MANSFIELD - Two mothers gave testimonies at the high school Thursday about how heroin has destroyed the lives of their children. The son of one mother died of an overdose; the other mother who is fighting to keep her son alive.
Pam Jenkins told the story of her son, Cody, who at 21 died Sept. 14 of a heroin overdose alone in a vacant house.
Jenkins said she thinks Cody's drug abuse began with marijuana, which she described as the "gateway drug" to more powerful substances, when he was a junior or senior in high school.
"I found out he and his friends had been coming to my house to party. They had been coming there since they were little boys playing video games," she said.
Jenkins said she started to think "something was amiss" when they started putting eye drops in their eyes and acting oddly.
"My friend told me they were smoking pot, and I asked Cody and he said yes. I started calling parents and told one and she said to me "I figure that's better than (using) alcohol,' ".Jenkins said.
"It might just be pot, but to a kid who has an addictive personality it is the beginning of the end," she added.
Jenkins said she wonders now how her "smart, funny, talented son who dreamed of becoming an architect could have become this young person who lies and steals to support his addiction."
"I remember I would wait to hear those footsteps come down the hall and when I did hear them a sigh of relief, he's home and safe, but then what will happen tomorrow?" she said.
Jenkins told the parents and others in attendance to "look for signs of change, educate yourself."
The day her son died, she said, she was going to call the probation officer and have him put in jail, "but I was afraid it would affect the rest of his life. We have to stop thinking of these people being on opposing sides. We have to be part of the solution and not the problem," she added.
Jenkins said she has started a support group that will meet the second Wednesday of each month.
The first gathering of the group is Nov. 13 at the Richmond Township building on Valley Road.
Doug Candelario of Harbor Counseling will be the first speaker. Everyone is invited, she said.
Another parent who spoke from the audience said she is from Canton, and her son is named Cody too.
She is a nurse and stressed that there are other things beside syringes to look for - things water bottles, bent spoons, cigarette butts that addicts use to filter the drugs through.
She also advised parents not to be afraid to look through their childrens' rooms for signs of drug abuse and drug paraphanalia.
She said her son relapsed after being clean for eight months.
"He had a job and lost it because he couldn't go to work," she said.
"He wrecked his car." she added. "It affects the whole family."
She encourage other parents who might be dealing with a drug abusing child to "don't give up on your kid. And don't be afraid to call the police. It's not your parenting."
Jenkins agreed, saying that drugs like heroin "do not discriminate."
"We are all affected in one way or another and we need to protect our children." she added.
"I know my son didn't die in vain. I can't stand by and see this happen to another family or another child. If what I have so say helps another family not go through this, I know Cody would be proud of me," she said.