A Very Grateful Mom

I already knew the extreme pain of losing a child. My oldest son was killed by a drunk driver in 2004, when he was 21 years old. As excruciatingly painful and life changing as it was for me to lose a piece of my heart, there is nothing that could have prepared me for the news I received on October 28, 2014. My 29 year old son had a warrant issued for his arrest.  My already broken heart was ripped out of my chest when I learned that my son had overdosed on heroin in his car in a parking lot in Lawrence two months earlier in August, 2014. How could this happen?  How did I not know?  My son had a good job, owned his own home and was engaged to be married to a beautiful, wonderful girl.  Heroin!!! Why would he ever get involved in using that horrible drug?  He had witnessed my other son, his very best friend, being hit and killed by that car. We attributed much of his behaviors and personality change to the trauma of that event in his life. Having already lost one son to very tragic circumstances, I just knew that I could not bear to lose another.  Up to this stage in my life, addiction was just a word to me.  I understood nothing about what it meant to be a heroin addict but I was determined to educate myself and learn everything I could about what it takes to recover from this addiction. The very first thing I learned was that as much as I tried to control the situation, I was completely powerless over my son’s choices. I was about to embark on a journey that I never wanted to take in my life.  Our son went to detox, and then my husband paid $15,000 to send him to a drug rehab facility in Florida that was recommended to us. This program touted itself as utilizing a 12 step program, when in truth they only touched on the 12 steps in a very superficial manner.  While he was in Florida I went to a Naranon meeting and started going to Learn to Cope meetings, a support group for families with loved ones addicted to opiates.  I heard many horror stories from families whose children had been addicts for 10-15-20 years and still struggling.  I did not want to be a part of this club. Over and over again I heard that 30 days was not enough to free my son from the hold of this evil drug, but I thought my son would be the exception.  He had everything going for him and so much to lose if he continued to abuse drugs, most importantly, his life.  He was smart, handsome, creative, with a loving family and fiancée, and a job that was willing to take him back.  I wanted to be hopeful for my son when he returned to us from Florida after 30 days, but things still did not seem right.  He went back to work full-time, and started going to an Intensive Out-patient Program 4 days/week.  He was on probation for his drug possession charge and I wanted to believe that he was on his way to recovery.  Wrong!!  Within 2 months of his return to home his life was spiraling downward.  He still went to work full time but he never had any money, and was irritable and moody.  Then I got the phone call from my son’s fiancée on Valentine’s Day 2015.  He had been gone all day and when he returned home he had obviously been using drugs.  Even though I truly hoped and believed I would never have to use the information I obtained at meetings, I listened closely and tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could from the testimonial speakers, who were successful in recovery.  I learned from these speakers that the greatest hope for a lasting recovery could be found in a long term program that strictly adhered to the 12 Steps of recovery as taught by the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I knew I had to take drastic measures to save my son’s life.  I gave him the option of going to rehab at a 12 Step Immersion Program, or I would let his probation officer know that he was using drugs again and he would go to jail.  Thankfully, he chose to go to rehab.  After spending the initial 30 days working his way through the first 7 Steps of the program, he moved to a wonderful half-way house/sober living community for an additional six and a half months.  During this time I could see the darkness lifting from his face, and he was transforming back to the beautiful person that we all knew and loved before he started abusing drugs.  Today he is more than 18 months sober.  The 12 Step Immersion Program saved my son’s life and mine and I am eternally grateful.  During this horrific journey, I often wondered how people without family support or financial means could ever find their way out of the living hell of addiction.  When I heard of the mission of the Pelican Fund “To provide funding for residential Twelve Step based programs for economically challenged adult men and women struggling with heroin and other addictive substances living in the greater Newburyport area,” I knew I had to become involved.  Both my son and I do whatever we can to support this program. After all, this is the 12th step, “to give back to others what has been given to us.”   Even though I would never have chosen to go on this journey in my life, I believe it has made me a stronger person, with more compassion towards those struggling with addiction and a deeper faith and trust in the healing power of God.                                                                             Sincerely,    A Very Grateful Mom