2013-10-16 / Community View

That’s what SHE Said

You can pretend the problem doesn’t exist, but it’s real and it’s here in your town
By Carolyn LeDuc-Krehel

The first time I heard anyone talk about heroin in Lapeer was back in 2008. I was running the concession stand at a Lapeer West lacrosse game and a few moms were chatting with me. One of them said that marijuana wasn’t the biggest problem drug in our county anymore. (I don’t think marijuana is a problem, but that’s another column for another week.) Anyway, she said it was heroin. I didn’t believe her. I hadn’t heard of a heroin problem and I thought she was crazy, or misinformed.

Back home after the game, I asked my boys about heroin. I asked my kids all kinds of questions, so I’m sure they weren’t surprised when their mom starting asking about opiate drugs. Did they know of anyone using heroin? Had they ever been offered the drug? They all said they didn’t know of anyone using heroin.

Fast forward to summer of 2010. A friend of Austin’s was over and confided in me. “I want to tell you something and you’re going to be mad. I tried heroin.” Now, I didn’t know anything about heroin, but I knew it wasn’t a good thing to try. “Are you kidding me? Did you inject it?” I asked, surprised and worried. “No way! I just snorted it,” he said. He assured me he hadn’t used it a second time. But what did this mean? Well, like objects in my sideview mirror, it was closer than it appeared. Heroin was in Lapeer.

Another fast forward, this time to late 2012. I’d been invited to dinner with a group of women, specifically Lapeer West moms. I knew one of the women well, but the rest were new to me. I was the last to arrive and I sat down and rolled up my sleeves. One of the women noticed I had a piece of gauze taped to my inner arm and asked about it. I’d had a blood test and forgotten to remove the bandage. I peeled it off and joked, “Oh, you know, I was doing heroin earlier.”

The words just poured out of my mouth. Yes, I’m that person who routinely opens my mouth and inserts my foot. Do we need someone to say something stupid? Oh, please, let it be me.

I didn’t even think about my comment until one of the women (let’s call her Cathy) said, matter-of-factly, “My son is a heroin addict.” She didn’t say it with anger or resentment, and she wasn’t accusing me of making light of heroin addiction. She was simply “coming out of the closet” with the sad fact of her reality.

I instantly felt stupid, but switched to “sympathy mode” and asked Cathy about her son. Every word she spoke broke down the stereotypes I’d built in my mind. I thought heroin addicts begged for money on the streets of Detroit and slept in cardboard boxes. I thought heroin addicts were celebrities who lived worlds away. I was stunned, and I was wrong. Heroin is here in Lapeer. You can close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist, or you can consider that maybe you just haven’t met your “Cathy” yet.

What is Cathy like? She’s well-educated, kind and married to a great guy. They own a beautiful home, a successful business and they’re deeply involved in their kids’ lives. So how did their son become an addict?

It began when his fiance died, and he started using her prescription painkillers to cope. Many prescription painkilling drugs are opiates, and the euphoric feeling one gets from an opiate drug is highly addictive. If a person runs out of a prescription painkiller, they may continue to seek that euphoria. What’s cheap and effective and doesn’t require a prescription? Heroin.

Cathy’s son has been to rehab three times, and I met him once when he was “clean.” He was personable and charismatic, and we bonded over a mutual appreciation of old-school rap music. Like his mom, he crumbled my stereotypes. Heroin addiction can happen to anyone, so look up the statistics and educate yourself and your kids. It’s much harder to get off it than to stay off it in the first place.

That’s what SHE said.

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