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Picking Up the Pieces: A Mother’s Journey Through Addiction

by LOU ALPERT

December 1st marked two years since I woke to a CNN story featuring my pregnant daughter shooting heroin in an alley in Albuquerque while being confronted by a police officer; an officer who would ultimately adopt her baby.

The bizarre sequence of events that followed is nothing short of a miracle; strangers drawn together to save my child. A young police officer who offered compassion instead of arrest, a CNN reporter who chose to cover this story, and a CEO of a rehab center in Florida who, while sipping coffee and scrolling through social media, stumbled upon the story. As a recovered addict, he saw a glimmer of light left in my daughter’s eyes that made him believe she could be saved. Reaching out, he offered a scholarship to his facility. After five years of addiction and two-and-a-half years of living on the streets, these strangers were able to convince Crystal to do what I could not. Today, Crystal remains clean, and I am grateful.

Gratitude did not come to me easily. Like so many parents, as my daughter lost herself to heroin, I lost myself to her addiction. I’ve always prided myself on being independent, taking care of others without allowing them to reciprocate. As a result, I isolated from my support system and was not honest with myself or others about what was going on in my life. My road to recovery has been humbling.

It has taken time to put myself back together, piece by piece. Some pieces were lost, and others purposely thrown away to protect myself from the pain of coping, or not coping, with my daughter’s addiction. I have also discovered new pieces that I didn’t know were missing; pieces I needed in order to heal and open my heart again.

Mostly, I have learned that it’s okay to need others. In a world where we are quick to text and slow to reach out in a meaningful way, I seek community, listening, and true conversation. We were not made to take this journey of life alone.

Since writing my story, I have been contacted by dozens of parents who have lost children to overdose, each one going through a heartbreak that I can only imagine—and did many times while my daughter was using. I also hear from those struggling to find their way through a medical and legal system that offers little to families who are lost in this disease. I am grateful to everyone who chooses to courageously share their stories and support each other.

With an average of 115 people dying daily since 2014, opioid addiction continues to spread at a terrifying rate into every demographic and community. Each of us is vulnerable. We must not stigmatize or marginalize this disease. If Crystal had not been given a free bed in a long-term rehab facility, she might be counted among the dead. Solving the opioid crisis will take money, research, more beds, and most of all, compassion.

My last two years have been filled with incredible growth. I spend time daily in prayer and meditation. Accepting my own limitations, the fragility of life, and surrendering it all to God has brought me to a place of peace I never thought was achievable. By talking openly about my own experience, I hope to create a space where others coping with addiction can be seen and heard…finding healing in shared community.

LOU ALPERT

Lou Alpert is the author of "Surrender: A Love Letter to My Daughter," which chronicles her daughter's five-year journey with heroin.

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