FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — It’s difficult for most parents to imagine having two children dealing with drug addiction, one of them behind bars.
That is the experience of a local mother, whose son and daughter have struggled with addiction for five years.
Chris, who did not want to share her last name, suspected her daughter of using marijuana when she discovered she was also using harder drugs.
“Her best friend came into my bedroom at 3 o’clock and said, ‘You’ve got to do something, your daughter is shooting up heroin,’” Chris said.
Chris has found addiction affects not just the addict, but the whole family.
“I have been through bouts of depression, questioning whether I’ll ever be able to put all of this behind me,” she said. “I’m still scared. I worry about them every single day.”
Chris said her children, now in their early 20s, started with marijuana before experimenting with other drugs.
“Whatever was new, they wanted to try it,” she said. “When they realized they enjoyed the feeling of getting high, the chase for them got bigger and more powerful. Then it overtook their minds and their bodies.”
Between two drug rehabilitation programs, Chris’ son overdosed.
“His friends left him in a parking lot, hunched over the wheel of his truck and fled the scene because they were afraid of what would happen,” she said. “He’s actually quite lucky to be alive today.”
Chris’ daughter has stopped using heroin and is working full time, but was recently arrested for DUI. Her son is in a prison in Blairsville.
Chris said she faces a stigma associated with the disease of addiction.
“I felt like when people would drive by my house, they would say, ‘There’s the mother with the two kids hooked on heroin.’ It isolated me,” she said. “I found a support group; I think that’s how I survived.”
Sherry Quisenberry is another mother who has been affected by her children’s addiction. Her daughter, Kelsey, is not a stereotypical drug addict.
“Kelsey was making the Dean’s List in college; she was working. She’s a high achiever and always has been,” Quisenberry said.
Two and a half years ago, Kelsey, now 24, began to lose weight and struggle in school. One afternoon she nodded off at 3 p.m. while driving and wrecked her car.
Quisenberry pried further and discovered her daughter was using Oxycodone and heroin.
“People think heroin use is an inner-city problem,” Quisenberry said.
Quisenberry said both of her children surprised her.
“It’s been a rollercoaster with both of them,” she said. “They have stolen from us to support their habit. They have not been able to go back to college, and they’ve been depressed and ashamed.”
The Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council will share stories like Chris and Quisenberry’s and help equip parents with resources to prevent and treat addiction at an upcoming drug awareness summit.
Forsyth County hopes to raise awareness for parents of drug use in the area, including heroin use, at its third drug summit Aug. 19.
The 6:30 p.m. event takes place at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Tech, 3410 Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Cumming.
“I think a lot of parents go to every length to provide safety and precaution,” said Cindy Jones Mills, a Forsyth County commissioner who founded the council last year.
“Everything they do for their child as a toddler, they need to be doing even more when they become a teen,” Mills said.
Mills said she wants to offer parents practical applications for children using drugs, even if they cannot afford rehabilitation.
“How can parents help their kids who don’t have that kind of money?” Mills said. “Some information they can leave the summit knowing—‘What are things I can do to keep my child from dying?’— that’s the big thing.”
The summit will also have a prescription drug box presented by Northside Hospital-Forsyth and a mock bedroom to show parents where children may hide drugs.
Law enforcement and judges will be available to answer questions.
Four out of five children will try drugs or alcohol before their senior year of high school, according to the Drug Awareness Council.
The event is free to the public. For more information, visit www.forsythcountydrugawarenesscouncil.org.