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Recovery Stories

My Ultimate Hope: Raising Children Who Struggle With Drug Addiction

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Leanna Perez Green and her two sons. Perez Green’s husband is retired from the Air Force. She says seeking drug treatment for her teenage son meant facing down stigma in the tight-knit Wright-Patterson military community. Photo: Maddie McGarvey

WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you intimate conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid crisis. This episode introduces us to two women whose children have struggled with addiction: Becky Walsh and Leanna Perez Green.

Leanna’s husband is retired from the Air Force. She says seeking drug treatment for her teenage son meant facing down stigma in the tight-knit Wright-Patterson military community.

“The Air Force is zero tolerance — if you use drugs, you’re out. I would like to see that community talk about it more instead of feeling like my active-duty person may get in trouble,” Perez Green says.

In this conversation, Walsh and Perez Green, who met at a meeting of the Dayton support group Families of Addicts or FOA, open up about the different ways they’ve handled their children’s addictions.

Listen to their conversation below. What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Perez Green: My name is Leanna Perez Green. I live in Beavercreek, Ohio. We have two boys. My younger son has a problem with substance abuse. He only used heroin, that I know of, for a short time. I don’t honestly know. He won’t tell me. I have a suspicion that he smokes cocaine. When somebody is in active addiction it’s hard to believe what they tell you.

“The Air Force is zero tolerance. If you use drugs you’re out. I would like to see that community talk about it more instead of feeling like my active-duty person may get in trouble,” says Perez Green, whose family is connected to the Air Force. Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Walsh: You know what, I don’t even ask anymore, I don’t ask. My name is Becky Walsh. I’ve been a nurse for 40 years. I’m still working part-time part time now, I’m kind of enjoying a semi-retirement. I live in East Dayton. I have two children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. So that makes me 68 years old. Both of my children have been using drugs since they were in their teens and they’re now in their forties. I was honest with them and said, I know that you’re using, if you ever decide to change your lives that I’ll be here. And I knew that that was really all I could do, that and be there for grandchildren. And then it wasn’t long after that when my son came to me and said, I can’t do this anymore, mom. It was kind of a miracle. He said, I don’t want to live like this. He was seeing his friends dying or overdosing and almost dying. And that’s, I think, the reason that he did decide, I can’t keep doing this because it’s going to kill me. I’m very proud of him for doing that.

Perez Green: I remember you had told me that you went through detox with with both your son and your granddaughter. That had to have been a really tough situation. Do you feel like your nursing helped you with that?

Longtime nurse Becky Walsh’s children have struggled with opioid addiction. Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Walsh: My son, he didn’t want me to see him in that much pain. But we stayed in the same room, in the living room. He was on the couch. I was in my recliner. We were up all night long the first night. And I have been a nurse for 40 years. Most of that time has been at the bedside and I’m telling you now, I would never, ever let one of my patients suffer like that. So, that was tough. And he did it. He did all of it. He gave up where he lived. He gave up his job. He gave up his friends. He gave up any money that he had, he turned that over to me. But that’s what it took, and he was OK with it, which surprised me. But it also told me how much he really, really wanted this. And he’s been clean for almost a year. I feel like I’ve got my son back. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

Perez Green: I tell my son all the time, if you want treatment I can help you with all of that, you just need to tell me. I know that he can have a good future if he could learn how to live with his addiction and get it under control. But, you know, he’s just, he’s not ready. He’s not ready and he’s only 19 and he needs me, yet he doesn’t let me into his life. I can’t help but feel some responsibility, like, what did I miss along the way? Why did he start using drugs to begin with? What did I not see? What did I not do? I have a terrible fear of his life ending. That fear drives me, just drives me. I want to get to a place where I don’t feel like, god, did I make the wrong decision today? Becky, I look at you and I see a living example and that gives me hope. It gives me hope for my son, that someday I hope he’ll be in recovery and he’ll walk in those doors with me and be able to share his experiences. My ultimate hope is that he will decide that he is ready to get full treatment and stop using.

More About WYSO’s Recovery Stories

This story is part of WYSO’s Recovery Stories series.

The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from WYSO Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson. Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.

Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.

Recovery Stories

I’ve Always Wanted To Be A Mother: Starting Over After A Life On The Streets In Addiction

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Photo: Maddie McGarvey

WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you intimate conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid epidemic.

In this story, we meet Susan Fitzpatrick and Rebecca Thayer, mother and daughter who describe themselves as best friends. Their voices even sound remarkably alike.

Rebecca, who friends call Becky, is 35 years old and has nearly two years clean. Before entering recovery, her drug addiction led her to a life on the streets.

This year has been one of firsts: Becky recently completed an intensive drug-court program and has a new job. She lives with her daughter’s father and friend in her first-ever apartment, and she’s looking forward to getting her drivers license this fall. Becky also recently welcomed a new child into her life, with a baby girl named Ella.

Listen to the conversation below. What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Thayer: Because the one thing I’ve always wanted was to be a mother. And I was told that when I’m not on drugs or alcohol that I am a wonderful mother but it’s my addiction that gets in the way. Sophia, she’s my oldest girl. I got pregnant with her right when my heroin addiction started off, which was in 2009. So, I still have so much guilt over Sophia. How can I be a mother to Ella when I couldn’t be that to Sophia –– or to Cameron –– or to Alyssa?

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Fitzpatrick: And I have a lot of guilt about losing Sophie too because I didn’t come pick her up that night at the homeless shelter.

Thayer: It’s not your fault, mom.

Fitzpatrick: But I just kept thinking to myself she’s going to get her back, she’s going to get her back, because that’s what you kept telling me. And then I find out she’s adopted for good. Why couldn’t you tell me you weren’t going to be able to do it? Why did you keep telling me you could do it? I would have taken her.

Thayer: I was scared. I was scared to admit that I was that I’d been defeated. You know, everybody would ask me, how are the kids doing? For years: they’re with my mom. They’re doing good. They’re getting big.

Fitzpatrick: Aw, honey

Thayer: I didn’t want to admit it, until recently when I got clean. Sophia, when I lost her, I lost it. Everything took off. I did the things I thought I would never do. I was an I.V. heroin and cocaine user. I stayed in abandoned houses, I’ve eaten out of dumpsters. I’ve caught many charges from stealing from stores to support my addiction. I would do whatever the dope boy, the person that was selling me the drugs, if I didn’t have money, whatever he wanted me to do I would do it. I’ve sold myself on the streets. I’ve been raped, robbed, and then go right back out there and do it again just to get that next one. I felt like I didn’t deserve any better, I wasn’t worth anything more than a blowjob, a piece of ass, excuse my language, because I had such low self-esteem. I literally thought I would die in that life.

Thayer lost four of her children in her addiction. “I’ve lost them, but I had to forgive myself for what I’ve done for the cause of losing them to be happy with this child,” Rebecca said. Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Fitzpatrick: I was scared to death to get that phone call. You know every time I would see a 937-number, I’m like, oh my god, what is it? And I’m thankful you made it out alive because I really didn’t think you would.

Thayer: Neither did I. But I caught a felony charge in Women’s Therapeutic Court, a.k.a. drug court. And I was tired. I was so tired. I basically did six months of treatment and I was just so grateful, willing to do whatever it took. And now that I’m clean, eight years just –– poof –– are gone. And I’m able to have my relationship back with you and that means more to me than you can ever imagine.

Fitzpatrick: It does to me, too, honey.

Thayer: I missed you.

Fitzpatrick: I missed you too, honey. And I feel like you’re stable now. Don’t you feel stable?

Thayer: Yes I do. I have a roof over my daughter’s head. I can provide for her. I can provide for myself. I’m not sleeping on other people’s couches, I’m not having to get up early in the morning and go out during the day because I have nowhere to stay during the day. I feel normal. I’ve lost four of my children in my addiction. I’ve developed the bond with Ella and children’s services is not taking this one. I just want to be the mother that she deserves. I want to go back to school, have a degree. I want her to be proud of me. Ella — I can’t wait to send her to her first day of school, to potty train her, little stuff like that. She’s going to lose her first tooth. I’m so looking forward to it.

More About WYSO’s Recovery Stories

This story is part of WYSO’s Recovery Stories series.

The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from WYSO Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson. Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.

Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.

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Recovery Stories

Be There For Your Family: Friendship Forged In The Struggle For Recovery

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Friends Dustin Aubry and Bob Lloyd first met at a meeting of the Dayton support group Families of Addicts or FOA. Aubry is in recovery from longterm addiction, and Lloyd’s adult son has an active opioid addiction. Photo: Maddie McGarvey

WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid crisis. Today, we hear a conversation between Dustin Aubry and Bob Lloyd.

They first met at a meeting of the Dayton support group Families of Addicts or FOA. Aubry is in recovery from longterm addiction, and Lloyd’s adult son has an active opioid addiction.

Despite their more than 20-year age difference, Aubry and Lloyd have become close friends and allies in the struggle for recovery.

Listen to the conversation below. What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Aubry: My name is Dustin Aubry. I live in Fairborn, Ohio. I’m happily married, I have three kids. I’m a recovering addict in recovery. I’ve been clean since April 11 of last year.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Lloyd: My name’s Bob Lloyd. I live in Dayton, Ohio. I’m a roofer. I have a boy that’s in active addiction now that I really worry about all the time. We tried to get him help. He keeps dodging me. I even went to an assessment with him to make sure he went. I stayed in the waiting room when they took him in the back and I was there for him. He’s just got to want it. That’s the thing, people have to want it. They have to be tired of being tired in addiction, is what I’ve learned from it. You just hope and pray every day he comes over and says, dad, I’m ready. Until then there’s not much I can do. That’s the bad part is you feel helpless. Either he ODs or gets treatment or he quits. That’s what I worry about. I worry about him overdosing and nobody being there for him. Dustin, what keeps you up at night?

Aubry: I’ve been using since I been 17. I feel like I missed out on a lot of stuff in my twenties just going in and out of jails and prisons. I think about that and I think about the time I wasted. I think about what my life could have been like but talking to Bob, I can just tell he cares and he is just always there for me. We have the same interests, we have the same hobbies, we collect knives, we collect racecars, we collect models.

Lloyd: We watch the same TV shows.

Aubry: Yeah, [the television show] Street Outlaws.

Lloyd: That’s what we talk about a lot is Street Outlaws. And it is like a father-son relationship. We’re good buddies, you know?

Aubry: Being an addict, it’s hard to find somebody that will trust you and actually want to be your friend. And it ain’t as easy as you think, like, people being accepting like that.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Lloyd: See I kind of flip-flopped. I was kinda down on drugs and stuff. I was one of them guys, how many times do we bring them back with the Narcan or whatever? And then I started understanding more through going to FOA. And then I listened to the people and listened to their stories. Some of them just break your heart, you know, there’s a lot of grandparents raising grandkids now because their mothers and fathers are all messed up. My boy come, we got him to actually come to one FOA meeting — I’ve been trying to get him to come for a couple of years — and him and Dustin talked a lot and he told him a lot of what he went through.

Aubry: It basically comes down to, unless you want it, you’re not going to change. I’ve been to 13, 14 rehabs before I finally got it. The one thing is is never be a quitter and never be scared to ask for help. That’s one thing that keeps me thriving. I don’t want to let nobody down no more. I want them to be like, you know, Dustin was a good dude. He’d a gave his shirt off his back to anybody. He might have messed up but he did change. I’m part of the society, I’m not a menace no more, I’m not committing crimes. I go to work every day, I cut my grass, I take care of my house, paying bills. I never worried about that stuff before.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Lloyd: Dustin’s like I would want my son to be. I would want my son to do the things that I do with him. I know he’s a good hardworking family guy. I know he takes care of his business and I respect that. I want him to stay clean. That’s the main thing: stay clean. Stay with your family. Be there. Be there for your family.

Aubry: And I love you man.

Lloyd: I love you, too, dude.

More About WYSO’s Recovery Stories

This story is part of WYSO’s Recovery Stories series.

The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from WYSO Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson. Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.

Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.

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Recovery Stories

You Can Be OK: Stories Of Motherhood And Addiction

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Photo: Maddie McGarvey

WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid crisis. This installment introduces us to two Loris: Lori Erion and Lori Yuppa.

The women share more than just a name. Both have had children touched by opioid addiction.

The experience led Erion to create the Dayton nonprofit Families of Addicts or FOA, to advocate, “that we are not alone,” says Erion.

“Two-thirds of American families have been touched by addiction. It is really hugely important that we get the word out that people can, and do, get better. I wanted a place where our families could feel like they’re not alone, not feel ashamed, and miraculously enough, after they come for a while they shed that shame and the guilt, and they are out letting people know that we’re OK, you can be OK. So, I’m hopeful that we can turn this thing around,” Erion says.

That mission brought Erion and Yuppa together. And in this story, they share how their lives have changed as a result of their children’s struggles with addiction.

Listen to the full conversation below. What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Yuppa: My son Chase Cummings was 18. He passed away on September 18, 2012. He loved animals. He liked to do little rap songs. We’d be in the car together and he’d say a rap song and I’d do one. And of course we had to laugh at mine because my stuff didn’t rhyme. And it was just silly stuff. He had potential but he had the low self-esteem. He didn’t want to come around the family because he felt like he was ashamed of what he had done, and the family at times would be afraid to have him there because they were  afraid he might steal something. Now, mind you, he was only doing this for four months — the heroin. His father had back pain, a lot of issues and he was taking Oxycodone, Vicodin. Chase would get into that and then he got into the heroin. He was clean for a couple months and then decided to use and it killed him. Somebody injected him and left him and stole his radio, his wallet and his cellphone. It’s the worst feeling in the world to get a coroner’s report on your child, to have the clothes he wore the last night he was alive, or things like that. I have a box with a bunch of his stuff in it and, you know, once in a while I get into that box and I lose it. And that’s okay. At first when he passed away I was like, gosh, why couldn’t I save my child? you’re supposed to protect him, but I couldn’t.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Erion: My daughter is still living. There are days where I feel like I’m trying to keep her alive. April was 24 in April. She was due in May, so I didn’t name her April because she was born in April. We’ve been on this journey for, I believe, about seven years now. Well, one day she was especially sick, so I took her to urgent care and I saw the marks on her arms when she was laying there. And I said, what is that? And she said, you know what that is. And that was the very first time I knew that she was using drugs intravenously. I had not even a clue. How would you ever think that your kid that is terrified of needles is going to wind up shooting heroin? I mean, it was unfathomable. That led us to years of rehabs, with some success here and there. But I think what was a really pivotal change for her was being locked up in the Greene County jail for 11 months. She got out and she did really really well for almost a year. And then she decided to go off her medication and wound up relapsing that way.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Erion: It’s very nerve-wracking. I told her, don’t use in my house because I don’t want to have to revive you or find you. I would rather get a call. I think it’s pretty sad when a mom has to say that. When I forbid it and had zero drug-use tolerance in my home with her, what that did, it just promoted lying because she didn’t feel she could come to me. We’ve been through this for so many years and I’m really just trying to let her figure it out for herself. She knows what she needs to do.

Yuppa: You don’t want to force her because it’s not going to work. You know that. You can pray, beg, cry, carry on and plead with them to please get better or please stop. But unless they want to they’re not going to. That’s one thing I do know.

Erion: There may come a day where I don’t know what’s supposed to happen with her and hopefully I can be as healthy about it as you seem to be, and I know it’s taken you a really, really, probably a long time to be able to have some type of acceptance and peace about it. Is that how you feel?

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Yuppa: Yeah, I do. I will never wrap my head around it. I know my son is gone. I know he’s in heaven. But I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that he’s dead. My mind don’t go there. I remember driving down the highway and thinking to myself, that cement block under the I-675 bridge, I’m going to run into and just end it because that’s how bad it affects the whole family. I have another son Chad, who is getting married. He is my world, if I didn’t have that kid, I don’t know what I would do — my son who’s healthy, he’s always done right, he’s a good boy. My son has said to me, mom, you know you have another son, and that makes you feel horrible. I was so consumed in the grief of losing Chase. But what does help me is the fact that I can help others and I can talk about him. And if it can help one other person hear my story, that would be great because just talking about him is keeping him alive to me. You know and just his smile, his sense of humor and just his beautiful face, his beautiful blue eyes. But I have to live for [Chad] and I have to live for others and that’s what gives me joy. That’s what helps me keep going.

Photo: Maddie McGarvey

Erion: And you know we’ve got a granddaughter on the way. It’s the first time ever and it kind of changes the way I’m thinking. I don’t want to miss out on this grandbaby growing up. I want to make the time for my son, his girl and the baby, and that might change how how I support or don’t support April, depending on which direction she decides to go because there comes a certain point where I got to do things for me, do things for my other child and it’s just a resetting of the priorities, I guess. I’m not willing to miss out on it.

Yuppa: Nope. I wouldn’t either.

Erion: I feel like I have a bond with you from the very first day.

Yuppa: Me, too. [After the death of my son] I was so gung ho, I wanted to help, help, help and they gave me your name and number and ever since then it’s been on like Donkey Kong, girl. She’s just someone that’s there for me. And I’ll be there for her. I will always volunteer at every rally. I love doing that. I love you.

Erion: I love you, too.

More About WYSO’s Recovery Stories

This story is part of WYSO’s Recovery Stories series.

The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from WYSO Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson. Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.

Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.

Continue Reading

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