My son Jesse's drug and alcohol use started around age 14 and by 15 he was smoking marijuana daily. He had no motivation and school fell to the bottom of his “to do” list. We forced Jesse into treatment, however, it was a very short stay and he was soon using again. Jesse also began using other drugs – you name it, he tried it. By age 16 Jesse was using crack cocaine and shortly after became addicted to heroin. His life became a living hell and so did ours. I guess you could say we became addicted to our addicted son. All of our focus was on him. What was he doing? Where was he going? Is he in trouble? Are the police looking for him? Has he been arrested? Is he hurt? Has he hurt someone else? Is he sick and cold? Is he lying dead in a Chicago alley? Will he make it home this time? We were lost and didn't know what to do. All we could do is call our insurance company to see what treatment was available to him. There were a few attempts in treatment. All of them too short. Jesse began to do whatever he could to support his habit -- mostly by stealing, selling drugs or even using other people's money given to him to buy their drugs. We received many threatening phone calls from people Jesse had “ripped off” and it was even more scary when they would come looking for him. It is an awful thing to watch drugs take the life out of your loved one and to see them so desperate for the drug or even worse, to see them sick from withdrawal, knowing that heroin will take that pain and sickness away -- to watch your child slowly killing himself. Jesse's court cases began piling up. He had been arrested numerous times on various charges. With burglary being his most serious charge, there was a possibility that Jesse could face years in prison. In the spring of 1998, Jesse and I stood before Judge James Doyle. We were both terrified that Jesse was going to prison. Judge Doyle gave Jesse the chance to get his life together and put him in the T.A.S.C. program. I am very grateful to Judge Doyle for giving Jesse that last chance. Jesse spent 45 days in jail waiting for an opening at Brandon House, a facility in Mamteno, Ill. Jesse would begin a 90-day treatment program. After 80 days, Jesse was asked to leave for various reasons and he came home at the end of August with the fear that he might go to prison. He quickly started receiving some counseling and he also began drinking almost every day. I think he felt if he “just drank” he could stay away from the harder drugs. Early in November, Jesse received a partial settlement from an accident he had been in. We were so afraid for him to get this money. We tried to have something done but the case wasn't settled until after he turned 18, so it was out of our hands. Jesse spent a few nights away from home the next two weeks. On November 18th, I received the phone call that I had feared for years. It was the Melrose Park, Ill. police department. Jesse had been found dead in a hotel room. My beautiful son was gone and I was devastated. Jesse's funeral was November 23rd, the day before his 19th birthday. As we expected, the autopsy report showed the cause of death to be a heroin and cocaine overdose. It has been 8 years since we lost Jesse. He consumes my thoughts much of the time and I miss him terribly. I believe there is no loss greater than losing your child. Three are some things that have helped in my healing. A support great called “Families Against Heroin” was started by Darlene Marcaisson, the director of Lazarus House, a homeless shelter in St. Charles, Ill. I found many wonderful friends there; among them are Lea Minalga and Pam Heil. I have been on staff at the Lazarus House for four years now. I am also proud to be a member of the Mom Squad/ Hearts of Hope as well. Judge Doyle started Kane County Drug Court because of Jesse's death. He stated that he did not want another child lost to this terrible addiction. Precious lives are being saved and I will forever be thankful to him for that. I have learned a lot these past few years and I have met some of the most caring people and many of the addicted. We have a tremendous bond, are there for each other, cry each other's tears and feel one-another's joy when progress is made. I believe that together we can make a difference in this battle of addiction. I want to do my share and I will never give up hope.
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