What was your wish for the 2015 holiday season? Mine was a wish no parent should have to ask for—ever. I wished for my handsome, smart, loving son to choose his family over cocaine.
You see, this time last year I was trying to break the hold cocaine had over my son. Cocaine possessed him and made him into someone I didn’t recognize—emotionally or physically. Life became an isolated, cold, dark tunnel for our family. Every day we stumbled around in shame trying to find our way. We were desperate to break through to him—to find even the smallest glimmer of light and life in his eyes.
This is our story…
This is Hunter, my son. See those beautiful eyes? I fell in love with those eyes when he was born. They were sweet, innocent and inquisitive—so full of love and life.
When Hunter was growing up we used to say he was a ‘little old man’. Far older than his years, he was a smart, affectionate, athletic boy—everything came easily to him. He was a great student—winning awards, on the honour roll, he excelled at every sport he played. But hockey was his real passion. He loved it so much he would thank me for waking him up at 5am to get ready for practice.
Hunter was a leader. He had many friends and his hockey friends were like family to him. He was empathic to a fault and felt other people’s pain and always wanted to help.
One day everything changed in a split second. While playing hockey Hunter suffered a life-changing concussion. Looking back, that was the pivotal moment when our life changed. The recovery was long and isolating. He missed months of school and had to spend time in a darkened room. He was unsteady on his feet and his mood changed. Hunter lost his passion: hockey. He would never be able to play contact hockey again.
Hunter tried to put on a brave front for his family, but as a Mom, I knew something was wrong. Every doctor and therapist I spoke with said that his behaviour was normal for a teenage boy. But I should have listened to my gut instinct.
All the telltale signs were starting to appear. New ‘friends’—ones he would not have spent time with before the concussion—started to hang around. He was missing curfew, his grades were slipping and he started to become a follower, not the leader we knew he was.
When I confronted Hunter, he admitted to marijuana use and minimized it by saying “everyone does it”. But the Hunter I knew wouldn’t have ever touched it.
On the first day of school in 2015 I decided to listen to my gut and I delayed a work trip to Toronto. I wanted to see how Hunter’s first day of class went. As he turned to answer my question I saw a white crusting of cocaine under his nose. Our lives were changed forever.
My gut was right all along. My little boy had changed. I went into overdrive asking for help from family and friends. When I dropped the shame and talked openly about our situation, I was overwhelmed by all the support and resources that came to us.
It took a village to get through to Hunter but we persevered and supported him with all our love and acceptance. Through this tough time of recovery, withdrawal and relapse, Hunter found the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre and its inpatient recovery program. He was finally ready to accept help.
The staff at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre saved my son’s life.
He returned to us as our handsome, smart, loving son. He was back in our arms.
The DSYTC team helped build Hunter’s confidence, deal with triggers and addiction, and build back the structure his life had lost. While at the centre, he achieved 7 pre-university courses, completed his community hours and graduated from High School with honours. Hunter received 4 university offersand is now attending McMaster University, studying social work.
My holiday wish came true. We are so grateful. Please support the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre so other kids, like Hunter, will find a loving, helping hand when substance abuse threatens their lives.
Cindy (Hunter’s Mom)
P.S. Help me help other families. Give generously to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre and their life-saving and life-changing programs. Hunter and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.