KATIE DONOVAN HAS BEEN THROUGH HELL AND BACK. BUT SHE NEVER LOST HOPE.
For more than five years, the drug chipped away at every part of her, and she desperately tried to keep it from destroying everything.
But the heroin kept coming back.
And every single time, a piece of her was lost.
Katie never went to rehab. She doesn’t have a sponsor. And she’s never had a drug problem.
But heroin was paralyzing her existence.
Katie’s daughter, Brittany, was a full-blown addict who almost lost her life to the beast that’s killing millions around the world.
She was raped.
She overdosed on multiple occasions.
She wanted to commit suicide.
And after 17 trips to rehab, she finally realized death was at her doorstep.
Brittany, a beautiful, bright young woman who almost had everything taken away, once had it all.
And at her weakest point, the only thing that remained strong was her mother’s love.
Katie, who grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, gave birth to Brittany when she was just 19 years old.
It wasn’t planned, and the father wanted no part of the situation.
“I had sex for the first time and got pregnant,” Katie says.
Brittany was born on March 14, 1991, and from the beginning, she and her mother shared a special bond.
“She was my little shadow,” Katie says. “We were extremely close. We loved rollerblading – we did everything together.”
As a young, single mom, life wasn’t always easy.
“There were times when I only had enough money left for a loaf of bread and some bologna for the week,” she recalls. “But you do what you gotta do to pay the bills and feed your family.”
When Brittany was 5, Katie met her future husband, John, while playing softball. But she was cautious.
“I was very protective of my daughter,” she says. “I didn’t want to be ‘that mom’ who was bringing different men around. I didn’t want her to meet anyone.”
Katie and John took things slowly, dating for five years before deciding to take the next step.
On Nov. 28, 2001, they were married.
Brittany was 10 at the time and thriving. The straight-A student was athletic, social and happy. But then, the family moved, and Katie had another baby.
“It was tough on Brittany because she was so used to it being the two of us,” she says. “It was a lot of change for her at one time.”
Thankfully, she settled into her new life and started high school without issue. Brittany faced normal teenage challenges, but handled them like the responsible girl she was.
When she was a junior, Brittany got invited to prom.
“She called me from a party and asked me to pick her up because her ride had been drinking,” Katie says. “That was the kind of kid she was. Then it all went to hell in a hand basket her senior year.”
Brittany started dating a guy on the hockey team.
“He seemed like a good kid,” Katie says, “but little did I know that half of the hockey team was addicted to prescription drugs.”
Pill-popping became their weekend fun. Xanax and Vicodin turned into their party drugs.
“I didn’t know until the night I got a call from the hospital saying Brittany had been in a single-car accident,” Katie recalls. “They said she had flipped her truck because she was high on Xanax.”
Brittany confessed to her mother that she felt as though her mind was going crazy, causing her to pop pills a few times a week.
“I told her we have to nip this in the bud,” Katie says. “And she agreed.”
After spending 72 hours in a psychiatric ward, insurance would cover just five days of inpatient treatment. Once that time was up, the family tried to resume living a normal life.
“We found her a therapist, we thought we could handle it,” Katie says. “We took her phone away, gave her curfews … but within a few months, it blew up in our faces.”
In summer 2009, Brittany moved out of her mother’s house and in with her boyfriend, the same guy who introduced her to prescription painkillers. She became a waitress at a nightclub and started taking Xanax and Vicodin on a regular basis.
One night, she came home, and her boyfriend encouraged her to snort it for a different effect.
“Once she started doing it, it was an amazing high,” Katie recalls. “She did that for a few days.”
Brittany didn’t know it, but her boyfriend was giving her heroin.
“Then she fell in love with it,” Katie says, “and within the next six months, she became a full-blown heroin addict.”
Brittany’s life quickly spiraled to a dark place. At 20, after two rounds of treatment, she found herself living in a trap house, where drugs are made and sold.
“They cleared out a room for her,” Katie says. “She thought it was great. She let them use her car to make drug runs, it was a trade-off.”
During this time, Brittany was jumped and raped.
“I was scared beyond my wildest dreams,” Katie explains. “Because I saw her disappearing before my eyes. She had dark circles, she had lost a lot of weight. And she kept saying she was fine.”
For the next several years, Brittany floated in and out of treatment centers around the country. It was a vicious cycle in which Katie also found herself trapped.
In January 2014, shortly after one her relapses, Brittany moved back home with her mother, claiming she was clean and desperate to turn her life around. One week later, she had three grand mal seizures in her home, in front of everyone
“I had no idea why,” Katie recalls. “The ambulance came, and took her to the hospital, and they couldn’t tell me what it was because of patient privacy laws.”
It turns out the seizures were from Xanax withdrawal.
Shortly after that, the family was at a friend’s funeral, and Brittany suddenly disappeared.
“That’s when I knew something was going on,” Katie says. “I found her nodding off in the bathroom of the funeral home after shooting up. And I gave her an ultimatum. She said no to treatment and moved out.”
Brittany spent the next three days roaming the streets of Detroit.
Finally, she called her mom and said she wanted help – but then disappeared for hours.
“I was frantic,” Katie says. “She told me she was in a very deep, dark place, and she knew mentally that she wanted to kill herself. She was so tired of disappointing everyone, being sick, and she saw no way out. She wanted to die.”
Katie drove around desperately searching for her daughter. She eventually found her in the parking lot of a Chase bank.
“I called the cops and told them she was committing suicide,” Katie says. “I knew the risks, but I wanted her alive.”
Brittany was taken to the emergency room, where she was placed in a corner to wait.
“They did nothing with her,” Katie says. “It’s the stigma of an addict: stick them in a corner, and we’ll deal with it when we deal with it. When I got there, she was practically in a coma.”
At the time, Brittany was on Vivatrol, a shot given to block the euphoric effect of opiates or alcohol. It is possible, however, to “break through the seal” by doing a deadly amount of drugs.
“I yelled to the nurses that she was on this drug,” Katie says. “And then they flew over, so urgent. She wasn’t breathing. If I didn’t see her there in a corner, she would have died.”
Brittany was given two shots of Narcan to reverse the overdose, which was caused when she popped six Xanax pills that she was afraid cops would find in her bra.
Thanks to God, Katie says, her daughter survived and went to Florida, where she was in and out of treatment for the next few months. During this time, Katie learned the scary truth about some of these facilities.
“I had no idea that treatment centers aren’t always in it for the right reasons,” she says. “Some weren’t regulated – they use right in the home, pimp girls out, traffic them.”
In fall 2014, Brittany told her mother she could no longer stay in Florida.
“She was shooting up in her car,” Katie recalls. “She was sobbing and she prayed. She said, ‘God, I can’t do this anymore. I am so sick of stealing, lying, manipulating – I have nobody left.’ Everyone was sick of her shit. So when she came home for a court date, that’s when she said, ‘I’m done.’ ”
Brittany then went into a Salvation Army treatment center for three months. All her insurance had been used up, so her only option was to find a state-funded facility.
“She needed to humble herself,” Katie says. “But still, I was prepared for the worst.”
Something, however, was different with her daughter this time.
“It was like something very spiritual took over,” Katie says. “The obsession with heroin was lifted. She focused on herself, got a job, went to meetings every day. She just completely poured herself into recovery.”
The last time Brittany shot heroin was Jan. 5, 2015.
It’s also when Katie started a recovery of her own.
She started attending meeting for Families Against Narcotics after suffering a mental breakdown over Brittany’s addiction.
“Everything just came to fruition from the years of trying to keep my daughter alive,” Katie says. “I lost it. I just got in my car and drove one day. It was pouring, I was screaming at my husband. I looked down, and it was 2 p.m., I still had my pajamas and slippers on. My husband found me, and I said to myself, ‘OK – I have to focus on me, and she has to focus on her.’
Katie and Brittany had an extremely codependent relationship, and she unknowingly enabled her daughter’s addiction.
“It took me cutting her off,” Katie says, “to get her to wake up. When she was in active addiction, we talked 46 times a day. When I started saying no, that’s when she realized the gravity of the situation. I cut off the resources – but never the love.”
Today, one and a half years after Brittany’s last shot of heroin, she and Katie are sharing their story with the world. They co-author a blog, www.amothersaddictionjourney.com, on which they chronicle their battle with addiction, keeping things very unfiltered.
“This is the real stuff that goes on,” Katie says. “People need to hear what’s really going on.”
In terms of the future, Katie has nothing to say – she stopped looking ahead years back.
“My future was planning Brittany’s funeral,” she says. “I just want her to have joy and peace in her heart. “She says she knows she has another relapse in her, but not another recovery. That’s what scares us.”
Katie offers a piece of advice for families in the throes of addiction.
“Don’t ever lose hope,” she says. “You can continue to love your child and hate the addiction. The disease consumes them, but it’s not who they are inside. They need someone to believe in them because they’ve lost belief in themselves. You have to create boundaries and be strong – but never stop loving. You never know when that time can be the time they heal. As long as they’re breathing, there’s hope.”
View the original article: