Christmas can be an anniversary for families battling addiction.
Five years ago, two days before Christmas, Brittany Sherfield was homeless in California, desperate for her next fix: The young woman, then 20, had relapsed into heroin addiction.
In my hearts of hearts, I couldnt have her on the streets on Christmas, recalled her mother Katie Donovan, of Macomb Township. And so I bought her a hotel room. Right or wrong, thats what I did back then. I think I would have done it differently now.
On Christmas Eve, the family FaceTimed with Sherfield, obviously high, in her California hotel room as Sherfield opened gifts.Advertisement
I just remember this sinking feeling in my stomach as I saw she was high, but I had this fake smile on my face, trying to smile and hold the tears back, said Donovan. That, for me, was one of the hardest Christmases: Knowing she is getting high in a hotel room while we are back in Michigan, not wanting to tell anyone in the family what occurred.
Past Christmases hold dark memories, but this holiday season marked a different anniversary: After seven years of battling heroin addiction, Sherfield, now 25, this year gave her family -- and, most of all, herself -- the gift of a sober Christmas.
I am able to wake up on Christmas morning and not have to go to my nightstand drawer to get a needle, said Sherfield, who is two and a half years in recovery. I wasnt sick; I wasnt homeless; I was with my family. To see my sisters face light up, I think the best thing this Christmas was the fact that I got to buy with my own money my little sister a Christmas present.
Yeah, yeah, her mother chimes in agreement.
Shes 13 years old, and, for so long, she was afraid of me, said Sherfield. But she had told me that she wanted makeup brushes months ago. And it was just in talking, just in having a conversation with me on the phone. I have gotten to really know my sister over the past couple of years.
Recovery from heroin addiction is possible, Sherfield says. Never give up hope, her mother adds. While there is breath, there is hope for recovery for a loved one addicted to heroin.
Sobriety has transformed Sherfields life. But it took a powerful intervention to get her to that point.
Sherfield was broken when she stood in front of Judge Mary Chrzanowski two and a half years ago, she recalls. The daughter of a well-to-do suburban couple, the young woman had failed rehab 17 times and was facing felony drug charges that could send her to prison for six years. She had been raped twice, wandered the streets of cities in California and Detroit, lived out of drug houses and attempted suicide. She begged the judge for help.
Chrzanowski -- known to some as Scary Mary -- sentenced her to strict reporting probation. For several months, Sherfield had to drug-test three times a week. For months after that, she was drug testing once a week.
I dont know if it was a God-thing, but the desire to use when I was standing before that judge just left me, said Sherfield.
You became very, very grateful every single day for the loved ones in your life, said Donovan. You cant become complacent. My husband and I are very aware of how lucky we are that shes alive.
Sherfield now lives in Florida and works as an intake counselor for a drug and alcohol treatment center. She continues to attend Twelve Step meetings on a daily basis, something she says saved her. She is looking forward to a bright new year having enrolled in college to pursue her degree in nursing. Her goal is eventually to work as a nurse at a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
Sherfield knows that she is in recovery from her addictions, first to marijuana and alcohol as a high school student, then to Xanax and, when she was 19, to heroin: She is not recovered and she certainly is not cured. She keeps the image of the last time she used heroin in her mind. Dark as the memory is, she never wants to forget that.
If I dont keep that image in the back of my mind, Ill think that Im recovered from my addiction, and I can use one last time, said Sherfield. Thats why people are dying: Because they think they can use one last time.
It has become an epidemic: As prescription drug abuse has spiked, so, too, has use of heroin, an opiate with a cheaper street price than prescription pills, experts say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that heroin use in the U.S. jumped 79 percent from 2007 through 2012. Heroin overdose deaths rose 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. From 2010-12, Macomb County led the state in fatal heroin overdoses.
Hope for recovery
Their familys battle with heroin has galvanized Sherfield and Donovan. The two have become tireless advocates, with Donovan booked through May with speaking engagements. In 2016, the mother-daughter pair started a blog, A Mothers Addiction Journey, which Donovan says is being read around the world. In 2017, the two hope to expand the blog into an informative website with resources for families and those battling addiction. Donovan and Sherfields blog can be accessed at amothersaddictionjourney.com
Donovan, who now serves as the executive vice president of the advocacy group Families Against Narcotics, says 2017 could be a turning point in the battle against prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction nationwide, a point where those addicted to prescription drugs and to heroin are seen as battling an illness, not stigmatized as junkies.
More than anything, the mother-daughter duo want to communicate the message that addiction can happen to anyone, to any family, including ones of privilege.
But theirs is also a message of hope for a new year: Recovery is possible.
Following their 2016 family Christmas celebration, Sherfields grandmother called Donovan, crying.
My mother-in-law was just sobbing and in tears because she said this is the first Christmas in years that Brittany not only was home, but she was engaged with the family, she wasnt on her phone trying to figure out someplace better to be, and she was sitting down, playing with the little ones, really just a part of the family again, said Donovan. We didnt worry about having to hide our purses. We didnt worry about having to give her a Christmas present that she couldnt sell. She was helping me with doing the dishes and setting the table. It was amazing.
We have our girl back.
Families Against Narcotics Monthly Support Group Meetings
Third Tuesday of the month
7 to 9 p.m.
Christ United Methodist Church
34385 Garfield Road
Fraser, Mich. 48026
1st Tuesday of the Month
7 to 9 p.m.
The Masonic Lodge
231 N. Main Street
Romeo, Mich. 48065
Source : http://www.macombdaily.com/article/MD/20170109/NEWS/170109732