Nov. 4, 2012
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Armstrong feels like she should’ve known.
There was writing on the wall; warning signs; bright red flags. But like so many parents, she figured her son, Beau Farrar, was probably just partying a little too hard.
She never suspected he was doing heroin.
“I knew he was smoking pot and drinking, not really having any motivation to do anything with his life,” she says. And it went on that way for a while. Armstrong noticed he was starting to get worse, partying harder, sleeping at odd hours. “I knew he would go out and get drunk. I knew he had a drinking problem.”
At one point, she asked Farrar to get treatment for what she thought was alcoholism; he refused. “I really thought it was all alcohol,” Armstrong remembers. “And it just kept escalating … and really weird changes started.”
Another time, Armstrong went on vacation, and came back to an “immaculately clean” house, she says. “Cleaner than when I left! I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a new behavior.’”
Then the new laptop she bought Farrar disappeared. “And then all of the sudden, the cans and bottle were being taken daily,” Armstrong recalls. “He never took cans to the recycle before.”
Soon, money started going missing. And at one point Farrar was even arrested for breaking into a gas station.
Armstrong decided things were getting too serious to ignore asked her son to take a drug test. When he refused, she kicked him out. It wasn’t long before he came to his mother asking for help. “I told him as long as you try, I’ll help you,” Armstrong told him.
It felt like a turning point. Farrar tried Teen Challenge, but found the Christian-centered program didn’t work for him.
When he came back home, his addictions followed him. Nothing had changed. Again, he asked for help, and again, Farrar and his mom went to look at rehabilitation programs. At one program they visited Recovery Ranch Sober Living near Santa Barbara; there, an employee asked Farrar to check in immediately. He tried to make excuses, Armstrong remembers. “He kept saying, ‘Oh I have to go back and do this or that, get my clothes,’ trying to go back for whatever.”
But much to Armstrong’s relief, Farrar stayed at the ranch. When she came home to pack up some things for him, what she found shocked her.
“I found all kinds of needles, drugs, everywhere. In the rim of his hat!” Armstrong shuddered. “I would’ve never thought to look there. I was sick. Just sick … you’re like, ‘My kid is sticking a needle in his arm?’ I can’t even imagine that.”
Farrar stayed at the Recovery Ranch for a month. “He felt like he could come home after a month,” Armstrong said. But back in Ojai, he slid back into his old addictions once again. “He said, ‘I need to go back to the ranch,’ and again I told him, ‘anything positive you want to do to help yourself, I will help you.’” And away he went.
Today, Armstrong says, Farrar, now 24, is in the midst of his second stay at Recovery Ranch, and has been there for about two months, Armstrong says. He’ll be there for about four more months, and has the option to stay longer.
“I went to see him the other day, and I barely even knew it was him, he’s changed so much!” Armstrong enthuses. “He’s working so hard.”
Still, she acknowledges that “It’s one day at a time, and it could all change tomorrow. Addicts are sick, they’ve got a disease.”
The blow of discovering the depth of her son’s troubles has inspired Armstrong to reach out to others through an educational event and benefit she’s organizing for Dec. 9 in Oak View.
“I’m using my son as a tool to save somebody else,” she said. “My thing is, I want to be supportive and be there for other families, tell them the signs and what they need to look for.”
Sponsored by His N Her Salon and Oak View Coffee, the event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oak View Coffee, 485 N. Ventura Ave., at the corner of North Ventura Avenue and Kunkle Street. Along with live music, food and drinks, the day will also include a skateboard demonstration and raffles. A Cut-a-Thon will feature several local hair stylists, who will donate a portion of their proceeds to help defray the costs of Farrar’s treatment — which will total in the thousands of dollars by the time he’s ready to leave.
Representatives from Ventura County will also be available with drug prevention information and materials detailing how to help an addict. Recovering addicts will be in attendance to share their stories.
Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office, as well as Ventura County drug prevention consultants like Rae Hanstad, are lending their support and advice to Armstrong’s efforts.
Hanstad pointed out that Farrar’s case is not at all uncommon. “Often it’s the second, third, fourth, fifth chances that make the difference for many addicts,” said Rae Hanstad. “I applaud Kim’s efforts to educate the public.”
Hanstad offered two resources for parents seeking assistance with possible addiction problems in their families. “For anyone having an alcohol or drug problem, adult or youth, they can call 981-9200. That’s the phone number for help from the county. There are a lot of resources out there.” She also suggested the website www.venturacountylimits.org, which offers information on alcoholism, prescription drugs and other drugs, as well as statistics and a host of other resources.
Hanstad urged those who have unused or expired prescription drugs to take them to the Ojai Police Department, which will dispose of them properly. Needles can be taken to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital (call first: 646-1401).