Corey was the sweetest child you could ever imagine. There was nothing untypical of him. He was in Boy Scouts as a child. Played T-ball and then Little League. He played football in middle school. They say something usually triggers an addiction. Corey was 5 years old when his father and I divorced and I will never forget the pain he went through because of it. I don’t remember when I found out he was using drugs, and never understood it. I just thought Corey was rebelling because of the divorce, being a typical teenager. Corey’s adult years were spent in and out of rehab, detox centers, halfway houses. I would always support him – drive him to these places, pick him up once he got out – but he was never allowed to live with us. He would borrow money from us and never have the capability to pay it back. He couldn’t hold a job. Through all of this Corey was into AA and would go and speak at meetings. I never had the opportunity to listen to him. I wish I had.
He ended up in the Middlesex House of Corrections in Billerica for about nine months, and I would go every week to visit him. I got to speak with my child, by phone, through a glass window. No touching. No hugging. No kissing hello or goodbye. Broke my heart every time, but I went. I was his mom.
One of the proudest moments of my life was the night he graduated from the Crozier House, a six-month rehab program in Worcester. I hadn’t seen Corey that happy in years. Corey was finally maturing. He was deep into his serenity. From the Crozier House he went into a halfway house in Arlington. There, he was in an apartment with another individual. He had assistance in seeking work and was being taught how to be self-sufficient.
Shortly after, my husband and I moved to Florida. I always kept in touch with Corey. Corey got into a relationship with a girl and she became pregnant with my granddaughter Faith. They had a very rocky relationship and he would call me. He was sounding so down all the time now. He felt like he just needed a break, to get away. I offered him a plane ticket to come down and see me. I began calling him the afternoon before his flight and he wasn’t answering his phone. I continued throughout the day, leaving voice mails: “Corey, please call me. I need to confirm you have a ride to the airport.” By 10 that evening I was pacing the floor. My instincts told me what I did not want to believe. I had to remind myself to breathe. I called my oldest son, the police officer. Bobby called the Arlington police to go and do a wellness check. I’ll never forget the moment Bobby called me back, saying, “Mom, Corey is dead.” A scream came from my body I did not recognize. Corey was blue when they found him. Needles were around him. He died of a heroin overdose, something I did not even know he was using. Some say it was his last hurrah before he boarded the plane, knowing he couldn’t take it with him. Others think it was his first time in a long while, that he took the dose he was used to, and it was too much. Since coming back to Massachusetts, I had to do something to help me heal. I created Team Sharing, uniting with other parents who've also lost a child to Substance Use Disorder.
I’ve learned so much about the disease of addiction,. Things I wish I had known while Corey was alive. Addiction is a disease. I never thought of it that way. I always thought it was a choice. Yes, the first time it was a choice. After that I say it was Satan. He’s grabbing hold of our children and not letting go. These kids are sick. And their moms? They want their children back. Addiction has become an epidemic. I am now joining in the fight with all these other moms to help end it. How? We don’t know. But have you ever dealt with an angry mom? Addiction, you haven’t dealt with anything worse than an angry mom. So look out. We are moms, we’re mad, and we will stop at nothing to save our children. We need Narcan in every police station in Massachusetts. We need to detox longer. We need insurance companies to increase the length of stay in rehab covered by their policies. We need more beds available. We need to educate the public about addiction and end the stigma around it. We need to teach our little ones now. We need to share stories. We need to stand strong, together.
I will not let Corey’s death be in vain. I will hold my head up high and say, yes, my son was an addict. He had a disease. He was sick. Is your child? Because, moms, I will do whatever it takes, as small a voice as I may have, to help you in your fight with your child over addiction. If the death of my son can save yours, then he did not die in vain.
I’m almost feeling like I can breathe again.