The grip of addiction impacts the whole family

By Rich Piatt

By Viviane Vo-Duc

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 9 2014 9:00 p.m. MST

Darlene and Mike Schultz lost their son to a heroin overdose. They say it was the worst day of their life. They felt helpless to get him help.

Alan Neves, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Substance abuse experts said the number of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction in Utah has been growing for seven years, an indication of the continued struggle facing families and the ones they are trying to help.

The number of recorded heroin overdose deaths nearly doubled from 1,842 in 2000 to 3,036 in 2010, according to the most recent statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authorities say a number of factors are fueling the drug's use, including relatively low prices and a less demonized image than it once had. But it's also the grip of addiction that makes it so difficult to leave heroin behind once it's experienced.

Darlene and Mike Schultz lost their son, 22-year-old Adam, more than a year ago from a drug overdose.

“There’s nothing worse than losing a child,” Darlene Schultz, Adam's mother, said.

Losing their son, “was the worst thing that happened in our life,” Mike Schultz, Adam's father, said.

But sharing their family story, they say, has helped them deal with the pain of his addiction and his death.

Adam Schultz

Adam was a hard worker who loved to try new things and work with computers, his mother said. He also loved to do things with the family.

“He liked to work on old cars,” Mike Shultz said. “We worked on old cars together. We had a lot of fun. He was a great kid, a lot of fun to be around, a lot of people liked to be around him.”

They knew something was wrong when his behavior changed.

“We kind of knew something was up,” Darlene said. “It’s that gut feeling. You get that gut feeling, and I think that’s more important than any drug test you can give anybody.”

Adam went from being involved with the family and talking with them all the time to wanting to be alone. He got involved with drugs and knew he was hurting both himself and his family.

At that time, the parents thought they could fix their son. They said they forced him into rehab several times.

“We thought we could just flip a switch and he could just get off of it, and it was just impossible,” Mike Schultz said.

“All the nagging, pleading, threatening, guilting is not going to help a person get better,” she said. “They have to help themselves. That’s one thing we learned because we tried everything.”

Adam eventually fought hard for his life. He volunteered with Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness. Being open and honest about his addiction helped his whole family.

Adam went to treatment and was clean for 13 months, but relapsed in November 2012 after his grandmother’s funeral.

“He wanted help,” his mother said. “He came to us for some help and went that route, and it was on and off for another six months.”

Then he moved out. Then it got worse. After six months he called home and came back home again. He was 150 days clean when he died, she said.

“We thought if we loved him enough, we could love him into recovery,” Darlene said. That seemed to work: “You can love them into recovery. The love and support you give them is so important. I think that’s what moved him to recovery is our love and support, not forcing him to help.”

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