Not my kid, not my kid. How many times have I said that in my head and out loud. When the truth was, it is my kid. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a nurse and a mother of a heroin addict. This journey was fast and furious starting with marijuana at age 14 and ending with IV heroin by age 17. I remember early in my nursing career in the ICU caring for overdose patients. The frustration and eventual disdain over IV addicts who we called “repeat offenders”. Fast forward 20 years and here I am — my son is a heroin addict. Throughout his journey, our journey my mantra changed, “At least he’s not doing (fill in the blank).” Unfortunately, it took only 3 short years to get to the point of serious heroin addiction that I ran out of “at least he’s not doing…”
I had my head in the sand for a year before I realized this wasn’t going away and he needed me to be strong – I needed me to be strong. I turned to the internet and forced myself to become versed in the ways and means of drugs and addiction. From webMD to signing up for HC DrugFree. I used Urban Slang to help me understand the acronyms and jargon surrounding drugs and teens. Eventually I started going to Naranon meetings at Shepard Pratt Hospital in Ellicott City on Monday nights at 8 pm where I met a group of courageous, non-judgmental parents and spouses. A gentleman there introduced me to the “3 C’s of addiction: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it”. I would like to add a fourth C – you can’t change it – only the addict can. I finally started opening up about my son’s addiction and found people who were in the same boat or knew of someone whether family or friends who were also addicted. I am not alone.
A nightmare came true when my son OD’d and landed in the ICU where I worked. My embarrassment was palpable. It was at this point I decided to get certified to administer and carry Narcan. I attended a one hour free class at the Howard County Health Department on addiction and administering nasal Narcan to an overdose victim. At the end of this class I received a kit containing two doses of nasal Narcan, a barrier mask for rescue breathing (opioids can cause respiratory depression or severe slowing of breathing), a treatment reference card and a card allowing me to obtain Narcan at the pharmacy counter for 2 years whenever I needed it, without a prescription, at low cost. I used that Narcan to revive my son 5 times in one year. He even carried it himself once in case he needed to revive a friend or vice versa.
Four rehabs later and sending him to live across the country, my son is now shy of 2 years heroin-free. Is this the end of my story? Sadly no, he struggles every day with mental illness and keeping his addiction at bay. I continue to love my son and tell him every chance I get how proud of him I am of his sobriety. I emphasize that I will always support him in his recovery but no longer in his addiction.