'Living with an addict is a special kind of hell'

A mother tells her harrowing story to save others: The loss of one son plunged another into addiction


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  • Lori Bubigkeit shared the story of her addicted son in recovery (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Lt. Brian Vennie, Commander of the Blooming Grove State Police Headquarters; Margaret Dedrick, event coordinator; Catholic Social Services Erin C. McClay; and Pike County Coroner Christopher Brighton; Pike Carbon and Monroe’s Mental Health and Development Services, Elaine Tucker; Catholic Social Services Erin C. McClay; Pike Coroner Christopher Brighton and Pike County Sheriff Philip Bueki just prior to the panel discussion. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Hope4Pike: Patricia Greeves, Carol Babiarz and Susan Ficken. Hope4Pike's mission is to provide support to individuals and families impacted by addiction, reduce the associated stigma, and provide public awareness regarding the impact on our community. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • From left: Pike County Coroner Christopher Brighton; Reality Tour Director Jill Gamboni; guest speaker Lori Bubigkeit; concerned citizen Bill Messinetti (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Pike County Coroner Christopher Brighton and Reality Tour Director Jill Gamboni showcasing the next Reality Tour in Milford at the Milford Bible Church on Nov. 19 (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)



"You feel like you're loosing your mind. Your heart races with fear, and you will go to any lengths to 'fix them.' Time is only counted in days clean or until the next shoe falls."
Lori Bubigkeit

By Frances Ruth Harris

"A packet of heroin is cheaper than the cost of a happy meal," said Lori Bubigkeit, who told the poignant story of her addicted son at a recent forum in Pike County to discuss the opioid epidemic devastating the area.

Sheriff Philip Bueki said "what's out there now is not your father's marijuana." It now can be laced with a pinhead's drop of Carfentanil, an extremely potent and dangerous opioid.

Coroner Christopher Brighton said 78 percent of the counties in Pennsylvania reported higher-than-the-national-average use of heroin.

Commander of the Blooming Grove State Police headquarters, Lt. Brian Vinnie, told the crowd to call him if they want to act as a “whisperer,” letting him know who has the drug and is using. He promised to follow up on every case. 

Elaine Tucker, a prevention specialist working with the Delaware Valley Schools, said student assistance teams are mandated in schools now. They work with her and law enforcement officers to guide students to the help they need. She said 46 percent of addicts take something prescribed to a family member, and that 8.3 percent of the population in Pike County is buying drugs online. Not one person is immune to addiction, she said. 

Catholic Social Services Erin C. McClay other counties in Pennsylvania have at least one halfway house so that recovered addicts do not have to return to dysfunctional homes that lead them back to using. Pike County does not have a halfway house, so those returning from treatment often return to active addiction, she said. She may be reached at 570-296-1054

Event organizer Margaret Dedrick and St. Paul's Deacon Tom Spataro opened the panel discussion by introducing the five speakers. Several recovering addicts, who chose to remain anonymousm told their stories first.

Bubigkeit's presentation about her family's crisis was a reminder that drug addiction brings unimaginable pain to everyone in the addicted person's circle. This is what she said:

Lori's storyGood evening. I would like to take a moment to thank St. Patrick's Church for hosting such an important event, and more importantly, to all of you who took the time this evening to learn more about the growing opioid crisis that is gripping our towns, neighborhoods and country. Although no definitive solution will be found here tonight, the first step is that we are openly discussing the overwhelming pain that is being cast upon families facing this crisis everyday.

According to the Websters dictionary, addiction is defined as “A compulsive and persistent need for, and use, of a habit forming substance known by the user to be harmful.”

Although I agree with this definition, an all too important human component and human toll is not mentioned. As the mother of a heroin addict in recovery, our story is all too familiar.

My son was raised in a two-parent, solid middle class home surrounded by family, friends and a close community. Sports, summer vacations and traditions were all part of his early years. My son was varsity football captain, golf champion and a natural born leader respected by his classmates and teachers. We breezed through the decades unaware of what was to come.

In his sophomore year our family suffered a great tragedy. The loss of our eldest son, and his big brother, sent us all reeling into an abyss of despair and grief. Our then 16-year-old son was suddenly thrust into life that was unfamiliar and overwhelmingly full of sadness.

He was so strong, diving right back into his school and social life.  My husband and I were so proud of his strength, but worried about how this personal trauma would impact his coming years. We offered professional counseling, but he refused. We were unaware that he was already self medicating with alcohol and pot, trying to deal with the loss of his brother and best friend.  

In his senior year he was offered a pill, unaware of what it was, a kid told him it would really help him cope and dull all his pain. That pill was Percocet. From that day on he began to take more and more pills. He later told me it made him feel like Superman, energetic and powerful.

After high school he went onto Penn State, expenses were high so he was able to always have us increase his allowance, using excuses of books, rent and utilities.  Unaware of his growing addictions, we questioned his lack of money, but he always had a seemingly appropriate story.  Junior year in state college he was beginning to run out of excuses. Percocet, hydrocodone and Opana became far too expensive, so he switched to cheaper, more available heroin.  

In January he failed out of school and we told him he had to come home. No longer able to hide  his growing secret, things just didn’t add up anymore. Money and jewelry were mysteriously missing. His car never had gas, and his mood darkened. Now it all seems so clear, but in 2012, heroin was not on our radar, although we knew something was terribly wrong. In the coming months and years our lives turned into an endless cycle of home urine tests, broken promises and defeat. The pain and panic were overwhelming. We had already lost one son. The thoughts of loosing another was more than we could bear.

He was sent to rehab for 28 days, again and again and again. With each relapse, our pain and desperation grew deeper. The child we loved and protected had stolen from us, lied to us and violated our trust. He tried sober living, suboxone and numerous counselors. Rehabs in Maryland, Florida and Pittsburg followed. Every night I would go to bed and pray to God to save my son from this dreaded disease and take me instead.

Living with an addict is a special kind of hell. You feel like you're loosing your mind. Your heart races with fear, and you will go to any lengths to “fix them.”  Time is only counted in days clean or until the next shoe falls.

Over this past summer, my son relapsed again. He immediately went back to treatment and I'm happy to report is sober now, working his program and trying to deal with the trauma that struck our lives 10 years ago. I pray he continues to move forward and live a healthy, long life.

I know now that I too, am powerless against this disease. I understand that I did not cause it, certainly can’t control it, and I reluctantly admit I can’t cure it. If it were up to us, our son would have been recovered long ago. I now see the pain on his face when we talk about the damage that's been caused by this disease. I understand my son did not choose to be an addict; it chose him. Opioid abuse changes the brain functions of the user. And as the definition states, a compulsive and persistent need for a known harmful substance.

I am here tonight to share my story so that other families will be more aware of the drugs that are flooding our communities. A packet of heroin is cheaper than the cost of a happy meal. No drugs are safe, and experimentation does not have to be part of growing up. There are now support groups, hotlines and programs available to those in active addiction, and also for those that love an addict. I beg you to know the signs of drug use. Reach out to the local groups that are here to help.  

In closing, please take away this. No town is immune, no family is immune, no child is immune but recovery is possible.

Thank you so much for your time.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a typo.




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