Cyndi Stand of the South Bay shares with SBFC the tragic story of her son Justin's ongoing struggle with addiction, and ultimately, his death in January of 2016. Cyndi is writing this three part series, "Not to scare you but to make you wiser and more alert. I want no one to suffer the loss we have had to endure."
I was asked to write this blog, so first I think to myself that I will write about “The Pitfalls of Parenthood,” and then I think, ‘No, that seems too negative’. Besides, we all know that there are pitfalls because there are no manuals that are the end-all guide books to raising children. Not to mention, no two children are alike and so any such manual would be worthless anyway.
I say with certainty that there is nothing more awe inspiring or daunting than parenting. From the moment you hold that little creature in your arms you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of what you did. And so that begins the long and windy road of raising a child where we are faced with hills and valleys, sunny skies and stormy days, and lingering questions at times if we have done the ‘right thing.'
My story started out the exact same as probably 98% of most parents. We planned our little family and had the requisite boy (first) followed 18 months later by a little girl. Everyone said ‘perfect’ and we agreed! One of each, both healthy, right amount of time between births – the perfect American family. All that was missing was the dog, which we got a few years later.
We were very involved with our children’s lives. I had worked outside the home and had day care at home until I quit the rat race and became a ‘stay at home’ mom when my children were about 5 and 6. I became very involved in their school, sports, and extra activities - both my husband and I pledged to have breakfast and dinner at the table every day with the kids. That was our family time to share the events of the day and plan for future events.
So, we had what would be considered a very normal family life. We always made weekends a priority, at least one of the two days was to be spent with the children in some capacity. We also traveled with them from the simple beginnings of camping at Big Bear to future trips to Europe. We all learned to scuba dive together, we went dirt bike riding, and backpacked up to 11,000 feet in the Sierras. In short, we embraced our role as parents by exposing our children to the world and to a warm and loving family environment.
And then high school happened. At first, it started out innocently, but as time went on, the ‘other side’ of that experience became quietly apparent. The drive to succeed and excel is prevalent, and while some of that is important to urge a child forward, there can also be the flip side which is to stress out the child as they try and juggle academics with sports, extra activities, and just trying to be a ‘kid’ in a grown up world.
By now if you do not know, my son Justin, died of a drug overdose on January 25, 2016 at age 30 – merely a few months ago. He was intelligent, caring, witty, creative and kind. I honestly don’t know, even as involved as I was, what attracted him to drugs. He was always a bit of a risk taker and didn’t seem to understand that there were consequences. This was undoubtedly a factor in his decision making at the time.
He may have started innocently enough, “It’s only pot, Mom,” but once that line is crossed, it opens up possibilities that even they don’t think exist at that time.
I wanted you to know a little about my family and especially my son Justin. In the next blog I will tell you more about the experiences we had as we faced this demon called ‘drugs’ from high school, through college and beyond. I do this to perhaps make all of you more aware of what could happen... Not to scare you, but to make you wiser and more alert. I want no one to suffer the loss we have had to endure.