Pain medication leads to an endless cycle of family pain

by Cathy Jo Harper

Jason Brooks Harper

When Jason was 16 years old, he had a car wreck. Six weeks of physical therapy was followed with a new wonder drug for pain, Vicodin…..and a lifetime addiction to opioids.

Through relapses, college, rehab, counseling, the Marines, my life was filled with anxiety over how to help, anger at the situation, and fear; I was losing my son, my firstborn. How would I survive? How would his siblings survive without their big brother, their confidante, and at times their enemy?

Addiction and/or mental illness soon becomes a game the whole family gets to play. But one you’d never choose.

Fast forward to October 2019, just before my birthday which seemed to be the time things would slip away for Jason.

My DIL came to visit at 11 PM to inform us that Jason had been using Heroin for the past 3 months. At this time he was the sole caretaker for his grandmother who was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. How could this be happening again after 10 years? How, why? This was never going to be over and if it was the outcome was going to be devastating!!  

I knew and I tried to brace myself, but you can’t do it.

I had endured loss before, Samuel, my stillborn son in 1993, and a miscarriage at 16 weeks not long after. I was not prepared to lose another.

Now the tricky part, the worst part of all of this. I had my son and daughter-in-law arrested in February 2019. It seemed that she was using too and running drugs from Detroit and Cleveland. I obtained temporary custody of my 8-year-old grandson and fought to get my son into long-term rehab. He left after one hour and due to COVID and no one did anything about it.

Many missed opportunities with law enforcement, our hospital, and he was homeless for several months. During the 15 months leading up to my son’s death, I could not give him money; I could not be the one who paid for the fatal dose. Jason missed two brothers’ weddings, the birth of 2 nieces, numerous birthdays, baptisms, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and every family celebration we had.

We had a terrible fight last Christmas; he didn’t speak to me for over a week and I feared that he had died somewhere, all alone. Then he called after the first of the year, 2021. I begged him to let me help him. I told him he wouldn’t live to see his 40th birthday in September. I begged him to do it for his little boy or himself.

He spent most of January in the hospital with two rounds of sepsis and endocarditis. The hospital allowed him to leave and he died alone on January 31, 2021, of a Fentanyl overdose. My boy is gone. Jason would have had his 40th trip around the sun on 9/11/2021.

Jason’s Obituary.

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