Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Happy Little Pill

About a month ago I commented on a YouTube video for a song called "Happy Little Pill."

The song made me think of the way Ethan talked about his pills, the OTC cough suppressants he took to get high, to escape reality, to "be happy," or normal, or what passed for it in his addicted life.

The reaction I got to posting my short reflection on the song has made mine the top comment on what is essentially a teen emo song, supposedly about antidepressants, and has been as mixed as my own feelings, and what I expect are the general reactions of people around me, to what happened.

Most of the commentators, who I suspect are mostly teens or Ethan's age themselves, have expressed sympathy, hope that I cling to good memories, sorrow that anyone has to go through what we've been through, and too often understanding as they've also lost someone to drug overdose.

A few have told me how I should have fixed my son.

Several have told me I was surely a horrible parent.

All things I've thought myself at one point or another during the last 10 months.

No one should have to go through this. Young people shouldn't lose their siblings, spouses, friends and lovers to drugs. Mother and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers shouldn't stand by the side of a grave on a hillside and mourn a life cut short. Small children shouldn't lose a parent, an aunt or uncle. Especially not to something as avoidable as addiction. Yet it happens, and when it does we try to cling to the good memories, even when we have to dig them from the layers of garbage that addiction makes of a person's life. Sometimes we have to hunt them like pirates' gold, following a trail through our memories and finally digging down to what may only be a single gold coin that we can treasure. Or we're able to keep digging, keep hunting, and find enough to make us smile.

I know that I couldn't fix my son, that I wasn't a horrible parent. But sometimes, I relive the choices I made day to day long before his addiction. Would this have changed his life? Sometimes I'm like a rat in a maze, trying to find a way through my life that doesn't have me emerging next to his cold casket. But I have to accept that I was working with what I had at the time and doing the best I could; that even before the drugs he refused efforts at counseling with an addiction counselor who could have helped him had he been willing to open up.

Maybe, if I had known the risk of what he was doing when he first started, or if whatever behavioral issue he had were diagnosed and addressed when he was young. But even then I couldn't do it. It would have taken professionals, and by the time I had a clue what he was hiding, he was so good at hiding it that the professionals couldn't make any headway. He was, at least legally, an adult and no intervention program could hold him when he didn't want to go. Even if it had, if he weren't ready to say I need to change, then he wouldn't have changed. He was never ready to say that except when he was straight for a long time and had no choice. Even then his resolve quickly crumbled when the world didn't become the place he wanted it to be and life didn't get better.

Only addicts and people that have really lived with an addiction understand that. I'm thankful for the time I spent in Al-Anon years ago while dealing with someone else's addiction. Those Sunday nights with others trying to cope with the insanity of their lives helped me understand the problem wasn't mine, I couldn't fix it, I couldn't discipline or rehab or counsel it away. It helped me to understand that it wasn't a choice of drugs over me, that it wasn't him talking when he was consumed by rage, that he wasn't in control any more either. That it was never a matter of him loving the pills more than me, no matter how it sometimes felt. It helped me understand how powerful addiction is and that being an addict and overcoming it are hard and require first admitting that it is a problem, that you need to change your life (not just stop) and that you may need help.

Ethan died knowing all the help he could ever ask for to beat his addiction was just a phone call away -- to me, his stepfather, his grandparents, his former pastor, his lifelong best friend, that young man's mother and probably a host of other people who knew and loved him and would have made sure he got whatever help and support he needed. He never made the choice to admit it was a problem and that he needed help to get better. He never thought it would kill him.

I run down this thread of thought because every time someone goes on YouTube and watches that video, if they scroll down a bit, they see the top comment and the number of people who have liked the comment and the long thread of replies to that initial comment. And every time someone feels they want to add to the conversation, I get an email telling me what they said, good or bad.

Some days it's ugly. It's the "Don't you feel like a failure?" or "You should have helped him" type comments. Most days it's an RIP, or someone else correcting the others in what is often a tone I'd only like to use. I could edit it, delete it, or disable replies, but I don't because someone may read it who has their own happy little pill. Someone may think twice about what it takes to bring color to their skies and decide they need help.

Someone may live and someone else may never feel what I feel.

At the same time, there's a part of me that watching the video, listening to the song, smiles because I know how Ethan would have reacted because it wasn't the angry, loud music he always chose. And yet, I think he would have recognized himself in the lyrics and listened anyway.


  1. I went back and read the comments WOW! There are alot of nice ones and you can tell they are teenagers but there are some screwed up angry kids out there who need something I just don't know whether it is therapy or a good old fashion butt kicking! I kept wanting to hit that reply button but I know idiots like that just feed off of the attention so I didn't. I spent last weekend at the Alzheimer's Walk to End Alzheimer's and I was so impressed by the amount of teenagers there. Not just walking but volunteering and working their behinds off, I was so impressed the sad thing is people don't recognize that anymore it's the idiot ones like the ones hear who steal all the light away and try and destroy it. I'm sure they are hurting about something just have no idea why, it's so sad.

  2. You post resonates with me Angela. I spent countless hours and days beating myself up about "If I had only done this or that my wife would still be alive". I don't do it so much anymore, but I was consumed with those thoughts for years. The truth is though, just like with Ethan, that there was plenty of help available to her if she wanted it. God bless you Angela. Losing my wife was hard, but I can't even begin imagine what it would be like to lose a son.