It’s been well established over the past couple of years that heroin addiction and the opioid crisis are REAL, and affecting people of every race, economic status, and religion. Many loving, involved parents from successful middle class homes are stunned when they learn (often too late) that their teenage or young adult children are heroin addicts. They never, ever thought it could happen to their child. Star athletes and straight-A students are seemingly just as susceptible to heroin and opioid addiction as are those in typical “at risk” categories.
No mom knows this better than Susan Jacobs.
In a heartbreaking essay for Facing Addiction published on April 24, 2018, Jacobs tells of her 19-year-old son Samuel’s battle with heroin addiction.
Jacobs’ story broke my heart, and it should break ALL our hearts. She begins,
I’m writing to tell you about the loss of my only son to a heroin/fentanyl overdose. Samuel was just 19 years old when he died.
In February of 2015, Samuel made a phone call to his big sister asking her for help. You see, he loved me so much that he couldn’t bear to hurt me by telling me himself. That day in February, Sam was home with me, sleeping. I came home and noticed my daughter’s car at my house. This was unusual for a Tuesday. I thought to myself “ What a nice surprise!”
But when I came through my front door, it was a moment I’ll never forget. The look my children gave me was so sad and serious. I thought someone died.
This was they day Jacobs was blindsided by the news that her beloved son, who she thought was doing great, was addicted to heroin. He had reached out to his older sister for help. Jacobs recounts how the family quickly sprang into action to save their son.
We immediately started making phone calls, trying to get him into a treatment center as soon as possible. My daughter wanted to take Samuel home to her house in hopes of getting him away from his source. We also immediately changed his cell phone number in hopes of taking away his source for heroin.
We checked him into a treatment center the following Monday. He could only stay for 30 days. He seemed to be doing great, but we did get him a prescription for Vivitrol, the shot that blocks heroin’s effects. It wasn’t necessarily for prevention, but so he’d be safe if he should suffer a relapse.
When Jacobs says “he could only stay for 30 days,” I am *guessing* that is because of health insurance restrictions, but I am not sure. All I know is that addiction rehabilitation is SO expensive, and it’s a crime that heroin addiction is claiming more victims simply because they can’t afford the amount of treatment they need. Nevertheless, Jacobs goes on to say the family felt positive about Samuel’s progress after he got out of the treatment center.
Upon his release from the center, we had decided and Samuel agreed to live with his sister, go to meetings and get a job, as well as enroll in college. He accomplished all of this within a two-month period.
Things were going very well for Samuel. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Little did we know, he was still struggling.
That’s the problem with addiction: we’ve placed so much STIGMA on it as a society, making little allowance for what STARTS as one bad choice soon becomes less of a choice and more of a struggle with a permanently altered brain chemistry. Then, we don’t allow them enough time and resources to recover — not unless they can afford it, apparently. Devastated to let his family down again, and no doubt fueled by guilt and shame, Samuel hid his continued struggles from them. The result was beyond tragic. Samuel’s mom tells about the worst day of her life, the day she lost her son:
I’ll never forget June 19, 2015. That’s the day I got the call from my daughter, saying that Samuel wasn’t breathing. Samuel had been working the early morning shift. He came home and laid down on his bed for a nap.
My daughter yelled, “Hey, Sammikins! You going to sleep all day?” There was no response. She immediately started CPR and called 911. He didn’t make it.
Our lives are forever changed. Samuel was smart, caring, and handsome. I could go on and on. He was always a great student. He played lacrosse. He came from a very loving family.
I miss my son all the time. I stop at the cemetery often, on my commute to work. I survive because of my faith and strong support of my friends and family. I still struggle every day because I miss my only son.
Though she can’t have Samuel back, Jacobs is now on a mission to use Samuel’s memory to help spare other families the pain hers has suffered. Let’s not ignore this grieving mom’s messages.
Here’s what she says she wishes she had known about heroin addiction treatment, and what she wants all other parents to know:
I wish I had known that addiction treatment takes a lot longer than just 30 days. I wish that my daughter didn’t have to find her little brother, who she loved dearly, dead from an overdose.
I’ve learned that there are a whole lot of lives lost every day to heroin. I’ve learned just how powerful heroin is and how very hard it is to get out of active addiction. I’ve learned that anyone could easily develop substance use disorder: addiction doesn’t discriminate.
I wish that people could get help for their addiction immediately. I wish that our government would do much more to help people.
I want to help others by telling my story. What helps me keep going is that I know it would hurt my son so much to see how his mom hurts every day. My life is forever changed and will never be the same. I’m a different person without Samuel. I’m a grandmother now, and I’m still a mom for my daughter.
I don’t have a choice: I have to keep going. I pray that this story helps others.
Fellow parents, let’s not let Samuel’s death, or Jacob’s words — be in vain. Let’s share her story to a) spread the word that we need BETTER treatment options for those in the throes of heroin addiction and opioid addiction and b) to END THE STIGMA against those struggling. These people in reality, are OUR children, husbands, wives, co-workers, brothers, sisters, and friends. And NONE of us is immune.