Wow! Here we are on an airplane bound for Australia, a dream come true for our 25th Wedding Anniversary. As we were flying from Hawaii, Pat had just finished an article about drugs and signs that you should look out for if your child is on drugs. According to this article, if three signs were detected, there’s a good chance drugs were involved. We both looked at each other, and realized that Sean could qualify for all twelve. That’s how it all started for us about eight years ago. Yes, this is how the roller coaster ride began.
Sean was our chosen son. He was just ten weeks old when we got him. We loved him with all of our hearts. He came to us, a Christian family, who loved and wanted him as a member of our family. He was joined by his two sisters who were older than him. He came to us on a Good Friday. He was a cute, pudgy bundle of joy. God had answered our prayers. We were so excited to finally have our son.
As Sean grew up, he was very involved in all sports. He played all star soccer until he was 14, and he also excelled in hockey, rugby and basketball. Sports played a big part in his life. He also achieved the highest award in the Boy Scouts. He was the kind of son everyone hoped for. He always had lots of friends and seemed quite popular among his peers. Sean attended church and Sunday school as well as singing in the Junior Choir. He was always respectful of adults and seemed to be living the Christian principles we had taught him as a young boy. We were so happy as a family.
As his Mom, I loved him so much. I couldn’t see any signs of any problems or maybe I didn’t want to admit there were any. We were a good family. I am a nurse and my husband a carpenter. We attended church regularly and were very involved in our community. We seemed to be the perfect family with your everyday ups and downs. How could this be happening to us?
We went on our trip and when we returned, we began to realize something wasn’t right with Sean. We started to notice he was more despondent as well as withdrawn. His personality was changing, so we questioned him and he admitted to smoking pot. Not our only son! How could this be happening?
We decided to get some counseling. We went to the addiction centre to get some help on how to deal with this problem. Where had we gone wrong? We both felt terribly guilty. We raised all three kids the same . . . How could this happen? The more we tried to help, the worse it seemed to get.
We noticed over the next several months that Sean had changed friends, he’d sleep for long periods, he had mood swings and he started to be quite disrespectful. When he came home, his eyes would be bloodshot. We caught him in many lies. He seemed to be lying all the time. Things went missing from our home and we really didn’t want to believe that our own son would steal from us!
It was at this point we realized there was something bad that was threatening the very essence of our family. We felt so helpless; there was counseling for teenagers but nothing for the parents who were hurting so badly. It was at this time we discovered other parents were hurting from similar devastations. We decided to co-facilitate a support group for parents who, along with their teens, were in crisis.
Over the next few months, life as we had known it was evaporating quickly. We would find ourselves running in circles, wondering what to do next and how to fight this unknown enemy. We relied on our faith and the prayers of our friends and family to help get us through this very troubled time.
Our son would disappear for days at a time. We would find ourselves pacing in front of the window, crying and wondering where he was and if he was safe. Many times we wondered if the police would be coming to the door with bad news. We would be out driving around the city in the middle of the night, looking for him.
Sean’s behavior became more and more erratic. By this time, he had dropped out of school. He was becoming more involved with the local drug scene and dealers. We became very suspicious and started checking his room. Soon we found drug paraphernalia and drug literature hidden in his room with actual drugs. It wasn’t until after Sean entered Teen challenge that he told us he hid the drugs in the suspended ceiling our rec room. How naive we were. Because of the effect this was having on our family, we had to come to terms and make some tough decisions. There were terrible fights and arguments, some almost becoming physical at times. There were tears in our home almost every day. What was once a happy home was now in severe crisis.
We decided we were not going to allow our family to be destroyed anymore. Therefore, we told Sean that he would have to leave if he could not live by the rules we set down, and go for help. He could no longer stay with us. This was one of the most difficult decisions we had to make as parents. We told Sean that we would always love him and that God loved him, but we did not approve of his lifestyle.
For a while, peace began once more to settle back in our lives. We became more involved with our parents’ group and the war on drugs. The rest of our family became more aware of what was taking place in our lives. We became more resolved to not let the enemy win. We knew God was leading us . . . all we had to do was follow and let him guide us.
The heartache and pain became almost unbearable at times. We relied upon our faith and the prayers of our family and friends. We became more determined to get our son back. We can’t remember the number of times we turned this over to God, then took it back again. Finally, with God’s help, we made the decision that if Sean was to be helped, it would be God that would do it in His time and His way. All we could do was to pray and make sure Sean knew we loved him, and that God loved him, and others were praying for him.
For the next few years, we rode a roller coaster of ups and downs. Every so often, when we thought Sean had hit his rock bottom, the light at the end of the tunnel would start getting brighter. Then, something would try to extinguish it. The cycle would start again. Through this time, our commitment to our parents’ group grew. We began to realize there were many families hurting and being torn apart by drugs and alcohol. Some of the stories we heard, situations these people were going through, tore at our hearts. We knew there was no magical formula; however, with allowing God to help, we knew he would get us through this.
Sean was always able to keep a job. He was lucky. He never ended up in jail, although many addicts do. He ran up many debts and seemed unable to keep an apartment. We helped him out a few times, and soon we realized we weren’t really helping him at all. It broke our hearts when we went to one apartment at Christmas time. It was up on the second floor of an old house. We went up an old staircase and knocked on the door. Sean answered; he looked awful and was coughing. The apartment was dark and cold. He had all of his stuff in a front room. We could see how he had tried to bring a bit of Christmas tradition where he had a string of Christmas lights hanging in one corner of the room. There was an old couch and an old rug on the floor. He slept in a little area off this room, with dirty blankets and a terrible smell permeating the whole apartment. There wasn’t any food in the kitchen. Was this what God want for our “chosen son”? No, but this is what Sean chose for himself. He eventually got evicted from there.
We continued to believe that Sean would change. After all, we loved him so much. We agreed to help him find a new apartment. He had some nice furniture and gradually had a really nice place. It wasn’t too long after that we started to realize that he was heavy into drugs again. He looked terrible – dressed poorly, very pale, and had lost a lot of weight.
We found out that he was going to be evicted again! I couldn’t imagine what he was going to do, so we went over to the apartment to see if we could do anything. At first Sean was very rude to us, told us to get out and asked what we were doing there. The apartment contents were all packed up and there was stuff everywhere. We couldn’t seem to get through to Sean. He didn’t want anything to do with us. He wouldn’t talk to us, and ran to hide in the broom closet. We looked all over for him. It was like he was a scared animal. We finally found him cowering in the corner of the closet, all curled up in a ball, crying. We were crying as well but we couldn’t get through to him. We tried to hug him but he got mad and ran out of the apartment.
Later that day we found out Sean was going to leave the city by bus, so we went down to the bus station and watched for Sean. He was nowhere to be seen, but just as the bus was ready to leave, he came out of the bushes. To this day, we are not sure if it was an angel at that door or what, but we blocked the door to the bus and told Sean he was not going to run away, that we loved him, and together we would work it out. He was very angry and stormed off. Pat immediately ran after him. There they were running down the train tracks, all 5 feet and 2 inches of Pat chasing after 6 feet and 5 1/2 inches of Sean, yelling at him to come right back and listen to her. It is really quite funny now, but we knew if he had gotten on that bus, things would not have turned out like they have today. Again, Sean turned away from us and ran.
A few days later we found him on the streets and persuaded him to go to the hospital for some help. Unfortunately, there they only sedated him with Valium and really did nothing. He was discharged. He had lost everything, his friends, his dignity, his belongings.
It was shortly after this incident that his sister decided that she would try to help him and let him stay with her for a couple of weeks, until he could get some help. He eventually broke all the rules at her place and found himself out on the street again. We didn’t know where he was but knew he was at his wits end. We prayed for his safety.
Then, one Saturday at 6:30 am, Sean found his way to our front step. At first he wouldn’t come in and said he just wanted his clothes. We could tell he was hurting, so we made him come in and have a shower, telling him he could leave right after that. He couldn’t look us in the eyes. He was cold, wet and dirty, covered in mosquito bites, half of his face was numb and he was coughing up blood. Our hearts were broken. We remembered that first day we got him, so sweet and innocent as a baby. How could this have happened to our little boy?
We convinced him to come in and go downstairs to use the shower. Shortly after, we found him sitting down with his head buried in his hands and crying. He said he couldn’t go on the way he was going anymore. Sean finally wanted help. We held each other and cried. We had heard about Teen Challenge Farm from our daughter Micheline’s pastor. He had gone through the program and told her all about it. Could that be the answer?
We needed somewhere to turn. Nothing else seemed to work. Sean had been in a secular centre for 30 days and got kicked out of there. We made the first call and spoke to Paul Pardy. He suggested Sean phone, which he did. We did a lot of praying that day. Sean arranged an interview. We took him over. We were really impressed that day, having been given a tour of the Farm. This could be the answer, but it had to be Sean’s commitment, not ours.
Sean had to wait a few weeks before finding out he was accepted. God had answered our prayers! He was in! We breathed a sigh of relief, but the hard work was ahead of him. There was no magic cure after he walked through the gates. We really prayed that day. We prayed that Sean would stay and that the Holy Spirit would surround him and help him beat this addiction. He has since told us that he was into all the hard drugs, cocaine, heroin, speed, etc. At the time, we didn’t want to even think about that. It was so frightening to think of the hold that drugs can have on a person. Many times we realized that we were not seeing our son but the effects that drugs had on him.
The first phone call from Sean from Teen Challenge Farm was unforgettable. He said he had never heard so much about God, God, God in all his life! We just listened and kept on encouraging him. As the months went by, we began to see glimpses of our son come back. On several occasions he would call and say he wanted to come home, but we just said “no” and encouraged him. We found out later that his councilors were so supportive and were there to talk him through these down times.
Now, twelve months later, we can say that God has freed Sean of his addiction. We now have our son back. Praise God! We are so proud of him. He has graduated from the Teen Challenge program and is now working as an intern for Teen Challenge in British Columbia. We don’t know where God will lead him but we know that God has always had a plan for Sean’s life.
God working through Teen Challenge has been the answer to our prayers. We are so grateful to everyone at Teen Challenge. Through this past year, we’ve seen men’s lives changed all to the glory of God.
We only share this story with you so that you too can have hope. God’s love can change the life of your son. Along with the commitment and dedication of all the staff at Teen Challenge, miracles are happening. We thank Teen Challenge and praise God for our very own miracle.