The first time we met with treatment counselors, we were trying to determine what type of program we were going to put Jonathon in. Because this was his first incident, we had no idea what we were up against. I mean, all teenagers experiment right? Their frontal lobe isn’t fully formed so they make dumb decisions, right? After the one-on-one counselor’s meeting with Jonathon he called my husband and I in for a meeting. He suggested that we admit our son to an eight week out-patient program with meetings three times a week and weekly drug testing. We were desperate, open, and willing to do whatever it took to see our son happy and whole. As we were leaving, the counselor said, “In my many years of being a drug counselor, I can almost guarantee that he will end up here at our in-patient program.” I was appalled, offended, and a little taken aback. He obviously didn’t know our son, our son is different; he didn’t know our family. He had no idea that we were a Christian family that home-schooled our kids. I was going to prove to him that we were the exception to the rule. Just watch.

Jonathon was my firstborn. He was the most kind, loving, funny, witty, incredibly intelligent, and curious kid. He never really got in trouble because he was pretty obedient and followed all the rules. He was always the life of the party. He attracted a crowd within five minutes of being on the playground or at school or in sports. He had a magnetic personality and had a lot of charm and charisma. When Jonathon was in the first grade, it was pretty evident that he was advanced for his age. He was reading Harry Potter books and was reading at a seventh-grade level in the first grade. The teachers had a meeting with us and let us know that there wasn’t really anything extra they could give him and that he would just be bored in school. We decided to home-school. He still had a lot of social interactions with his friends. In 2013, our family decided to move to another state.

It was a rough transition, but our family was resilient, and we knew we could adjust and adapt to our new environment. Jonathon was a little more subdued and apprehensive about making new friends plus he was entering into the tumultuous, dreaded, teenage years. As he became more isolated and focused on making music, we just chalked it up to being a brooding teen. We enrolled him in a charter school that seemed to be a good fit. He found new friends and seemed to enjoy being social again.

At sixteen, Jonathon was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He was given medication that made his condition worse. Jonathon began to research online about ways to make himself better. He bought pills online and began taking Xanax, Oxycontin, and who knows what else. The next couple of years were spent in and out of rehabs and doctor visits. He would have spells of being “sober” and we believed that he was just going through a phase and that he just needed to get it out of his system.

Every professional psychiatrist, therapist, and counselor cleared him of NOT having an addiction and that he just needed better coping skills.

Jonathon was incredibly talented and creative. He was offered a recording contract and moved to Hollywood with his uncle to pursue his dream. Again, we couldn’t decipher what was addiction, what was just partying as a young adult, we were still in denial as to the severity of Jonathon’s problem. This newfound fame and money just exasperated the issue. Even though Jonathon was on a budget he still figured out how to make money and spend it on drugs. By this point, Jonathon was 18 and we had no legal rights.

My husband and I found PAL in April of 2019.  I wish we would have found PAL sooner. Our son was struggling with substance abuse and the last two years were spent on rehabs, doctors, ER visits, AA, NA, you name it! We did all that we could to support our son. What we didn’t realize was as parents, we needed support too. We found that support at PAL. It was so eye-opening to be around other families battling this nightmare. The teaching and training at PAL gave us tools and strength to fight the battle ahead of us.

The biggest thing I learned was that I needed to look at addiction as addition. What I mean is this, 1+1 will always =2! Especially when dealing with pills. No matter how hard you try to fight opioids, opioids will always win if you do not get professional help. I regret that I wasn’t more informed, and I regret that I easily believed Jonathon. Honesty and integrity are so important to me that the thought of him lying to me was unfathomable! I know I’m naive because lying is the addict’s expertise.

I realized that I looked at addiction more like poetry. If only I loved more, served more, prayed more, etc… then Jonathon will get better. Sadly, love wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately, our son lost that battle. Jonathon passed on June 27, 2019, at only 18 years old from an opioid overdose. He was found unresponsive, was in a coma for two weeks, and died at the hospital. Our lives are forever changed.

We will continue to share about PAL because it is an important resource for families. We are so thankful for the support we have been given. Please look for a PAL group near you if you have a loved one struggling with addiction.

PAL Parents