Daytop Addiction Treatment

Normal teenage behavior ...
Or is it? My story is typical of many parents

who come into the program.
I was absolutely stunned when I found out that my son was getting high at the age of 12. I made a lot of excuses. He’s young. He’s curious. All the kids try it, they experiment. It’s not a big deal, it will probably go away on its own, it’s only pot. But I’m watching this kid, he’s 12 years old, and it was like he was building this little shell around him. He would not let us in. We could not communicate with him.

(Father with a serious expression)
(border around photo)

Were there signs?

No one ever gave me a list of signs to look for, and to be honest with you, if they had given me this list, I’m not sure that I would have been able to see it, or recognize it. Because if you take them individually, it’s normal teenage behavior, but when you add them all up, it presents an entirely different story.

(Teenage Daytop client)
(Smiling father)
(border around photo)

Is this normal?

The first thing was, when he entered eighth grade he lost all of his old friends. But they were quickly replaced with new friends. And I thought, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? You’re supposed to socialize, and meet new friends, and do new things. But, I never met many of them, they didn’t want to come to our house, and I met even fewer of the parents. If I can’t partner with another parent, tell them what they can expect from me, and ask them what I can expect from them, it’s a real recipe for a problem.

The second thing that happened was his grades started to change. He was a B+ student and by the middle of ninth grade report card, he had failed every single subject.

My wife found a guidance center for teenage substance abusers, he’s still only 13 at the time. And he would go there once or twice a week, maybe an hour and a half a night, and after a couple of months, they said, he doesn’t have to come back anymore, we think he’ll be okay. I turned to my wife and said “See, I told you, no problem, he’s fixed.” And I think we went out and celebrated that night.

What’s really going on

Well, he continued to get high. How do I know? I don’t know for sure. But there was something in my gut that was telling me that this kid’s getting high. And then we started missing money. Not a whole lot, a little bit here and there. Did I confront him? Not really. It was easier to say hide your money better.

My son was isolating himself in a huge way. If he wasn’t out with his friends, he would come home from school, dive into his room, jump on the internet, and not come up for air for 6 or 7 hours. And I was concerned about this. I said he’s not telling me where he’s going, who he’s going with, if he’s getting high, but I figured maybe his computer could. So I bought a program that basically spied on his computer. And I felt very guilty about it. I was invading his privacy. I was violating his trust. So I’m reading these logs, and I’m seeing talk about pot, weed, smoking, and pot, and smoking more, and then I started seeing references to pills and cocaine. And then to heroin. They’re talking about sprinkling heroin on their marijuana. And he’s 14 years old at this point. I could not live in denial any more. It’s staring at me in black and white. At that point, I had absolutely lost my son. I did not know who this monster was.

Things started to change

Somehow we found our way to Daytop. He came to their facility for treatment, for his groups, for his counseling, he also went to school there, six days a week, 9 hours a day. And he came home to us at night. And the Daytop way of doing things came home with us, and slowly but surely, things started to change. He became much more respectful to his parents. Sunday dinner was a joy, there was laughter in the house. He started doing his own laundry, taking out the garbage. He got an A+ in pots and pans, and eat your hearts out, he cleans his own room. He returned to mainstream school that fall. He got his first job, and the following May he completed his treatment and graduated from the Daytop program.

I got my son back

All of that stuff is just that, it’s stuff, it’s a list of accomplishments. What’s important is that I got my son back, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am, that he is back and he’s mine and he’s still mine.