It took Theresa Dove-Waters 14 years to write her book, "Not My Son, Not on Mother’s Day."
It’s a small book. But its 62 pages were part of a long healing process for Dove-Waters, who wrote down the story of her struggle with her son’s substance abuse.
"I see it as educating, yet encouraging to families," she said of her book.
Dove-Waters said her son Jeff approached her at age 17, during his senior year of high school, and asked her to put him into a drug treatment center.
"I had no idea that he was using drugs," she said. "I was shocked."
She said many parents, especially in middle-class families, do not believe their child could have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
"We have a crisis in our country of young people using drugs," Dove-Waters said.
Dove-Waters said many parents also feel ashamed or embarrassed, and are reluctant to admit that their child has a substance abuse problem for fear that others will view them as bad parents.
"I wrestled with putting this in writing. I didn’t want anybody to know," she said. "It’s time for us to come out of the closet with it and deal with the epidemic."
Dove-Waters said she believes education is the way to combat the epidemic of teen drug use and thinks it is important for parents to be aware of signs their child may have a problem.
"I wish that I had paid more attention, that I had been more aware of the signs, and I wish I would have moved out of denial faster," she said.
Behavioral changes that are common in drug users include sleeping more, stealing small amounts of money or things, becoming defensive and having different friends, she said.
Dove-Waters now has "a very close relationship" with her son, but she said it took years to reach that point.
Jeff is now doing "exceptionally well." He is a college graduate and a pastor in Jasper, Fla., in the Africa Methodist Episcopal Church.
She and her son both became pastors following their experience, though neither ever expected it to happen.
Dove-Waters, who said she has always been a spiritual person, said she felt a "call to the ministry" at the same time Jeff was going though his addiction.
"I did not want to be a pastor," she said, but knew it was something God wanted her to do. She said she prayed and said, "if you call Jeff to preach, then I’ll preach and I’ll serve you the rest of my life."
Dove-Waters is a senior pastor at Allen Temple United Methodist Church and a professor at Gainesville State College.
She said she would like to spend time in some way talking with kids or parents about substance abuse in the future and would like to see churches get more involved in the issue.