The Difference One Word Makes

December 6, 2015

Three years ago, when I started this anonymous blog, I wanted to call it "Hopeful Mom" because I thought that's what I needed: Hope. And I figured if anyone else ever read any of my posts, they might need hope too. So it seemed like the right title.

 But that blog name was already taken so my husband suggested that I add "Still" to the beginning to become Still Hopeful Mom.

It's funny how a name that wasn't even my first choice could be such a profound and essential part of this hellish journey.

Through the emotional struggles of my son's mental illness diagnosis followed by my own, as my son's addiction and denial spiraled out of control, and ultimately, during his two and a half years of incarceration, I have clung desperately to those three little words: Still Hopeful Mom.

If my blog name had simply been "Hopeful Mom" I'm fairly certain I would have bailed on this whole blogging thing long ago.

Because, let's face it, being hopeful isn't always easy. The fact that I called myself Still Hopeful Mom added an element of commitment that I may have otherwise not recognized, much less honored.

There have been so many times that I didn't feel hopeful at all:

When my son shut me out of his life, ignoring my calls and attempts to help him with his illness.

When he lied, when he stole, when he promised and promised and promised but couldn't ever hold up his end of the bargains.

When I was able to treat my own illness effectively with proper medication and therapy, but wasn't able to convince my son to seek treatment for his illness. The airplane oxygen mask metaphor may have been appropriate, but it offered little comfort in this scenario.

When I waited for that phone call that I knew would someday come, saying either "Your son has been arrested," or "Your son is dead."

When that phone call came.

When I had to bring my younger son to visit his older brother in prison.

When the holidays came and went the first year.

When my son spent his first New Year's Eve behind bars naked and alone in a padded room. He had faked being suicidal out of desperation after learning of the plot his co-defendant's posse had to jump him. Because despite my son's complete cooperation with the prosecution in his case, their promise to keep my son safe from his co-defendant had somehow been overlooked so he spent weeks fearing for his life.

When more than a year went by before he was actually sentenced and permitted to move to the safer, more stable side of the prison.

When issuing my son's sentence and denying our request for Mental Health Court, the judge said, he's "going to have to do it himself."

When summer vacation came and went.

As did the holidays a second time.

And then another summer come and gone.

When the date passed for his release to house arrest with not a word from anyone.

When he was told the date had been a clerical error and he was to serve another 4 weeks behind bars.

When what we thought would become house arrest was actually work release in a halfway house that had the reputation of being extremely dangerous and less than organized.

So many times I lacked "hope" but I somehow mustered the strength to remain "Still Hopeful Mom."

And then last Friday, I received this phone call that I will paraphrase here as I do not remember the details too clearly:

(Since I saw it was my son's attorney, I stepped into the hallway outside my classroom to answer.)

Him: Hello, sorry to bother you on a work day.

Me: No bother. What's up?

Him: Well, I have some good news. The motion to modify has been granted to Level 3--he's coming home...probably today.

Me: WHAT???? (My knees buckled and I bent in half at the waist. The giant floor tile squares began to swirl.)

Him: I'm serious. He's coming home today. He won't have house arrest. He'll just have probation.

Me: (words words words followed by some other words that I don't even remember uttering. I was in total and complete shock.)

Him: (something congratulatory and some kind of good-bye)

And in a matter of hours, my son was home. He was HOME.

It was that HOPE that saved us...It was HOPE that got me to that hallway on the phone not believing the good news.

It was that HOPE that kept us slogging forward into darkness, squinting to see just a sliver of light.

It was HOPE.

Now, as we put the pieces of his life, our lives back together, this mom will rely a little more on that HOPE.



  1. Amazing... Finally some good news..
    I'm so thankful, happy and relieved for you and your family.
    With much love,

    1. Thanks, Heather, for taking time to read and respond.
      All the best to you,

  2. I found our blog on reddit this morning, i am happy for your family to be reunited after such a long time. many blessings to you guys, enjoy your upcoming holidays, as well as each other.

    1. Thanks so much. We are definitely going to have some special holidays this year.

  3. I am happy that your son was able to survive his time. I hope you can continue blogging and spreading the word about the injustices of our criminal justice system, especially for those less eloquent than you are. Good luck going forward!

    1. Yes, absolutely. There are so many people who need support. I'm not finished yet. Not even close.

  4. Once again, bringing me to tears. This picture at the bottom is EVERYTHING. Thank you for sharing and for inspiring others to keep the light of hope going.

  5. I really loved how this article openly talks about mental illness concerning the male. Often times, we try to hide mental illness as it is a sign of weakness, when in reality, it is one of the largest connections and causes for crime. There needs to be more discussions about mental illness concerning men and crime, just like this article.