One family’s battle with heroin addiction
My name is Becky and I’m mom to a beautiful, funny and intelligent daughter who is a heroin addict. I “share without shame” because I have a story to tell and l’m so sick and tired of what this disease is doing to our loved ones. It’s now reported 21 million people suffer from substance abuse disorder and another 23 million are in recovery. Through my research I have found this epidemic is ravaging entire states and it’s now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. with more than 50,000 deaths in 2016 alone.
Our story is not much different than many others. By all accounts we appear to be your average American family. Our son is attending one of the top colleges in the nation and is studying to be a medical doctor. Our daughter too once had similar aspirations but heroin has taken that away… for now. It started out with pain killers prescribed by her doctor for health issues. It soon became apparent to me she liked the way they made her feel and at one point I intervened and asked the doctor to please not prescribe them anymore. After graduating from high school and being out on her own, she rediscovered them and as it happens in many cases she turned to heroin which is much cheaper and a lot more accessible. Needless to say our family has been through hell and back again because after all, it does affect the entire family.
When we were at our wits end thinking she was going to kill herself we had her arrested for stealing from us. At least this way we would know she was safe. We didn’t care about the stuff. After all we would give it all away to have our daughter back again. Hindsight is 20/20 and we now realize putting her in jail where she stayed for two months waiting for a spot to open in rehab wasn’t enough to change her. Her addiction to heroin was stronger. I’m now a proponent for rehabilitation, not incarceration. As it has been said before, we can’t incarcerate our way out of this disease. We all know once they’re 18 years of age we can’t force them into treatment although some states are working on law where family members who can prove their loved ones are addicted can have them admitted without consent. Had this been in place we wouldn’t have gotten her involved in the criminal justice system but at the time we were desperate. Our daughter has been in treatment twice only to come out after 30 days and after a short time relapse. Both times she came out with intentions of changing her life around. One thing I know is treatment needs to be longer. Thirty days isn’t long enough to change a life stolen by heroin. Once it grabs ahold it has no intention of letting go. I recently read a blog from a recovering addict. She talks about how her dealer warned her the heroin he was selling was causing overdoses and even deaths and how she remembers being excited because that meant it was good. Again, this is what heroin does.
I have always said I could write a book about all of the anguish this drug has caused our family. Because I belong to a national organization of moms who unfortunately are 90,000 strong and growing daily I know they too could write the same book and only the names would be different. Many moms have lost their children to this disease, some have given up hope and some are still fighting the battle. We are all at different stages of this awful journey.
Another national organization I belong to is called Facing Addiction. Its vision is to bring together the best resources in the field to reduce the human and social costs of addiction, every year, until this public health crisis is eliminated. To learn more visit http://www.FacingAddiction.org.
There obviously is a lot of work to be done and one of the most important is changing the stigma surrounding addiction. Those druggies and crackheads we see on the street corner are, after all someone’s precious son or daughter. I’m also a huge proponent of “If you cannot help them, at least do not harm them.”
Oh believe me, we’ve done it all; love, enabled, tough love, cried until we couldn’t cry anymore and have come full circle back to love. Because where there is love, there is hope.
Becky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal is not fully identifying Becky at the request of the family.