Tag: drugs

Pain Unthinkable – Addiction & A Mother’s Loss – Jennifer Hrischuk

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The opioid and heroin abuse epidemic in our country has grown to national crisis status.  The countless lives these drugs adversely affects goes well beyond the addicted.  We are losing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters by the handful to their ensnaring ways daily; by the hour, minute and second.  Not enough is being done fast enough by our government regarding control and intervention.

This post is a very personal interview with a woman, wife, friend, professional and mother that I highly respect and admire.  She was my mentor at the time of this tragedy. The news of her loss was completely devastating and the greatest nightmare of most parents. I was 8 months pregnant with my first child and she was forever changed as she prepared to lay her one and only to rest.

It’s been over 5 years now and the pain still so unthinkable. Jennifer’s courage to share her RealBoldTruth is one story of the gross reality of how lethal this matter truly is.

Reflection on the life of Michelle Lee Hrischuk

By Jennifer Hrischuk

 

RBT: When you found out you were going to be a mom, how did you feel?

 

JH – Excited!  This was going to be our first baby together.  Mike had been previously married and I was already a stepmom to Christie.  My pregnancy was great – no morning sickness or physical problems.  We did not find out the sex of the baby until she arrived!   I’ll never forget how it felt to hold her for the first time.

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RBT: What was one of your fondest memories of Michelle?

 

JH – The year she practically stole the show at our church’s Easter Cantata (at least I thought so!)  She was nine or ten and ended up playing the role of a young boy singing his version of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.   She was as cute as could be, in her fisher-boy costume, singing her heart out in perfect pitch.

 

RBT: What was she like as a little girl? (Her personality, things she enjoyed, was she a spoiled little princess?)

 

JH – As a little girl, she was fun and adorable.  She was a very smart and high-energy kid, talkative, inquisitive, talented.  She was reading at a high level by age 5.  She enjoyed all sorts of activities, whether it was a school club or visiting the cousins.  As she got older, she developed quite a sense of humor and liked pulling practical jokes.  She was clever and witty, and due to her intelligence, sometimes you could almost forget she was a child.
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RBT: What aspirations did she share with you that she had of herself when she grew up? 

 

JH – As a young child, there wasn’t one particular thing she said she always wanted to do.  When she got older she did express some interest in work related to helping others.  She never developed a specific career path before she was already headed in the wrong direction.
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RBT: What fun mom/daughter things did you two do together? 

 

JH – We did a lot together!  We both sang and played the piano and sometimes performed in various church venues.  Hiking and outdoor activities were other favorites.  We liked playing board games – and when she beat me, it wasn’t because I let her.  She was a worthy opponent.   Once we wrote and performed a play all in one weekend, “The Magic Pocketbook”.  When she was older, we took a vacation to Ocean City, Maryland – just the two of us.  On the way home, coming through Salisbury, we unexpectedly visited the zoo.  We laughed so much that day and it was all the more fun because it was unplanned.
 


RBT: Would you say you had a healthy parental connection?

               

JH – Yes.  Michelle and I did not experience too much mother/daughter friction.   Throughout the years, we actually could talk pretty honestly about most topics.  Even when her addiction troubles started, we maintained a reasonable good relationship.

 

 

 

RBT: When did you first notice Michelle was in trouble?

 

JH – One evening when she was 15, she was clearly under the influence of something.  I had already caught her smoking marijuana, but this was entirely different.  Turns out, she was abusing Xanax and other prescription pills.  Then it all snowballed from there – suspensions from school, bad grades, not coming home on time and at night……

 

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RBT:  What things did you and your husband do to respond for her and yourselves?

 

JH – The school recommended that she see a therapist or drug addictions counselor.  We found someone great who Michelle was comfortable talking with.  I think he extended her life by a few years.  One morning she came home after spending a night with a friend – she was in such bad shape that I called him immediately.  With his help and advice, Michelle went to the Caron Foundation for a 30-day inpatient stay.  She learned a lot during that time and ended up staying clean for at least one year.  She continued to go to NA meetings and some outpatient rehab.  Somehow she managed to finish high school without any more incidents, although her grades and attendance were barely passable.

 

RBT: How long did Michelle’s battle last?

 

JH – 5 years – between the ages of 15-20

 
RBT: You were the one that found her unresponsive, can you describe that moment?

 

JH – It was utterly awful.  At first I couldn’t figure out what happened.  She was lying on the floor next to her bed, the needle right nearby.  Of all of the drugs we were aware of, this was one she managed to hide from us!  Then I wondered if it was suicide, but we figured out later that it was an accident; an unintentional overdose.  This will be hard for some to understand, but because of everything that had already happened with her, I never could relax about the future.  There was a part of me that was always waiting for the next crisis, the next emergency, the next phone call.  Some part of me was prepared for this, unfortunately.
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RBT: How have you been coping?

 

JH – I’m not sure exactly.  I don’t really see an alternative.  Maybe that’s God’s grace, just helping me to be strong and have a good attitude.  My friends and family have been a wonderful support system.  I also was seeing a counselor about six months before she died and continued with therapy for another few years.  I’m not always a happy camper, but I’ve moved on to the point where I can genuinely celebrate with others about their joys – their children’s successes, weddings, grandchildren.

 

RBT: Has time helped to ease some of the pain?

 

JH – Definitely.  It helps put things in perspective.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes when a person dies, their survivors start to forget about all the deceased’s bad qualities and only choose to remember the happier moments?  It’s been that way with Michelle too.  Her addiction took up 25% of her life (in years), but we had 75% of her years that were full of very good memories.  Although her addiction years were very stressful, there were still some bright moments in there.  It wasn’t always a nightmare.

 

 

 

RBT: Do you have a relationship with God and if so how has this affected it?

 

JH – Michelle’s death changed me a lot and because I am a different person now, I have a different relationship with God.  In the earlier years of her addiction, I had so much anger.  Much of it was directed at God.  Things weren’t going as planned.  Why wouldn’t God answer my prayers?  I finally traded in my anger for peaceful acceptance.  I am thankful for all that we have.

 

 

RBT: How has Michelle’s passing affected your marriage?

 

JH – To be honest, her addiction almost destroyed our marriage.  It was a very complicated family situation.  It was just the three of us living together.  I can’t even put it into words – but any family member of an addict understands the continual strain that the addiction causes all the members of the family.  After she died, somehow we just made it through and have continued to move on since then.  I know she’d be happy seeing that we are still together 5 years later.

 

RBT: What do you want readers to know about Michelle?

 

JH – She was funny and smart.  In some ways she was wise beyond her years, but in other ways she was still naïve.  She could sometimes try to give the impression of not caring or being uninterested, but deep down, she did care.  I think sometimes it was an act – trying to cover up whatever was hurting her so deeply inside.

 

 

RBT: What advice would you provide other parents with children suffering from heroin addiction?

 

JH- Don’t try to handle this on your own!  It’s a tough road.  Seek help and support for your child’s addiction and also for yourself.  Most likely you will not have much influence over your child’s addiction, so it’s important that you learn not to hold yourself responsible for your child’s actions.  Nar-Anon meetings were helpful to me.  Be prepared for a lot of crazy emotions and thoughts.  You may start doubting yourself as a parent and your ability to make the right decisions.  Your marriage and relationships with other children and family members can really suffer so it’s important to get educated about tough love and not being an enabler.  Find someone to whom you can totally trust, preferably an experienced therapist, and tell them everything that is going on in your heart and mind.   It’s too much to keep inside so don’t try to be a silent hero.

 

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RBT: How is Michelle’s memory being preserved and honored?

 

JH – Mainly, I just keep talking about her.  She was part of my life for 20 years and that doesn’t go away just because she’s gone.  Many people are afraid to bring up her name, worried that it might upset me, but it doesn’t.  Death is an awkward and uncomfortable topic for many people.  I try to educate everyone that it’s okay to discuss.  It would be much worse to never mention her name and act like nothing ever happened.
We’ve kept her Facebook page going and that has been a great outlet for her family and friends to continue to remember her.  There is a brick in her memory at the Caron Foundation and we continue to support Caron in the hopes that other lives can be saved.  Her gravestone at the cemetery is a certainly a tribute, and the epitaph says, “Your smile and laughter will be with us forever.”  That has turned out to be true – she still lives in my heart and I am so thankful that the memories haven’t faded. 

*The End*


Sleep well Michelle, for despite it all you are a sweet precious Angel whose life was meant to be. Memories of you are everlasting and your life far from in vain.  I feel certain you are with the Savior due to your measure of faith and all those who also believe will be reunited with you again someday.   -Chanel Walker-Bailey

 

 

Dangerous Thin Lines

Last month I had an opportunity to attend a two-day women’s conference held in a state prison. I have never imagined myself ministering to women who have been incarcerated and was not sure how God would use me in that setting.

When the Ministry team and I arrived, the experience became completely surreal! Being stripped of things I take for granted daily, being ordered around and told what to wear, reminded of what to leave home, being searched and shaken down. We had to walk through heavy metal electronic doors. Hearing that chilling sound of the same slam behind us then lock up, definitely struck a cord or two! The experience surged through my core creating apprehensions that this life for many truly does exist!

The corridor leading to the chapel where the inmates were waiting for us was very dull and gloomy. Although not maximum security, it was clear that the facility was far from modern in every way. Those unfortunate to call this place home are offered no more than the bare necessities to survive. 

To my surprise, when I entered into the chapel the women were already engaged in praise and worship. I was taken aback because of the ignorant perception in my mind of what I thought I would see. The women had their hands raised and eyes closed in reverence of the Lord. They were clearly open and ready to receive! Any mental defenses I had up immediately fell as I silently whispered to my Savior, “Lord, use me in this place!” I was in complete awe of their genuine tender hearts and was willing to serve in any way possible. 

As I took a seat and waited for direction from The Ministry Leaders, I scanned the chapel. It was quaint, warm and inviting. The presence of God was without question in this place! Had it not been for the guards, warden and state uniforms worn by the women, I could have easily felt like I was simply visiting a new church. The atmosphere really helped to ease my preconceived notions I had conjured up in my mind days leading up to the visit.

I then scanned the faces of the prisoners. I was in shock as I considered them. Many looked like me! Normal, non-threatening, sweet, mature, beautiful and loved God. They were mothers, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers and more. What the heck are they all doing here?? I’ve got to be on “Candid Camera” for there is no way ALL of these women are capable of unthinkable acts….

I discovered that I was amongst physical abusers, drug addicts, alcoholics, thieves and yes, even murderers…

As several shared there stories of how they arrived at this place, my heart broke as their tears fell reminiscing on the days they simply made the wrong decision that drastically changed their regular lives forever. It only took a second, a fleeting moment in time that caused them to put dangerous undo pressure on some very thin lines.

I am very familiar with those moments, for I have had several throughout my life. In fact, The last, not that long ago. Outraged beyond reconciliation , responses without thought when I am offended; wanting to plot revenge against one who has hurt me; basking in unforgiveness, hate, cruelty and near insanity! My own thin lines could have very easily placed me exactly where these women are.

Although thankful that my Savior has saved me from myself today, I need Him tomorrow and always to teach me to respond the way He instructs: 

With soft answers that turn away wrath -(Proverbs 15:1)

Love my enemies – (Matthew 5:44 & Luke 6:28)

Leave revenge to The Lord – (Romans 12-19)

Forgive as He has forgiven me – (Colossians 3:13 & Ephesians 4:32)
And so much more…

My prayers remain with those women that have had such an impact on my spirit. As I was there to minister to them, they actually did the same for me. They are currently living through their testimonies and God STILL wants and loves them. I can only pray that I will encounter at least one in the future to see how God turned everything around for their good. (Genesis 50:20 & Romans 8:28)

Are you walking dangerous thin lines today? If so, please stop and consider your future. God has the answers to all that troubles you. Don’t allow the matter to eat away at your soul like acid. If you do, you can easily find yourself in the state of one of these women or worse. No matter how offended, hurt or unfair it all has been, seek God to stabilize your path; He will turn those thin lines into concrete boundaries that only He can sustain.

Contest Winner #3  – A Jennifer Mercado Testimony 

I want to share a personal testimony about my life. From my beginnings to where God has me today in hopes that someone reading will be encouraged.

My parents were married until I was nine. I remember it being an abusive marriage, both verbally and physically. Alcoholism was also a factor in the midst of dysfunction.
After my mom and dad divorced they both remarried and again we were being raised around alcoholism. My mom worked retail so my stepfather pretty much raised my brother and I. He was the enforcer, the disciplinarian and struggling with alcohol abuse. He tried to get sober here and there but it never lasted. He was a chronic relapser. 

There were several times that my mom moved us out to get away from him but we always ended right back. One time we ended up in a homeless shelter during Christmas time, but again we went back. 

As I got older and became a late teen, my relationship changed with my stepfather. We started getting along. This probably happened during one of the times he was sober and the respectful relationship continued from there. One of the last times he got sober was because my mom had left him for good. When she moved out this time she took my brother with her because I had been living with a boyfriend on my own. I just had to get away from the chaos.
When my boyfriend and I broke up, I called my mom and asked her if I could move into her apartment with her. She told me NO! I was devastated! What kind of mother doesn’t allow her child to come home? 

Because she said “no” and I had a good relationship with my stepfather, I called him and asked if I could come home. I mean this was the house I was raised in. He said of course.
This was really hurtful to me that my mother would turn her back on me in my time of need. 

I had been taught to take care of myself from an early age. I had my first job by age 13. I continued to work to buy things for myself. Things were never handed to me. When I graduated I was working two jobs. I always thanked God that I had gotten into the right career because this was my getaway. I could focus on my work and not worry about the outside chaos.
Years passed and I started dating my now husband, little did I know he too had an addiction problem. It seems the enabler in me was always trying to ‘fix’ everything and everyone. Luckily for my husband I didn’t know he had a drug problem because had I known then what I know now we would have never been married. 
We went through some really rough times. Never was he abusive to me but our life was spinning out of control because of his choices that came from his addiction.

My husband and I have been married for 12 years and have been together for 17 years now. 

He celebrated being clean and sober for 10 years this past February. I look back at my life now and I am truly grateful for all of the chaos and all of the addiction that I was surrounded by. It’s because of where I’ve been that I can appreciate where I am. 

I found NarAnon about 3 years ago. Most people don’t know anything about NarAnon. These are meetings for the family/friends of addicts. NarAnon teaches how to work on ourselves, reminds us that we have no control over the addicts choices. 
I started attending these meetings because a family member was searching for help and I found it for her. I was only supposed to be there for support. Little did I know what an impact these meetings would have on my own life. I understand the true meaning of “Let Go And Let God”, “The Serenity Prayer”, “One Day At A Time” and so many other phrases. 

Thanks to NarAnon I was able to team up with two other women and started a local meeting. We meet every Tuesday night at 7:30 pm. We are there to share our experience, strength and hope to help others get through tough times. This program which is not a religious program but a spiritual way of life has helped me become a better person, a kinder person, and I know that I can have an awesome day if that’s what I decide to do. This is because of the changes I have made to become a better person.

I still have hard times but I’ve learned how to handle them differently, to remind myself that when those hard times come up to use the tools I’ve been given to get through them without bringing myself down. Today I am able to smile, embrace the life that God has blessed me with and be grateful for the small things in life. I am such a positive person and for that I am forever thankful to NarAnon for opening my eyes to see all of the amazing things around me.

Thank you for letting me share my experience, strength and hope with you.