How to find help: information and resources for those struggling with opioid abuse
By John Dobberstein, Editor
The holidays and dawn of a new year can be a difficult time for many people who’ve lost loved ones, especially for those who’ve lost a child.
The advocacy group Families Supporting Families was formed to support parents who’ve lost children to drug abuse. This year the group placed a Christmas tree in the lobby of the Broken Arrow Police Department in remembrance of children lost, with their names placed individually on the decorations.
The display also includes a purple flip book containing pictures and stories of children lost to addiction. A message on the book’s cover describes the painful journey families in the group have gone through.
“We never dreamed in a million years we would be the one having to plan a funeral and bury our children. We were certain they would surely come to their senses and quit using drugs. We willingly sacrificed our time and money to help them find sobriety. We never quit loving them! We never gave up on them!
“As you read these stories today, say a prayer for the ones left behind: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, a son or daughter left without a parent. Our hearts have been broken and our families ripped apart with sadness and grief. We will never get over losing a child, we will just learn to pick up the pieces and go on the best we can.
“May these stories inspire you and encourage you to keep fighting for your sobriety and your life.”
Here are some tips from the parents interviewed in this stories on recognizing behavior in children that might signal they’re getting involved with illegal drugs.
DEPRESSION LINK. While there may not be a link in every case, parents who talked to the Sentinel seemed to feel that depression can trigger opioid abuse.
TAKE INVENTORY. Pay attention when things around the house go missing or a child comes up missing for hours or days at a time.
DON’T BE NAIIVE. Don’t be the parent that says “It will never happen” to their child. Educate yourself about the dangers of opioids and addiction, and the necessity of having Narcan around.
YOU ARE WHO YOU HANG OUT WITH. Pay close attention to the friends your children hang out with. Engage them, ask them questions, watch their mannerisms.
Rebekah Brown, who lost her son Cole to fentanyl poisoning, said parents must pay attention to changes in their child’s behavior, especially if they start to withdraw or don’t want to do things they normally do, such as skipping school sports they normally participate in.
Not bringing their friends around is another red flag, she added. “That was something Cole did a lot. He didn’t bring a lot of people around probably because he knew that I wouldn’t approve of what they were doing,” she said.
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With the preponderance of cell phones, social media and encrypted chat apps, “I think parents need to really be up in their kids’ business. Do surprise checks on their phones. Look and see who they’re talking to.”
Brown also suggested parents talk to their children about the dangers of illicit drugs and how high the stakes are. “You literally don’t have good odds. You might have done it once or have done it a couple times, but it will eventually take your life. It's just a matter of time. Some kids don’t even get more than one chance, you know?
“I think it’s important to continue the conversation with your kids about how serious it is and how much you care about them and don’t want to lose them. And if you do see some signs, go to a counselor, go to your insurance, see if there’s any help you can get for them at an early age. And don’t wait until they’re 18. Keep fighting to get them the help that they need.”
WHO TO CALL
Here are some tips and resources designed to educate the population about opioid addiction.