Post Tribune (Sunday)

Treat­ment brings with new chance

Mother of ad­dict af­ter in­ter­ven­tion: ‘I don’t know why he got into drugs’

- jdavich@post-trib.com Twit­ter @jdavich Bullying · Society · California · A Day in the Life

The first in a se­ries on a Ho­bart man in his 20s who is ad­dicted to heroin and opi­ates and who re­cently en­tered a treat­ment fa­cil­ity af­ter an un­ex­pected in­ter­ven­tion by his fam­ily. He will not be iden­ti­fied un­til his treat­ment is com­pleted.

He was a typ­i­cal kid grow­ing up, play­ing base­ball and bas­ket­ball while earn­ing honor roll grades in school. He was an al­tar boy at church who showed em­pa­thy for oth­ers.

“When he was in kinder­garten and 9/11 hap­pened, he asked if we could send the (vic­tims) money at least once a week,” his mother told me.

He’d visit garage sales in the neigh­bor­hood and re­turn home with gifts for his par­ents. He’d go to the gro­cery store and put items back on shelves that were out of place.

“In fifth grade, he said he wanted to be a lawyer. He kept that fo­cus all the way through se­nior year,” his mother said.

He was sen­ti­men­tal for a teenage boy, sav­ing the flow­ers from his school dances. Be­fore grad­u­at­ing high school, he en­rolled in sum­mer school to take AP classes so he could grad­u­ate with an hon­ors diploma.

His mother gushed about his ado­les­cent ac­com­plish­ments. For the life of her, she can’t fig­ure out why her son is now a heroin ad­dict.

“I don’t know why he got into drugs,” she told me.

I’ve heard this from too many par­ents of ad­dicts, in­clud­ing my own par­ents. With­out know­ing why, they be­come des­per­ate de­tec­tives try­ing to piece to­gether what they felt they must have missed in their child’s life.

When this woman’s son was in fourth grade, he re­turned home from school one day with a book that he read in front of her.

“I asked him what was it about and he said mar­i­juana,” the mother said.

He started smok­ing it in eighth grade, she be­lieves.

Smok­ing pot led to swal­low­ing pills, then ex­per­i­ment­ing with heroin.

“I think he started out of cu­rios­ity and con­tin­ued to cover his feel­ings,” his mother said. “He never liked con­fronta­tion and he al­ways kept his emo­tions to him­self.”

For the last three years, he’s been ad­dicted to heroin and Xanax, his drugs of psy­cho­log­i­cal choice and phys­i­o­log­i­cal de­pen­dence. He has al­ready over­dosed on this dan­ger­ous drug cock­tail.

His mother, like many par­ents of ad­dicts, qui­etly planned his fu­neral ser­vice in her mind. His fam­ily even­tu­ally set up cam­eras in the home to mon­i­tor his ac­tions. They also mon­i­tored his cell­phone, his money and his breath­ing when he slept to make sure he was still alive.

“She was ter­ri­fied she was go­ing to lose her son at any mo­ment,” said Herb Stepher­son, a re­cov­er­ing ad­dict who au­thored the 2017 book “Junkbox Di­aries: A Day in the Life of a Heroin Ad­dict.”

“Mean­while she was los­ing her­self, los­ing her own peace and los­ing her fam­ily a lit­tle more ev­ery day,” Stepher­son said.

About a month ago, af­ter un­suc­cess­fully re­search­ing in­ter­ven­tion agen­cies and treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties for her trou­bled son, the mother con­tacted Stepher­son, di­rec­tor of out­reach at True In­ter­ven­tions, a new or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vid­ing ad­dic­tion in­ter­ven­tion ser­vices. (Go to www.true-in­ter­ven­tions.com.)

“I didn’t know what else to do,” she told me, get­ting emo­tional re­call­ing her feel­ings.

Par­ents in her fran­tic sit­u­a­tion can feel vul­ner­a­ble, not know­ing where to turn for an­swers, they’ve told me.

“The worst thing that can hap­pen to a par­ent like me is to of­fer us hope and then not fol­low through,” said the mother of an ad­dict who died last year.

That mother had been dis­ap­pointed by an­other in­ter­ven­tion agency promis­ing her son’s re­cov­ery, only to lose him to the death grip of drug ad­dic­tion, she told me.

Par­ents and loved ones of an ad­dict need to keep this sober­ing pos­si­bil­ity in mind while scram­bling for help or ad­vice. The mother of the ad­dict from Ho­bart knows this, yet she eagerly shared her trust with True In­ter­ven­tions.

Stepher­son spent hours on the phone with the mother, get­ting to know her son’s long­time bat­tle with ad­dic­tion and his fam­ily dy­nam­ics. Stepher­son told her that an out­side pres­ence, such as an ob­jec­tive pro­fes­sional, could bring needed in­sight to their sit­u­a­tion.

True In­ter­ven­tions per­son­nel of­fered their ex­per­tise, in­clud­ing in­ter­ven­tion co­or­di­na­tor Heidi Besse, one of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s na­tion­ally cer­ti­fied fam­ily re­cov­ery coaches. (One of their coaches, Jim Reidy, will be on the TV show “In­ter­ven­tion,” on A&E, later this month.)

“Ev­ery­one I spoke with was thought­ful and thor­ough, es­pe­cially Heidi,” the mother said. “Their plan for an in­ter­ven­tion for my son was very well thought out and metic­u­lously pre­pared. Even the seat­ing ar­range­ments were pre­pared for us.”

Last month, on a Fri­day af­ter­noon, True In­ter­ven­tions staff con­ducted the in­ter­ven­tion, ad­dress­ing code­pen­dency is­sues, ma­nip­u­la­tion ex­pec­ta­tions, the trou­bles of en­abling an ad­dict and other fac­tors the Ho­bart fam­ily had been fac­ing.

“Things moved so quickly,” the mother said af­ter­ward.

Eight fam­ily mem­bers read per­sonal let­ters to him.

“Within two hours we were able to pow­er­fully im­pact him enough to ac­cept the pre­cious gift of re­cov­ery,” Stepher­son said.

True In­ter­ven­tions staff helped book him a flight to an ap­proved treat­ment fa­cil­ity in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. His fa­ther took him to the Chicago air­port to catch his flight to a new chance in life.

“We are pray­ing he will be there 60 days or more,” his mother said.

A group cell­phone text string was cre­ated so each fam­ily mem­ber can be on the same page with their loved one in the treat­ment fa­cil­ity.

“And so he can’t ma­nip­u­late us in­di­vid­u­ally,” the mother said. “There’s no way we could have done all that on our own.”

True In­ter­ven­tions’ cost for such an in­ter­ven­tion be­gins at $4,800.

“But we have never let money get in the way of an in­ter­ven­tion,” Stepher­son said.

I asked the mother if that steep cost is worth her son’s new re­cov­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“Ab­so­lutely,” she replied. “The in­ter­ven­tion took away my wor­ries. For now.”

 ?? Jerry Davich ??
Jerry Davich
 ?? BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP ?? An ad­dict pre­pares heroin, plac­ing a fen­tanyl test strip into the mix­ing con­tainer to check for con­tam­i­na­tion.
BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP An ad­dict pre­pares heroin, plac­ing a fen­tanyl test strip into the mix­ing con­tainer to check for con­tam­i­na­tion.

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