Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Series offers grim reminder to parents: This could be me

In the years I've been in the news business, I've edited stories about crime and tragedy involving young people, sometimes thinking, "Not my child. This could never be me ..."
One of the hardest parts of editing our series, "Fatal Addiction," is the awful truth that this could be me.
Or my child.
Or anyone I know.
The path to addiction recounted by the people interviewed in this series often began with painkillers prescribed by a doctor for an injury or anxiety.
What parent of a teenager hasn't made a fair share of doctor or emergency room visits, stopping at a pharmacy on the way home, per the doctor's orders?
"When our kids are hurt or sick, we tell them to take their medicine," said Coleen Watchorn in the interviews conducted for this series. "We're doing what we think we're supposed to do as parents."
That medicine can become habit-forming, or it can lead to friends or other family using the leftover prescribed pills to experiment. Addiction comes later.
Coleen and her friend Kathy Mackie shared their stories with us as parents who watched their sons fight and lose their battles with addiction.
These mothers spoke to us knowing that some people might judge them poorly. But they were  adamant that they wanted to speak out and help others who may be going through a similar experience.
They sought a greater good from their grief -- a mission to discuss heroin publicly, to confront the reality that opioids are a threat to all our children.
Their courage to be candid has been inspiring for all of us involved in this series.
In my case, their stories have touched close to home. 
My younger son was an active, athletic, risk-taking child from the time he could walk. Through middle school and high school, when sports became his passion, those trips to the doctor and emergency room were frequent.
Doctors prescribed pills for sports anxiety, pills for better concentration, pills for pain, pills for every ailment encountered.
Add the social pressure of peers, and the threat of abuse is obvious.
Reading these stories, I was frequently struck by a stark reality: "This could have been my child."
Trying to understand how heroin addiction can invade a family and rob a fine young man of his future and parents of their child was the most difficult part of editing this series, particularly because I know one of the families.
I attend church with the Mackies. Kathy and I were confirmed in the same class as teens and served on consistory together as adults. My husband and I chose Bob Mackie as confirmation mentor for our oldest son.
This series is about people we know who live good lives and who did everything right as parents -- and then suffered a loss no parent should have to bear.
This could be any of us; this could be our children.
Pills and heroin are a real threat in our towns. The goal of this series was to bring that truth into the open and prevent more lives from being lost.

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