Thursday, March 2, 2017

She's Not Just an Addict; She's My Mom





Recovery facilities often say, “Addiction is Not a Spectator Sport. Eventually, the Whole Family Gets to Play.” As a mom of an addict, I know first-hand the unimaginable pain, but when someone is a child of an addict, they find themselves loving a person who is incapable of building a healthy relationship because of their addiction. It is not that they don’t love the child; they simply don’t have the ability to love their drug of choice any less.
          Esther Mooney experienced the perils and pain of being a child of an addict. During my interview with her, I saw her capacity to look deep into her mother’s past to understand her addiction and to recognize the personal struggles plaguing her most of her own life because of her mother’s substance abuse.  
Unveiling the Past
          Imagine a parent abandoning her children in the jungles of Guam.  Esther’s mother experienced this horrific event, and her only source of protection was her older sister, who wasn’t much older than herself. A Mormon, missionary family with twelve children of their own, eventually saw these invisible children, adopted them, and brought them home to Washington state.  It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief knowing they found safety within a loving, spiritual home. Unfortunately, they were not. Esther’s mother and sister experienced verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse while in the care of this supposedly upright and principled family.
          At the age of 15, her mother ran away to California. It was the beginning of her history of running. From Hawaii to New York, she moved from place to place trying to remain visible, yet as invisible as she was in the jungle.  It was also the start of her drug use and the long years of recovery and relapse.
The Elephant in the Room
          Esther’s mom used when she was pregnant. She used when she wasn’t. Eventually, they took her children away. During one of her longer times of recovery, she met and married Esther’s stepfather. Ironically, Esther’s mom began working as a secretary for drug and alcohol counseling at a local school. It’s ironic because she never quite had total control over her addiction.
          It is hard to ignore the elephant in the room when you have a parent with a substance abuse. It sits there staring at you in the face, and yet nobody wants to talk about it. In “Living with an Elephant: Growing up with Parental Substance Abuse,” Brynna Kroll developed the metaphor of the elephant in the room. She suggests the elephant becomes “a huge, significant, but secret presence which takes up a lot of space, uses considerable resources and requires a great deal of attention and the adjustment of those in its vicinity” (Kroll 132). When Esther was in tenth grade, her mother had rotator cuff surgery, and the doctor prescribed her Oxycontin for the pain. It started a six-month journey through the hell of addiction again. She left her husband. She chose to forget and walk away from her identity as a mother. She opted to nurture her addiction since she believed her children no longer needed nurturing. Kroll suggests that “the elephant can also obscure the child, rendering them ‘invisible’ to those whose job it is to care for them (132). It’s back to the idea of the invisible child. Addiction fights against normalcy and the child sits with the elephant waiting for the next shoe to drop, which is what happened with Esther. Even when her mother started recovery again, and they moved into an apartment, the appreciation of family did not last long. She left Esther alone at 14, not just for few hours; she left her to live alone so she could move in with her new boyfriend.
Esther's Struggle to Develop a Healthy Self
      After a six-month process, Esther was legally emancipated at 17 and graduated from high school.  Medaille College accepted her, and she thought everything was falling into place. She and her mother were starting to build a relationship again, but on Sept. 7, shortly after school started, her mother moved to Florida without even saying goodbye. While at Medaille, her mother’s abrupt departure along with a bad breakup with her boyfriend, sent Esther into a tailspin. She lived in the dorms but never went to class. The school wiped away her first semester from record due to her mental health, but she ended up messing up her second semester as well. Her coping mechanisms were never fully developed. She didn’t know how to live outside the confines of her mother's addiction.
          Esther became pregnant at 19 by a brother of a friend who lived in her house. They knew each other for four months and slept with each other only once. When pregnancy became the elephant in their apartment, he moved out. Esther shares with tears how she could no longer handle life and all its ups and downs, especially after developing a relationship with an abusive man she moved in with when her son was one month old. She felt like a stray dog who had been captured. She wasn’t crazy. She only acted like it. She attempted suicide and ended up with 18 stitches in her wrist.The visible scars remain today.
Powerless to Change the Addict
          Esther eventually worked on making her life better for her and her son. She met a man whom she has been with for six years now. She searched for her mom and eventually found her in jail. After her release, Esther bought her a ticket to New York and placed her in rehab. After receiving her eleven-month chip, she picked up where she left off with her drug of choice. Esther found her mom’s life consumed her own; she felt heavily involved in her mother’s sobriety and even did the 12-step program, while her mother chose to take her 12 steps backward. Esther believes she did not have the fundamentals to fight her battle. While Esther relied on her higher power, her mother didn’t even try. Esther didn’t have the heart to kick her out, but, admittedly, she hoped she would leave. She did.
          Her mother would take drugs to help her detox until her next fix. She put herself in a psyche ward at Strong for two and half weeks. She went to a domestic violence shelter for two and a half weeks. After she finished her programs, she simply left. Programs were like a band-aid for her, but she never truly healed.
Esther’s Hope
           Esther has overcome her fear of her mother’s substance abuse. She is numb to it after years of watching her mother’s descent into the abyss of addiction. It no longer consumes her. Esther recognizes how we only get one life. She prays when her mother leaves this earth someday, she will leave knowing she overcame her addiction, but for now, it is only a prayer.

        

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Breaking the Silence and Changing the System

Breaking the Silence
I am breaking the silence because silence is my lie. I lie to myself. I lie to others. I don’t want to carry the mantle of shame, so I am breaking the stigma of heroin addiction one day at a time. I am breaking it because I have been in the trenches with my son. I keep hearing the lie that using heroin is a choice. Sure. Maybe the first time one decides to put the needle in their arm or to snort it is a choice. After the second or third high, it takes over the brain. It creates a hostage crisis. IT. IS. NOT. A. CHOICE. IT is a bondage. It is an incarceration, and there is no Get Out of Jail Free card.
          The only choice, and it is a hard one, is to get clean. But herein lies the problem and why so many addicts are dying on city streets, in suburban homes, and on college campuses. The system is failing the addict who may be trying to get clean. They often find themselves fighting a losing battle, one that may eventually cost them their life. Here are some of the issues:
-         Insurance companies won’t cover rehab if you start detoxing on your own. When I called United Health Care after my son’s relapse, their counselor told me my son had to tough it out, be strong.
-         Rehab facilities don’t answer phones during the holidays. I didn’t know drug addiction went on vacation. We called Syracuse Behavioral Health five times on New Year's Eve and New Year’s Day, and they never returned our calls. I wrote an email four days later, only to have them write back how they tried to call us. Not true! There is no evidence of their calls on our cell phones.
-         The first time my son wanted to get clean, I took him to Strong Memorial Hospital. They sent him home two hours later with a list of possible outpatient rehab facilities. It was Memorial Weekend, and I had to watch my son go through withdrawal for four days before I was able to get him into Conifer Outpatient Rehab. At Conifer, his drug counselor told him he should have bought Suboxone on the street. WHAT? I recently met a man whose son went to Highland Hospital because he wanted to get clean, and he was in the worst possible shape. They released him when he was out of danger and let him walk back out on the street with no one monitoring his well-being. Two hours later, he died of a heroin overdose with the Highland Hospital bracelet still on his wrist.
-         The Good Samaritan Law is not working. These policies supposedly protect overdose victims and the caller from being prosecuted for possession of paraphernalia, minor drug possession, and being under the influence. Unfortunately, people still fear and do not trust the legal system and for a good reason. I know someone who spent six months in jail for drug paraphernalia when her boyfriend overdosed in her bedroom. If people are afraid to call, addicts are going to continue to die.
Make the System Take Notice
In the Rochester area, several individuals are trying to make a change. They are taking up their sword and shield and fighting the stigma of addiction and spreading awareness through their actions. They are making addicts and their families realize they are not alone. Their actions may seem small, but they are getting noticed. They are making a difference. They are the change.
-         Rocco Stagnitto, with a group of 40 volunteers went to a place he calls “Holy Ground,” the very place where his son died of an overdose last Fall.  They cleaned up dirty needles and other drug paraphernalia. His story is going viral, and he has been on several local news channels. He is starting a revolution, which is exactly what we need to stop the heroin deaths in our city.
-         Cathy Warren stands on a street corner with a picture of her son who died of an overdose and talks to addicts and their loved ones. She has also been in the news.
-         Stephanie Lynntalya Forrester whose husband recently died of an overdose started the Facebook page “Justice Let's Rise and Fight.” She is having an awareness walk in April at Manhattan Square Park.
What You Can Do  
There are countless ways to make a change as individuals, but one problem that needs addressing is an evaluation of our treatment programs. They need to be beneficial not touchy-feely child’s play.  I don’t know how making a collage heals addiction. The day my son was asked to make one, he left the program. Going to college and taking drug counseling doesn’t make you an automatic authority on alcohol and substance abuse. You need to listen, pay attention, and observe an addict. Get into their shoes and walk around in them for a while. I am not saying to go out and use, but seek to understand their plight. It isn’t an easy road. I learned so much about addiction just by sitting with my son and listening to his stories, his anxieties, and his dreams.
          We need to increase funding for substance abuse treatment. The “Anthony’s Act” suggests the Affordable Health Care Act be amended to provide care for addicts for a minimum of 90 days, or if necessary, up to one year in a treatment facility. If you go to Choopersguide.com/content/contact-congress.html, there is a letter you can write to your state senator to request changes in funding.
          Close down the known drug houses and increase police presence in areas of the city where cars line up to buy their drugs. One Fairport police officer said there were too many dealers on the street to stop drug trafficking. One at a time, just one at a time and you may save a life.
          If you are a recovering addict, pull someone out of the miry clay of their addiction by sharing your story. Show them it is possible to get clean. Get them help. Loved ones, share your stories as well. When you have lost someone to drug addiction, it can be the hardest thing you have ever done. However, if you do, you may save a life.
          Finally, if you want to see a change, BE THE CHANGE! Let’s fight addiction one day at a time.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Breaking the Stigma of Addiction: A Promise to Justin Forrester and Plea to You



      It is time to break the stigma regarding addiction. Contrary to popular belief by those who do not understand addiction, addicts are not weak individuals. They are not evil and depraved human beings. An addict is no different than their neighbor, their church body, or their coworkers. An addict is no different from you or me. Addiction is no respecter of persons, and it doesn't care about race, gender, or social status. It doesn't care whether you live in the suburbs or the inner city. An addict is simply a human being. 

     Addiction is not a choice. Yes. The very first time an addict uses it is; however, once the addiction starts, they are no longer in control. It creates a permanent imprint on the brain. According to AddictionCenter.com, "Addictive substances physically change the brain over time. When an addiction develops, changes in the brain cause users to prioritize drug use over all else." However, addicts can make the choice to get help, but it is tough journey to recovery. With the aid of professionals through inpatient or outpatient care, through the love and support of family and friends, and through connections with a strong support group and sponsor with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, it is possible to find serenity and recovery. 

     The following piece is Stephanie Lynntala Forrester's raw and uncensored love letter and promise to her husband, Justin. It is also a plea to all of us. I am glad she allowed me to share this piece because it speaks of the misunderstanding many of us have when it comes to addiction. Read her story and see how she unveils the truth about being an addict. Stephanie knows the struggle of addiction first hand. As of today, she is 100 days clean. As of today, she is signing papers for her husband's funeral. Her strength amazes me, and her determination to break the stigma gives me hope that someday people will stop judging and begin to understand the horrible disease of addiction. It is not only taking lives, but it is breaking families, like Stephanie's, apart.  
                         
       Stephanie's Promise to Justin and Her Plea to You

     I PROMISE you Justin, I will keep your memory alive with the help of our friends. We have lived addiction, walked it, and, most importantly,now I HAVE to survive it while some of you sit on the the other end of the computer content in your ignorance. It hear that it is bliss. I have always wanted the same thing we all want. "True Love." The heart racing, soul fu***** stuff that the roll of the eye inducing movies are made of. 

     Lucky for me, I found it and I cherished it. I protected it. I stood by it through thick and thin. It was mine, and I was never letting go no matter what the cost. I spent 14 years with this man. Unlucky for me, I lost the human form of the person it was attached to. It went defunct in a trashy drug house minutes from my dad's house in Fairport, N.Y., surrounded by people who did not give a sh** about that love. 

     I lost the most precious person to me other than my children without a "goodbye" or last "I love you." I lost the keeper of my secrets, my duet partner, the finisher of my sentences, and the other half of my heart. I lost my security blanket, my hope, my sanity, my will to live, my plus one, and my emergency contact...I get it; you think it was my or his "choice." You think he didn't love me or anyone else enough. You think he was selfish, stupid, and weak...If I told you how wrong you are, you probably will not be convinced. We are the faces of a million "junkies" to you. 

     You might not care that he poured ranch dressing all over his fries and ate them with a fork, or that he always gave money to the homeless. That he said "helmlet" instead of helmet. You wouldn't care what an AMAZING artist he was. Or that he'd give me butterfly kisses on my forehead daily. It wouldn't matter to you if you knew how bad of a dancer he was, but he tried anyway at home in our room just to make me laugh. You won't be moved to hear that he loved my feet, and put my coat on me on our first date. That he was the biggest Momma's boy in the world, and it was adorable. The unconditional love he had for his children and how he ended every text with "I love you Always All Ways," but all of these things mattered to ME. 

     You base his worth on an image you have in your head. We walked though hell on earth together. I can't list all of his amazing qualities or how much I love and will miss my best friend, my husband. It just feels so important to me that you know this; there are good and bad drug addicts, just like there are good and bad NONdrug addicts. He would never judge you for being such judgmental ass*****. Is my pain any less because the person I loved was an addict? I know I probably haven't changed some of your minds. All I can ask is you honor mine and my family and friend's pain, just like I would honor yours if your husband dropped dead because he ate a good too many cheeseburgers. I ask that you do because we are all humans and we are all in this together. We need to love each other, stop being ashamed of the disease, and stand up and do something about it. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017



Mariah Noelle Freeman’s From Heroin to Heaven is a true redemption story. “Once I was lost, but now I am found” is the overarching theme of her collection of journal entries written for the addicted and the lost. If you know someone who is addicted to drugs or struggles with mental illness, her story will grip you and pull you in from start to finish. Having a son who is a recovering addict, it gave me hope. However, her story moves beyond just addiction. Anyone who grieves over the mistakes they made in the past and has experienced great loss due to their choices will benefit from her story. Freeman’s tender heart will encourage the reader to become more acquainted with Jesus and to love Him above all else in life and to forgive oneself as He has forgiven us.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Heroin Did


Below is Danielle Pierleoni's story of her brother, Steven, and his death due to a heroin overdose. Her heart's desire is to spread awareness so other's do not have to experience a similar tragedy.  



My name is Danielle; I’m 24, and I've lived in Rochester, NY all my life. I love my hometown even though it can often be a constant reminder of the tragedy that Heroin caused my family and friends. I have seen the way alcohol, prescription pills, meth, opioids, and other drugs have affected those around me; but I have never seen anything worse than the damages of Heroin.

This drug does not discriminate against age, race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. Heroin continues to take the lives of people young and old, black and white, gay or straight; it does not matter.

My brother, Steven, mistakenly took his life by using Heroin after 18 months heroin-free at the age of 20, just a short two months away from his 21st birthday. Before drugs, my brother was the life of the party. He was someone everyone looked up to and idolized. He was very handsome, intelligent, and downright hilarious. He was constantly laughing and always surrounded by friends. Steven was very charismatic and probably would have made a successful comedian one day.

However, once Steven entered high school, drugs began to play a huge role in his life when he began hanging out with older kids and local drug dealers. Drugs were at every party, down the street, and even in school. Smoking weed, drinking booze, and snorting pills were almost inevitable. Soon pills, Molly, Cocaine, and eventually, Heroin, became the new party drugs.

Heroin stole my brother’s life and many of his friends who were using. Nothing mattered anymore, only getting the next fix. When rock-bottom hit, the struggle to get better seemed nearly impossible. The lack of will, resources, and support left my brother feeling helpless. He felt ashamed and too shy to socialize, which led him back down his dark path after countless rehabs and finally an 18-month sober living program before he passed.

As the sister of an addict, I wish I would have been more vocal about my brother's addiction. I wish that I, too, was not ashamed of what happened to our family. We lost thousands of dollars to stolen jewelry, electronics, forged checks, hospital visits, ambulances, detox, rehabs, and sober living facilities.

I think we all wanted nothing more than to be normal again. My brother felt such guilt and shame; it was almost easier to go back to Heroin than it was to face reality.

My advice to addicts and their loved ones is to know you are not alone and support exists. Parents, friends, and family members, please make an effort to educate yourself as much as you can through research. There is more helpful information readily available to the public now that Heroin use has reached epidemic proportions.

Tell your loved one who is hurting you are there for them when they are ready to get help. All you can do is let them know you will support their sobriety in any way you can but NOT their addiction.

Enabling is so easy to do when you love them and want to see them get better. It's also very easy to be angry with your addicted friend or loved one. You must remind yourself the person they have become is not who they truly are. When Heroin takes over, they no longer think or act the way they normally did.

Think twice before saying 'yes' when your child's doctor (or your own) recommends prescription medications, especially opioids. These types of medications are highly addictive and often lead addicts to their next drug of choice. A drug that is much cheaper and doesn't require a script. The drug is Heroin.

Beating addiction IS possible. Do not give up so easily. Humans have more willpower than we give ourselves credit. You CAN overcome Heroin's grasp.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Kool Aid Mom


A Mother Builds Awareness
          I met Cathy Warren on the southwest corner of Main Street and North Avenue in Webster, N.Y. She held a sign with a picture of her son with the words “Have You Lost Someone to Drugs?” written in black crayon. I rolled down my window and told her I never lost my son, but I understood her grief being my son was an addict. As I drove down the road, tears streamed down my face because the unimaginable hit me like bullets shattering my mother’s heart. It could have been my son. I turned my car around, parked it outside The Coach Sports Bar and stood with her on the corner. I told her about the many people who shared their stories of addiction with me and, like her, I wanted to help the parents, the addicts, and the schools to have a better understanding of drug addiction. Every little step, every stride, every accomplishment in bringing awareness to the epidemic taking hostage our loved ones and, in Cathy Warren’s case, taking their lives is a positive move toward healing and resolution.

The Story of Curtis Warren
          Curtis Warren was an avid reader. His grandfather introduced him to books at a very young age. He often read to Curtis in an animated voice, and Curtis sat next to him with eyes of wonder wanting to hear more. Eventually, as he learned to read himself, he and his grandfather would take turns reading to each other. Curtis grew to love Sci-fi and Fantasy novels. When the first Harry Potter book came out, he read it in one night. Science books intrigued him as well. He would read them to Cathy, and he would try to explain everything she did not understand. His love for reading kept him going through the difficult times in his childhood, the times he felt alone.
          Cathy called herself “The Kool-Aid Mom.” Her door was always open to Curtis’ friends, but when Curtis entered Spry Middle School, he fell into the wrong crowd. The friends coming through her door stole drugs from her medicine cabinets, but she still took on the protective role. Curtis’ friends were her children as well, and they knew it. One example was a young one man who ran away on a winter night, and the police searched for him everywhere. Cathy looked at a snowbank outside her window and saw lines scrawled across the newly fallen snow. The next morning when she looked again, she saw “Cathy, can I come in.” The young man did not want to come to the door, so he hoped she would see his request in the snow. Tears rolled down Cathy’s face as she told me the story. She had countless stories of wayward adolescents and teens flocking to her door.
          By the time Curtis reached high school, Cathy felt lost in the chasm of Curtis’ poor choices. Webster-Schroeder High School had her on the phone nearly every day. She attended superintendent’s meetings, signed a 504 plan, and lost her status as a cool mom. A barrage of self-doubt kept her awake at night. It was an assault and battery on her conscience. She felt like a terrible parent. After all, she was a single mom. Dad was completely out of the picture. She worried about paying bills and putting food on the table. She worked long hours to make sure she meet her boy’s needs. Even Christmas became a guilt trip because she bought the things they needed, not the things they wanted.
          The day Webster-Schroder High School called her at work and told her they expelled Curtis, she could not move. They arrested him, and he threatened to kill himself. She worked it out that he would go to Boces, but it lasted for one class. He threatened to blow up the school and held security off with a chair. She saw her version of hell take place within her home from that day forward.

The Downward Spiral
          Cathy saw his slow fade happen.  His eyes glazed over. A physical transformation took place, and it was like watching the metamorphosis of her son from a loving person to a person she no longer knew. The bad scenes escalated, and one night she called 911 only to have the police officers throw accusations about the medications visible on the top of her refrigerator. The medications were for her arthritis, nothing else. Curtis finally went to rehab and was clean for three months when his world collided with drugs the final time.
          During his last days, Curtis withdrew from everyone. Riddled with anxiety at night, he drank. He wanted to smoke weed, but it was too expensive. He once told Cathy, “I can go down the street and get heroin for free.” When he started using again, she didn’t understand he was doing more than smoking weed and drinking. Suddenly, his friends stopped hanging around him, and even some of his closest friends didn’t recognize he was in trouble.

The Overdose
          Cathy found Curtis rocking back and forth in the kitchen in front of her microwave. She assumed he was merely drunk. Eventually, she knew it was much more. She called 911. The EMTs cut off his shirt, and when they saw his acne, they assumed they were needle marks. He died of an acute overdose. He never mainlined.
          She later found out the drug dealer refused to sell him the heroin because he had been drinking heavily. He knew if he did, Curtis would die. In desperation, Curtis went to the city and bought his drugs off the street where dealers don’t care.

Cathy’s World Now
          Three weeks after Curtis died, Cathy’s mother passed away from a broken heart. It was the only way to explain it. Applebees Restaurant fired her after 17 years of waitressing. She went back to work too soon. When friends of Curtis kept coming into the restaurant and saying how sorry they were for her loss, she finally broke down and cried in the middle of the dining room floor. Her grief overwhelmed her and broke her into a million shards of memory. Cathy is currently going through her own ordeal as if she hasn’t been through enough already. She has melanoma under the retina in her right eye. She is undergoing laser treatment in NYC, and the tumor is still the same size. Cathy’s world will never be the same, but she is determined to bring awareness because too many young people are dying in Webster.

When the System Fails
          Two weeks after Curtis died, Cathy went up to see her mother at the hospital. She decided to take a detour into Rochester Mental Health. Her words to them said it all. No commentary needed.
          Two weeks ago, my son was supposed to be here, and you canceled his appointment.  Now he is dead. He was expected to be here at 9:00 AM this morning, so you need to go into group, and tell them what happened and how they should hope their mothers are never sitting here right now feeling the same grief I am feeling.

A Wish in Life Becomes a Wish Fulfilled
          Curtis firmly believed in relationships. He wanted people to be there for each other. He never wanted to experience the feeling of being utterly alone and isolated.  The need for companionship grew with his addiction. His mother worked. His friends found jobs. He wanted someone with him all the time, which was an impossibility. His death brought people together again. His friends have stronger bonds within their relationships with each other, and they tell Cathy over and over again how Curtis was their best friend. The outpouring to Cathy is a testament to how great Curtis truly was in the lives of his friends. It took Curtis’ passing to bring family and friends together again and closer than ever before.

My Hope
          Learn from Curtis and Cathy’s journey. You are not alone in this battle with your loved one. Cathy is one of the countless people facing the loss of a child. I have a tattoo on my back. Stagli Vincio. It means “stay close.” My prayer for you is you stay close to your loved one. Hold tight. Love them even when they are hard to love. Give them room to breathe, but be the gentle guide to becoming drug-free. If you have lost a loved one, share your story. We all need to hear it. We all need to bear one another’s burdens. We all need hope.  
                                                                                       


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pearls of Wisdom from Our Intervention

Have an initial plan: You don’t want to do an intervention haphazardly, nor do you want to do it alone. Have a family member, clergy, or close family friend join you in the process. Sometimes planning the time and place is difficult and you may need a trustworthy person, who is a friend of the addict, to assist you in getting him or her to the location at the correct time.

Choose Your Words Wisely: Do not condemn or be judgmental. If you challenge the addict with derogatory statements such as “I knew you would never amount to anything,” or “How could you be so stupid as to use drugs? What is wrong with you?” you will need to do more damage control later, or you will permanently drive them out of your life and further into the world of drugs. Express your love first and then draw the line in the sand.  

Love Letters to an Addict: Our letters, which I have saved, helped Geoffrey see the light. He always felt like a screw-up, so hearing heartfelt affirmations of love and the common belief in his ability to succeed gave him the confidence and determination to change from an addict into a recovering addict. Don’t be afraid to ask your family members to participate in this endeavor. My 15-year-old grandson had the most impact. If you believe it will work to have the friends and loved ones who wrote the letters present to read them personally, do it. We knew it wouldn’t work with Geoff because he kept a very private life.

Be prepared to follow through: I thought taking my son to the emergency room would initiate the process of getting him into a rehab facility. It didn’t work. Get in touch with your insurance company and find out your coverage and whether you need a referral or not. Find a place with an open bed before you start the ball rolling. Believe me; you do not want to do it on your own. You do not want to watch needless suffering when there means to help the transition to drug-free living.  Even his counselor told Geoff he should have bought Suboxone on the street to help him through the process. When I have called drug rehab facilities to help other parents, and the wait list is so long for an evaluation, I learned it is rather common for addicts to go to the street first. I don’t recommend it; it is still illegal.

Have Your Own Valuable Support System: I called on some allies as we prepared for the intervention. They were close friends from different parts of the country who I knew as prayer warriors. They knew the time and place, and they prayed. They listened to me and gave me advice. I am an adjunct assistant professor at a local college who has rarely canceled class. The head of my department knew only something serious would keep me from teaching my classes. When I shared what I was going through with my son’s addiction, she did something that helped me immensely. She met me at a local Al-Anon, an organization for families and friends of an addict. They helped me to see I was not alone, and it wasn’t my fault my son was an addict.


Continue to Be a Support System for the Addict: Even if my son is clean, I am still a listening ear when he is struggling with his cravings. I helped him find a medical doctor who was also a drug therapist for young people. He has been a godsend. Libby Cataldi’s poignant memoir Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction reveals the glaring reality of a mother’s struggle to heal her son. Her thematic focus is stagli vicino, which in Italian means stay close. It is one of the most important things to consider. They may be clean and sober, but the battle rages on. Stay close.