that the money from Travis’ insurance settlement was dwindling. But she knew her son was generous and not materialistic. “So I naively thought he was spending his money on other people,” she wrote. Then belongings started disappearing from Travis’ room: a TV, a computer, DVDs, even clothes. “I knew something was wrong, but I hadn’t figured out what.”

Travis knew exactly what the problem was. One day, Tammy found him packing a suitcase. “What’s up?” she asked. “Look around, Mom,” he replied. Then he said quietly, “I’m on pills and I’m going to detox.”

“The truth nearly knocked me down,” Tammy wrote. But she responded the best way she could. The next words she said were: “I love you. I’m so proud of you.” Then she enlisted her family. Within a few minutes she arranged for her relatives to call Travis and voice their support. With his family behind him, Travis set out on the long road to recovery. He relapsed once and had to start over. But, on the second attempt, he recovered and stayed clean. And then, for the first time since the accident, Tammy really got her son back.

•••

Mary Ulrich Jackson was ecstatic as she and her husband Bob boarded a plane to China. They’d been preparing for months for this trip to adopt their 18-month-old daughter. They’d already named her Amy. “We three would be the perfect little family and live happily ever after,” was what Mary thought before they left, as she wrote in her story “A Little Bit of Love,” published in our book about mothers and daughters.

But, the reality of the new family wasn’t what she’d imagined, at least not immediately. At 18 months, Amy had grown attached to her foster mother. “Amy missed her ‘Amah’ so intensely that she would barely look at Bob and me,” Mary wrote. Once they arrived at Mary and Bob’s hotel, Amy stood at the hotel room door and screamed “for the only mother she had known.”

Mary was distraught and embarrassed. She barely wanted to leave the hotel room and be seen caring for a child that seemed so upset. As a result, the new family got most of their meals from room service. One night, Mary ordered noodles and tried eating with chopsticks for the first time. The experiment did not go well. Every time she tried to pick up the noodles, they slithered off the chopsticks.

However, she noticed Amy had stopped crying. “Peeking out of the corner of my eye, I saw her sitting in the corner of the room watching me intently.” Amy walked over and sat next to Mary. She took the chopsticks from her, positioned them in her own hands and fed a bite of noodles to her new mother. Bob was amazed and snapped a picture as Amy fed Mary another bite. Then he sat down himself and Amy fed him, too.

It was a breakthrough for the new family, the first time Amy willingly interacted with her parents. Soon, Mary had the “perfect little family” she wanted, and Amy, for her part, remained just as helpful as she’d been as an infant. At age 9, she offered to someday drive her parents to their favorite restaurant once they were “too old to drive themselves.”

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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