Arrested and in shackles

Every mom hopes that her children have wonderful opportunities in life.  That hope was always there, living in my heart, the same as most parents.  We all want our children to be happy.  We would like our children to succeed. We want them to graduate, we hope for them to get a job and do something they love to do. We don’t care much what it is as long as it is meaningful and they are following through. But those hopes and wants change over and over again when you have a child with trauma.

They changed for me with one phone call.  I got a call from the police in the middle of the night.  I jerked awake and heard, “Hello, Ms. Viano.  We have picked up your son. He was arrested and will be in court tomorrow morning.”  After I ask in shock, “What? Why? How? “ I realize that it’s 2 a.m. and I need to talk to someone but I have to wait.  The hours from 2 to 6 a.m. are really hard.  Going back to sleep is out of the question.

While I wait for 6 a.m. to come and I can call my mom to talk about it, I pace in the kitchen. Make coffee, get the tissues and cry. I wonder what happened, I don’t know any of the details because I was too shocked to ask. The not knowing makes it worse and my mind makes up stories, each worse than the last.  Then I remember, I can call and ask those questions.   I pick up my phone, call and get more information.  It leaves me with more questions and more turmoil.  I have some of the story but I am still unable to understand and make sense of this.   I keep checking the clock.

Finally, it’s 6 a.m. and I can call my mom. She answers immediately asking, “What is wrong? Are the kids okay?”  I start to tell her only to have my voice crack and my sadness overcome me. She listens with her full attention, like she often has in the 15 years I have raised my son. This time she says to me, “You always try your best as a parent. We all want him to get help and be okay.”   She pauses, then comes the next phrase, “I have no idea how to raise a kid like that.”  There lies the truth.

While I am comforted, I am alone again. But I am thankful that I have a family to talk to and understand.  There are many times that they don’t know what to do with my questions, my worries and most of my entire story.  But they listen and they care.  That’s a lot.

I arrive at the court promptly at 8 a.m. and go through the metal detectors.  My heart feels like it is in my shoes. Nothing feels good. Nothing feels right. Nothing feels helpful. This is what people who tell families to go to court to get help for their children need to understand:  it hurts, it’s frightening and it doesn’t make sense.

Finally, the courtroom is open.  The judge walks in and the moment is here. This is the time I have been dreading.  My son walks in behind a glass wall and with handcuffs and shackles on him. He is dirty, sad, and scared. I am a parent who can only look at her son and gaze into his eyes to show him I am there. My eyes well up and I begin to cry.  I see his lips moving telling me, “Sorry mom.  I am so sorry mom. I love you”. I believe him. He is sorry and he needs help. Jail no – help and treatment yes.

Moments later he is taken to jail to be held on a bail I cannot afford. I am alone, I am confused and I am struggling to be understood and listened to.  How can substance abuse, mental health and jail come together to support families and siblings? How can parents feel like they are not alone?

Time and time again parents have to search.  No one connects us – we have to find a community of parents on our own.  I found a wonderful organization, Justice 4 Families,  and wish I had found it sooner.  There are parents who have done this before you who can answer those questions. Parents need to know they are not alone.  There is a community waiting for them who can help them help their child, their adult family member and most of all, themselves. We all need support and someone to tell us, “I know what to do.”

Meri Viano is our guest blogger.  She is the parent of two sons and a daughter who continue to inspire her blog posts.

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5 thoughts on “Arrested and in shackles

  1. We had six police officers with their guns drawn serve a search warrant on our house last week. Never, EVER, in my life, did I ever think I would be subject of a search. My son (age 20) has mental health issues (bipolar, adhd, porn addiction, etc), is on the Autism spectrum and has an intellectual disability (IQ approx 70). His social/emotional age is probably around 10-12; he believes in Santa Claus and cries when he gets an ‘owie’. We are currently waiting to see if they will be issuing a summons for him to appear in court (so far, they have said they will not arrest him). It’s a very dark time — if he did go to jail, even for a short while, there is absolutely no question that he would be, at the very least, victimized. I can’t bring myself to think about the worst case scenario.

  2. This is shocking, sad, powerful, confusing, enraging, poignant, courageous and beautiful—all at once. Thank you so much, Meri, for sharing this painful experience, and the link to help for other families with CJ involvement. Proof right here that WE are each other’s most faithful and valuable support system. xo

  3. I am so blessed that you were able to help me connect with Justice for families. No parent should be alone in a time of great need. Having someone to help support and guide you can make a huge difference. I am forever grateful to you and Jeanette for being there.

  4. It is difficult & troubling to talk about the things our kids do (that we have no control over) that bring us so much pain, doubt, confusion, and sorrow. As parents we do all we can to provide for, advocate for, encourage, nurture and teach our children – then we hope for the best… That’s all we can do. You’re a great mother. Thank you for sharing your experience and your wisdom so that others know they have somewhere to go for resources and find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. <3

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