As young moms, when we look at our bright-eyed, sweet babies, few of us can ever imagine them ever being in a bad spot in life. And yet, as you’ve hopefully realized at some point in your parenting journey, none of our kids are immune to the trials of this world. Whether it be because of bad luck, bad circumstances, or bad choices, all of our precious ones are susceptible to the ups and downs of life. And sometimes, the downs are really low, especially when there are drugs involved.
Yesterday I read the story of one mom, Charlene Maycott, on the Love What Matters website and I was inspired to share her story as well. Charlene is the mom of four kids, three boys and a girl. Her two middle daughters, Monica and Melissa, started using drugs together in their teens. Both got hooked on opiates after they were prescribed them for pain; Monica after terrible pain from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Melissa after a bad car accident left her injured. Their mother, however, had no idea that the girls had a problem.
Charlene says that the drugs did more than take away pain for her daughters, especially Monica, who had been bullied at school:
“The pain meds fixed more than the physical pain. She felt her mental anguish feeling better as well. She could cope with the bullies… they didn’t seem to bother her as much. She was in love with that feeling, so when her prescription (which we had been told weren’t addictive in the early years) was gone, she was helping herself to family member’s pills.”
Heroin stealthily enters the picture
Monica graduated high school and became an aesthetician. Her mother was very proud, and had no idea she was using drugs. Then, she entered into an abusive relationship and her boyfriend became her dealer and kept her hooked on drugs. His abuse led the beautiful Monica to also develop an eating disorder. Once she finally was able to leave him and come home, her mom began to suspect she had a problem. Her sister Melissa, now sober herself, found a bag of heroin and Charlene confronted Monica with it. She denied it, screaming, and Charlene believed her.
Looking back, Charlene reflected, “I knew she needed help, but I was thinking that it was the eating disorder. I never knew that she was a drug addict. Was I in denial? Absolutely.”
Soon after Charlene was pulled from her denial and sent her daughter to a rehab program in Florida. She says:
“The day she left to go to rehab was a very hard day for me. I loved my daughter so very much and couldn’t imagine life without her, but when I heard about how much opiates she was on, I knew I had two choices: I could either allow her to go to treatment in Florida and be able to call or video chat with me, OR talk to her gravestone. My heart was broken but there was only one choice, treatment.”
Charlene took a week-long class at the rehab as well, driving from New Jersey to Florida to do so. The result was life-changing for her.
A mom gets serious about fighting heroin
“I drove back to New Jersey with a wealth of education on addiction, ” she says. “I learned her addiction was not my fault, but neither was it hers. Addiction IS a disease. The first use for some is a choice, but for most, it is not. Opiates are given for illnesses, accidents, and operations. The day I came home, I started with a call to our Mayor’s office. ‘We need to do something, our kids are dying in alarming numbers.’ He agreed and gave me the number of a lady that was heading our local Municipal Alliance. I called her and she said that very night was National Night Out and she would love to meet me if I was going. I HAD to get involved. Everyone I met in both the grips of addiction as well as in recovery were the most incredible people I’ve ever met. I would devote my life to Addiction/Recovery if it could possibly make a difference. I joined the Municipal Alliance, went to Nar-Anon twice a week, and spoke out anywhere I could. My belief is that Anonymous Kills. If people are afraid to talk because of the stigma, everyone stays sick.”
While Charlene got involved in fighting addiction in her community, Monica did great in rehab, but a few months later, she got kicked out of her sober living home from testing positive to a sleep aid. “She’s never been able to sleep well, and after several months, she tested positive for Kratam, Charlene explains, “This was a tea that was supposed to relax you and help you sleep.”
Charlene was terrified of Monica coming home, she had been sober 6 months. “I was terrified when she said she was coming and that she was already in South Carolina. I immediately felt dizzy. My heart was racing and I thought I was going to pass out. I hung up and burst into tears. I was hyperventilating I was crying so hard. I truly believed she would die if she came home.”
Heroin interrupts a journey home
She was very nearly correct. Devastated by being booted from her sober living home, Monica stopped at the home of a “friend” on her way home. Though she’d been very proud of never using a needle to take drugs before, this friend shot her up with heroin. It was very nearly the beginning of the end for her.
Fortunately, while Monica was away, Charlene had done something positive in her activism: she took a training on the use of NARCAN to revive those who have overdosed on opiates. Little did she know it would save her own daughter’s life.
Back at home, Monica was given a strict midnight curfew and forbidden to see her ex-boyfriend if she wanted to remain in her parents’ home. At first, things seemed great. But it didn’t last long. Charlene describes the chain of events that took place on one of the worst days of her life:
“On October 27, 2015, our Municipal Alliance was doing a Drug Reality Forum at our high school and Monica said she wanted to go with me. That afternoon, she came down from her room dressed, makeup and hair looking beautiful. I said, ‘Wow, you’re ready early. You look beautiful,’ and the words I was about to hear rocked me to my core. She said, ‘Maggie is going to pick me up… but don’t worry, I am not going to see John.’ My heart sank and I begged her not to go. My premonition was right in front of me. She reassured me she would see me at the high school if not before. That never happened.
Monica was AWOL the entire day. Finally at night, she called her mom and said she’d be a few minutes late for curfew. Charlene told her she was sick and would leave the door unlocked. Monica said, “Feel better Mom, I love you,” and hung up.
The following morning, Charlene woke up and went to check on Monica. “Her door was locked, but I didn’t hear her TV,” she said. “You always hear that when she is home. My heart broke. I just knew she was at HIS house again.”
But she wasn’t. Monica was locked in her room, and locked in a deadly dance with heroin.
Heroin does more than kill
At lunch that day with her son, Charlene got a panicked call from her daughter Melissa, who said, “Please, you have to come home… I’m hearing noises coming out of Monica’s room. I don’t know if he is in there with her, but you have to come home fast.” Charlene raced home, but once again could not get into her daughter’s room. She considered climbing a huge ladder and going in through the window, but it was wet and rainy outside and she was afraid she’d fall and hurt herself.
“If I fell and killed myself,” she stated grimly, “no one could use the Narcan [on Monica].”
With a mother’s strength, Charlene kicked down her daughter’s bedroom door. There she found Monica, “grey and purple. Her fingers were clenched closed and she was struggling to breathe.” Charlene began CPR, yelled for her son to get the Narcan, and her daughter Melissa called 911.
“To our horror,” Charlene says, “we saw her ‘works’ by her bed. This was actually happening. We learned from text messages on her phone that she was messaging someone about how to do it and realized when she stopped answering him after saying she didn’t think it worked, is when she overdosed. That was some 12 hours before.”
An ambulance arrived and whisked Monica to the hospital, where she was placed in the ICU on life support. Doctors told her family that she likely would not live 24 hours. Charlene’s baby girl had suffered a heart attack and a stroke due to the heroin overdose. “She had swelling on her brain, a blood clot in her arm and kidney and liver failure,” Charlene recalls. “Her numbers were so high they were off the chart.”
Monica almost lost one of her legs but it was saved with a risky surgery. If she DID wake up, her mom says, she wanted her to have a chance at having both legs.
There is hope after heroin
By many miracles, Monica survived, and began a long, long road to recovery. Her stroke caused brain damage which meant she had to re-learn how to do simple things like communicate and walk. For awhile, Charlene was afraid Monica did not want to live with her injuries, but eventually getting a new puppy helped her return to the land of the living and gave her a purpose.
Heroin gains an enemy
Now, nearly three years later, Monica still suffers some effects of her heroin overdose, especially struggling with memory problems. Her mom says:
“Monica’s stroke has taken a toll on her memory. When she was in the hospital she didn’t remember driving back from Florida and I had to repeat at least 10 times a day what had happened. She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, we have to tell kids that drugs are no joke – I always thought you overdose and either live or die. I never knew there was a grey area where you could be a quadriplegic, amputee or a vegetable.’ Our family celebrates Monica’s ‘Blessed Day’ every October 28, a kind of 2nd Birthday.”
Nearly three years after her heroin overdose, Monica has joined her mom in the fight against drugs. She and Charlene are now both advocates and public speakers as well as Recovery Coaches with The City of Angels in hospitals giving guidance to those brought in after an overdose or an addiction (drug or alcohol). “I am so very proud of my daughters and every person suffering through the disease of addiction that takes the step to get help. We make ourselves available to try to help both those suffering with SUD (Substance Use Disorder) and their families,” Charlene says.
This family’s road was and fight against drugs was long and hard, but now they are using their experiences to help others find hope and recovery! Parents, be prepared to to FIGHT for your kids’ lives if they become involved with drugs. Start talking to them early about the disastrous effects that even prescription painkillers can have on their future. And never, ever, let yourself suffer from “not my kid” syndrome. ALL of us are susceptible to the disease of addiction.