Amy is the mother of Steven, a heroin addict who recently almost died from an overdose. Steven is now living in a sober house after completing an inpatient treatment program. Amy is hopeful for her recently-turned-18 son. She is committed to his recovery no matter how he chooses to go about it. Amy also struggles with the delicate balance of helping her son and taking care of her other children. She believes in talking about addiction and spreading the word about the current opioid epidemic. Amy wants no more shame attached to the disease of addiction.
Here are excerpts from her story. The names have been changed for privacy reasons.
I spoke to Steve for the first time since dropping him off at the center on Saturday. He sounded good. He sounded like he has hope. I told him about a thought I had today. I would give up anything; my legs, arms, eyesight, soul, or whatever it would take if I could save Steve. I think we all feel that way. Our kid’s addiction consumes us. We become desperate. We become willing to do anything, sane or not, to give them one more chance at life.
I have grounded him, tracked his phone (which I found to be a worthless waste of time), knocked on strangers’ doors and looked through strangers’ properties, and called his friends as well as their parents. Additionally, I have staked out his friends’ houses and followed them around town, hoping they would lead me to Steve. I have shown up unannounced at his friends’ doors, confronted them, and accused them of lying. This is all pretty typical when we try to nail down the specifics of our kid’s addiction. As the addiction worsens, the behavior of the crazy parent can also become crazier. Mine certainly continued to spiral.
I walked the streets with Steve’s dad for hours one night looking for him. We believed that the only way to safely find a homeless addict in the middle of the night was to look like a homeless addict and carry nothing. And so that is what we did. We finally went to our respective homes at 2am so we could sleep a few hours and reconvene to hit the streets again at 6:30.
I sat there and talked to dealers and addicts while showing them pictures of Steve. I even sat and listened to one guy’s story. His step dad had murdered his mom. He was supposedly clean at the time we were talking and he was just waiting for his probation officer to show up. I am not sure why his PO would agree to meet him within 20 feet of this city’s premier heroin district. While I was there, the guy’s girlfriend walked up and showed him her ultrasound picture. She had just been to the doctor. They were expecting a baby. These are experiences I never dreamed I would have, but they have changed me.
No longer do I feel removed from the addicts I see on the streets. I now see them as someone’s son or daughter who is likely alone and suffering greatly in their own private hell. I don’t hand out money to addicts. There are plenty of places for them to get food and supplies. I realize that my son, at least for several days of his young life, was one of them. I hope he doesn’t return to the streets. Being the mom of an addict has changed me. I have gradually grown more healthy in my dealings with Steve’s addiction but some days are much easier than others.
Today I know that I cannot cure or control my son. Nor did I cause his addiction. Today I will continue to support him and love him. He has so much to offer the world.
My mission in sharing our story is to provide an honest look into the maddening world of addiction from a parent’s, specifically a single mom’s, point of view. My only focus is young people and their use, abuse, and addiction of legal and illegal drugs and alcohol. All alcohol and drugs beyond most over the counter medicines are illegal for people under 21. My focus is on simply sharing my story. I only know this world as it pertains to me. Other parents have other opinions and may have made other choices. I am not trying to promote one recovery program or idea or trying to tell anyone what the best path is. The best choice for each family is the one that works for them.
I am only trying to share my own story as I live it. Sometimes these stories come out long after the fact. After years of sobriety or years after death. After years of hindsight. I wanted to share it as I walk through it because it helps me to focus my thoughts and connect with my soul. It also helps to enlighten the outside world just how difficult some of these decisions are now that they are mine to make.
The hard part about writing our story live as we walk through it is that I have no way of knowing how it will turn out. I know there are only two options though. The absolute best: sobriety, life, happiness, passion, and meaning. The absolute worst: Death. That’s all there is. Nothing else. No middle ground, no chance in hell that Steve will wake up one day a “normie” as we refer to those without addiction. He has to choose to be sober one day at a time for the rest of his life or he will die. I hope he makes that choice.
This just sucks. Period. I have now had some time to adjust to the idea of giving Steve Suboxone. Not to adjust, but to accept. It goes against everything I have heard or thought about recovery from drugs and alcohol. It feels wrong on so many levels. Suboxone contains both buprenorphine and naloxone. It is a complex drug, I won’t go into details of course. It was approved for use in Drug treatment in the US in 2002. Accidental or intentional overdose is less likely to cause death than with other opiates. However, taken with sedatives it can be very deadly. It has been found to be helpful in withdrawal from opiate addiction too. There are many side effects and issues with Suboxone.
Many who are on Suboxone are long term users and they are addicted to it. Some buy the drug off the street, some are prescribed by doctors. It is said that withdrawal from Suboxone takes much longer than withdrawal from heroin. Many would argue that its use has become just as bad as the heroin epidemic. Unfortunately, it seems to be the lesser of two evils for some of us.
It is believed by some in the medical community that for some, long term recovery from heroin is not possible. Relapses after sobriety are often fatal. The death rate in heroin users is higher than any other illegal drug. These experts think of these people (long term Suboxone users) as being on the less-harm maintenance program. Suboxone is merely keeping these people from becoming a statistic of an overdose death. Unfortunately, this seems to be the group Steve is believed to be in at this point. It breaks my heart.
Steve is a long term addict but not a long term heroin user. Not much more than a year. He does not need to withdrawal from heroin. He basically needs to be on Suboxone so he doesn’t kill himself with heroin. Steve’s dad and I have had a very hard time with this. We have needed some time to digest this and discuss it before I could voice it.
I just want my kid to live. I will never give up.