The Gravity of the Opioid Epidemic - Part 5: A Mother's Perspective Continued

    “Although you think this can’t happen to you, it can.  I was a very involved parent.  My daughter and I always talked.  I even worked with her.  I knew all of her friends.  I knew the parents of most of her friends.  I made sure she was involved in activities growing up.  I made sure I taught her good values, and I taught her never to use drugs.  But, there is a point when the outside influences in life can overwhelm everything good you have done.  And, although you set a good foundation for you child, the power of drugs outweighs all else.” These are the words from our contributor, Michelle McDermott, a mother who has been through something that no parent ever wants to experience.  This is a continuation of her perspective on the opioid epidemic…

    When we left off last week, Jasmine had made the decision, much to her mother, Michelle McDermott’s devastation, to leave home.  What would follow would be a continuation of the emotional roller coaster ride Michelle had shockingly and involuntarily found herself on before.   Jasmine began hopping from one friend’s house to the next as Michelle helplessly waited for any communication or sign of life.  “There would be weeks that I would not hear from her at all,” Michelle says. “I had no idea if she was alive or dead.”  While Michelle waited, she spent all of her time doing research on opioid addiction, heroin, and the effects it can have.  “I talked to anyone and everyone I knew who had experience with addiction, and I simply waited for my daughter to let me know she was alive,” she says.

    Jasmine eventually moved in with a friend who she claimed was more stable.  A couple of months later, Michelle learned the truth—she had moved in with her dealer.  While living there, Jasmine learned how to shoot up, and things began to get even worse.  Not long after, Jasmine’s boyfriend had been caught stealing from his employer, and chose to check in to a rehab in Florida to avoid having charges filed.  “I was hopeful that Jasmine would run out of help and go to rehab herself,” Michelle says. “Instead, she used more and feel deeper into her hole of despair.”

    When Jasmine’s boyfriend arrived back home, he began communicating with Michelle, begging her to get Jasmine some help.  “By this point, I had become very aware of Jasmine’s ability to manipulate,” Michelle says.  “I knew whatever she was telling him was not what was happening, or he would’ve known that I had been trying to help her the whole time.”  Soon, Michelle was able to convince Jasmine to give rehab another try.  She dropped Jasmine off with a bag full of paraphernalia to be disposed of, and managed to get 2 days of rest before Jasmine walked out of rehab and caught a ride back to Pittsburgh.

    “Following the advice of the counselor from rehab, I told Jasmine I could never have contact with her as long as she was using drugs,” Michelle says.  However, this did not feel like the right solution for her.  “After some time passed, I realized that this was not realistic.  I was not the type of person to forget Jasmine existed, and as long as I had her on this earth and there was a chance she would get better, I wanted to be in contact,” she says.

    After six months of infrequent and disturbing contact, Michelle received a text message informing her that Jasmine had been arrested.  Michelle agreed to pay for a lawyer as long as Jasmine went to rehab.  After a few days, Jasmine agreed to Michelle’s terms. “I wrote to Jasmine every day while she was in treatment,” Michelle says, “and every time she called I was more impressed with her.”  Jasmine began to gain back weight she had lost, and regained her healthy glow.  “My husband and I went to see her for a family visit, and we were amazed at the person we saw,” she says.

    When Jasmine finished her inpatient rehab program, she returned to her parents’ home, and for four amazing months, lived in sobriety.  During these months, Michelle and Jasmine did a great deal of bonding and healing.  She was the one person Jasmine felt comfortable enough to confide in regarding her inner demons.  “I asked her why she would even try illegal drugs after everything we had taught her,” Michelle says. “Basically, she got in with the wrong group of people, and they minimized it.”  They made heroin use seem manageable, and nonthreatening.  It opened Michelle’s eyes to the fact that despite a childhood filled with love, morals, and lessons both taught and learned, peer pressure can still reign supreme.

    Michelle and Jasmine also talked a lot about Jasmine’s fear of relapse and dying, and her plans for the future.  Jasmine continued with daily outpatient meetings, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings each night.  “She was working on herself, and she wanted to get better more than anything in the world,” Michelle says. “She not only gave herself and myself hope, but she gave others in her program hope as well.”

    Soon enough, the feeling of ‘too good to be true’ became reality as their insurance stopped paying for Jasmine’s outpatient rehab treatments.  Fearing a relapse would follow, they begged and pleaded for more time.  “The people working at her rehab were amazing, and fought each day to try to get more care for Jasmine,” Michelle says, “but we were ultimately denied.”  In an attempt to overcome this hurdle, Jasmine got a job and continued to attend daily NA meetings.  Then…she relapsed.

    “She made a classic mistake in thinking she could handle a drink,” Michelle says. “One drink led to two, and before she knew it she was driving back to Pittsburgh to use.”  She returned in less than 24 hours, but the damage had been done.  In one fail swoop, her four months of sobriety were gone.  “Jasmine tried to come home and stay sober, but she could not forgive herself,” Michelle says. “Her mind was playing horrible games with her.”

    Understandably, Michelle was heartbroken.  However, being on this ride with Jasmine was also teaching her things about herself that she needed to work on too.  “Having learned repeatedly that I can only control myself, I decided to focus on fixing my issues with co-dependency,” Michelle says. “I had to find a way to love Jasmine without being hurt by her addiction.”  Unfortunately, Michelle would not have much time to sharpen this skill.  Much too soon, and at far too young an age, Jasmine would relapse for the final time, losing her life in a cheap and lonely hotel room.  Michelle would discover this horrifying news through a very cold phone conversation only days after their home had experienced devastating flood damage.  In a matter of days, Michelle had lost just about everything.

    “I am still rebuilding myself.  I will never be the same because my biggest loss was my daughter.  I can never see her smile or hear her laugh.  I will never hear her sing to me.  Worst of all, I will never hear her say those words that always made me smile—‘I love you, Mama,’” Michelle reflects.

    “The reason I am speaking out about my experience is because Jasmine wanted to do this, but she is not able to,” Michelle says.  “Another is, I want people who are affected by addiction to know they are not alone.  I spent years feeling alone and afraid of judgement.  I have suffered the ultimate loss, and I no longer care if I am judged by others.”

    Michelle finds strength in her daughter’s memory and spirit to share her experience in hopes that she may help others going through the same ordeal.  Understanding the disease of addiction and ceasing judgment upon those who are battling it are two of the most important steps we can take in overcoming this epidemic.  “I have witnessed the struggle that an addict goes through to not use, and it is a daily, minute-by-minute and sometimes even second-by-second struggle,” she says.  “It pervades every facet of their life, and the mental aspect is overwhelming.”  She doesn’t claim to be an expert, but she knows for certain that she has a better understanding now than she ever had before.  “It is easy to understand a disease you can see…a disease of the mind is a lot harder to understand, but that lack of understanding does not mean the disease does not exist.”

    “I beg you to please heed my words when I say it can happen to you,” Michelle says. “I did not listen to that advice, and I will forever pay the price.”

    If you, or someone you know needs help in finding a treatment facility for drug or alcohol addiction, call this helpline for 24/7 access to specialists who are on call to answer your questions and provide nonjudgmental guidance – (888) 610-5623

    Author’s Note

    This blog series has been the deepest project I have done in my blogging role thus far.  I think that what resonates the most with me is that once the idea was formed, it was amazingly easy to develop multiple themes and weeks out of it, as well as find multiple people who were willing to collaborate and contribute.  In a matter of minutes, I had secured interviews with 3 friends of mine who were somehow directly linked to this epidemic.  The idea for Michelle’s interview came a couple of days later, after I had witnessed her speaking at a Town Hall event in our hometown.  It shouldn’t be this easy to find so many people in so many different professions who are so deeply and directly affected by this devastating epidemic…but it is.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to this series for their candid and deeply personal input.  Without your voices, it would not have been possible.

    It’s time we stop turning a blind eye to what is happening in our communities.  Obviously whatever we have been doing for the last decade isn’t working, and it’s time for a serious change.  This change begins with me and with you.  Are you ready?

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    Author: Michelle Adams


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