The opioid epidemic, characterized chiefly by heroin and fentanyl abuse, is at an all-time high in our country.
Unfortunately, nowhere is it more devastating or prevalent than in my home town of Dayton, Ohio. My county, Montgomery County, is #1 in the U.S for deaths by opioid overdose. This is the main reason national news agencies visit our city these days, and it is heartbreaking. The heroin epidemic has overwhelmed our coroner’s office, our hospital NICUs and our foster care system. I have seen first-hand the effect this epidemic is having on families, on little children, in my community.
So when I read an article entitled “Mom’s Dead. Not Sure If Anyone Told You,” I was actually surprised that it had not been written by someone here in Ohio, but by Rebekah Christofi for the New Bedford Guide, in Massachusetts.
But like I said, the epidemic is NATION-wide, not just in Ohio.
In the chilling article, Christofi describes how she learned of her mother’s death by heroin overdose.
“Mom’s dead. Not sure if anyone told you.”
This is the message I woke up to from my brother at 6AM on a work day. For a second, I thought he was joking. For about five seconds, I felt relief. Then, I had to sit down because I felt emotions that I don’t have any names for.”
Christofi then goes on to describe her chaotic childhood as the daughter of addicts, saying, “Growing up in a house where every adult was high and strangers lived in every room makes me oddly comfortable in chaos. Violence, hunger, fear and uncertainty were also guests in that “hotel,” as our neighbor used to call it, but I was never permitted to own that reality. Everything had to be a secret.”
She says as an adult she feels an unquenchable thirst for peace. She is attracted to things like yoga, meditation, and church. Yet peace always eludes her.
And then Christofi turns to describe the childhoods of little girls who are now, in this current heroin epidemic, living the life she once did.
“There are little girls who are too tired for 5th grade because they have to wake up in the middle of the night and make bottles for their screaming, newborn brother. They can’t do their homework because they have to push a stool up to the stove to try and make some kind of dinner for their younger siblings. They have stopped seeing the point in playing with their dolls and pretend dishes.”
And it was perhaps that part of the article, moms and dads, that spoke to the the most.
I am 39 years old, and have never done drugs. In all likelihood, my children, aged 13, 10, and 6, will continue to grow up with a mom who is as sober as a stone.
But my grandchildren surely might not, unless I start talking to my kids now about NOT doing drugs.
For most opioid addicts today, it starts with something prescribed. I have heard a friend describe a loved one’s descent into addiction as a teen after he loved the way Vicodin made him feel after he got his wisdom teeth out. My own husband had a bad accident at 18 and had Percocet (rightly) prescribed for the intense pain his injury caused, and he recalls the high he got from it. He loved it. It is by the grace of God that he didn’t chase it down.
It is time to get real with your kids about opioids, legal and not, ESPECIALLY if they are in a situation where they are prescribed these painkillers. (I pray my kids are tough because if they get their wisdom teeth out under my roof I am just going to request the giant Motrin Rx.) Talk to them BEFORE the situation arises, so they know they can talk to you WHEN it arises. Be their safe place, their out, the haven they will run to if and when they think they might be in over their heads or even when they just feel TEMPTED.
Like I said, my oldest is only 13. But with statistics like these, with an opioid crisis that is only growing, I’m already thinking about how to keep my grandchildren from suffering a childhood like Ms. Christofi’s, from a text message that announces the thing she always knew was coming, from the peace that eludes her, from being haunted by a childhood that was anything but.
Please join me in being PROACTIVE with your kids. For the sake of theirs.