A SOBERING STORY: After family intervention, daughter begins recovery
The signs of their daughter’s addiction were there. But Mary (her name has been changed) and her husband simply didn’t realize what they were seeing.
They had noticed little rubber bands scattered throughout her apartment and wondered about them. In truth, they were part of the packaging, bundling together the little bags of heroin Amy (her name also has been changed) was using. But they didn’t know.
They also had noticed some bent spoons lying about.
“Why are you doing this stuff to your silverware?” they’d ask.
They’d take her out to dinner, and she’d nod off in the restaurant.
“I worked a double,” Amy would explain.
And they accepted that.
“People don’t fall asleep at a restaurant, but we were dumb and nave,” Mary said.
They learned the truth of the matter from three of their daughter’s friends, who had called one day to share their concerns.
“We very much think she’s addicted to drugs,” one of them told Mary. “She’s in trouble and somebody needs to very much do something.”
Mary dropped the phone, yelled for her husband and then ran to the bathroom, sick, she recalled.
“I’ll never forget that day,” she said. “That was the worst day of my life.”
Later, she and her husband confronted Amy.
“Of course, she denied it, like most addicts will,” Mary said.
And that’s where that conversation was left. They were in denial of the situation, too. Not to mention distraught.
“We just didn’t know where to turn,” she said. “We just didn’t know what to do.”
What they wound up doing, however, was withdrawing, from friends, from family.
“We didn’t want anybody to know,” Mary said.
In the meantime, the problem progressed. And finally they had to open up and tell their family.
Her brother and sister-in-law took charge. They started seeking help, sought funding for treatment and organized an intervention with a professional interventionist.
As part of the intervention, they lured Amy home by telling her her grandparents were going to lend her some money.
There was no money to be had, though, only expressions of love, of assurances that they wanted her, needed her in their lives.
But there was an ultimatum — she couldn’t be a part of the family if she was going to continue using.
She listened to what they had to say, Mary said. And then she left angrily at the end of it.
“I didn’t take to it very well,” Amy said. And, really, at that point, no one was going to talk her into treatment, not unless she wanted it for herself, she said.
But a few days later, she changed her mind and agreed to enter treatment. She didn’t have much of a choice. She was out of money, and her family had cut her off, she said.
“Every cent I had I spent on drugs,” she said. “The best thing my family ever did was stop helping me (financially),” she said.
So she entered a residential treatment program. Completed it. Came home. And relapsed. More than once.
She attributes one of those relapses to having been less than vigilant in her recovery and bottling up resentments.
“I stopped applying the steps and spiritual principles in my life. I stopped praying and reading my daily meditation. My meeting attendance decreased. I didn’t reach out and talk about my issues and never used my sponsor,” she said.
There wasn’t an abrupt ending of those things, she said, just a slow down creep. “You don’t even realize it,” she said. “I relapsed before I even relapsed.”
Her family held to their earlier ultimatum and refused to support her.
All she had was a cellphone and a car, which she left in, Mary said.
For the next three months, they didn’t speak. “We didn’t have idea where she was. That … was awful,” Mary said.
Amy said she wound up crashing on someone’s couch for three months at a public housing unit in Johnstown.
“I felt completely soulless, and I got to a point to where I needed to do something,” Amy said. Taking her own life wasn’t out of the question, either, she said.
Meanwhile, back at home, her mother sought support for her and her husband. And prayed.
“I wasn’t much into faith,” Mary said. “I was angry, but I prayed, ‘She’s in your hands. I hope you bring her back to us.”
Back in Johnstown, Amy had grown tired of the life she was living. She had had enough, she said, and reached out to her family, sought help and left that home.
She’s been clean for more than a year now.
And she’s working to put the past in the past. She’s living independently and working in her field. She’s also pursuing a master’s degree. Ultimately, she’d like to obtain her doctorate.
As part of the degree requirements, she said she’ll have to create an academic course and explain how she’d instruct it. She said she’d like it to be about addiction.
“People need to be educated about addiction in order to decrease associated stigma so more addicts will get the help that they need,” she said.