The name of the mother in this story has been changed to honor her and the family’s privacy.
A while ago, I wrote a blog post about a six month old baby and his mommy. A bright sunny Monday morning when I was called to a home to remove this beautiful baby boy because his mommy was cold and rigid in the other room. By far, the most impactful and life changing day in my life as a child welfare caseworker. I wrote about wanting to hug the family and cry with them, but couldn’t because of my role as their caseworker.
Last week I had the chance to hug them and cry. I finally heard the story of Jane and her family’s journey through her addiction to opiates.
Another crisp but sunny afternoon, I entered the home of Jane’s parents. The home was just as I remembered. Welcoming, warm and cozy. The first thing I saw when I entered the home was the baby. He is two months older now, and has doubled in size. Beautiful blonde hair and big blue eyes. Just like his mommy.
I met with the family. Jane’s parents and brother. I was able to hug them and we smiled at how much the baby had grown. Then we sat on the same couch as before and Jane spoke to us.
Her mom started off with a letter Jane wrote from when she was in rehab. It captured her life story in a few short pages. The daughter of divorced parents, trips to Disney with her dad, step parents, trials and tribulations. Abuse that no one knew about that she endured as a child. Feeling like an outcast as a teenager. And meeting a first love.
She moved across the country and lived a wild amazing life. Later she returned home. She had a baby and talked about how she didn’t think she could love anything more in the entire world than her son. But the father chose a different path and it was not with her and her first child. It broke her heart.
Later on, she met another love interest while bartending. She always had good jobs. Dental assistant, STNA, she worked hard and provided for her first son. But this particular love interest would the the beginning of the end.
Jane was introduced to opiates.
At first, it was a combination of prescriptions from surgeries, accidents, etc. But it made her feel good. It numbed her physical and emotional pain. And soon, the man she loved continued to give her these “feel good pills”. When that wasn’t enough, she turned to the needle.
Initially, her family had no idea. They knew this man was no good for her and warned her about him. But when she would show up for Christmas two hours late and looked sick, they would send her home thinking she had the flu. Her family encouraged her to seek mental health treatment. They thought she was depressed, or maybe even bi-polar. She would see a therapist and a psychiatrist. She was prescribed anti-depressants. Her family watched her get worse. Jane’s mother called her therapist one day begging her to explain what was wrong with Jane. The therapist couldn’t tell her because of HIPPA laws. But she warned Jane’s mom to “get her help”.
Jane started to have legal troubles but it seemed there was always a valid reason. Eventually, she would move back home with her parents. While living there, she would take the car for a quick trip to the store. Several times a day. She would ride her bike to a friend’s in the snow or say she wanted to go out for a beer. Suspicions rose, but no one really knew what she was doing.
Until the first overdose.
She left and went to the store to get food for her and her son. She came back in 15 minutes, so the timing was right. Her son went to his room, upstairs at the grandparents house and mom went to the bathroom. Jane’s mother heard a crash and then a gurgling sound. She ran upstairs, and saw that Jane fell backwards with the sink on top of her. Right in front of her son. Thankfully he didn’t see, his headphones were on. The EMT’s were called and came to revive her. Grandma explained to Jane’s son that mommy was sick. It happened again later on. Her family didn’t know what to think.
Our beautiful Jane. So outgoing and full of life, loved to the fullest. And she’s killing herself.
Soon she was pregnant with her second son. She seemingly started a new life. Until right before Christmas, the father of her second child called and said she overdosed again. She was 7 months pregnant. Everyone thought she was clean. How could she do this to her baby? Jane’s heart was always breaking. And heroin was always there to put the pieces back together.
Eventually she went back to treatment. She wrote a letter titled “Dear Heroin”. It talked about heroin being the devil and consuming her soul. But she was better now, and would never let the devil back in. That was February 2017.
She gave birth to her beautiful baby boy. She completed treatment and was living a sober life for about nine months. But she was still haunted by many things. Men, childhood, loneliness, heart break. Her brain was forever changed because of this drug she used to love. This drug she still loved, but hated at the same time.
She got a new job, a new apartment and was living her life as best she could. Until the day her “old love interest”, the man who introduced her to street opiates, returned. He was released from jail and went straight to her. Jane was lonely so she let him back in her life. He took her out to dinner with her baby. Things were going well. Then that Sunday night, in August, he gave her the devil in a syringe. Jane couldn’t say no. She put it back in her vein and this time it was too much. The devil took her soul.
Through tears and heartache, I listened to this story in depth. Two hours I ached, cried and mourned this family. The day before, I met with a mother who after 12 overdoses in a two year span said “Heroin is the devil. But at this point, even my child is not enough. I know eventually I’m going to die”. That is the hold that this demonic drug takes over the human brain.
Jane would write things in rehab and put them in columns. The last column of everything she would write said three things:
She felt like these were the things she would lose. Her only options in the depth of her addiction.
“We just didn’t know”. Through tears and heartache, it’s what the families tell me. This is the common theme of families in middle class America where heroin steals their family members. They think it’s mental illness, or the flu. They don’t see it coming. They think it can’t happen to them. Until it does.
Jane’s story is just one of thousands. It’s hard to see an end. 64,000 deaths this past year due to opiates. There are so many more stories.
But I also hear the same theme when I talk to families. “We must keep fighting.” “We can’t give up”.
Wars have been lost and won. And I pray with all my might that we can win this war. We must not give up hope. Our new generations count on this. Jane’s children will grow up without a mother. But we must show them when they are older, we fought the good fight and won against the demon that stole their mommy. Something has got to give.