A Mother’s Love Knows No Boundary

(Note: Sarah, Gina and John’s names have been changed for privacy.)

It was August 1971 when a young mother gave birth to a baby boy, who weighed in at 8 pounds, 9 ounces and stretched 22 1/2 inches long.

“My baby was healthy. Having him was one of the most joyous occasions of my life,” says Sarah. “I was so happy to have him in my life then because I was able to get away from an abusive relationship with my husband at the time, my son’s father.”

John, Sarah’s child, was well-mannered, low maintenance, obedient and a typical boy who played Little League Baseball and eventually high school football. “But as he reached his teen years, he had fallen in with the wrong crowd. I had remarried then, and when he was 14, he didn’t come home. My second husband and I combed the streets; we found him.”

By the time he turned 16, Sarah was notified by high school staffers that John was habitually cutting classes and up to no good. “I had no choice but to send my son to my family abroad, where he graduated from high school. The move was aimed at keeping John far away from bad habits that would eventually rule his life. It would mean a lifelong addiction to drugs, particularly ice,” she says.

John fathered a child at age 22. “I told him, ‘Why bring a life into this world when you can’t even take care of your own?'” recalls Sarah. She graciously raised his baby, whom Sarah now considers a blessing.

Gina, now age 21, knew of her father and biological mother’s drug-addiction challenges, but says, “Dad was always there for me, especially in high school, when he was clean and sober.”

Drugs have never touched her. She’s a senior majoring in psychology at a Mainland university, and had lost contact with her dad over the last two years. She sunk into depression because she missed the only parent who loved her, until one day a call shocked her further.

“My friend phoned and said my father went to see her because he didn’t have my number anymore. My girlfriend told me he didn’t look good, that he looked homeless.” Gina’s heart sank. “To hear this made me distraught,” she says. Regardless, when she came home this summer to visit Grandma Sarah, she went on a quest to find her father.

After showing his photo to homeless people on the streets, Gina eventually was led to her dad, who was living on a beach 15 minutes away from home. Tears of joy started streaming down her cheeks: “I ran up to him and I was just so happy, I started weeping and I just kept saying, ‘Please come home,’ and he cried with me.”

The two embraced, and it was heart-wrenching for Gina to see her father with a full beard and ultra-skeleton thin.

She adds: “He lived in a tent and had no food. He was always clean cut, hair trimmed and handsome. I remember him to be muscular and fit. I could tell he was embarrassed, but I didn’t care, I wanted to be with dad so badly.”

John had reportedly been telling his friends that “someday my daughter will come for me and fix me.” Gina was able to reunite her dad with Sarah for just one day, which happened to be her birthday week. The family had a meal at Zippy’s. He spent the entire Friday with them — it was like old times — then off he went to being homeless again. This isn’t the ending Sarah had hoped to see and it rips her heart to pieces.

“Many times, substance abuse stems from some form of child abuse, whether it be mental, emotional, physical or sexual. Addicts are the way they are because of something that they may have experienced in the past,” says Paul Ochoa, a state certified substance-abuse counselor. He understands the pain Sarah and Gina are going through because of his checkered past. Ochoa started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at age 10, which eventually evolved to cocaine addiction.

“I had been loaded at that tender age, and I didn’t even know what it was like to be sober until I started attending Narcotics Anonymous and enrolled myself in a rehab program at Castle Medical Center,” admits Ochoa. Unlike addicts who suffer relapse, he’s been clean for 27 years. He has dedicated his life to assisting hundreds of students and adults during their moments of deepest despair as a substance-abuse counselor with YWCA and Kauai school-based treatment programs, a counselor at Bobby Benson Center and Castle Medical Center, and currently as an addiction therapist.

“I have co-facilitated family groups with mothers and parents of kids I have been treating,” says Ochoa. “The answer is exercising tough love. Mothers are predestined for co-dependency and are caregivers by nature, so it is very difficult for them to exercise this.” He adds that allowing people to suffer the consequences of their addiction is a good thing.

“Offer treatment but if they refuse and they get arrested, allow them to go to jail. Don’t bail them out,” he says.

Sarah is praying for a happy ending for her only child, John, like the Prodigal Son.

“The father allowed the Prodigal Son to suffer the consequences of his choices and welcomed him with open arms when his son realized that he wanted to change his life,” says Ochoa.

Sarah believes that, though her son’s addiction shows no hope for recovery, the love between mother and child knows no bounds.