Heroin. Stop the Silence. Speak the Truth. Start the Conversation.

 

Marc Alberts: Our little brother

5/11/1989❤ 6/2/2015

A boy from my old neighborhood died this week. He was no longer a ‘boy’, he was 26, but to me he was still one of the kids. They ran around in the summer as a pack. You could tell where they were by looking for their pile of bikes. Scenes from those days of innocence keep flashing through my head – when they went from one house to another, rode their bikes to the playground or to the store- images of boyhood youth. Now he’s gone. Heroin stole him. My heart is breaking for his mother and siblings. They have already been through so much, having lost their husband and father to cancer four years ago. I’m sure Addiction has also stolen years of this family’s life. I know how Addiction takes over a home, because Addiction has been an unwelcome member of our family for the last ten years.

Addiction is stealthy. It hides in basements and bathrooms and bedrooms. It steals children and decimates families under a cloak of silence. The addicts themselves are embarrassed and guilty and are afraid to ask for help. Parents feel inadequate, trying to figure out where they went wrong, what could they have done better. I was a stay at home Mom for God’s sake, and my firstborn is a heroin addict. What does that say about me? Guilt, silence, embarrassment – these are Addiction’s wingmen, giving it the wind needed to kill our kids, gaining strength in whispers at book clubs and coffee shops, ‘he’s an addict you know’.

Continue reading “Heroin. Stop the Silence. Speak the Truth. Start the Conversation.”

Forward March: Recovery, Change and Faith

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Last month my husband, daughter and I loaded our three dogs and a few months’ necessities into two cars. We left Colorado behind with a ‘for sale’ sign on our lawn and headed to St. Petersburg, Florida with no clue where we would be living. We had rented an Airbnb little cottage in Gulfport for the rest of the summer and hoped that would be enough time to figure out where we wanted to live.

Leaving Colorado behind was hard. We had made friends there. We fell in love with the Rocky Mountains, the park, Vail, Pagosa Hot Springs, Hanging Lake…. All of it……..

More difficult was leaving our son Kurt behind. He had gotten a job as an electrical apprentice and it was going well. For the past six months he was handing most of his paycheck over to his landlady to pay off back rent from when he had been out of work. He was SO close to caught up when he lost his job. His story involves another, it is not mine to tell so I’ll simply say that he told me he learned you cannot save people – they have to save themselves – and you cannot forgo a paycheck even if you want to be there for others, sometimes you have to think of yourself first and go to work no matter what is happening. Addicts in recovery can be co-dependents too……

He lost his job just as his father accepted a position in St. Petersburg. Now, I know all about not allowing myself to get swept into the ups and downs of his life, but I’m his mother and I’m human – what can I say? I worried. I worried that he would get too depressed about this new turn of events. He had liked his job; he was on track. Now, almost two and a half years into his recovery, he was out of work and broke again. How could he not feel frustrated? How could he get through this without getting depressed? I have faith in his stubbornness and strength – and a LOT of faith in his Village- but still…. getting the house ready to show, packing our things, heading to Florida AND having Kurt in this situation had me tangled in stress.

Back to the three dogs loaded into the car for a three day, thirty-hour journey. No sweat, right?!?!

A funny thing happened as the wheels chewed up the miles driving east through Kansas and Missouri. As I drove away from my son, mile by mile, hour by hour I realized that this distance meant nothing. Nothing at all. In reality my kid is 30 years old. He visited with us maybe once every six weeks or so. We shared a state, but he has his own life. Looking in the rearview mirror as the ribbon of highway lengthened the space between us, I realized that was only physical distance. It meant nothing. That drive was symbolic for me. All of the things I have learned about Kurt and myself over the past few years coalesced in my brain to drive out the fear and stress. We may have been living near each other, and that gave me an illusion of control that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding onto. He is my son. I will always worry about all of my children – that’s a given. BUT, as the miles grew between us it cemented in me a new-found certainty that all my son needs from me is love, support and confidence that he knows how to take care of himself- because he really truly does know, and I really truly understand that he is a capable and intelligent man who has been through hell and come out the other side. He can handle a few blips in the road! He has been working his recovery now for two and a half years. He knows what to do. He knows who to call. By the time I drove through Nashville I knew that he would be OK and I would be OK. My being in Florida rather than Colorado would not change a thing.

 That’s not to say that Nashville was smooth sailing. We hit a torrential downpour complete with wild thunder and lightning as well as fireworks going off everywhere as it was July 4th.  I ended up navigating the city with a terrified dog in my lap as I watched my husband’s car in front of me drive into a sudden curtain of rain with the convertible top down. Life is an adventure – even as we find peace in one corner of our world the sky will open and remind us that we are never ever in control.

As I was telling Kurt about my driving epiphany, he told me he could hear in my voice that something had changed. I had finally let go for real. It took that drive to get me to see the light.

Today I am sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for our flight to Boston. We are having a family reunion on the Cape (sadly without my husband because he just started a new job..). Kurt is sitting in the Denver airport waiting for his flight. It will be his first time home since he found recovery. Sort of a prodigal son returns moment. He will be seeing his brother and many other family members and friends for the first time in a long time as the real Kurt – the one they remember from ‘before’ – but a new and wiser version. I can’t wait! I know this is a true pilgrimage for him and I am really hoping he’ll write about it for the blog.

The best part about this vacation? On the other side, Kurt will start his new job and we will be selling our home in Colorado and buying one in Florida.

 Forward March.

 

 

What I Wish I Had Known

 
 Only a littel glad your home MaureenSo there I was hiding in the corner as my addicted daughter slammed glass candles into the wall because I refused to allow her to go to a concert on a school night. For months her behavior had become increasingly brazen, even jumping out of our moving car when we refused to give her money for something. She’d broken down doors, slammed her body through windows, and threatened us with terrible bodily harm if she didn’t get her way. She’d stalk me like a cougar, hours upon hours, her voice bellowing for all to hear, “Give me money now!” I hated the drug that was inside her, hated it more than anything I’ve ever hated in my life, even hated her at times, until I once again reminded myself that this was a disease, a horrible, crisis creating disease that would show it’s evil face every day until she either got better or died. When dealing with an addicted child, every single day can bring about a crisis. My daughter’s rage was so bad the cops became accustomed- and dare I say- tired-of coming to our home to tackle my daughter and bring about submission.

“I’m crouching like the girl in the crazy movies,
                                 in a corner, head down, shaking, crying, screaming,
                                            scared I might stay here forever.
                                         It’s the only place I feel safe today.”

I was your typical parent, thought my child would never touch drugs, even judged families where “druggies” were present. I’d been raised to stay away from all illegal substances, and I had raised my kids to do the same. What I hadn’t factored into the equation was the undeveloped brain of a young teen. They don’t think like adults, don’t expect negative consequences for risky behaviors; in fact, many teens just don’t think, period. Why would my straight A , softball pitching daughter do drugs? She had a good life, was even named one of the top young dog handlers in the entire country. There was greatness down her path, if she had just followed it. Enter the all- too- familiar self esteem issues. Somewhere in middle school she started feeling not “good enough” and she sought ways to figure it all out. Some seedy character loved by another mom introduced her to pot. I had no idea, can’t even remember any outward signs that she might have been using. After all, she got straight As! I was clueless.
I don’t want you to be clueless. My aim is to help you navigate this disease starting with clues you might not even recognize. And be prepared , because of privacy (HIPAA laws) your best bet is to err on the side of caution, because these laws DO NOT favor parents trying to get help. When my child’s behavior started to become erratic, we took her to mental health counseling and various doctors. She confessed to the doctors about her drug use and doctor administered drug tests also revealed she was using drugs, but because in our state the privacy laws for addiction and mental health start at age 14, we were not given access to that information because she didn’t want us to know. Thus we started on a path of trying to figure out what mental condition she might have, when it was actually drug use that was causing her behavior.
There are so many things I wish I had known, could have done differently. And there are so many laws that I believe need changing to allow parents to get help. I’ll start with the laws. In my state of NJ, a child as young as 14 with addiction or mental health issues may withhold parental consent to have access to their drug tests, information regarding drug use, or mental health issues. My child decided in her addicted, undeveloped mind, to withhold all information. We had no idea what drugs she was using, how often, where, how, or why she was using, and we also had no right to put her into a rehab center without her permission. Yet it was me, the parent, who was paying the bills, me, the parent, who was not allowed to leave her in the emergency room to grab a few hours sleep, me, the parent, dealing with her disruptive behaviors, and me, the parent, who had I known, would have done everything in my power right then to get her the proper help. These laws are in place to protect the child’s need for privacy with such sensitive issues as addiction and mental health, however, to me it is like the medical world’s version of political correctness; we are afraid of offending or hurting the minority, while the majority is overlooked. One argument for the laws reflects on a young person being afraid to tell a parent he needs help due to fear of a beating or getting kicked out of the home. Could that happen? Of course, but meanwhile, thousand of parents are losing their children, burying them in record numbers. I truly believe that if we had access to our children’s medical records and had the right to put them in a rehab against their will, many of these kids would be alive today. A parent must think for a child that is not in his or her right mind. Not only is the brain undeveloped, but it is also clouded with substances that will make them do anything for the drug, including keeping parents away. The other law that cost me precious time in helping my daughter was the 42CFR, the federal statute that outlines confidentiality in substance abuse treatment. When my teen daughter ran away from a rehab facility several states away, I was not informed. They did not tell me my child had run, stating her rights and confidentiality. By the time I found her, two months had gone by and she was living in a crack house, prostituting in Miami. Imagine the head start I would have had, had I known right away, not days after the fact. If she had died during that time, I would have been furious. While there might be reasons for such laws, I can’t help but think they don’t trump the laws of parental love for our children. Please, know the laws and how they affect you. Each state is different. Get to know your state laws. Also, if you do call rehab centers, they will most certainly quote you “$5,000, $10,000, $20,000.” I have never paid that. Tell them, “No, I can’t afford that, please work with me.” Many will come down dramatically and many will offer scholarship status. Twice I paid nothing . But don’t ask me about insurance, each is different, but understand the Parity Act please. There’s too much to get into here, but basically it says your health insurer must treat mental health and addiction as they would any other disease or surgical procedure.

  “ I thought you’d be smarter with hiding it.
                        I guess you’re now at the point you just don’t care
                     There are tinfoil pieces and burnt spoons everywhere
                                   There are little baggies all over the house
                  With all this evidence and your rolled back eyes and needle marks,
                                       I still can’t get you into rehab
                                             BECAUSE YOU REFUSE.
                                          Where are my parental rights?”

As a parent who prided myself on my beautiful, well groomed, intelligent children, I also missed early signs of substance abuse. When my daughter’s eyes were red she blamed allergies, when she locked herself in the bathroom, she blamed stomach issues, when she raged, she blamed unfair parenting. In the beginning, I did believe her, after all, my child would never do drugs. But as time went on and I observed more and read more, I realized how naïve I had been. Pay attention to the following clues. I have included minor clues and major clues. Take them seriously, please.

Behaviorally, if he or she starts:
Talking back
Cursing and calling you names
Sleeping all day
Missing school
Acting over excited
Eating and slamming cabinets shut late at night
Pacing
Acting “backed into a corner”
Acting lethargic
Locking themselves in the bed or bathroom
Being secretive on the phone

Physically, if he or she starts:
Picking skin
Developing acne or skin rashes
Losing weight
Gaining weight
Drooling
Rolling eyes back
Nodding the head and sleeping at tables
Slurring words
Sporting red eyes
Going days without bathing or brushing teeth
Smelling funny
Looking withdrawn and sallow
Sniffing

If you see these signs at home:
Eye drop containers
Lots of gum
Perfume everywhere
Additional mouthwash
Toilet paper rolls stuffed with cotton
Shoelaces missing
Elastic bands scattered around
Burnt tinfoil
Missing spoons
Burnt spoons
Unexplained seeds on a surface
Missing or watered down alcohol
Bloodied tissues
Small baggies about 1 inch by 1 inch
Matches and lighters
Rearranged medicine cabinets and missing pills

If you see the above signs, you’ve a right to put Sherlock Holmes to shame. Be the best detective ever to grace the earth. Your child needs you.

Of course, there are other reasons for the signs and symptoms listed above, but the earlier you know what you’re looking for, the better. If you see any of the following, please keep an eye on your child and seek help as soon as possible. Encourage your child to allow you the information you need to help him. Love your child and support him, but be prepared for roadblocks and possibly a long and agonizing ride. This disease doesn’t discriminate. A perfectly healthy child only needs one teenage mistake for him to “catch” this disease. Once the brain is hijacked by the drug, the child is under its control. And so are you!

 “ I have been swindled by the drug too. Not in the way you have.
                           You see, I never took him, never would think about taking him,
                                               but he still fooled me.
                           He made me believe your lies so many times I can’t count.
                                 He led me into naivety when I should have known better.
                           He shook me down for fear of his violence so much,
                                   that I retreated rather than stood.
                            He held me hostage when I should have been strong.
                          He almost killed me and my family, and I almost let him.
                                         I always thought I was strong.
                                               Apparently I am not.”

If and when you succeed in getting your child into a rehab, allow yourself to breathe. I suffer still from symptoms of PTSD though my daughter has two years clean. If I could go back, I would have given myself permission to go out and enjoy a day without thoughts of her and her issues, I would have booked a massage, I would have closed off thoughts to her and watched a movie instead. I know it is easier said than done, but I would have given myself permission to try, without guilt. Perhaps then, the disease would have hurt one less victim, perhaps then, the awful panic attacks would leave me alone more often.

 “I beseech thee, oh heart, to allow me a moment’s peace,
              to banter with my restless brain, to implore it to forget love’s dying hold.
                   Allow me a restful slumber curled up with my grandma’s quilt,
                                            fluffy socks and humming rain,
                      To rock my aching soul gently away from incessant thoughts
                                       of her dying grace, her joyless song.”

Finally, find it in your heart to forgive your child. Through all the suffering and pain it is hard to remember that this is a disease, the drug has taken your child hostage. We must be the gatekeepers of the child within, guarding our love for them during the turbulent times. But you will be angry, you might even feel hate. Yes, hate. But it’s hate for the disease, hate for the drug. Forgive your child for the disease, and I will guarantee you will feel a weight lift off your shoulders. And remember there is hope. With each new sunrise, a new day begins. This could be the day the light is turned on and the healing begins.

 “Today is better, a sunny day blossoming after my heart
                                        had been a tilt a whirl, spinning out of control,
                                             threatening to spill me onto the filthy pavement,
                                        leaving open wounds, inviting more infected thoughts
                                                      to invade my fragile being.
                                                       I asked God to stop the ride.
                                                                       He did.
                                                            And today is beautiful.”

 

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Maureen Fitzpatrick is a married mother of five who lived through 6 years of hell when her oldest child became addicted to heroin. Her goal is to use her debut book, Beyond Horizon Fall, as a tool to let other parents in similar situations know they are not alone.

All proceeds from the sale of her book will benefit organizations that encourage positive living and assist in the teaching against/prevention/assistance of families affected by substance abuse. Kids Caring Foundation and Stand Up to Addiction are the nonprofits for this quarter.

Writing poetry began as a coping mechanism for the storm that brewed around her and blossomed into a love and a need to let others know that confusing feelings during turbulent times are human. She invites you to read her real and raw journey as told through poetry and prose.

A former teacher of all grades 2-6, Maureen’s love of writing became a salve during the turbulent years of her drug addicted daughter’s fight to survive. Though help was hard to come by, through determination, love, and a fierce will to live, her child is now drug free and Maureen’ s life is peaceful. She offers her hope and support and a generous hug.

Her book can be purchased online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

 

Hate, Stigma, Orlando and Social Media: “No More Hurting Each Other.”

heroin graphic leidy

I have been struggling lately. Every time I read a news report of an overdose death the comments are filled with ‘die junkies die, you got what you deserved’ kind of statements. When Prince died, arguments ensued on social media – ‘how dare you say he was a dirty drug addict?’ Then there are those who speak so confidently, ‘Know where your kid is, who their friends are, what they are doing’, in other words – bad parenting creates drug addicts….. There are those who don’t want to ‘waste tax dollars’ to add treatment beds or any kind of program to help ‘those people’.

Then a little boy fell into a gorilla cage… and EVERYONE had an opinion. How the parents (specifically the mother) were to blame, OR, the zoo did the wrong thing. Armchair warriors, judges and jurors sitting at their computers righteously proclaiming what should have, would have, could have been done. They weren’t there, how could they possibly think they knew enough to judge anything?

In Orlando a hate crime of brain-shattering , heart-breaking magnitude was perpetuated on an already harassed LGBT community. The horror takes my breath away. So many on social media expressed their condolences, their horror, their tears. And under those posts…. armchair warriors. It was terrorism, he was Muslim, gun control, don’t take MY guns, ban Muslims, ban assault rifles – yelling, name calling….. My heart is bruised. Whether this man was an ISIS terrorist or sympathizer, whether he was gay and hated himself, whether he had undiagnosed mental health issues — the fact remains that a HATE crime was committed and so many (mostly young gay Latinos) who were innocently out for a Saturday night of fun were senselessly murdered and are being mourned by their loved ones today. Others are still fighting for their lives. Enter the ‘gays deserved this, God’s punishment’ comments….

This morning I awoke to a story about a young boy who was snatched by an alligator in Disney. A horrific story. Underneath the story? You guessed it – ‘how could the parents have been so stupid’.

PEOPLE! What has happened to us? Although social media has been an amazing tool for raising awareness for many causes, my Stop the Silence Speak the Truth campaign among them, it is overwhelming to me the amount of hate and judgement that spews from my computer screen every morning. TV fuels the flames with news of a presidential race fraught with name calling and bullying.
US vs THEM all day, every day. Ah, the faceless scary THEM…..
Social Media has become another weapon. It is used to belittle and marginalize people on a daily basis. These attitudes spill out into the real world and engender fear, stigma and hate.

We need to stop the cycle.

I am taking a break from social media this week. I need to get my head clear. I want to keep Stopping the Silence surrounding the Opiate/Opioid Epidemic. I want to forge ahead with Ending the Stigma. For now, though, I need to walk away from the hate and judgement for just a few days to renew my spirit.

We have lost too many lives to Hate and Stigma.

We lost 49 souls early Sunday morning to Hate.

We continue to lose 129 more every day to Stigma.

In the words of young Martin Richard, “No more hurting each other – PEACE”

SHARE THIS POST – YOU COULD HELP SAVE A LIFE

Anthony Fiore

June 7, 2016

Exactly two years ago today, Valerie and I buried our son and Nick’s brother, Anthony one week after he died from heroin. Before we carried his coffin out of Warrington Fellowship Church, rolled it into the hearse and drove two miles southeast on Bristol Road to Neshaminy Cemetery and the only piece of real estate he would ever own, I read the eulogy that is reprinted below.

In writing the eulogy I felt led to address the young people in the audience – the friends of Anthony and Nick – some of whom I feared were traveling the same road Anthony had travelled. I hoped to strike a chord within them that hadn’t yet been struck before their parents had to purchase a similar tiny plot of land.

The day after Anthony’s funeral, I posted the eulogy on Facebook. Many of you shared it. Some of your friends shared it, and some of their friends. Etc., etc., etc. Somehow, it reached “Abby.”

On June 12th I received the following private Facebook message: “Your son died on my birthday. I just turned 23 and I have been addicted to heroin since I was 17. I don’t want to ruin my mother’s life by dying. But I can’t stop.”

We messaged back and forth. She gave me her phone number and we talked. Eventually she agreed to join “The Left Behind” – a private Facebook group I created for addicts and their families — where she has shared her story and received a lot of support. Abby has been clean for almost two years now. She started a day care center in her home and she and her husband raise chickens and rescue abused and abandoned animals.

Recently Abby told me that reading Anthony’s eulogy was her “breaking point.” But she would never have seen it from my Facebook page. We weren’t friends. Somebody had to share it — probably several some bodies — before it reached her. According to a 2012 Pew Research study, the median Facebook user can reach 31,170 people through friends of friends. I don’t know how many degrees of separation there were between Abby and me, but it was more than one. So whatever role my eulogy played in helping Abby decide to get clean, everyone who helped move it along the electronic highway to her played just as big a role.

And we can do it again. There are other Abbys out there. I know there are. Obviously, not every addict who reads my eulogy, or sees the YouTube video will make a life changing decision as a result. But Abby did. And if it reached her, maybe it will reach others. And that is why I am asking you, even if you have done it before, please share, re-post, e-mail, text, message, and urge your friends to do the same. Do whatever you can to get my eulogy out where it might do some good. Together, we just might keep another Abby from becoming the next Anthony.

Here is the eulogy:

EULOGY FOR A SON
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PwFV3-0FcU

A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

Today, again, Warrington is Ramah, and we are all Rachel. Another child is no more.

I loved Anthony, something that was not always easy to do. Anthony loved Eminem and 50 cent and Lil Wayne. Whenever any of them were about to come out with a new CD, Anthony always knew about it when the news first broke and he had to get the CD the day it came out. He loved movies and had recently developed a fondness for chick flicks. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me. When he was a baby, his favorite video was “The Little Mermaid.” He devoured each and every Harry Potter novel the week it was published, proudly reporting how many pages he’d read each day. And as each book was made into a movie, he and I would see them, and if it wasn’t the day they were released Anthony was sorely disappointed.

He loved candy.

He loved his car.

He loved his brother.

He loved his mother.

He loved the Lord.

And he loved heroin.

Lord how he loved heroin. And because he loved heroin so much and because he thought it loved him back, he’ll never get to take his brother to the Eminem & Rihanna concert this August. He’ll never get to enjoy the case of Sour Patch Kids candy he ordered and that was delivered two days after he died. He won’t get to train Caesar, the Boxer puppy he bought from a breeder in Oklahoma just two weeks ago. And for the first time in years, there’s plenty of recording capacity on the DVR.

His death is a shock, but it’s not a surprise. He had been slow dancing with death for more than five years. He overdosed and almost died. His friend overdosed and almost died in front of his eyes. He was arrested. He overdosed again. He was arrested again. He spent a week on the street and a month in prison.

And each and every time we said, “Anthony, please, take this as a sign. It’s a warning. Take it to heart. You need to change your behavior.” And each and every time he said he knew and he would. But at some point, each of those warnings was forgotten. And all that remained was the mantra of the young. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want. I’m only hurting myself.”

“It’s my life.”

Every time another young person says, “It’s my life,” Satan smiles.

“It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” Yes, of course you will. But your actions have consequences and sometimes your mistakes are irreversible.

“I’m only hurting myself.” Really? I wish I had words strong enough and true enough to convince you of the staggering selfishness of that remark. And how wrong it is.
Almost exactly one week ago my lips were pressed against Anthony’s cold, pale lips, trying desperately to breathe air into lungs too full of fluid to receive it. For the last week his mother has carried one of Anthony’s unwashed shirts around with her, holding it to her face so she can smell him. She sleeps in his bed with his shirt and a framed photograph of Anthony. Everywhere she turns something else reminds her of Anthony. The leftovers from the last food he bought – food was a very big thing with Anthony. The stale remnants of the last soda he ever drank. She wants to die, so she can see her first born again.

Nick, who is one of the best people I know, has spent much of the last week with his arm around his mother. Nick, who was already an old soul, has aged 10 years in the last week. I don’t know if he will ever smile again.

But, hey, It’s your life. Do what you want. But before you ever again dare say, “I’m only hurting myself,” look at your mother, look up the word ‘inconsolable’ and remember Anthony’s mother.

Anthony kept a small scrap of paper with a verse he had copied from scripture pinned above his desk, right in front of his laptop, where he could look at it every day. The prophet Isaiah speaking to God:

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.”

An assurance from the Lord, that gave Anthony comfort. Later in that same verse there are words of comfort for those of us Anthony left behind when he went home:

“But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.”

Goodbye my son.

 

Cris Fiore lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Valerie are working tirelessly to help save other people’s children in the name of their beloved son Anthony. The Fiores ask that you PLEASE sign and share about Anthony’s Act and help save lives.   Facebook page – Anthony’s Act.

 

 

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Honoring My Child: Understanding Substance Use Disorder is a disease.

 

Jason and me

To Whom It May Concern – in other wordsEverybody,

On December 23, 2015 my world changed forever. Our 29 year old son, Jason, died in our home of a Heroin overdose. I now see the world through a veil of tears and struggle to find my footing each day when I wake and realize again, that it is real. The several years of battling his addiction caused so much pain for him, as well as our family. He felt shame, remorse, failure and regret. We felt lost, horrified, let down and confused by the American government and medical system. He worried about everything. He was in and out of rehabs, jail, IOP, NA meetings and a halfway house not worth mentioning. My secret society of Nar Anon members each suffered as I did. Each week we would share our frustration, pain and confusion as to why professionals just did not get what was needed to help our loved ones help themselves. As my co-workers slowly found out (I worked in a hospital) what had happened, they couldn’t believe that MY child was an addict.

He was an electrician for the Board of Education (8 years), was preparing to get his Masters license, an animal lover, regularly told us he loved us, played Xbox, loved fishing, enjoyed  music, reading a good book and building with Mega Legos, BUT he is the product of a family tree that has strong inherited addictive genes and mental illness, (many addicts suffer with duel diagnosis), thus his demise. Never was he allowed enough time in any rehab for recovery to take hold. Losing his job meant losing his medical insurance. There is no In-Patient rehab that will let you stay beyond two weeks with just Medicaid. Yes, he came out two weeks clean, but not skilled, not yet strong enough, not able to keep the disease at bay. He was then sent into a halfway house that had no accountability for any of its clients. These houses exist everywhere but no one holds them accountable or monitors them for their client’s re-entry training (lifestyle change) or survival rate. I am infuriated with the system for the Halfway house issue. Sober living communities are the most recommended “next step” once being released from rehab, but the success rate is only 20%. Studies need to be done to find the strengths and weaknesses using unique client experiences in these homes as well as find the valuable lessons and inherent challenges. These experiences need to be sourced to create opportunities to make positive change. Delve into this issue with me and I can lead you to a Halfway/Sober living community with a 46% success rate. Their technique should be the structure for all Halfway homes in America. Their clients are held accountable, are monitored and motivated, consistent in- house meetings along with learning a new lifestyle as well as allowing them to attain their goals, giving them the time necessary to do so. Most addicts can’t afford to live there and that has to change. These methods should be the expected norm, not financially unattainable for those struggling with this disease. There need to be grants, funds, donations or insurance and Medicaid acceptance.

Please help me to find the avenue needed for this mission. Don’t just put this letter down and forget about it until one day you are forced to remember me when this happens to your loved one or someone you know. Don’t let it be too late for someone else. I do not want your empathy; I demand some type of action take place. Use us, the parents and family out in the trenches struggling with the disease killing our loved ones. Brainstorm with us; assist us in finding the path to change just one thing that will make a difference for the addict wanting help. From there more can happen. My son’s battle is over, mine is not.

Our son tried, God how he tried. He wanted to be drug free, a simple man living a simple life, we talked about it, he lived with us, lived with my brother’s family, gave up his car and access to money, went onto Suboxone treatment and then a Methadone program, went to meetings, agreed to the Vivitrol shot, did what he was asked, made it weeks clean, (NEVER was enough time allowed in any rehab for true recovery to take hold), and with only his parents, as a constant to lean on, the disease won. Jason was a part of the Anne Arundel County Maryland Adult Drug Court Program. Once a month hearings with the judge and once a week case manager meetings with urine testing just isn’t enough for an addict to be successful. They need to be in a lengthy In-Patient environment learning the tools and habits to survive this disease, then sent onto a well-run Halfway house practicing a new lifestyle. AGAIN, This method should be the expected norm, not unattainable for those seeking help. This is what we have learned living this way together. If an addict was truly starving and had minutes to live if he didn’t eat, and if he was offered his favorite meal or Heroin, they will always take the Heroin. The tools to survive, the training needed to beat this monster are medically known, but he was never able to learn them because the In-Patient stay is just too short. Why can’t they take all those short stays and weave them together to allow a person with this disease to have a fighting chance?

Who will help us help them? Where are the funds, how do we raise the funds, who do we ask for advice? I did ask these questions in August 2015 through a letter campaign that I went on during our journey, looking for assistance specifically for my child. My son died on December 23, 2015 and I finally received one letter back the third week of January 2016. It commended me for my valiant quest and wished me luck while giving me no answers. We have lost our only child, the love and pride of our lives. During all his struggling, we did everything we could (as co-dependent as any parent could be) to help him and he appreciated it.

I can’t stop thinking about him, loving him, missing him and needing him in our lives. Jason was a treasure to us. I can’t dwell on all that we went through during his addiction, it was horrendous, frustrating, and tiring for both us and him – what good would it do? He was our beloved child. He was a good person and son. He needed help; he asked for it but was only granted snippets of hope that would never lead to anyone’s solid recovery. His dad and I will walk this road together, struggling with missing him, needing him and trying to understand how this could happen to our child and most importantly, why real help was impossible to find. We will share the rage that we have for those not educated about this disease or not assisting with the epidemic proportion it has become in our country, our neighborhoods, our homes. These addicts are our children, spouses, our family. My husband and I will suffer the guilt felt, if even a glimpse of happiness comes our way, as our son will never share it with us. We will keep our faith, knowing that our child is at peace, the turmoil gone, not worrying anymore, not pacing the floor all night, not fighting a disease that won’t let go. We know that we will see him again, but right now we’re living through a tragedy and the pain is nearly unbearable.

We are only asking that some serious thought and involvement be given this issue that plagues America. We have lost our son to the epidemic that everyone knows about, but until it affects them personally, answers to questions, that for some reason aren’t being asked, are simply forgotten. The questions must be discussed, the answers sought and true help arranged and promoted for the disease of addiction. We’re willing to help those we know are out there adrift, won’t you add your expertise to this necessary quest before one more is lost to us?

Jason Fishing

Debbie Freburger wrote the above as a letter-writing campaign. Her goal is to end the stigma, make it known that LONG TERM IN-PATIENT stays are the only way to help the addict succeed, along with quality Halfway/Sober living arrangements as aftercare.

Since sending the letter she has had several private meetings  with senators and delegates in her home state of Maryland. She was also invited to sit in on the Governor’s Heroin Task Force briefings and has received hundreds of letters with positive feedback from the letter-writing campaign on which she embarked since the loss of her son.

 

””

Disease or not, he always said if it was any other health issue he would be treated with respect.

 

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Below are the last words a sister posted for her brother who passed April 29th, 2016 from a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Just three years apart, they were not only brother and sister, but best friends.  After battling addiction for years and becoming sober, her brother passed into eternal life after a recent relapse. She’s shared her last words to the public in hopes to not only honor her brother, but to speak truth to how addiction does not discriminate.  Tara hopes to continue sharing her story to shed light on the problems behind addiction and to remind others that we need to spend less time judging and stereotyping, and more time working together to understanding this epidemic that is taking away so many of our loved ones.  

 

I’ve held off on writing my last words or making a speech in front of everyone about my brother, because I still cannot believe this is real. But it has finally hit me just how real this all is. That I will never laugh with him or see him again. But I’ve felt the need to share these words. How do you go on to write about the greatest person you have ever known, and get it right? As he would say.. Here comes the Novel!

I think it’s fair to say Jeff was one of the most unique human beings we have ever had the chance to know. His sense of humor, loyalty, huge heart, protectiveness, patience and craziness is what attracted so many people to his life. He was probably the only one calm enough to deal with half of his family/friends. As he would say,

“This is my family?”

“These are my friends?”

He was always the voice of reason, diffusing any situation with love and laughter. For those that know the real Jeff, you know he was one of the most selfless people. He would drop anything to be there for someone he cared about, no matter if the circumstances were in his favor or not. He always told me I did too much for those who didn’t appreciate me,  but to never lose that about myself because that is what made me special -to always know my worth. He was someone who always had the right intentions and knew what he wanted in life and who he wanted to be …. naturally smart and socially inept….always the biggest heart, a dreamer with a deep crazy soul and an undeniable love for music. I have always admired the person he was.

The energy he had was one of a kind. He was someone who was always ready to go, whether it was a random road trip, concert or cooking a random feast with me for no reason but we ‪#‎fuckinglovefood. At one point he made #WineTastingWednesday an official day of the week. I would walk in to a table set with plates of tomato, mozzarella and balsamic glaze and his favorite cheeses. He would be sitting at the table waiting for everyone, dressed in his button down and tie just to make us laugh and want to join. He also may be the only one who would say yes to me kicking open his door at 11:30 am with my robe on in a blizzard and tell him we are going to Tacobell for a feast. Then have to shovel my car out of a snowbank because we should have never left the house.

Some people thought it was weird how Jeff and I were so close, but I never took a moment for granted because I feared this day might come. I cannot sit here and say the past 10 years were easy. There is so much heartache in a family that deals with someone with an addiction. You blame them. They blame you. You blame each other. Not one solution works the same for any addict/family. There is so much said and done that will scar you for life. Many relationships have suffered. People choose what kind of family they want to be around. The people that sit here and just want to rant about whether it’s a disease or not clearly haven’t experienced it first-hand. Who cares what the definition is. You don’t just lose all compassion for these people and act like they are not good people. Nobody wants this life. It does start with a choice for maybe a good time, a surgery, a mental health issue, but then it becomes a battle within yourself when you realize you might have taken it too far. It happens to the best of us-so many with a college education, a great job and a family who cares deeply about them. Addiction does NOT discriminate. To witness that struggle… You always think it’s just one more time-one more shot-one more drink-one more pill-one more night. You think it cannot happen to you. But it could be that one last decision that sets you over the edge. Before you know it, it’s been years.

To see him at his worst, and to know the end was far from his worst. THAT is what is heartbreaking. To see someone who had everything going for them and more to live for than most of us go down this road-is the WORST pain. To see them on the street going through the trash, or eating ketchup packets on New Year’s eve while the rest of us are drinking champagne celebrating with the ones we love. THAT is pain. To see him sleeping in shelters or on the street because no detox has space for him and he isn’t allowed home, THAT is pain. To know that you are one of the last people that has not stopped believing in him, is PAIN. Those few people who were there for him know THAT pain. To have your own life in shambles to protect his, THAT is pain. To have people walk out of your life because they don’t want to be around it or a family like this, THAT is pain. To see him get sober when Alycia, the love of his life, passed in a car accident because he wanted to attend her funeral was truly a blessing. When his close friends and family took him back into their lives and showed him what it was to live again, something changed in his mind. Something changed when he realized he had something to live for. THIS is what helps people. THIS is what gives them hope. It is NOT the answer, but it does give them hope. For some that is all they need.

To see that person come back and be himself again was one of the happiest times of my life. I am blessed to have met the people in Jeff’s life over the years and will forever cherish them, as they have become my best friends now too. Our friends became friends. These are some of my best memories. I never thought I would see the day of planning his 30th birthday, and know it was one of his best memories these past few years.

But depression is a scary thing. To make a change in your life but realize everyone else has moved on with their own cannot possibly be easy. Always being judged, watched and stereotyped cannot be easy. To know you probably shouldn’t participate in some things because it could trigger you, but you just want to feel NORMAL. To fall off track a few times and slowly start to believe less in yourself. It pained me to see him sad. To spend holidays in a shelter without his family because he messed up again. To be asked if he wants to call anyone but he says nobody probably wants to hear from him. It was hard to convince him how loved he was, that people mess up and this is a long road…. that we have faith in him. But despite it all, he never lost that soul of his. There were few times he would let people ever see his sorrow. His sadness.

Even visiting him in the hospital after a recent overdose, he gave me that smart ass grin of his as I walked in and we just laughed, and I said, “what the heck are we doing here?!?! This isn’t you. You are past this!” We joked and made light of where we were, that this was just an accident, and there were people far worse off- but I was very worried. I knew he was very depressed. You think narcan is some miracle drug, but people don’t realize after you receive this, you are more susceptible to another overdose, and what if you are alone that time? I asked him what is going to happen if he dies, -the lives this will effect. He asked me, “who’s?” He said how depressed he was and he made a mistake. I expressed how upset I was and we needed to make a plan. That we are not going down this road. I thought THIS was one of the worst days of my life. You just never think it’s going to happen to you. And depression is not fixed in a day. There is no way I could have prepared myself for what was about to happen that next week. To be woken up with those words. To know I missed that last phone call.

If there is one thing I have ever tried to tell people after dealing with this for over 10 years, is to not say hurtful things out of anger. To never leave angry. You never know what your last words will be and how they will affect someone. You never know what that person is going through until you are in their shoes. And now it has never held more true. He believed the same and always said wasting time being mad or hurtful and having that much pride is a horrible thing. Living a life of regret and guilt over your own words is NEVER worth it. Disease or not, he always said if it was any other health issue he would be treated with respect. You just never know if you are that last person of the day to push someone over the edge. We need to have more compassion. Addicts are PEOPLE just like you and I, and this should never be forgotten. You can still LOVE someone without enabling them. Don’t even think for a second that they CHOOSE this life. My brother did not CHOOSE this life.

Jeff was — and is — one of the greatest people you will ever meet in your life. As I am one of those who spent their day to day life with Jeff, this was a horrific loss. To walk in the house knowing he won’t be coming in shortly after me. To not have the one person I know was just always there for me and truly cared about me–I’m not sure you could ever describe this kind of pain. I have always said no one lived life more than Jeff. 31 years of his life is more than most people will ever live, but as the words come out of my mouth I am in tears because he was that young and is gone. My only regret in life is that my future family and kids will never meet Jeff, but I will always teach them to live a life as full and loving as Jeff did. I’m pretty sure there is no one on this earth like me and Jeff, and maybe it’s better there’s just one of us now. You always said 2 lanes never made a right. Until we meet again…

 

Tara Lane is a 28 year old who currently lives in Brockton, Massachusetts and works for the National Association of Government Employees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences Degree with a concentration in Corporate Communications, and a minor in Psychology. Her family dealt with the struggles of someone addicted to opiates for a little over 10 years. After his passing, the family had a party in Jeff’s memory rather than a funeral, where all of his family and friends were invited to celebrate his life. The night was filled with videos, slideshows, music and food that he loved. The party included two speakers, the Mayor of Brockton and the President of the Massachusetts  AFL-CIO, who spoke truthfully about addiction and the growing epidemic in this country. Tara and her family plan to continue to share their story to not only educate and raise awareness, but to let other families know that they are not alone in this battle.

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RIP Jeffrey Lane 2/20/1985 – 4/29/2016

 

””

For the Alberts Family One Year After Heroin Stole Your Marc

Marc with his sister Elisa

Marc Alberts

May 11,1989 – June 2,2015

One year ago today a friend I had not seen in years lost her son to heroin. His death was the catalyst for launching this blog with the article Heroin.Stop the Silence. Speak the Truth. Start the Conversation.

In the year since Marc’s death we have watched as the Opioid/Opiate Epidemic has made headlines and CARA has (finally) been passed in DC. Unfortunately, the death toll is still rising and I fear that 2016 may be the deadliest yet. As Washington debates what needs to be done and how much money should be spent to curb this epidemic 129 people are dying each day.

ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE A DAY!

Every one of the 129 souls lost each day leave behind a shattered family who must move forward with a hole in their Universe. Today, I am sending my love to one of those families. Pauline, Elisa and Mike Alberts my thoughts and prayers are with you on this day and every day.❤

Below is a letter written by Marc’s sister Elisa. She never had the chance to give it to him. Elisa chose to share her letter to the  CAASA: Canton Alliance Against Substance Abuse  Facebook page just six weeks after she lost her brother in the hope that her words would help others:

“Here’s a letter I wrote to my brother before his passing. Unfortunately this was one of the several letters I wrote hoping to change his life. I was not able to give it to him because of everything that had occurred. Maybe this will help someone from realizing what their addiction means to their family members.

Dear Marc,
You probably don’t want to read this letter, or talk to me because of my actions toward you lately. I understand your hatred and frustration of living at home with two women who constantly remind you of your mistakes. Even though I have not lived in the shoes of your own, I still try my best to find out where you’re coming from. It’s very difficult to agree and stand by you after this long journey but that doesn’t mean that I’ll ever lose my love for you. Forever we will be family members and I will always remain to be your little sister.

I’m writing to you today to express my feelings and find a way for you to comprehend my anger and sorrow. A few years ago when this all started, I received constant reminders from my friends and people around town that my brother was using drugs. For the first year or so, I did not acknowledge their statements because I was truly afraid to face the consequences. I continuously stood up for you and told off each person I interacted with. I knew my brother the best and other people were not going to tell me what my brother was doing or not doing. Repeatedly I was faced with back to back calls and concerns from loved ones that you had been using one of the worst opiates out there. I sat in my room day after day drowning in tears clueless of what actions I was supposed to take. At that point I knew a friend was not going to bring all this negatively to an end. The first person I had to tell was our mom. I can remember the very first time I had to explain to mom the comments I was hearing. It was one of the hardest moments of my life. I knew that her heart would be broken and that being a single mom she would have no idea which road to head down. My mind was telling me to involve her because I could not handle the pain of losing you when I could have prevented it from happening. 

I want you to take a moment and realize what has taken place the past few years and each moment that you have encountered while being under the influence. No positives have come out of this; all it has been is a list of repetitive negativity. So please just open your eyes and walk into a life full of happiness. I know various things have prevented this all from coming to an end, and that is your family. We haven’t been very supportive, but it’s only because we love you. If we continue to let each day remain the same, there will never be progress. So always know that I’m here to be the best I can be and to help you along the long road, but just DON’T GIVE UP. I can’t live this life worrying about you, and you can’t live your life worrying about yourself. So stand tall with your head held high and make this life more than you ever wanted. Use the plentiful of talent I know you hold within you and let it free to guide you to the most successful and happiest places in the world.

No family is perfect, we argue, we fight. We even stop talking to each other at times, but in the end , family is family… the love will ALWAYS be there.””

This article in the Canton Citizen Devastated by addiction, a grieving sister speaks out was published shortly after Elisa shared the above letter.

In March Elisa posted the following comment to the  CAASA: Canton Alliance Against Substance Abuse  page.

“It’s so nice to see continuous support and interest of helping others on this page. Unfortunately I continue to see negativity about addicts on my newsfeed, but I know that each and every person suffering from this disease is just like everybody else. Let’s stop segregating addicts from people who don’t use drugs. I say with pride that my family including my brother has turned me into who I am today and I am more thankful for that!

I appreciate every one of you who support those who need it the most ❤ “

Keep Shouting Elisa!

Heroin.

Stop the Silence.

Speak the Truth.

Start the Conversation.