This is one a series of articles about the local opioid epidemic. The names in the following story have been changed to protect the victims of this crisis.
SIDNEY — It’s not just drug users who suffer from addictions.
The families of addicts suffer, too.
Gayle Hodges, of Sidney, has been torn between her two sons, Harold and Donald, for a long time. Harold became addicted to prescription drugs and then street drugs when doctors stopped writing the prescriptions. Donald refuses to have anything to do with Harold, doesn’t want to hear about his problems and won’t discuss his brother with Gayle.
Gayle lives with Donald. That makes it especially hard when she feels she must help Harold.
Harold began taking prescripton painkillers following an injury. He refused surgery because he couldn’t afford to miss work. Missing work would have meant not making child support payments.
The prescription medicines were followed by Percocet, oxycodone, Vicodin.
“Whatever he could buy on the street. Half the time, I don’t think he knew what he bought,” Gayle told the Sidney Daily News.
Harold lived in his own apartment. He didn’t miss work, a job he had held for 24 years. But Gayle could tell something was wrong.
“He got very thin. He got behind on (paying) things. When you’re spending $700 to $800 a week …,” she said. The electricity and water had been shut off. Gayle paid some of the bills.
During the New Year’s holiday at the turn of 2017, Harold became very sick. He couldn’t think straight. He stopped eating.
“I kept asking if he was addicted and he always told me no — until he finally said yes,” Gayle said. “It was like I was looking at a transparent ghost. I’ve never seen such bad depression. He looked hollow. He acted hollow.”
She made phone calls. Where could she get help for her son? She carried the burden alone. She couldn’t talk to Donald. She had nowhere to go for support.
“I was absolutely devastated. He was absolutely helpless and so was I. Moms can fix everything. Moms make everything better and I couldn’t fix this. I’m the only support system he has. His only sibling is not a support system,” Gayle relived her anguish in recounting the story.
“I made many, many phone calls. No one could help me,” she said. At 3 a.m., she awoke and prayed. Then she turned to the Internet and dialed number she found there for a drug rehabilitation center.
“I scheduled Harold to be on a plane in Dayton the next day,” Gayle said. The center paid for Harold’s plane ticket. Gayle didn’t even know what state she was sending her son to.
“It was awful. It was scary,” she said. “I didn’t hear anything for five days and five nights. Then they called and told me he was in Las Vegas at a center called Desert Hope. They told me he was going through detox, he was being monitored, he was dong well. But I wasn’t hearing my son’s voice.”
It would be two more days before she did. She never said a word about any of it to Donald.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” she recounted through tears.
Harold stayed in Las Vegas for several months. Gayle paid his rent while he was gone.
“Financially, I’ve had to help him a lot, which I don’t let my other son know,” she said.
Harold turned down the offer a job and a room in a halfway house in Las Vegas and returned to Sidney, clean.
“He stayed clean for 156 days,” his mother said. He and Gayle attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings together. And then he used drugs again.
“It’s hard when you’re in a small place like this. The pushers don’t care. You think, ‘Just one (hit) won’t hurt.’ That one takes everything you’ve worked for and destroys it in a second,” Gayle said.
Not long after, Harold called Gayle from his car, crying. He was in a parking lot in Sidney. It was 8 p.m. He had tried to go to the counseling center, but it was closed.
“I about lost my son that night and there was nowhere to go,” Gayle said. “Addicts don’t use just from 9 to 5. Why don’t we have somewhere open?”
She and a friend went to Harold.
“He was a mess. It was like he was alive but he was dead,” she said. Gayle could think of only one place to turn.
She had been attending meetings of a group called Families of Addicts. Cody Odom, of Troy, is its leader. Gayle called him.
“I was hysterical. He told me to hold on, stay put. He made phone calls,” Gayle said.
Odom called Gayle back: “If (Harold) can just get through the night, tomorrow they will assess him for Hope House.”
“That was a very long night because of the withdrawal. But Cody Odom saved his life,” Gayle said. It was August 2017. Harold and Gayle went to Hope House, an opiate detox center in Troy operated by the Miami County Recovery Council. Odom met them there.
“I could tell Harold was tired and looked defeated,” Odom said. “I assured Gayle that this is a good sign since he was reaching out. I stayed with them until it was confirmed that he would be accepted and going into Hope House.”
Odom said he would do the same for any other member of the Families of Addicts support group.
“(I) would do anything I could to help direct them whre to go or to meet them anywhere, knowing I was not only helping their loved one, but them as the family member, too. As families, we suffer and recover with our loved ones,” he said.
Harold was at Hope House for 16 days. Doctors gave him Vivitrol, a nonaddictive treatment that prevents the brain from craving opioids.
Harold is now clean and going to regular counseling sessions, but Gayle continues to live on pins and needles.
“Everyday I hold my breath. When I don’t hear from him, I freak out. I don’t like living like this,” she said.
She never says anything about Harold to Donald and Donald never asks. The brothers never see each other.
Gayle credits Families of Addicts with her own sanity.
“If not for them, I’d be in a mental place. It’s a lot to carry. They were the only people that knew something, that were so selfless. (Odom) met me and stayed the whole duration of the time. Everyday, they called to check if there was anything I needed. Harold went to Families of Addicts with me. They were so welcoming and nonjudgmental,” she said.
She has several recommendations for changing the system to make the ordeal less stressful.
“If there’s no insurance, you’re not going to get help, so those who aren’t working won’t ever get help. There should be a program that doesn’t cost.
“Narcotics Anonymous meetings need to be run by a professional counselor. I really think that is missing and that’s so important.
“Something should absolutely be open (all hours). People don’t go to the hospital because they send you to Dettmer (Hospital in Troy). It’s not a treatment place. It’s a psych ward. I’m not so sure that people not as fortunate as my son — (the one’s who have died) — if they’d had a place to go (they might still be alive).”
And she sings the praises of Families of Addicts.
“I want people to be aware it’s the only place we have right now. I’ve learned so much at Families of Addicts, not so much about my addict, but about myself,” Gayle said.
Families of Addicts meets in Sidney every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Salvation Army, 419 N. Buckeye Ave.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.