My Advice to Parents So They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes I Did

By Cecilia Posted July 13, 2022 under Guest Authors, Personal Stories

This blog post was written by a mother who abused dextromethorphan and whose son, Enrique, followed in her footsteps. Read Enrique’s story.

My life changed forever the day I began abusing substances – and so did my son’s.

I was a young, single mother. I worked three jobs to make ends meet for my son after his father decided he didn’t want that title. I was a devastating combination of stressed and depressed, leaving me unable to fall asleep at night. I began using medication that contained the active ingredient dextromethorphan (also known as DXM). DXM is a cough suppressant – not a sleep aid – but it is sometimes in combination products with ingredients that may also cause drowsiness. I would take products like this to help shut my brain off, though I now wish I never made that choice. Had I used these medicines as instructed on the Drug Facts labels, things might have been different. Instead, I took excessive amounts of DXM and built up a dangerous habit.

And that wasn’t all – I was also drinking and smoking constantly. I used downers to put myself to sleep and used uppers to wake myself out of my haze. Coffee quickly became too weak to do the job so I switched to caffeine pills and whatever legal stimulants I could get my hands on. I let myself slip into an unhealthy routine because it was easier than facing the difficulty of reality. Only when I finally escaped that routine did I realize how it affected my life.

For three years, it was almost like I was walking around half-alive. I was so “out of it” that I even let my son follow in my footsteps. Similar to me, he often had trouble falling asleep. He asked me what I did to fall asleep, and I showed him my medicine cabinet, full of various sleeping aids. Liquids, pills, everything the corner store had since I didn’t have the health insurance to get a prescription from my doctor.

I thought my son would only want help that one night. His “father” had just left, and he was having some trouble in school and with friends. The bags under his eyes looked like they were going to drag him into the floor. He had never asked me for help falling asleep before, and he’s quite prideful, so I knew it must be bad. I just wanted to help my baby out, so I offered him one of my pills, the smallest dose I had. I told him he shouldn’t take it as much as I do and that I wasn’t a good role model; I warned him not to become reliant on the medicine. He agreed and promised he would try, but he did not follow through on that promise. My son fell into a cycle of DXM abuse just as I had.

I was too absentminded to notice the path he was walking down, but I should’ve known he would. I feel grateful to say that my son and I are both sober now, off everything. I am so ashamed of the mistakes I made as a parent, and I want to speak about my past in hopes of preventing others who may be in danger of making similar mistakes. Here are a few of the warning signs my son started demonstrating that I wish I had paid closer attention to sooner:

  • Sluggishness, both physical and mental
  • Not wanting to hang out with friends
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Not getting schoolwork done, or doing it very poorly
  • Not wanting to play sports
  • Sleeping for extended periods of time but still looking and acting tired
  • Spending hours in his room

If I could go back in time, I would right my wrongs. I would teach myself yoga, meditation, and mindful breathing to help me fall asleep. I would teach myself about the safe and responsible use of OTC medicines. I would also teach my son these practices. And, I would put my mental and physical health first (and that of my son’s). I hope I can help you do the same.

Cecilia currently lives on the East Coast of the United States. She is happy and healthy, but regrets some of the choices she made for herself and her son. She hopes that by sharing her story, she can prevent other parents from potentially making similar mistakes.

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