A parent’s guide to the ‘scary roller coaster ride’ that is drug addiction

Dear Editor,

This letter is written to the Editor; but in all reality this goes out to every parent who has a child suffering from addiction (Substance Use Disorder — SUD).

Who am I to write such a thing?

Well, let me tell you; my name is Christa and my daughter suffers from SUD. And to be absolutely clear on the matter, my entire family suffers from SUD; but my daughter is the only one who uses drugs. Her addiction began without my knowledge but that’s not uncommon. I was blind to the signs…I was ignorant. 

It was a mother’s gut instinct telling me something was wrong to start wondering, to start asking questions, and to start my own investigation; but unfortunately by the time I figured it all out the real trouble was just about to begin. I won’t go into all the details but I will say the last three years has been nothing less than a never ending terrifying roller coaster ride from hell!

Rehabs, jails, ER trips, disappearances, lies, manipulation, theft, overdoses and the list goes on…that’s one scary roller coaster ride.

Why am I writing this?

I know the feelings a parent has when finding out their child uses drugs. Ever heard of the five stages of grief? Well, as a parent with a child suffering from SUD you feel them all!

Denial — not my kid. I said that and let me tell you those are the most dangerous words any parent can say. It could be your kid because drugs are the one thing in this world that doesn’t discriminate.

Anger — Oh let me tell you, I was mad! I was ready to go beat down every person’s door who ever sold drugs to my kid. I was ready to go after whoever introduced heroin into my daughter’s life. I was mad at myself most of all for letting this happen; as a mom, it’s my job to protect my child and make sure these kinds of things never ever happen and I failed.

Bargaining — I bargained so hard with my daughter…I begged and pleaded with her to get help. What a waste of time…the person using must decide when they will seek help. No amount of bargaining will speed that up or make that process work. I forced rehab and a month after she completed it and got a fancy piece of paper saying “Certificate of Completion” she overdosed. She survived.

Depression — this one comes different for each person. I was down on myself and not happy. I didn’t want to leave my home, I didn’t want to face people but I did. 

Acceptance — this one is the hardest! I never truly accepted the fact my child suffers from SUD; but I accepted the fact that I could not stop it, I couldn’t fix it. I could only pray and hope she would get help before it was too late.

I am going to add another feeling to this list and that is SHAME…so many parents feel shame because their child suffers from SUD. Why do we feel this? Society tells us we have to. Being a “drug addict” is dirty and being the parent of an “addict” is embarrassing and we should be ashamed that our kids are this way; after all they are the lowest forms of life on earth; WRONG!

I will never be ashamed of my daughter! I will never be embarrassed by my daughter’s SUD! I don’t like what has happened or the things she’s done; but no matter what, she’s my daughter and I love her!

I was raised by the most awesome parents a person could ask for, Bob and Jeanie McKee, they taught me many things but the most important thing they taught me was to fight for what I believe in. So, I fight! I fight for those suffering from SUD, I fight for their parents, and I fight for those who have lost their battle far too soon. I fight to raise awareness! I fight to end the shame that society says parents should feel and I fight to end the stigma that surrounds SUD! I fight for compassion and understanding instead of judgment and loathing.

The purpose of this…I, Christa Harmon (Schweer) wants every parent who has a child who suffers from SUD to know you are not alone! It’s not your fault!

I’ve never been one to follow the crowd and still today; I make my voice be heard. I will stand alone in this fight; but I don’t have to because I’m not alone!

There are hundreds of other parents out there just like me. Our stories differ but they are the same. Many of those who stand beside me in this fight have buried their child far too soon, those parents have become the voice for the voiceless.

I stand with those who have faced “addiction” head on and now are in active recovery…they are true warriors.

I stand with those still suffering and are not quite ready to get the help they so desperately need. You may think you are alone; but there are people out there who will put out their hand before they cast a stone. You are worth the fight!

As parents, please I beg you, educate yourself; learn the signs of SUD, and talk openly and honestly to your kids about drugs. If you do have a loved one who suffers from SUD get NARCAN, learn CPR…every minute counts. If you suffer from SUD get NARCAN and in case of on overdose call 911 — The Good Samaritan Law was set up to save lives.   

Take a moment and think about this:

• In 2015, 144 people died from an overdose per day.

• In 2016, 172 people died from an overdose per day.

How many more loved ones will be buried before society opens their eyes?