Katie Donovan admits she used to be one of those people who thought addiction happened to other families.

Katie Donovan

As she wrote on her blog, A Mother’s Addiction Journey, Katie used to believe that heroin addicts were criminals or people who came from a bad home. Their family, on the other hand, had everything together. She wrote:

I was the PTO mom, the carpool mom, the Brownie leader. We ate family dinners at the table, taught our children manners and took family vacations. My husband and I were blessed to have very good jobs. My daughter, Brittany […] was the honor roll student, the volunteer at the city parks and recreation department and loved playing sports.

But it all changed when Brittany got involved in a car accident at age 17 while high on Xanax. It was the beginning of a long road for their whole family as Brittany got hooked on heroin and spent years in and out of rehab.

Katie understands why there’s a tendency to blame the parents when children go down a self-destructive path. However, after watching her daughter fall into heroin addiction, there’s one question that makes Katie angry: “Where were the parents?”

On her blog, Katie demonstrates that the parents who were there to rock their children to sleep as babies and teach them to ride a bike also have front-row seats during the slow slide to addiction. And it’s heartbreaking. Katie wrote:

Where was I? When you were in the 2nd grade, I taught your catechism class and watched with pride while you made your 1st Holy Communion, surrounded by the love of family and friends.

Parents like Katie were there to cheer on their children at sporting events, sneak money from the tooth fairy under their pillow, and comfort them when the thunderstorm got too close.

In Brittany’s teenage years, Katie worked out a code so she could pick up her daughter from a party if things were getting out of hand. In other words, she did everything right. But that didn’t protect their family from what was to come. Katie wrote:

Where was I? When you were 17, I rushed to the ER when I got a call that you had flipped your truck, with a very high level of Xanax in your system. I didn’t understand how this happened and we got you into therapy right away, hoping we could “nip this in the bud.”

When her daughter would disappear for days and Katie feared for what she might be doing, she was still there:

Where was I? Frantically driving around the streets of Detroit, trying to find you, with tears streaming down my face, fear in my stomach, yet determination in my heart.

And when her daughter admitted she had a problem, Katie was ready to help:

Where was I? When you came to me in tears, that you had become addicted to heroin and didn’t know how to stop. We cried together, me rocking you in my arms again, promising you that we will get through this together.

As Katie wrote, she was there for her daughter through the whole ordeal, trying to balance the need to save Brittany with the need to protect the rest of their family (including her marriage). She helped look for rehab centers, paid for treatment, and watched over her daughter through crippling withdrawal.

She wrote:

Where was I? For the next 10 years, I was by my daughter’s side, never giving up on her, riding the roller coaster of addiction that practically tore our family apart. 20 rehabs, detoxes, psych stays, 4 different states, countless overdoses, sleepless nights, jail stays, etc. As a parent, when your child is sick with a disease, you never give up.

That’s where I was. Go ahead. Judge me.

Katie told Dearly that after years of experience with addiction, she knows all about the stigma and assumptions that follow families touched by the disease:

“My daughter has struggled with addiction for years. I know I was a good parent, and I understand that this is a disease. I think there is such an enormous stigma surrounding addiction.”

Moreover, she knows that addiction doesn’t care how good someone might have been at parenting. Thinking about the stigma and the comments she’s heard inspired her to write about where the parents of drug addicts are/were (such as trying desperately to save their child). She told Dearly:

“Far too often, I see comments about those that struggle saying, ‘It all comes down to parenting,’ or similar. I woke up one morning, with this deep, burning need to put my thoughts on paper. So out came the iPad, and I wrote this in about five minutes.”

Katie is now a certified family recovery coach and a speaks around the nation on addiction issues. On both her website and Facebook page, she encourages those dealing with addiction to reach out and contact her organization for help.

She told Dearly she hopes her story can help others understand the raw truth about addiction: “I use my blog as a path to share my thoughts, my journey with my daughter for self-healing, to educate others and really create awareness that addiction can truly happen to anyone at any time.”

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