Post Tribune (Sunday)
Treatment brings with new chance
Mother of addict after intervention: ‘I don’t know why he got into drugs’
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.”