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Drug addiction: Don't pretend it isn't happening here or to you

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Guest Commentary


I was raised in Chesterton, many of you know me. I spent my entire 45 years in your town. My family all still lives here and loves it. On February 14, while most of you were sharing a time of “love” with your families and loved ones, my family was saying good-bye to my nephew Josh DuVall.

Josh was living in Florida when he passed away of a drug overdose.

He had been there just three short months. He didn’t get a heroin habit in Florida, he got it in Chesterton.

The problem is that another town and change of friends means nothing when you’re dealing with an opiate addiction.

As I said at my nephew’s service, there is a huge elephant in the middle of town, no one talks about. And unless that elephant has come to your house and sat in your living room, with your family, you can ignore it.

I know, it came to my house. On June 11 at 1:48 p.m., I was on break, when my cell phone rang, it was my son. He told me through tears that he was a heroin addict and he needed help.

Those words changed my life. And the life of my family. We began a journey into a world where no one should have to go.

When Max came to me and asked for help the lid blew off the whole stinking mess that had settled on my family. And that included Josh. It was out. We knew. I had no idea what to do or where to turn.

So I got on my computer and went to the Junkie’s themselves. I found a group of people who changed my opinion of drug addicts.

They taught me, they helped me, they told me what to expect, they told me where to look for help, they told me what Max would say to me, how he would lie to me, how he wanted to be clean.

They told the truth about heroin and addiction and how these kids may make the decision to put that needle in their arm the first time, but after that, it’s out of their hands.

If they don’t have it, they are sick. Dope sick it’s called, and most would rather be dead than dope sick.

To function “normally” they must have it. and there is a saying among addicts that “When need becomes a must. The Devil drives,” and that is when our children become strangers to us and their souls belong to something else.

The empty shell of a man we took to rehab that day last summer only resembled my son. His soul was gone, given to heroin.

I also learned from my friends that addiction comes in any size, shape and color.

Heroin doesn’t care what kind of family you come from or how much money they have or don’t have or how much you love your child or care for them.

No one wants to grow up to be an addict. These people are lawyers, nurses, teachers, newspaper reporters, computer technicians, smart educated people, 20, 30, 40, 50 & some 60 years old addicted to Oxycoden, Vicodin, Methadone, heroin, and that is only the opiates. All by the way can be bought in Chesterton without a problem.

How do we stop it? I have no idea. But I do know this: We must stop stereotyping these people and start helping them.

There are as many rehab centers out there as there are addicts, and they all cost too much. Most people with addictions can’t afford to get clean.

And what if you do get clean? Are there jobs available for them? Are there places to go for help? Are there people willing to help? Questions we have to ask ourselves.

Josh lost his fight with addiction after many tries to beat it, and his loss will forever be felt by us who loved him.

As of this writing I am one of the “lucky” ones. My son always had a job and money for his habit. He never stole anything, robbed anyone, got arrested or overdosed.

He graduated from rehab after four months there, in house, cold turkey withdrawal, with training and counseling on how to deal with life after heroin.

As of February 27th when he turned 26, he celebrated five months and 20 days without heroin.

I am able to hold him and hug him and tell him I love him. But I have been to the other side and I know how very lucky I am.

I don’t have the answers, but I do know the first step is to educate ourselves and the community.

Help people like Mr. Gatewood and others who want to do something to stop this plague.

If you think or suspect your child of using, don’t wait. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening to you

You can buy a home drug test on line for $6.99. 5 panes tell you if there is THC (marijuana), Cocaine (crack), Methamphtamine (ecstasy), Amphetamine, Opiates (morphine, heroin) and PCP (angel dust), all in the privacy of your own home.

If they yell, if they get angry, if they scream about trust, they’ll get over it. At least they are still here to do that. These are our children, our grandchildren, our brothers, our sisters, our nieces, and our nephews.

How many people do we have to lose?

The list keeps growing, so if you’re waiting till the elephant comes to your house, sits at your table and steals your child’s soul. I doubt you’ll have to wait long. Without a fight to stop it, it will come. In fact, if you look, you’ll see it’s already here.


Posted 3/10/2004