Heroin facts from a mom
Through her work with the LTM Foundation, Felicia Miceli has learned a lot about heroin, from preventive measures that could have been taken, to acceptance of the life-changing effects the drug has on users and their families.
Most important, she concluded, is this: "You're going to make mistakes in your life, but heroin is not one that can be made."
Here are a few things Miceli wants others to know about heroin and its devastating consequences.
• Heroin addiction often stems from painkiller addiction.
One of Felicia's biggest regrets is her acceptance of her late son Louie's recreational drinking and pot smoking.
The social pressures kept steering Louie down the wrong path, to the point that his friends encouraged him to try some painkillers his younger brother had been prescribed for a sports injury. He quickly got hooked.
"Their friends were like, 'We could take these and have some fun.' I know they weren't thinking this is going to lead to a full throttle addiction," Felicia said. "I don't know anyone that would be like, 'Oh, I want to be an addict.'"
• Heroin does not need to be injected.
About a year-and-a-half before her son died, Felicia started finding needles.
"When I first saw a needle it was just like, ugh," she said.
But when she asked Louie why he started using heroin, she was even more shocked. He told her he actually snorted it the first time, thinking it was cocaine.
"When I talked to him about it I was like, 'How could you try something, first of all, that you don't know what it is, and second of all, what part of you thought (cocaine) was OK?'" she said.
• Heroin makes your loved one someone they're not.
Louie's drug use drove him to steal Felicia's jewelry and credit cards.
"You have to come to terms with thinking, 'That is not my son, my son would never do that,'" she said. "He literally gave the shirt off his back to people. For a kid that is so generous to steal from mostly me, because I left my stuff out, he was really ashamed of that."
"When he was clean he was like, 'I know that you forgave me and I know God forgives me, but I have to forgive myself for so many things Mom.'"
• Heroin gives you three options: death, jail or rehab.
Eventually, Louie's family decided it was time for an intervention, so his older sister, Kristen, locked herself in his bedroom and laid out Louie's options: death, jail or rehab.
"We prayed about it and said, 'Please God, let this be heard.' She was able to get through to him," Felicia said.
In early 2012, Louie chose rehab. But one of the main problems, Felicia said, is that rehab is "not long enough."
"A 28-day program is like giving someone who needs 10 chemo treatments three," she said. "I believe that rehab needs to be comprehensive, with follow-through after release. It needs to be comprehensive, but first of all, rehab needs to be longer."
• Your sobriety must come first.
When Louie was clean, he became a faithful Christian, reverting back to the child Felicia said she raised him to be.
"He was living life, enjoying every minute," she said. "He just had a silly grin on his face all the time and was enjoying simple things, like watching a movie with us. He had such a higher level of appreciation for everything."
But Louie also wanted to be "his old normal self," so he started hanging out with friends and going out to bars. He started thinking life could be the way it was, but once you're an addict, Felicia said, "life can never be the same."
"Your sobriety has to come first. You can never forget that if you're an addict. So you need to keep that in check," she said.
• Don't let your kids leave rehab.
"You get your child out of rehab and you think OK, we did what we needed to do. We took care of it, we addressed it and now he's going to be moving in the right direction," Felicia said.
"You're so full of optimism and hope and truthfully, that's just one baby step in the process."
Louie relapsed after four months of being sober. His brother found him dead in his bedroom, the place he most frequently went to get high.
"So, I also have to live with not doing enough research and understanding how addiction really works," Felicia said, "especially to heroin."
• This article is part of our "Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes" series. For more see http://bit.ly/DailyHeraldHeroinSeries
"Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes"The Daily Herald's series "Heroin in the Suburbs: Through Their Eyes" visited the lives of 13 people affected by the heroin crisis or working to solve it. You can find the series at http://bit.ly/DailyHeraldHeroinSeries