Writer’s identity has been withheld for privacy.
Last November our family was taken by complete surprise to find out that our son who had just begun his sophomore year at a college that one year earlier awarded him an almost full scholarship to a private college had become addicted to drugs and was being controlled by drug traffickers. His activities included illicit sex, pornographic pictures / videos, vile parties and delivery of illegal drugs. We didn’t know these things initially but became gradually aware over the next 8 months. During this time we experienced the most horrific events we ever imagined. It brought our family to an abrupt halt.
I received a phone call just previous to Thanksgiving from our son who told me he had some kind of breakdown or panic attack. He said the resident advisor was helping him get through it and he was feeling better. He also told me he thought he should see the campus medical/psychological facility to help him as well.
Thanksgiving arrived and all of us gathered together at his sisters’ apartment to celebrate located in the same city where the college was. It was obvious there was something wrong. Our son seemed to be a different person. He mumbled things, at times he had a hard time staying awake, his personal hygiene was noticeably bad, he shook at times and more. We left that day agreeing to keep in check with each other and make sure he was getting proper medical and psychological care.
He came home for Christmas. The condition had worsened. We asked what was wrong and how could we help. No answers from him. He would sleep for days, not coming out of his room. He returned to school and after 2-3 weeks and had to drop out. We still were confused about what was wrong. There were so many affects. We didn’t know what we should do. Then one night at the dinner table he had a complete psychological / physical breakdown and we rushed him to the ER.
The circumstances that followed that night at the hospital were unexplainable. My wife and I watched our son disintegrate for more than 3 hours straight. We were unable to do anything about what was happening before our eyes. I’ve seen some situations in my day but this was hell and we couldn’t escape.
It started to become a little clearer about what was wrong over the next few months as we were able to get him into a state funded outpatient treatment center for mental health, alcohol and drug addiction. This failed to work for him and he was quickly back to the destructive life of drug addiction and suffering from the effects that human trafficking left him with. We had no idea how to get our arms around the human trafficking part of his life. This was so far beyond our imagination and his diagnosis was still unclear. Was schizophrenia a part of this? There was just too much even for the doctors to accurately process everything. The prognosis was unknown as well.
I continued to search for help. I couldn’t find any medical, psychological or mental health care facility that helped men who fell victims to trafficking. There were hundreds that helped young girls and women but nothing for men. On top of it all the cost for resident programs was so far out of range. The cost for residential programs ranged from 20 – 120 thousand for one month of treatment. I was able to get my son into a state resident program dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. This really helped. He was able to dry out and start thinking clearly again. Now that he was beginning to heal and wasn’t under the influence of drugs the PTSD started surfacing from the trafficking experiences/trauma.
I continued to search for someone who knew something about finding help for men involved in human trafficking. I found Restore One director Anna Smith’s project on the internet so I called and left a message. Anna called me back and was able to direct me to an organization that had experience in helping men. She listened to me for a long time. I really needed that. I was at the end, out of gas, ready to throw the towel in and she gave me one last ray of hope. It sounded like a total long shot but I took her up on the person she told me to call.
After a month of communicating with this person, by a miracle my son was accepted into their program at no cost. He has been there for 4 months now and is doing well. My wife and I were afraid that he would get there and it wouldn’t be a good fit. To our absolute joy the next day after he arrived we received the first call from him. I almost didn’t want to answer. His voice was filled with the son I thought we lost. Weeks earlier it was like he died and now I hear the son I’ve know all these years. He was back. It’s hard believe the process God worked all of this out considering the complex problems and limited resources that were before us, but he has and we’re thankful for all who have been a part.
There is one last piece to this puzzle. It was something that came up unexpected one night when my wife and I were trying to put together the pieces of how and where this all began. We sat down with our son (this was during the time when he was still using and living at home for the previous 3 weeks) I asked him the question “When did this all begin”? He took us back to a kids Bible camp we took him to 15 years earlier. He told us of the horrors of being molested by a young man and how confused he was about all that took place. May the boys and young men who walk through these doors find healing from the trauma they’ve experienced, from the injustices of abuse, human trafficking and the exploitation of those who are vulnerable.