Our son Andrew started cutting himself at age 13. We had the behavior under control until August 2012. In May 2012 we were alerted, thanks to a very good friend, that Andrew was experimenting with drugs. We quickly learned the behavior was more than experimental and Andrew was in serious trouble. By August 2012 his long time psychologist as well as a social worker from DCF recommended residential care to help Andrew with both his emotional issues and his substance abuse. After a series of events, including more serious cutting behavior and running away, Andrew was placed in a residential care care facility on Aug 26, 2012. He remained in the facility until Oct 2, 2012, when insurance refused to continue coverage. His stay at the facility was not successful, he relapsed every time he was given a pass to leave. During this stay Andrew was also diagnosed with a mental health condition that includes difficulty in social situations, a mild form of Autism.
Insurance said he needed residential substance abuse treatment, however they refused to cover the treatment. Andrew came home and went back to his psychologists as well as outpatient treatment, daily NA meetings and a psychiatrist. On Oct 6, 2012 he consumed enough alcohol to stop breathing and spent a week in ICU. On Oct 13, 2012 he smoked the leaves of a plant growing in many Florida gardens, he learned on the internet it was a hallucinogenic. On Oct 26, 2012 he cut himself severely and we took him to the hospital for stitches; he ran away from the ER before receiving treatment. On 11/10/12 Andrew was caught with synthetic marijuana (K2, spice...) and ran away from home again. On 11/14/12 Andrew attempted suicide, taking 72 Coricidin cough and cold tablets. On 11/20/12 we caught him stealing money, supposedly to pay off some of his "drug debts", we caught him stealing from us again on 11/24. On 11/25 he was arrested for shoplifting. 11/26/12 we had another run in with Andrew and K2. 11/29 he escaped from the county mental health facility.
Through all of this we have been pleading with the mental health system, our insurance company, department of children and families, drug free Florida and even Senator Richter's office for help. Andrew was involuntary committed to mental health 6 times between Oct 2 and Nov 30. The psychiatrists at the county facility kept telling us there was nothing wrong with Andrew and releasing him within 24 hours. We had done the research; we knew that Andrew needed a long-term program. Andrew's psychologist said he needed a long-term program. Other people we talked to, including members of Al-Anon all said Andrew needed a long term residential program.
One problem was that all of the substance abuse programs we could find, including outstanding programs like Hazeldon, are all voluntary. If the person, even a minor, does not agree to participate they will not take them. We tried to get Andrew into one of these programs, we even completed the screening process and he was accepted. The challenge was that he would not agree to go and therefore the program would not take him.
The second problem is insurance. There are several programs in our insurance that offer 8-12 month programs, all of them out of state. Our insurance company will cover the patient on a week-to-week basis and will stop coverage completely after six-weeks. After that time the family is billed on average, $9000 a month.
Were were devastated and defeated. The entire system was just waiting for our child to die or get incarcerated, either way he would no longer be their problem. We could not wait for either of those outcomes. We made the very difficult decision to have Andrew placed in a 15-month program called Teen Challenge. Some of you may know Teen Challenge, some may not. It is a Christian based program with an 85% success rate for those who complete the program. Although it is not as expensive as the other programs, running $2450 per month, it is still costly. In addition there are costs for uniforms(approximately $800, supplies ($2000), educational fees($1700), transportation ($400)....).
Asking for help is not something we take lightly. We struggled with the decision to post this. We do not want anyone to feel obligated. We understand everyone has their own cross to bear. Your prayers are appreciated and sufficient. What we are asking is that our story is shared. Perhaps our story can save another family from the pain we have been through.
Lisa and Mark (Andrew's parents)
at 4:20 am we received a call from Teen Challenge. Andrew managed to steal and hide a thumbtack. He waited for everyone to go to bed and then attempted to cut himself with the tack. the cuts were not severe, however he then swallowed the tack. He was taken to the local hospital where they were doing x-rays every hour to make sure the tack moved through his system without doing any damage. He has been Backer Acted (again) and will return to Teen Challenge when the Baker Act is lifted.
We spend most of the week arguing with the mental health facility in Indian River. The staff does not like Teen Challenge and attempted to get a court order to override our decision. Andrew was finally returned to Teen Challenge today.
The staff at Teen Challenge have told us Andrew is still "a little down" but starting to smile once in a while. We miss him so much. Please keep praying that Andrew accepts their help and is able to overcome the challenges he has been facing.
Our roller coaster ride continues. Yesterday morning we received a call from Teen Challenge. Andrew had told the staff he drank bleach. Instead he drank Windex. The amount he drank was not toxic in anyway. When Andrew realized the staff was not going to transport him to the hospital he attempted to run away. The director of the program called to let us know they want to transfer Andrew to a more rigid, structured, boot-camp style program which is also much farther from our house.
We had a conference call with the staff and Andrew. Most of this behavior is because Andrew believes he can handle things on his own and just wants to come home. I wish he could understand how much we want him home; how much we love him and how much we hurt everyday he is away. Unfortunately this behavior continues to confirm how much help he really needs.
By the end of the call the director agreed to allow Andrew to stay at this program on a trial basis and we believe we calmed Andrew down as well.
He was granted his phone call in the evening. He apologized for his behavior. We were able to talk to him for about ten minutes. We keep encouraging him to be strong and have faith. We told him about all of the people praying for him and the overwhelming support he is getting from friends family and strangers.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this. Please pray for all of those with mental health issues.
December 22, 2012 update
The director of the program called today to tell us they were kicking Andrew out of the program. He is telling us they have never seen a child like Andrew. I find this hard to believe since the boys sent to the program are sent there for a reason, non of them are there because they have been so good. The pastor went so far are to start swearing at Mark and told us we are the problem.
Right now Andrew is in a hospital in Indian River. We are unsure what is going to happen from this point. We are looking for a residential treatment program to deal with the mental health aspects. We will keep everyone informed.
At this point we are asking that all donation be put on hold. If the next program is private pay we will contact everyone to ask if each donor is ok with us putting the donations toward the next program. If it is covered by insurance we will attempt to return all donations. Mark and I will cover the $8000 we will not get back from Teen Challenge.
I wish I could say our story was over, but unfortunately we are back in the same cycle.
Indian River transferred Andrew to a facility called Sandy Pines, another behavioral health facility. After 4 short days the staff at Sandy Pines determined they would not be able to help Andrew because they focused on behavior with substance abuse as a secondary and they firmly believe his substance abuse is primary right now. They tried to have him placed in a substance abuse program however insurance denied the placement, again. Andrew was released on January 14, 2013.
On Wed January 16 he left for school visibly impaired. When asked, he denied taking anything. His NA sponsor also believed he was impaired in the afternoon.
On January 18 he was again visibly impaired. On January 19 he asked to go to a "friends" house. We told him absolutely not since this so called friend was on probation for domestic violence and drug use. Later that afternoon Andrew rode his bike there anyway. We suspected as much and when to pick him up, much to his dismay.
On Sunday January 20 and Monday January 21 he was again visibly impaired.
January was not a good month. After the above mentioned events, Andrew was arrested for theft at the local grocery store. He became more aggressive at home, a typical sign of synthetic marijuana use. After the arrest we told him he was not allowed to leave our property unaccompanied; he looked at us and walked away. He was reported as a run away, picked up by the police and was verbally abusive to the police. the next day he did not come home from school. By the time we found him he was very impaired. we told him we would not be home and he needed to get in the car with us; he refused. We then caught him attempting to break into our house. The police were called. Andrew took a swing at Mark (his father). the police were arresting him for domestic violence. He became aggressive with the police and would not stop resisting so they sprayed him and charged him with resisting. He is now serving 21 days with the department of juvenile justice. In the meantime we filed Marchman Act paperwork and have had the first hearing ordering Andrew to have a substance abuse assessment. We are now looking for the next facility. I want my son back, why is it so difficult to get the proper help?
Feb 15, 2013. I cannot believe in 21 days we were still unable to get the appropriate help. I picked Andrew up from the Department of Juvenile Justice and we had time come home so he could shower before leaving for WI for Steve's funeral. I was so unbelievably hurt by Andrew's attitude. He spent the entire ride home blaming Mark and me for all of the things that have happened to him. He was so high the night he was arrested he does not even remember what happened, yet he blames us for being in jail. At home he was belligerent, completely disrespectful swearing at me and telling me to "get out of his f...ing face." After 21 days in a detention center how can you be so ungrateful for everything you have? Everyone has told him he is so lucky to have parents that truly care. I have spent so many nights crying over the loss of my son, I am beginning to believe I will never have him back.
Feb 17, 2013. The trip to WI was good, and thankfully uneventful.
Feb 20, 2013. Things are going downhill rapidly. Andrew was caught attempting to steal Mucinex from Walgreens. Lucky for him Mark caught him and not the police or he would have yet another arrest. The probation officer is adamant that he needs to go to a voluntary program to have any chance at reduced charges and to stay out of a state run rehab facility. Andrew was so mad at Mark for showing up at Walgreens that it is obvious all he wants to do is find a way to get high. We believe we finally have a program that can take Andrew as of Friday. Unfortunately is in Orlando but we are willing to do whatever it takes to get him the help he needs.
The evening continued to get worse. We told Andrew the facility was most likely going to be approved and he would be signing himself in on Friday. Andrew turned aggressive, shoving Jacob. We tried to talk to him and he kept getting more and more aggressive. Finally he made a statement about wanting to end it all and walked off the property. He told me as he was leaving that he would be back in a little bit, he just needed to walk. Three hours later he did not return so we had no choice but to report him as a run-away, once again fearing for his life. Those of you who are parents can understand what it is like to go to bed wondering if your child will be found, and what condition he will be in if they find him.
Feb 21, 2013. At 1:30 in the morning the phone rang. My first reaction was a phone call is good, it must mean he is alive. the police found Andrew walking on the side of the road, apparently heading toward home. Due to the statement about "ending it all" he was taken to mental health again for a Baker Act. Mark talked to the nurse at Vista during the day and she stated "Andrew has said he is going to The Grove voluntarily." This was good news because we were so sure he was going to back out.
Feb 22, 2013. Mark and I met with Andrew's probation officer in person today. She was very happy to hear we would be picking Andrew up from Vista and taking him to The Grove. When our meeting was over, she and her supervisor wanted to meet with Andrew before we left for Orlando. They met us at Vista and talked to him. He also told them he was willing to go to the Grove voluntarily. As soon as we got in the car Andrew once again became belligerent and said he would not check himself into The Grove. We pulled over and tried to talk to him but he kept saying he would not go, then started swearing and saying we are awful parents. He finally got out of the van swearing, giving us obscene gestures and yelling he would kill himself before he ever went back to Vista. Another call to the police to report him as a runaway.
He did finally call us and ask to be picked up. He has a terrible attitude. I do not understand why it is so difficult to understand. Make a good choice now: go voluntarily and successfully complete the program and have your record reflect a few minor crimes or continue to fight over the facility, don't do what needs to be done and be sent to a state facility for 6-9 months or more.
I feel like part of me has been ripped out. We have tried to hard to raise the boys with good morals and values. We know we have probably made mistakes, everyone does, but how does a child sway so far away? I am loosing this son, and no matter how much we tell him we love him and we just want him back, we want him to be part of the family, he continues to fight us. I do not want to bury my own son. I have spent so many hours crying over him and yet I try so hard to be strong and keep things normal for his brothers. There has got to be help somewhere.
Feb 23, 2013
Andrew was forced to go to his brothers football game because we were uncomfortable leaving him home alone. He "slept" on the bleachers the entire time, I believe he was high. He had been told he was not to go anywhere. Around 1:30 he started insisting he wanted his bike. I continued to say no. He then states he was "going for a walk." He was again told he was not to leave the yard, and if he did the house would be locked when he returned and he would not have access until we returned. He left and was not back by the time we left around 3:30 At 5:30 Mark and I returned to take care of the dogs and Andrew was in the house. We believe he stole Jacob's key before leaving. He was very high. We searched him and found drugs and a homemade pipe. At that point we told him he needed to leave the property and he could return later to sleep. He kept arguing with us, trying to get into the house and demanding his "stuff". the police were called and they told him he needed to stay the night at a friend's house. Unfortunately Andrew does not have any friends that would be willing to take him, all of his former friends are not into the drug scene. At around 11:30 we received a phone call from the Cape Coral Police. Andrew had been arrested for burglary, assault of a civilian and resisting an officer. We were called later and informed that his jaw is broken.
Feb 24, 2013
As of this morning we have been informed that Andrew is being charged with 4 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. He was too late to be on the court docket for this morning so he is being held overnight and will appear tomorrow. After all of the friends and family that stepped up to support him while we were up north I do not know what to do and I believe we will not have a choice in anything.
March 19, 2013
Our frustration continues to escalate. Andrew has run away 4 times in the last three days. He was released from DJJ on 3/17 and was using cough syrup Coriciden by that evening. He ran from the house that night ans just showed back up the next morning. We discovered he almost set our house and the neighbor's house on fire when he attempted to cover a light with a t-shirt. On March 18 he proceeded to get drunk, we found a liter bottle, 3/4 empty, hidden in the lot next door. He disappeared again that evening. He was found in the back of one of our cars at 1:00am. The only reason I found him was my inability to sleep I was so worried about his safety. The police were called to let them know we found him, they arrived with an ambulance to medically clear him. They told him to go to bed and get up for school the next day. Instead he started to argue with us after the police left and left the house again. He came home around 12:00 noon asking for "his stuff." He came back again around 4:00pm, at dinner and took a shower and left again around 7:30. He was warned he needed to be home by 9:00pm. It is 10:30 and he still has not shown up.
I have no doubt this site will not end well. One day I will be posting that he killed himself or was killed by someone. Please pray for Andrew. I believe it is about all anyone can do for him right now. He has told us he does not want to stay clean and sober. We have no idea what demons he is running from because he will not tell anyone. We do know he is a very very sick child who desperately needs help. His ability to manipulate even trained professionals is scary.
March 20, 2013
Whoever Andrew has spent the last three night with, I hope you enjoyed your time. He has been arrested again, most likely facing yet another 21 days. When will this end? When will he accept help? When will we have a "normal" life again?