It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and Lynne Bennetch would just be waking up for work on a typical weekday. Struggling to find the energy she lacked due to the long night of stress and worry, she heads to her job as a registered nurse in an outpatient center. She steadies her mind on the tasks at hand, burying the thoughts of what she could be doing. She could be making phone calls to rehab centers or trying to get loans to find medical help. She could be out looking for her son.

But, duty calls, so she focuses on work. After a long day of a mind filled with wandering thoughts, she tries to have dinner with her husband, Darryl. She sheds tears as she eats her evening meal. The tears are from her fear of wondering where her son is, when the last time was that he ate, if he was OK or if he was even alive.

Sleep comes for Lynne only after she cries herself to pure exhaustion. Sleeping for a few hours, she finds herself up in the middle of the night having panic attacks, worrying about her homeless child. She hopes that he will go to rehab or maybe even jail. At least she would know he would get medical attention, have clothes on his back and receive decent food each day. At least she would know that he was alive and she could find him and visit him and see him when she wanted.

To her, all of that sounded better than the streets. She dreads knowing that he was living in the streets because she couldn’t let him live with her. It was too dangerous. Not as an active heroin addict.

Sleeping for a few hours, she finds herself up in the middle of the night having panic attacks, worrying about her homeless child. She hopes that he will go to rehab or maybe even jail.

She couldn’t risk him stealing her belongings. No longer did she want to lock her bedroom from the inside to keep her son away from her purse. She didn’t want to keep finding needles in his room, knowing he was shooting poison into his veins in her own home. She couldn’t be an enabler anymore. She couldn’t let him live with her, yet she struggled to live without him. Just as much as he was hurting, she was hurting, too. She was suffering from having a child that was an addict, and she was living through the hardest time of her life.

Now, more than four years later, when Lynne looks back at that time in her life, she sees it as a blessing and something God dished out for her and her son, Eric, to learn from and be able to, in turn, find a way to give back to society. Through the worst times, hope always surfaced and kept her going. And the progress this mother and especially the son have made is remarkable.

Although the worst days are long gone, the rocky road taken to get to the better days was one that will forever be remembered. Eric’s story starts long before he became addicted to heroin. At the tender age of 9, Eric was exposed to his first alcoholic beverage. One thing led to another – from alcohol to marijuana, and then opiates. By the age of 14, he’d begun.

Lynne was aware of Eric’s previous use of alcohol and marijuana. She had him in counseling for those issues, thinking that things were getting better. But, on Thursday, November 20, 2003, Lynne received a call that changed her life forever. That was the day she found out her son was using heroin, something she had never suspected.

At that point, the process of trying to get Eric into recovery was Lynne’s main priority. Unfortunately, the road was tougher than she thought. Despite his effort not to become addicted to heroin, Eric become both mentally and physically addicted to the drug, developing a lifestyle that accommodated heroin and, as his mother put it, nothing was more important than acquiring the drug. He developed a pattern of going in and out of prison, being on parole, being on the run from the police and, at his worst times, being homeless.

“During the worst times, my average day was living in my broken-down car that didn’t run,” says Eric, now 28. “I was at my worst when I was using exorbitant amounts of heroin, amounts that most people would die from. It was hard to get high because I built a tolerance from using so much. And I would constantly feel sick from the withdraw.”

With the need of so much heroin came the need for money. Eric spent his days at a nearby gas station, bumming quarters from passersby. He’d hang out there until he would get enough money to score more heroin. He would walk the two blocks back to his car, sleep there, wake up dope-sick and then walk back to the gas station to start the same process. It was a daily cycle with which he became accustomed – get money, buy drugs; get more money, buy more drugs.

“As I looked in the mirror, all I could say to myself was that I hope that this isn’t the last time I see him alive.”

Lynne recalls a specific memory from when he was homeless. For his 19th birthday, she picked him up off the street corner. The two enjoyed a dinner at Red Lobster. She passed on gift cards to him so that he could get food and the personal things that he needed.

“Afterwards, I dropped him off on the street corner, and I was crying as I was driving away looking at him through my mirror,” Lynne recalls. “He was just standing there, and he looked awful. He was thin, had dark shadows under his eyes and was very ill looking. As I looked in my mirror, all I could say to myself was that I hope that this isn’t the last time I see him alive. At that point, I just never knew.”

Eric was in and out of county jail for drug possession and theft charges, which didn’t have the impact on him to get clean. It wasn’t until a stint in state prison for two years that it finally hit him that it wasn’t the life he wanted to live, or could even survive much longer.

“I thought I was happy. I could do weeks or months in jail,” explains Eric. “But when the judge sent me away for two years and threatened to send me back to serve my full sentence of five years, I knew I had to change.”

By no means did change come easily, but eventually, a change was made. After being admitted to eight rehabs nearly 15 times, having numerous relapses, fighting the sickness of detoxing and relapsing again, Eric finally began his life free of drugs on July 28, 2008, and is now celebrating over four years of being clean.

“When I got clean, I didn’t intend to stay clean forever,” says Eric. “I got clean to stay out of jail since I was on parole. But I started liking this feeling. I had real friends, not just ones who cared about using me to get drugs.”

And although some actions went without being noticed by his family, he saw the little changes that were happening in his own house that made the most impact on the pride he took in being clean.

“I started gaining trust from my family,” he says. “My mom would leave the room and leave her purse. To her, it wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t even think about it. But, to me, that was a huge thing. That showed she trusted that I wouldn’t steal from her anymore. That was huge.”

“I started gaining trust from my family,” he says. “My mom would leave the room and leave her purse. To her, it wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t even think about it. But, to me, that was a huge thing. That showed she trusted that I wouldn’t steal from her anymore. That was huge.”

Through the struggles that Lynne endured, just months after finding out Eric was using heroin, she started a group to reach out to other parents dealing with children that were addicts. Parents of Addicted Kids (PAK) is the support group that Lynne started in the spring of 2004. The group reaches out to parents, relatives or even friends of an addict. The point of the group is not to give advice, but to show support to each person dealing with living with an addict.

“Although each family’s story is different, they are all the same in a way,” says Lynne. “I like to let parents know that when you have a child that’s an addict, go easy on yourself. It’s a learning process, and it’s probably one of the hardest things you’re going to go through in life. If you are coming to us to seek comfort and help, you’re probably a good parent. It shows you care. So forgive yourself. It isn’t your fault.”

The group meets each month on the first and third Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Hummelstown. The group is not affiliated with a religious base and is not involved with any counseling agencies. From time to time, Lynne does have professional counselors come in to assist with the meetings and give the professional help that Lynne says most will need through this rough time in their lives.
Since Eric’s recovery, he’s been catching up on family time, even going so far as to grow out his hair with his niece to donate to Locks of Love. Eric also attends the meetings where he has become as involved with PAK as his mother. Parents reach out to him, and he too reaches out to them. He’s built relationships with parents that have been coming since the beginning of PAK.

“Some of the parents are like second parents to me,” says Eric. “It feels good to have people come back and say that we really helped them by our support. That means a lot to me because it means I gave back to someone in need.”

If you would like to reach out to Lynne or Eric, they encourage those in need to attend a meeting. Whether someone you love is an active addict, lost their life to addiction or is currently in recovery, people from all situations are welcome.

“It’s a safe place to come and cry when you’re at your lowest,” says Lynne. “But it’s also a place of celebration. If your child is in rehab, we celebrate that. If your child is in rehab, that always presents hope. If your child relapses, that’s OK, too. I just want parents to know that they’re not alone.”

Lynne and Eric’s main goal is to give back to society. They want to provide the support and information that they didn’t have so that people aren’t so blindsided by dealing with someone they love who is battling the disease of addiction.

Even after reaching recovery, addicts are faced with a life of struggles to come. Since 2005, a panel of parents from throughout Pennsylvania was commissioned to study the access and treatment programs of the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol. One thing the group is advocating for is erasing the stigma that comes with a drug history.

“It costs society more to keep an addict in addiction than it does to give them a support system,” argues Lynne. “Let’s help them get back into society and become people that aren’t stealing and breaking the laws. Let’s help treat them.”

Despite the mountains of adversity to overcome, addiction remains a battle within the life of an addict even after recovery. As Lynne puts it, addiction is a life-long disease. And her son knows that without a strong support system, recovery is not possible. His mom was that support system through his time of need. He knows that she stuck by him through times that many wouldn’t have.

“I’m not ashamed of my son’s disease,” she says. “I constantly told him I loved him. That’s unconditional.”

“I’m not ashamed of my son’s disease,” she says. “I constantly told him I loved him. That’s unconditional. With a spouse, you can divorce them, and you can move on. But when it’s a child, you want to help them. You want to fix it. You want to cure it. It really becomes hard when you realize that it’s a life-long disease that you have to learn to manage.”

Now that this mother and son have prevailed through the hardest time of their lives, they are trying to help others that are dealing with the same struggles by supporting them. Lynne knows that it is difficult, and both she and her son admit that with the disease of addiction, even with years of being clean, there could be a relapse.

“Do I think I’ll walk out the door today and use again? Of course not,” Eric says. “But I never say that I won’t ever use again. I’m an addict. I take it one day at a time.”

Even with knowing this, Lynne holds tight to her happiness of her son’s recovery. As her husband put it, the biggest repayment that Eric could ever give was to get clean. And that’s exactly what he did.

He made it through the jail time, rehabs, relapses and now recovery. But even through the worst times, Lynne held strong to her hope for her son’s recovery.

“We as parents always have to hold onto that hope,” she says. “And as long as they’re alive, there’s always hope.”

Similar Posts
Latest Posts from