"It can be anybody, your mother, your sister, or your brother. It’s somebody’s somebody, and we should always remember that."

I’m originally from Philly and migrated to Delaware County when I met my son’s father. My mother died when I was three years old and my father died when I was 10, causing me to be raised by my half-sister, it wasn’t the easiest childhood. I moved out on my own as soon as I turned 18.

It wasn’t until I became a married adult, with children of my own, that I realized my father was an alcoholic. I remember my father drinking highballs at night, but I don’t remember him ever being drunk; I was too little to know. I’ve been married three times, been divorced twice, and widowed once. My third husband had a lot of issues with alcohol and struggled a lot with it. Addiction has played a large role in my family. One of my kids, Kevin, is currently in recovery.

Kevin is somebody who would literally give the shirt off his back to someone if they needed it. He works hard and cares a lot about others. Kids and animals are really drawn to him because he just has this particular loving aura about him.

That changed when he began using heroin. I believe addiction has a hereditary component to it, and it played a large role in Kevin’s use. Another big aspect was Kevin’s anxiety, which I think was exacerbated by my deceased husband’s progressive alcoholism.

Kevin began having drug issues about ten years ago. For much of his life, I was a single parent and worked three jobs so I’m not too sure when he started exactly. I first realized it was a problem when his girlfriend barred him from living with her. He was using painkillers recreationally, and she wanted no part of it; she had a daughter to raise. He wound up living with me, and that’s when things went downhill.

He was drinking often and using a lot of drugs. He developed a temper, and it was like walking on egg shells when you were around him. You never knew what would set him off. He was either high, trying to get high, or coming down. It was as if I was living with different people. He did horrible things, like selling a pocket watch I bought and engraved for him on his 21st birthday. He hawked it for 30 dollars, and did the same with most of his other possessions. About seven years ago, I came out of a coma, and he visited me in the hospital. I let him hawk my engagement ring because I couldn’t stand to see him so sick.

At times, I felt that I was responsible for what Kevin was going through. I felt that I did something wrong and failed as a mother; that maybe I worked too much, and if I was present, it could have been prevented. I began researching drug addiction more, and through that, learned that I’m not responsible for his addiction. All I can do now is be there for him, which is what I’m doing.

I’ve seen Kevin through six different rehabs. It gets harder every single time, because you constantly have the questions in your head of “Is this one going to work?  Is this going be another waste of time?” He’s missed several major events, like my birthdays, due to being in rehab. It was difficult living with Kevin, but I wasn’t going to push him out onto the streets.

I wasn’t really looking to help myself, I was mostly concerned for Kevin. It was difficult seeing Kevin grow distant from his brother because they had been so close growing up, on top of all the other problems. Addiction is just something that really hurts the whole family.

Fortunately, Kevin made a lot of progress in his most recent stay in rehab. I think he finally got to a point where he couldn’t live the way he was living anymore. I’m just thrilled that he’s doing well. Since he’s come back, we’ve grown a lot closer, and he’s regained my trust. I no longer sleep with my wallet in my pillow case. He’s also reconnected with his brother and father again.

While he’s revived these relationships, he had to end others. He stopped speaking with his best friend due to his heavy use; Kevin doesn’t want to be around it. I recently moved to Missouri, and one of the main reasons for doing so, was that I didn’t want to hurt Kevin’s recovery. I felt that he leaned on me a bit too much and needed to do more for himself. He’s started spending time with an old girlfriend who used, and it makes me anxious that they may start up again. It also makes me anxious to think that Kevin might be prescribed opioids and may fall off the wagon because of it. The fear just never really goes away.

My advice for other parents going through this, is to be tough with your kids; don’t enable them. Keep an eye on your prescriptions because doctors have been prescribing way too much of these painkillers. Do what you can to learn about addiction. Learn about the different treatment options that are available so that you can help your kids find the treatment they need, whether it be suboxone, methadone, or just going cold turkey. Also know, that your child probably won’t recover in rehab after only thirty days. People need to be in treatment for at least 90 days to face their addiction adequately.

I also think there needs to be more support services for people coming out of rehab programs to help them stay sober. For Kevin, I think the methadone program he’s in has been very helpful. Kevin’s also involved with the Power Plus program at Montgomery County Community College, and I think it’s played a large role in helping him stay sober as well.

Kevin has grown a lot through these services, and he is now meeting his potential. It’s still sad to see so many young people dying because of this though. One of Kevin’s friends recently overdosed and it felt like I had personally lost a child. It could have most definitely been my own child; or anyone else’s for that matter.

This is why I am sharing my story, because there needs be more resources, awareness, and compassion for people struggling through addiction. They should be given a chance to change their life for the better. It’s just sad because a lot of people never get that chance and stay the same in their substance use disorder.

They’re not weak or bad, they just took a wrong path. They are people with feelings and pain going through something that they can’t cope with. It can be anybody, your mother, your sister, or your brother. It’s somebody’s somebody, and we should always remember that.

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