A few years ago, just days before Lin Huelle found out her son, Adam, was addicted to heroin, she remembers seeing a friend's Facebook post about the increasing share of emergency resources going toward overdose victims:
'We should just let them all die,' Lin remembers thinking at the time.
She's learned a lot in the years since — but so has Adam. It was a painful path for the whole family before he eventually decided to get treatment, but he just celebrated his two-year recovery anniversary on March 7.
(The audio and transcript below have been lightly edited for clarity.)
Lin's Story, In Her Own Words
About three years ago, I found out that my son was addicted to heroin. I found out that he had actually been experimenting with it two years prior to that. He had been trying other drugs, as well.
When I found out that Adam was using, I didn’t quite know what to do because I didn’t know anything about what an opioid was, so I educated myself to the best of my ability. I did this by going to forums that I saw the state had put on about our opioid crisis. I also read, I networked with anybody and everybody who could give me any sort of answers about how people get over their addiction. I learned about what it must feel like to be a person who was going through substance misuse.
My son lived at home. And every day he would come home, and I learned to look in his eyes and notice that pinpoint pupil or notice him nodding off. I decided to have a conversation with him — I had several conversations with him — but this one, I said, 'You know, you think that you can overcome this on your own, so I’ll give you that. I’ll give you a month. And if you can overcome this, well that’s wonderful, but if you can’t, I want you to go to recovery or rehab. And if you don’t do that, then I’m going to have to ask you to move out.'
So about a month later, nothing was changing, and I said to him one morning, 'If I asked you to pee in a cup, would you test negative for a drug test?' And he said no, and I said, 'Then I’m going to have to ask you to move out.' I sat on his bed, and the tears started streaming down his face. I went into autopilot and said to him, 'When I come home tonight from work, I don’t want you here.' And of course he said, 'Well, it’s cold out there... Where am I going to stay?... It’s such short notice...' And I said, 'I gave you a month.'
I went to work, and I came home and found that my son did move out. And it was so cold out. And all I could think about was, Where was he? Was he someplace warm? Is he going to be okay? But I had to do it. I asked him, I don’t know, maybe a year ago — what was it that actually made him decide to get help? And he said, 'You know, Ma, it was pretty cold out there.' So, he said, 'I guess that would have been it.'
One evening, about a month after he had been living in his car or at other people’s homes, he sent me a text and he asked if I could make sure that his job stayed, that he didn’t lose his job. And I said I will do the best I can, because he said I was wanting help. Immediately, we met at the house and we drove him to recovery, a rehab, and he stayed there for 28 days. I think it was really good that he went there — the reason being is when they go to rehab, they learn about the science of how they become addicted and what these drugs do to them. They also learn about the fact that we all have certain genes that give us more of a predisposition to become addicted. That’s real eye-opening thing, because I tried telling him that many, many years ago. And they wouldn’t listen to me, of course, because I am the mother. But they heard it from people who are in the business of saving people through rehabilitation, and I guess it really made an impact on him. So I was really glad about that.
I can tell you what didn’t work, and that’s the difficult part. Because what didn’t work is people who knew me and knew Adam, and they knew that he was using heroin, but they never told me. And I know they were frightened to do so. I know it’s a horrible topic. But my son could’ve lost his life, and had this information come to me before I found out the way I did, I think we could have nipped this in the bud sooner and maybe not have to go through all the hell that we went through when he was in active addiction. What I would certainly recommend to anybody out there would be if you know that there’s somebody who is actively using, please tell their family, tell somebody, so at least that they’ve got a heads up. You know, I didn’t understand why my youngest son was locking his door. And I didn’t understand why I was missing things, I thought I was losing my mind. It didn’t occur to me that my son was stealing from me, I never would have thought that in my wildest dreams. So I think you really need to come forward and share this information, because you really could be saving somebody’s life by doing that.
One of the most important things I wish people would understand about addiction and opioid use is that it can happen to anybody. All walks of life. And they don’t all look like junkies on the street. They’re just your average person. And they can go from having everything to having nothing, or worse. And they all have someone out there that loves them, or at least someone who knows them. So you know, i think you have to look at one person at a time and just treat them with respect and help them make positive choices in their life.
Three nights before I found out that Adam was using, I was reading something out of a Facebook comment, and it had something to do with the opioid crisis going on in our city. And I was commenting on how, geez, our ambulances are being used to take care of all these addicts, and all they want to do is overdose. And then we save them by Narcan, and then they go back out and use again, and O.D., and it’s just not fair to those people who may need to be rescued by an ambulance and by the emergency team — you know if they’ve got a heart attack or something — when all these people, all these addicts are using. I was very frustrated about it, and I said, you know, geez, we should just let them all die. Those words came out of my mouth, and my son was the one hearing what I said. And I had no idea that he was also using. So I think I’ve learned a lot, and again these people were somebody’s little boys and little girls. And they are loved. And recovery can happen.
Adam's Story, In His Own Words
Everyone looks at drug users and thinks, Oh, they're just junkies. This and that. They just really went down the wrong path. They're still good people, obviously, they just need help.
In high school, I used to party a ton with my friends, and the group I hung out with — you'd get out of school or work or whatever on a Friday, and we'd all meet up, and we'd be drinking. And I guess whatever showed up to the house, we'd be doing. I think heroin ended up coming one night. It just stuck. Out of everything, that's what stuck.
(Eventually, I was) homeless, kind of couch-surfing. Life was kind of rock bottom. You find that kind of hits you out of nowhere.
You just kind of sit there and weigh your options. Where do I go from here? I mean, I was going nowhere. So, like, alright, I guess this is what I've got to do.
I went to The Farnum Center. When I left there, a month or two later — I'm really into cars, so I bought one of the cars I've always wanted. Now, any of my free time and money really goes into that. You can't really be on drugs and be trying to follow your dream at the same time. So that keeps me motivated, keeps me where I have to be. I think you'd consider that like a new addiction, if anything.
I think about it off and on. If I had seen into the future, that this was how it was going to be, I probably still would have done the same thing. It's how I am, I guess. It's just a good life lesson — you can see how bad something really is, and it kind of makes you appreciate what you have even more.
Adam and Lin, On Adam's Path to Recovery
(Below, Adam's replies appear in bold.)
Adam felt that this problem is his, and he was going to take care of it on his own.
Do you think that you could have actually done that on your own? No. Not a chance.
And I often wondered about that. Because I always told my boys, you can do anything you put your mind to.
I said to him, 'Go ahead, try it.' It was really, really hard to see him struggle. The most important thing for him was his job. He's always been a really hardworking person. And he said, 'Promise me I won't lose my job.' And I said, 'I'll do my best.' And so he was able to keep his job, and (a recovery advocate) that I met, I called her right away. I said, 'Adam is ready.' We flew home, met Adam, she called (The Farnum Center), said, 'This kid's ready.' Got him right into detox.
The great thing about talking to other people and getting rid of the stigma is that when you can talk about it, you can connect with people, and somebody knows something that can get you somewhere. It's really important.
Now, because I'm so aware, every time I drive into a parking lot, I look around me. I'm afraid of finding somebody. And I just know that person has somebody that loves them, I would hope. And you don't want to see that. I mean, things turn around. This kid's great. He did this, on his own, and that's something to really be proud of.
I honestly couldn't be happier. Do you ever still have that craving? No, it does go away. That's a good thing. Yeah.