‘I wasn’t sleeping … making sure he was still breathing.’
Desperately searching for help with her heroin-addicted son, a Destrehan mother was guided to a group called Nar-Anon where it became apparent her story was one being repeated over and over again.
“You are so immersed in their problem,” she said on condition of anonymity. “I became a crazy lady about checking pockets, and checking phone records. It got bad. I wasn’t sleeping … making sure he was still breathing.”
Her son overdosed three times and nearly died three times.
On his first overdose, she believes God awoke her to find him “with stuff coming out of him” on the sofa that had her dialing 911. The second one soon followed, but it wasn’t until the third time that both mother and son were convinced it was time to change their lives.
Although not physically violent, she said her son often raged against admitting his addiction initially. He was often “out of control, screaming, threatening … that sort of thing,” she said.
“He never stole from me, but I knew it was coming. I would hide my purse in the clothes dryer at night.”
There was no doubt in her mind about the necessity of needing help, particularly when she knew of another six young people in the area also addicted to heroin in a national crisis gripping the nation. She’d also observed heroin was the main drug bringing parents, spouses and other loved ones to Nar-Anon for help.
“It’s rampant,” she said. “This is an extreme problem in our country.”
In her own experience, she recounted how her son attended rehab multiple times before he quit the drug. There were also her own feelings to contend with in his and his family’s recovery.
“When you first come in, all you think about is what’s wrong in your life,” she said of getting help with Nar-Anon. “I got physically sick, not just emotionally sick. That was my big red flag that I needed to do something different with my life.”
Nar-Anon’s mission became so profound to her that she helped establish a local group in the parish, one of only two in Louisiana. The first group was established about two years ago in Baton Rouge.
“Nar-Anon teaches that addiction is a sickness,” she said. “And you learn a lot to start letting go a little bit and let you start rebuilding your life again.”
Her son lived, which she credits to him undergoing his own 12-step program. Her help came from learning the group’s “Three Cs” – I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.
From there, she changed her focus from the addict to herself, and how she could regain her peace. She also learned to rely on her “higher power.”
She found he strength to take measures necessary to help her son.
“I feel strongly that drug court saved my kid’s life,” she said. “It forced him into going to rehab and fulfilling some things that is hard to get done without some force. I’m very grateful to God that my son lived.”
But she also noted, “I knew I had to regain my serenity. Nar-Anon helps you to find that way. Long before my son got better, I got better first.”
Having a safe place to deal with her child’s addiction without worrying what others would think of her as a parent made a significant difference in how she dealt with the problem. It can push people into isolation who try to avoid acknowledging the problem, she said.
Another local Nar-Anon member, also a Destrehan mother, said she fought barriers to find help for her son, also addicted to heroin.
“I became overwhelmed with fear of losing him to a drug overdose,” she said. “I was constantly crying and searching for someone to help me. And everywhere I turned, I was told they could not help family members without the addict being in their program. And, of course, he was not ready to accept this kind of treatment. I was left without anyone to help me cope and deal with the addict in my life, and the affect of the disease of addiction on me and my family.”
She said Nar-Anon coming to the parish provided the alternative that would provide a place she could be accepted with anonymity.
“Nar-Anon has helped me to find joy and serenity, not only with dealing with the addict, but all areas of my life. I am so very grateful and thankful that my ‘higher power’ of my understanding brought me to Nar-Anon and brought it to Destrehan.”
On Tuesday (Jan. 2), Lynn Knowles, a volunteer with Nar-Anon’s outreach based in Torrence, Calif., was holding a ritual birthday celebration for her daughter, who died from a heroin overdose 5-1/2 years ago. She would have been 29 years old.
“The reason I’m still here is Nar-Anon gave me strength and hope for myself,” Knowles said. “I had become very sick myself, running ragged trying to change her.”
Knowles said she learned how to live one day a time.
“I was unable to let go much of my guilt and obsession,” she said. “The day my daughter died, our relationship was good and she knew she was loved. If I hadn’t had this program when she died, I’m not sure that would have been the case.”
Even after her daughter’s death, Knowles said she is still taking the group’s 12 steps to deal with life.
Nar-Anon meets in Destrehan on Mondays at 8 P.M., at the St Charles United Methodist Church Sunday School trailer, at 1905 Ormond Blvd., Destrehan.
For more information, visit Nar-Anon’s website at http://www.nar-anon.org.