Christy Crandell

Mother of two
Author, Drug Awareness Advocate
Auburn, California

I always considered my family to be one thing: normal. We raised our children in Rocklin, California, a close-knit, suburban community. My husband Rick and I had a great relationship with our two sons, Ryan and Justin. As they were growing up, I worked from home as a medical transcriptionist, so I was able to stay closely involved in their lives. I was on their Little League board, ran the snack bar at their games, and volunteered at their school. We were a strong family that shared everything. So when our son Ryan, then 18-years-old, was arrested for armed robbery while high on over-the-counter cough medicine, shocked doesn’t even begin to describe how we all felt.

While Ryan had a tendency to be more difficult than Justin, he also was incredibly sensitive and had a huge heart. Our relationship was strong, and he was very open with Rick and me about his life. But after Ryan was arrested, it became overwhelmingly clear that he wasn’t nearly as open as we had thought. In reality, there was a large part of his life that he did not share with us, and we were too naïve to see it at the time: his drug addiction.

I had no idea that Ryan was abusing cough medicines to get high. In fact, I had never even imagined that cough medicine abuse was a possibility. Had I been more aware, perhaps I could have prevented Ryan from going down that path. Instead, Ryan, now 22-years-old, is serving a 13-year prison sentence in Folsom State Prison for actions he took while under the influence.

Ryan’s arrest was the most tragic thing that has ever happened to my family. I had put faith in the fact that my children were raised in a normal family and had a good life. I did everything I could as a parent to give them the love and support they needed. The one thing I hadn’t done was educate myself on what dangers were out there. Had I known about the pressures my children were facing and had I been more open to the idea that drug abuse can happen to anyone, perhaps I could have helped Ryan steer away from that path.

After Ryan’s arrest, I quit my job and made it my mission to share my story with other parents. I got my education the hard way, and it is my goal to ensure that other parents don’t have to learn about cough medicine abuse the way that Rick and I did. I started a web site and authored a book, Lost & Found: A Mother and Son Find Victory over Teen Drug Addiction. I speak across the country to other parents, giving them the tools they need to avoid the tragedy that my family was forced to face.

It is my hope that my work with the Five Moms Campaign will show parents across the country that it’s never okay to think “not my kid.” I want parents to understand that this type of denial only leads to tragedy, and that cough medicine abuse has real consequences that can truly be life-altering. The greatest tool we, as parents, have to fight drug addiction is education, and I pray that other parents can receive it before learning the hard way.