The headline that started it all read: 11-year-old overdosed on fentanyl laced heroin
What? Surely that’s a misprint! Unless his junkie parents left it laying out…
I read the article twice because I knew I must have missed something the first time. But, no. The headline was accurate, and the kid’s professional, educated parents were devastated.
How do you not know that your kid is hooked on heroin? Surely those parents were somehow to blame.
But what if they weren’t?
I remember the exact date because it was the day before my little boy’s 10th birthday. And I remember exactly where I was because we had stayed up late belly laughing and getting our Amazon Alexa to make fart noises.
He’d fallen asleep in my bed and I left him there because, well, he’s my little boy.
My little boy. My baby.
And only one year younger than the dead kid that was hooked on heroin.
That was a little over a year ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
How does a kid even get his hands on drugs? How did the parents not see the signs? What even are the signs? Would I know? Could my baby boy get it? Could this happen to us?
I’m not naïve enough to think Vicksburg is drug free. I know a few people who’ve gotten mixed-up in drugs. I’m on Facebook. I keep up.
But I’d never before thought about it in terms of my own child. It was never that relevant to me before. It was always somebody else or someone else’s kid.
And once I saw it in (literally) black-and-white, I couldn’t un-see it.
Is it possible for my beautiful, funny little boy to be the next headline?
It consumed me, and I knew I had to get some answers to some very tough questions. Surely there was something I could do.
But what if there’s not?
As uncomfortable and scary as it was, I began reaching out to people “in the know”. My original goal was simple and selfish: find out enough to be able to protect my son.
Everyone’s experiences were unique, but all of the stories had one heartbreaking detail in common. Nobody plans on being a dope addict.
My dear friend never dreamed her little girl would grow up to have a mug shot and a stint in rehab, and her daughter certainly didn’t plan on being separated from her own little boy.
Just ask Micki May and Ralyn Lynch.
That cute boy I knew in elementary school that was always too cool to notice me didn’t plan on operating one of the largest meth labs in Mississippi. Just ask Greg Hearn.
That girl I used to babysit who could sing like a bird and make everyone she met love her instantly didn’t set out to be estranged from her kids because she was a homeless junkie. Just ask Shelley Robinson.
The shy, pretty little girl with the shiny blonde hair that I taught in third grade didn’t dream of growing up to one day to fight addiction only to have her fiancé become a casualty of the drug world. Just ask Brooklyn Lanford.
That little girl’s mother, who served as room mother to our class and gave her baby girl endless love and every opportunity imaginable, couldn’t have known that meth would one day almost destroy her family.
Just ask Carol Kelley.
These are just a few of the people I’ve talked to. They come from all different backgrounds, but every one of them have two important details in common:
1. Dope is everywhere. Meth, heroin and ice are easier to get than avoid.
2. Recovering addicts want to share their stories. They want to keep others from the depths of hell they’ve known.
I started out just wanting to know how to protect my son but that may not be possible. There is no tower in a magical forest where I can lock him away and pretending that he won’t ever have the chance to try drugs would be irresponsible on my part.
Every person I mentioned wants to help others by telling their stories, and they deserve to have their entire story told- the good, the ugly, the tragic, the rock bottoms and especially their climbs back up.
I approached the editors at VDN about doing an extended series on the subject of addiction and recovery, so here we go.
I want this series to help parents know what signs to watch for in their children and make people understand just how easy it is for “good kids” to get hooked.
I’d like to help open some minds and clear up some misconceptions and judgements about “thieves and junkies”.
More than anything, I want this series to provide hope to anyone thinking they’re alone and have no way out.