To Whom It May Concern – in other words – Everybody,
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?
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.