A Fitchburg author’s decades-long battle saving her son from his drug and alcohol addictions is the heart of her new book published in March.
Dawn Proctor, in “Heartbreaking… when Your Child Is an Addict,” tells the story of her son Colin Proctor who had a skateboarding accident when he was 12. That accident landed him in the hospital, where Proctor first learned why the incident occurred. Colin had been blackout drunk, doctors told her. That came as a shock, she said, as it had been his first time drinking as far as she was aware.
“Heartbreaking… when Your Child Is an Addict,” follows Colin’s journey to recovery through the age of 30. In that time, Colin’s addiction expanded beyond alcohol, and he started dealing drugs, Dawn said. That led to gang violence, where members circled Dawn’s house and threw bricks through her windows.They also broke Colin’s jaw, Dawn said, so badly he had to have his mouth wired shut. Colin also faced repeated encounters with law enforcement.
Dawn is not only a writer, but also an artist, and illustrated the cover of the book using pieces of letters she got from her son while he was in prison due to crimes related to his alcoholism.
She has used Colin’s story to advocate for prison reform and educate others about overcoming addiction. And she continues to help her son with his struggles.
“The information that I had learned, the experiences I had, if it helped even one person feel understood, it would all be worth it,” Dawn said of the impetus to write the book. “I really wanted to help parents in similar situations.”
Dawn, a recovering alcoholic herself who has been sober for 33 years, said she has come to the conclusion that there is really nothing a parent can do if their child is an addict unless the child wants to help themselves.
“Once my son was born, I knew I had the right to screw up my life, but I didn’t have the right to screw up his,” she said. “I became determined to become sober. I was committed and highly motivated because I was afraid I would lose him.”
Proctor said that alcoholism is typically the result of a genetic predisposition and a triggering event. She said her first husband, Colin’s biological father, was a drug addict and dealer and went to jail, and Colin followed in his exact footsteps.
“You can inform children that they are predisposed and will not be able to use alcohol recreationally like others,” she said. “Once you find out your child is addicted, it becomes a soupy mess – arrest, drug treatment, arrest, drug treatment, the cycle goes on and on.”
How Colin followed in his father’s footsteps was evidenced in getting involved in drug dealing, which began to directly affect his mother’s life, Dawn said.
“He started to deal drugs – which is not unusual – but the only problem with that, he did most of the drugs he was supposed to sell. He became in debt and became paranoid,” she said.
The gang he belonged to circled her house and synchronized throwing bricks through all the windows of the house at once.
In another instance, the gang broke Colin’s jaw and videotaped it, and he had to have his jaw wired shut for six weeks.
“He just about went crazy because he was trying to get high, so he was running around panicked trying to remove the wires,” Dawn said.
Still, Dawn said she is determined to use her son’s story to make a positive impact on others who have faced struggles similar to his.
She said that she finds there’s still a stigma to having a drug addict or alcoholic in your family that people don’t talk about it except to close friends and family.
“Alcohol is so socially accepted in society people don’t realize how damaging it is. People don’t talk about it, that’s a problem,” she said. “Addiction is a terminal disease. A lot of us know people who’ve died from drinking or drinking-related causes. Frankly, I want to see more family members come forward and ask for help.”
Proctor has sent copies of the book to police officers, social workers and school counselors, hoping to inform anyone interested in learning more about teenage addiction and provide them with resources.
“The story of all the institutions and people I encountered along the way of a 20-year saga of trying to save my son’s life from the disease of addiction, that was my biggest motivation to write this book,” Proctor said. “I wanted to walk people through what turned out to be an addicted child and say ‘look what I am going through,’ it has a reverberation, like the ripples in a pond.”