Being a parent isn’t something you fully understand or appreciate until you are one. From what I’ve been told, it can be the most exciting, yet frightening time of your life. The most rewarding, and at times, the most heartbreaking. There’s not one correct way to do it, and a manual doesn’t show up at your door the day you bring your infant home from the hospital. You try your best to raise your tiny human into a decent person with good morals, but apprehension and second-guessing are always a part of the package. To see your child happy and successful can be one of the greatest rewards life has to offer…but to see your child hurting and in trouble might just be one of the worst forms of torture any parent could endure. To see them struggling through something as devastating and brutal as opioid addiction is pure hell. When looking at the addicts involved in the opioid epidemic, one thing we should never forget is that each person battling addiction is someone’s son or daughter, and behind many of them is a parent who is living in agony, praying for the day when their baby will recover.
Amazing, intelligent, talented, kind, loving, and beautiful are just some of the ways that Michelle McDermott describes her daughter, Jasmine. For anyone who knew Jasmine personally, they would whole heartedly agree. This was not just a mother’s bias and blind adoration—this was Jasmine. Jasmine’s story starts out the way many addicts’ do, and there’s really only one person who can tell it best. This is a mother’s perspective…
“If anyone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be writing this, I would have looked at them like they were insane,” Michelle says. She describes her daughter’s journey with addiction beginning at the age of 17 when she began using Adderall. Prescription drug abuse combined with a bad high school break-up was a treacherous formula for Jasmine. “We had no idea she was taking prescription drugs that were not intended for her,” Michelle says, “And it greatly affected her mental state, to the point that she admitted herself to the hospital for an evaluation.”
Soon after the hospital stay, Jasmine began to clean up, but the wounds from her first serious heartbreak were still fresh. As a recent high school graduate navigating the working world, Jasmine accepted a position as an intern at her mother’s office, and moved out of her parents’ house. The physical and emotional pain she was going through, along with new life changes, left her vulnerable and naïve. When she began dating a new boyfriend, not much time later, his remedy of prescription opioids made the Adderall look like after dinner mints. “I do not blame him for it as I know at this point my daughter made her own choices, but nonetheless this is how she was introduced to the drug.” Michelle says. As many prescription opioid addicts discover, the cost of funding such a habit often becomes too cumbersome to bear, and that’s when heroin becomes the alternative of choice. For Jasmine, this was no different.
However, to think that all of this completely stemmed from teenage romance gone awry does not do Jasmine’s story justice. In reality, there were bigger underlying factors. “For the most part, Jasmine was a happy person, but at times she would get depressed,” Michelle reflects. “Being a bi-racial girl in a small town, she never felt like she fully fit in with everyone else.” Feeling as though she was never fully accepted, Jasmine was no stranger to feelings of loneliness, confusion, and isolation. “In essence, Jasmine had her troubles prior to any drug use,” Michelle says, “so, when she discovered how great drugs made her feel, she really embraced that feeling.”
As Jasmine’s addiction to opiates began, Michelle was left in the dark, despite having frequent contact. “Although we were no longer living together, I saw her every day at work,” Michelle says. Looking back, the beginning warning signs and red flags were there, but when you’re under the impression that your child has recovered, you may not expect that the absolute worst could be happening in your midst. Jasmine began disappearing into the restroom at work, for what became longer periods of time and more frequent trips. “We thought she was playing on her phone,” Michelle explains. “There was nothing else odd about Jasmine’s behavior or her work.”
Not long after, these red flags began waving more aggressively, and Michelle began to get suspicious. She was missing days at work, and providing excuses that just didn’t add up. “When I questioned her on it, she acted like I was crazy and couldn’t understand why I didn’t believe her,” Michelle says, “but what are your options when you have an adult who no longer lives with you? You can’t force someone to see a doctor.” Eventually, something had to give, and if Michelle wanted to keep her job, she had no choice but to ask Jasmine to find another one. “This was incredibly difficult for me, as I knew that would decrease the amount of time I spent with her drastically,” she says.
After many cancelled plans, and many convincing explanations from Jasmine, Michelle finally learned the truth one day in September 2014 when Jasmine’s boyfriend sent her what she describes as “one of the worst text messages I would ever receive.” He told Michelle that Jasmine had been using heroin for close to a year, and he thought it was time she knew. He also informed her that he and Jasmine needed to separate, due to how toxic their relationship had become. Within a few hours, Jasmine returned to her parents’ home.
What would follow would be a heartbreaking and confusing period of navigating addiction, recovery, and rehab options. “I begged her to go to rehab, but she refused,” Michelle says. She opted to try detoxing at home, but within a week she had gone back to Pittsburgh to use again. After an ultimatum was given, Jasmine finally agreed to give rehab a chance. However, Jasmine was exceptionally good at changing her mother’s mind. “She was so convincing that this rehab was more harmful than helpful, I agreed and went to pick her up,” Michelle says.
When another stint with at-home rehab failed, Jasmine was presented with another choice—return to inpatient rehab, or leave. Much to her parents’ devastation, she chose to leave. “Had I known at that point that I was dealing with a person who was incapable of being reasonable and rational, I might have made a different offer,” Michelle says, “but at that point, I was doing what I thought was best.”
When you have a child suffering through addiction, what really is best? There are so many options, and it may feel nearly impossible to pick the right one, or make the right choice, when all you want is for your child to recover. This is something that Michelle would continue to struggle with as she, hopelessly at times, tried to help her daughter.
This is not where their story ends. To be continued…
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