Anonymous Guest Personal Journey

A Sandwich, Massachusetts Family’s Personal Journey through Addiction and Recovery

Addiction does not just affect the addict, but everyone around them. After reading the article “Drugs in School” in The Sandwich Enterprise, and realizing that some residents of this town are either clueless, naïve, or realistically, just turning a blind eye to this issue, I felt I needed to share our family’s story. I am writing anonymously, not out of shame, but at the request of our son, who is not quite yet at the stage of recovery to ‘reveal all.’

Our family moved to Sandwich in the 1990’s. My oldest child at the time was in third grade. Having just arrived from a large urban public school system, he stated to me as he got off the school bus his first day of school, “Mom, this town is not the real world!” Eye opening and intuitive for an eight year old! Arriving from out of state, we chose Sandwich for its’ excellent school system, as well as what was referred to in the Sandwich Enterprise article, for the town’s ‘idyllic view’.

We raised our children in town throughout the next two decades, teaching them responsibility through learning right from wrong, instilling strong morals, and stating the importance of education. We wove discipline into all these lessons. Teachers throughout the years would always comment to us that they wished they had many more parents like us, which would ultimately make their jobs easier in the classroom. We never spoiled our children. We always made them work hard to purchase their first car and pay for their insurance and gasoline.

So how did addiction make its insidious way into our home and lives? We thought we did everything right, and still the outside world, which includes this idyllic town, had a stronger pull than our parental lessons taught throughout the years.

Peer pressure hits all teens at one time or another. Some teens are strong enough to fight that pressure and others are not, either through immaturity, mental health issues, or genetics toward addiction. Most would say marijuana is the gateway drug – I agree with them, but there is another path as well. Our path started with an ADHD diagnosis at 14, and a legal Adderall prescription. As parents, we kept it under lock and key, as we had concerns of medicating our son. The depression diagnosis followed at 17, and the bipolar diagnosis at 19. Adderall is extremely addictive, along with all other stimulant ADHD medications out there. These are the gateway drugs, and our physicians are giving them out generously! The natural addiction path that follows is Oxycontin. At $1.00 per milligram, it costs a teen either $40 or $80 per pill. Multiply those costs and you can see how quickly life spirals downward for all involved. Because of the street expense of Oxycontin, the next path most teens take in this town is heroin – only $10 a bag – what a bargain! What all parents need to realize is that opiate addictions mimic mood disorders such as bipolar and depression, so when those diagnoses come in from doctors, question everything. Research everything like I did!

If anyone saw my son walking down the street, you would see an academically brilliant young man, an outstanding athlete and an all around nice person. He attended a top notch engineering school, but was sent home on medical leave his freshman year by the college’s mental health department.

At that point, our son admitted himself to Gosnold. Our health insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, approved a four-day stay (the amount of time it takes the human body to physically detox from Oxycontin). Getting any additional time is almost impossible unless you take the little amount of strength and energy one has left as a parent and fight these companies to the bitter end. On the day of his release from Gosnold, our son begged and pleaded with his therapist to move over to the 30-day men’s program. He was told sadly, that Blue Cross would not pay for it. It was brought up in our conversation, that if he wanted to get the treatment he needed, he should probably break the law – then the state, through the court system, would give him the necessary treatment at no cost. Not exactly true, but certainly a sad commentary on the society we live in.

Four days in detox, followed by three weeks of outpatient care does not ‘cure’ an addict, but this is the usual path dictated by insurance. With costs of $25,000 to $30,000 per month for inpatient treatment, how can a family afford to help their child? The options we were facing – either take away our other children’s futures by not being able to pay their college tuition or drain our life savings for the necessary treatment he needed to stay alive. A difficult choice to face, but more importantly, in the end, no choice is the right one.

The expense of addiction is where the legal system enters families’ lives. Sustaining a drug habit requires poor choices. Ultimately, stealing or dealing becomes the only options available to an addict. As a parent, you look at your child and wonder how can they make those poor choices? Today, I have finally realized, it was not my son making those choices – it was the drug speaking and acting on his behalf. A personal friend who is a lawyer, tried to walk us through the legal journey we were facing. Again, difficult options – Do you allow your child to fend for himself in a system he has no idea about and give over his future to a court appointed lawyer? We were told this does not look good in the eyes of our legal system as it shows that the family has given up on the child. Or does the family spend thousands on legal fees (which could otherwise be going towards treatment expense) and show the court that there is still family support present? Do you gamble with a child’s future by making the wrong choice? We chose a private lawyer, and again, faced mountains of bills.

After many long years of seeking help through the ‘system’ and seeking therapy not only for our son, but for the rest of the family, we were told by all the mental health professionals that our son would need to ‘fall flat on his face’ before he would choose recovery. Making the choice to kick our son out of our home and not continue to be enablers to him any longer was the most difficult choice we as parents have ever had to make and found it absolutely heartbreaking, knowing full well the consequences. That decision almost tore our family apart. Our son became homeless, living out of his car. Here we were living in that ‘idyllic’ upper middle class town located on beautiful Cape Cod, and life had come to this. Looking back now, even though the choice was difficult, it was the best thing we could have done, for it brought us to where we are today – recovery not only for our son, but for the whole family.

And then God intercepted. Our son overdosed last fall and almost lost his life. It was our blessing in disguise however, because that overdose finally gave me the ammunition I needed to confront Blue Cross. As a result of the overdose, the insurance company was fiscally responsible to make sure our son received the medical help he had been begging for all those years. It is very difficult to fight for your child’s life when you are physically and emotionally drained and don’t have any stamina left. Finally though, my anger became stronger than my exhaustion and I knew then, I was ready for the fight. That fight continues today, and I am at the place where I will do whatever it takes to fix a system that fought us every step of the way for many, many years.

Two days after the overdose, our son had a bed in a long term treatment facility far, far away from Sandwich. His progress has been three steps forward and two steps back. Relapse is a normal step in recovery and should be anticipated. My son received 35 days inpatient treatment, followed by a relapse and then an additional 25 days inpatient treatment that I fought long and hard for. After researching our insurance contract, I found the information I needed – each of our family members is eligible for up to 60 days per year of inpatient substance abuse treatment. Blue Cross doesn’t give that information out willingly unless one takes the time to research it. I still have a $23,000 bill sitting on my kitchen table that is simultaneously sitting in the Attorney General’s office.

Our son is now living in a sober-living complex that he willingly admitted himself to with a minimum commitment of six months. He is working full time, paying his expenses (still with some help from us), and attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings daily. We will be visiting him in several months to attend his sobriety ceremony. He is now at Step 10 in the 12 step process, working with his sponsor. He just spoke for the first time publicly to a group in a treatment facility about his experiences. He chairs his home NA group every Friday evening. He will be returning to college in the fall. Our family has our ‘son’ back for the first time in a very long time. It is an indescribable feeling!

We are so proud of him. Many may wonder how we can say that after what he has put us through. That question is easy to answer, however. He has fought a fight that most people will never see in their lifetime, and he has pulled together both the courage and strength necessary to achieve his goals. There is no cure for addiction, only recovery. An addict is in recovery for life, and learns to live with addiction as if it were a chronic illness, similar to diabetes or cancer. We are in this recovery process together as a closer family, one day at a time.

My fight is not over – the fight for change is truly just beginning. Having experienced firsthand how broken our system is, I vow to do everything in my power to make changes, not only for my son, but for other families’ children as well. Change needs to happen throughout our health insurance system, throughout the mental health care system, and throughout our legal system. The biggest fight of all will be against the pharmaceutical companies, who bring their billions of dollars to the table through their marketing campaigns and their lobbyists found in our state capitals as well as Capitol Hill. As a substance abuse counselor, my sister has witnessed the fact that the pharmaceutical companies in America are legally destroying this country’s next generation, and no one is doing a thing about it. She keeps urging me to take my pain and anger, and my experience as a fundraiser and do something productive with it, and that is my intention.

If my story will open the eyes of other parents, teachers, school administrators, police officers, and mental health professionals, every bit of my family’s pain will have been worth it. Sandwich needs to know that there is a serious drug issue here, and no, it is not about semantics as stated in the Sandwich Enterprise. “If Sandwich has a drug problem, so does everyone else”. NO KIDDING, but does that justify that it is OK for Sandwich to have that drug problem?

If the town wants to turn a blind eye – here are some mind-boggling statistics. Gosnold’s admissions numbers reflect that the highest percentage of teens entering treatment come from Sandwich. An all-star sports team that my son was part of has produced two oxycontin addicts and three heroin addicts out of a total of fourteen team players. Do the residents of Sandwich still want to turn a blind eye? Many people feel that if the town were to publicly admit to these problems it would ruin the school district’s reputation as well as bring down real estate values! Get over it – both of these concerns have already happened because of our very weak economy.

I end my story where I started with my then young son stating many years ago that “Sandwich was not the real world”. I have to say, sadly, I’ve learned that it actually is the real world, with real world problems, just disguised by a pretty face. Sandwich residents and officials just don’t want to admit to that truth.

March 2013 updates:

Corey has faced a ‘flare-up’ recently, and has sought inpatient treatment for alcohol. He is continuing to choose the path of recovery one day at a time. He has also chosen to stay in the Delray Beach FL area, as the recovery community is so strong. He has created a new business, a resource website for anyone affected by addiction, www.sobernation.com.

I have continued my journey of recovery as well. My struggles with Blue Cross were drawn out and exhausting. Round One: I brought my insurance claim denial to the grievance department of Blue Cross and lost. Round Two: I brought the denial to the Attorney General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley. They chose to take my case on, but I knew it would take a long time to resolve. Round Three: In the interim, I gave testimony at the State House before the Massachusetts Commission on Opiate Addiction in September of 2009. Senator Steven Tolman, Chairman of the Commission, was so moved by my testimony, he took on my case with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. With Senator Tolman on my side, Blue Cross settled in May 2010 and paid for Corey’s treatment in full.

I continue to fight for my community. I am presently playing a role in seeking a Drug Free Community grant from SAMSHA for the town of Sandwich. I continue to consult on a volunteer basis with Faces & Voices of Recovery in Washington, DC and MA Organization of Recovery (MOAR) in helping them raise funds for advocacy. At the invitation of Faces & Voices of Recovery, I recently gave a workshop on fundraising strategies to an audience of over forty executive directors through the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO) in Detroit, and again in Philadelphia in 2012. I am a board member for the Cape Cod Justice for Youth Collaborative, a member of the Freedom from Addiction Network (FAN) and Chair of the Sandwich Substance Abuse Task Force. I have presented before the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, sat on a panel, ‘Eyes Wide Open’ at the Barnstable County Council for Children, Youth and Families Educational Summit (BCCCYF), spoken to students at Cape Cod Community College’s STOP program (Students Opposing Pills) as well as the Sandwich Board of Realtors, and presented to a group of Cape Cod industry leaders at the Barnstable County Jail on recidivism.

 

By: Annonymous

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