We've featured many addiction stories over the past 5 months. This will be the final piece in my Salvation from Addiction series. As I wrap up my last few weeks here at The Sun Times and Heber Springs, I can honestly say this series has been on of the best I've had the privilege to provide for our readers. These stories haven't been from some statistics laden brochure or university study group. They've been personal stories of our friends and neighbors right here in Cleburne County. They've featured addicts from all walks of life and from all socioeconomic levels. All of the people we've featured have come out the other end of this devastating affliction. Some continue to struggle with their sobriety, some have fully put addiction in their rearview mirror. Whether it was through faith, medicine, or just strength of personal will, these people all came out with one thing in common - hope. 

I want to thank all our readers that have given us such wonderful feedback on these stories. I would also like to extend gratitude to the brave people who shared their stories. None of them did it for personal glorification. They all shared their experiences in the hopes that their stories would help lead others out of their own personal darkness. 

Our past stories have all been about addicts and their own struggles. This final story is story of hope from the parent of an addict. We hope you enjoy and find meaning in this final installment of Salvation from Addiction. 

As always, to protect anonymity, we are withholding the name of the person who submitted the story. 

'I am a parent. I may be your neighbor. I may have stood in line chatting with you at the grocery store. Maybe I spoke as we passed in the halls at school during open house. Perhaps our paths have crossed in a restaurant, at the ball fields or at church. I am a Heber Springs resident and proud to live in such a great community. I am not proud to tell you, that I am the parent of a drug addict.

Our area is plagued by drug abuse and it has been within the confines of my home for close to 8 years. Of course, I wasn’t privy to what was going on with my son, blinders and excuses kept me in the dark. I didn’t want to see what was going on. What parent would? My “perfect” boy, he was smart, handsome and charming beyond his years.

At 17, when his grades were failing, I advocated for him. Never for a moment did it occur to me that it could be anything but the system failing him. At 18, when he dropped out of college, mere weeks into the semester, I rushed to bring him home and wrap him up in love and excuses.

Never able to keep a job more than a few weeks, the mountain of excuses continued to grow. I am positive others could see what I chose not to. I remember thinking for a very long time that it was “just” marijuana and not that bad. Denial is a word that has such deep seated meaning when you are the parent of an addict.

When I was forced to face the reality that I was the parent of a drug addict, the flood of emotions was nothing less than shock, disbelief, disappointment and despair. I felt stupid. How could I have let this happen?

By the time that everything was forced into the open, I already had a keyed lock on my bedroom door to prevent theft, was giving him money for his habit (enabling him while making excuses that he couldn’t be broke all the time since he didn’t have a job) he was coming and going at all hours of the day and night and on more than one occasion he had hoarded odds and ends into a backpack and made small stacks of paper all over his bedroom, opened paperclips with one burnt end turned up by the dozens. I’ll not go into explaining what these things mean, just know if you are seeing anything like this you too, have a problem.

I have learned that addicts are manipulators, con artists and the most self-centered people on earth. The boy that would never lie or steal as a sober kid becomes a criminal mastermind to fund the habit. His brain dreamed of the high, his body physically needed the drug to feel normal, he would stop at nothing to satisfy the desire.

My son wound up in the emergency room with an unrelated injury but was so high that he couldn’t feel the staples being put into his skin even without local anesthetic. He never flinched or looked away from me and the conversation we were having when the doctor closed him up. My sister was with us. She and I both broke out into tears. We knew right then and there that he was too far gone for us to do anything to help him. He needed detox, he needed rehab and he needed it immediately.

When I told him that he couldn’t come home anymore and that he had to go to rehab, he was agreeable. He told me that he knew it was out of control and he needed help. What a stroke of luck, I have met so many parents that don’t find this to be the case.

Evidently when a person goes to a detox center, there is a medication that can be given to offset some of the unpleasant side effects that go along with coming off of drugs. In my son’s case, they couldn’t help him because he had six different illegal substances in his body.

For several weeks he participated in counseling, therapy, group meetings and soul searching. We were able to speak on the phone occasionally and although he was there voluntarily, I could tell it was a struggle to stay.

Six weeks into drug treatment, our family travelled down to participate in family therapy. This was three days of pure hell, I learned more about my child and his disease than I knew could exist. He was psychologically healthier than ever and was honest about and accountable for his addiction. I learned the degree he’d been involved in the lifestyle was far worse than I’d let myself imagine. He talked of not being comfortable enough to inject himself with heroin and how his dealer had done that for him. Of how he was concerned about diseases and always took a new syringe along when he went to get drugs. He was obsessed with being able to have a higher tolerance than others to the same drugs. The honesty was brutal. Tears flowed and hearts ached among us and the other four families taking part in group therapy.

His addiction has been a nightmare and wreaked havoc on our entire family. Fortunately the detox and rehab stays were covered 100% by our health insurance but make no mistake there is no guarantee. Since leaving, he has flourished and been at one job, is promoting and making a place for himself internally, has a lovely girlfriend that is supportive and they obviously enjoy a healthy relationship with normalcy I have never seen in a relationship with him before.

Speak with your children, whether they’re 15 or 25, get in their business and make the decision to see what is going on. This epidemic is not getting any better and the opportunity for drug interaction is greater than ever. Blinders and denial won’t make it go away. '