EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories concerning the opioid crisis that our communities are facing, presented as a cooperative effort of The Ledger Independent, WFTM Radio and Comprehend, Inc. Today’s story deals with a portion of the crisis that is perhaps most tragic — parents who have fallen victim to addiction and can no longercare for their children.)
(NOTE: The name in the following story has been changed in order to protect the privacy of this family.)
Mary, a local woman who has three children and now in her thirties, has been using drugs for more than a decade. Two of her children are adults and one is expecting her own child soon. Mary’s youngest child was recently removed from the home and placed in foster care.
On the night before leaving for her court ordered rehabilitation, Mary took some time to reflect on how addiction to drugs and the eventual loss of her daughter led her to where she is today.
At the age of 19, Mary was in a car accident that broke her neck. Because of the severeness of her injuries and the resulting pain, doctors began to prescribe her narcotics to help.
“They gave me oxycodone,” she said. “I was 19 and taking high dosages of it. Instead of lowering it to get me off, they kept upping the dosages.”
According to Mary, the dosages were too much and she began to get addicted. Eventually, she tried to take Subutex in order to help get her off the opioids.
“I was convinced to try the Subutex to try to help me,” she said. “I was addicted to those. I was finally able to get off everything after awhile.”
But Mary was unable to stay away from others using opioids.
“We had someone come stay with us and she was on some stuff,” Mary said. “I was worried about her, the withdraw was really bad. I wasn’t really thinking about it, and I started picking up the stuff for her, just trying to help her out.”
Eventually, Mary began taking the Subutex again. While using it, she was offered something stronger.
“I was still taking the Subutex,” she said. “We went to a friend’s house and he was using methamphetamine. He kept trying to get me to try it and said ‘no, I don’t want to get hooked on that stuff’ but he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Mary said her friend kept pushing her to take the methamphetamine, even promising to make sure she ‘didn’t get too addicted’ and he would help her ‘to get off the drugs if it got too bad.’
“So, I tried it,” she said. “I hate it, but addiction is strong. I already have a bad anxiety disorder. Some people have panic attacks where they can’t breath or they rock back and forth. I pick. I pick at my arms or my face when I’m anxious, scared or nervous. When I started taking the meth, it only got worse.”
According to Mary, things began to worsen recently, when Social Services paid a visit to her home.
“There was a case that had been opened a year ago,” she said. “It was supposed to have been closed, but they kept making home visits. One day, they came in and they found some aluminum foil in the trash can. They had a report on our household and they told me they were putting her in foster care.”
Mary said it shattered her world.
“I was devastated,” she said. “My children mean everything to me. I miss her everyday. I was able to see her for about two hours a few days ago. I was allowed to surprise her at the bus stop. We all went to the park together and had so much fun. I want to get better for her and for myself.”
After losing her daughter, Mary had to make court visits for updates on her progress. During one visit, Casey’s Law was filed on her, effectively forcing her into rehabilitation.
“I was already looking at rehabs,” she said. “I had a list of about 42 I was considering and then Casey’s Law was filed on me and I have to go.”
According to Mary, she will be going to rehabilitation for about six months. From there, she hopes to return home and never use drugs again.
“My biggest regret is never saying no,’ she said. “I wish I had never started. Before the opioids, I’d never done anything worse than smoking marijuana sometimes. I wasn’t one of those partying people who go out all the time. I was married and I never used while I was pregnant. All of this started after I had my kids. When I get home later this year, I want to be clean and I want to work to get my daughter back.”
Mary said her advice to anyone, especially mothers, who are using drugs is to try to stop.
“It will ruin your life,” she said. “If you’re using, you need to get help and stop. Try to get off the drugs and if you’ve never used and someone tries to get you to try it, say ‘no.’”