The advice I would give a younger me is the advice I give to other parents everyday. “Educate yourself on addiction, drugs and mental health”.

I was so naive and uneducated on substance misuse, what drugs are being sold and used on the streets and how mental health plays into or could escalate substance misuse. Like so many parents I thought if this didn’t pertain to me so why bother. It’s someone else’s problem, not mine. Had I understood or been aware of even the smallest signs then, I would have known and accepted that my one son was suffering from mental health issues and self medicating to treat himself. I was completely aware that many family members also suffered but I knew nothing about being genetically predisposed. Had I then maybe I would have asked every day, How are you feeling? Are things ok? But I didn’t, so those questions were not asked regularly. Questions we need to ask all our loved ones and friends all the time.

When that same son was in a terrible car accident (caused by the misuse of drugs and alcohol), I didn’t think to initially question the surgeon and occupational therapist on the high amounts of prescription pain medicine he was given. I assumed if they come from a professional they must be safe and non addictive. Had I educated myself on them, I would have known just how addictive they were even coming from a professional.

When my other son started having mood and physical appearance changes, I should have known right away that he also was misusing drugs. My initial thoughts were it’s his work and relationship issues. I should have been more vigilant and asked questions.

When that same son passed away from an accidental overdose in 2015. I immediately got grief counseling for myself. I saw how the first son was suffering. He blamed himself for his brother’s death since he was the one who introduced him to the drugs. I tried on many occasions to get him to get help. He always refused reassuring me things would get better in time. I never pushed too hard because it was the first time in years he was clean and sober. I was afraid if I pushed harder he would relapse. What I wasn’t realizing was that with that much grief and guilt built up he would eventually relapse. And what I wasn’t prepared for was him relapsing to take his own life.

I wish from the bottom of my heart I could take all the knowledge I have today regarding substance misuse and mental health and have a do over, but I can’t. So in order to honor my son’s memories I do my best to educate other parents (and kids). My advice is to not do as I did, but to do as I wish I would have done.