Listen to an excerpt from a moms roundtable during a recent TAM-NH meeting below, via SoundCloud.
MANCHESTER, NH – For all she’s been through, Susan Markievitz admits she’s not proud of the time she went to the home of her son’s drug dealer, armed for battle.
Her son was already dead from heroin.
“I had a bat. He had a gun. I wanted to get my son’s motorcycle back,” says Markievitz. “There was an ambulance nearby and I said to the driver, ‘Don’t leave. I need someone here, just in case.’ I’m not the only one who’s gone there. We are so desperate as parents at times that we lower ourselves to their level. That’s because if you find a dealer and call the police, it takes months and months of investigation, and even then, nothing much happens.”
Markievitz lost her son Chad on July 28, 2014. While nothing will ever ease the pain of that loss, Markievitz has discovered a way to channel her pain into hope.
Every Wednesday she goes to the Marion Gerish Center in Derry for a TAM NH meeting, a local chapter of The Addict’s Mom, where parents are able to share their stories and their struggles, without shame.
Markievitz clings to the hope that her older son, Roger, will not relapse, and hope that her experience in the trenches of addiction and loss can help other mothers who are still fighting for their children’s lives in the midst of a national heroin epidemic.
It’s emotionally and financially draining, bankrupting families and stealing the lives of their loved ones. They’ve learned to sleep with their credit cards, cash, keys, and other valuables. And their cell phones, just in case they get “the call” no mother wants to get.
Heidi Sanderson is one of those moms who’s still in the fight.
She says she’s frustrated by the broken system in New Hampshire, from the lack of treatment options to the prison system, holding their children hostage without any hope of ransom.
She is one of countless moms who understands first-hand the urge to round up all the drug dealers and administer some vigilante justice.
“Eventually you’re going to read about a parent killing their child’s drug dealer,” Sanderson says.
Sanderson’s son, also an addict, is currently in prison. She had him arrested after she believed he was suicidal while using. She says she did it because she believed he was safer in prison than on the streets.
He’s been to rehab four times, mostly the result of being in a holding pattern through the criminal justice system.
“My son told me that 90 percent of the people who were at the rehab were there because it was winter. They wanted a warm bed. This is coming from an addict, so take it for what it’s worth, but I don’t doubt that to some degree it’s true,” Sanderson said.
The current 28-day rehab cycle becomes a revolving door for most addicts – it’s the lack of follow through, the absence of programs that help addicts not only get off the drug but gain the life skills needed to get on with their lives, post-addiction, she says.
Sanderson says her son was recently on a waiting list for an eight-month recovery program at the state prison in Berlin. But then he was caught with drugs in prison – something she’s learned is not an uncommon occurrence.
And something that’s hard to wrap her head around.
“He’s not eligible for the new treatment program at the Berlin prison because he was caught with suboxone in prison. He was able to get drugs in prison. Why is that possible? The whole system is broken,” she says. “Now I wonder if he’ll ever get out. He has a 4-year-old child
Susan Allen-Samuel, whose son battled addiction from the time he was a young teenager, is 25 and in recovery. She agrees that desperate times have pushed parents of heroin-addicted children close to the edge of sanity.
“As their parents, we’re all sick in some way – look what we’re willing to do, confronting drug dealers,” Allen-Samuel says. “One time my son left a phone number up on his computer screen. I called it and someone answered, and so I asked, ‘Are you my son’s drug dealer? And the woman said, ‘No. Hold on, I’ll get him.’ Can you imagine that?”
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The women were just getting started. It was the beginning of a two-hour TAM meeting where eight mothers sat around a table in a small meeting room sharing their horror stories, their hearts and their hopes as mothers of addicted children.
TAM-NH provides a way for parents to connect in real time, or share at will any time of the day or night via a Facebook group. Markievitz and Sanderson took over as group leaders after one of the founding moms “disappeared,” likely too overwhelmed by whatever darkness she’d been wading through with her own addicted child to keep moving forward.
They all get that.
Sanderson says she can’t even begin to tabulate what she’s lost to heroin – most importantly, her son – although she’s far from given up on him.
“I have nothing. Nothing. I used to have a house in Windham. I have no jewelry left. It’s horrible,” Sanderson said.
Several of the women said they’ve lost jobs and become alienated from family and friends.
“What I’ve found through TAM is that I’m not alone. There are people just like me, just like my kids. My son is a good person – and so are their kids. They’re just sick,” says Sanderson.
“Addiction is a disease. And yet, were marginalized. Why can’t you take your child to a doctor and get the help you need? Doctors look the other way – maybe it’s because of insurance, or their insurance,” says Sanderson. “If you took your child to the doctor for asthma or diabetes, they’d get the help they need. With addiction, it’s ‘see ya later’,” she says.
They started the meeting by distributing ready-to mail postcards in support of making Narcan available to families. Currently, Narcan is only allowed to be administered by medical first responders. Several of the moms said they already carry it.
They talked about the need for longer-term recovery programs, ones that allow time for detoxing and reentry into normalcy.
“They are lacking life skills. They need to learn how to face life again, on the other side,” says Markievitz.
Rosemary Smith-Berry of Hudson says she doesn’t know why her son, Alex, made it out alive. He’s 19, and was only shooting heroin for a short time when he got into treatment.
“I think somehow we just caught it early,” she says.
“You’re that story of hope we all need,” says Allen-Samuel.
LISTEN via SoundCloud: Moms share their stories during a recent TAM-NH meeting