“I’m just a mom who had to break the silence” – mother of son with addiction

Rose Barbour reading statistics about drug use. Stephanie Drummond photo.
Rose Barbour reading statistics about drug use. Stephanie Drummond photo.
By Stephanie Drummond
Jan. 16, 2014

Rose Barbour felt a sigh of relief when her son told her he was ready for treatment. Barbour and her husband took her son to the rehab facility at Mount Herbert.
After seven days they received a call to come get their son. Barbour was relieved.
“He’s cured, he’s all-better,” Barbour thought.
After a few days her son relapsed.
Barbour was used to hearing the usual “he must not want it bad enough”.
She started to do some research about addiction, trying to find a way to help her son, and she started to think maybe it’s the system.
She became angry.
Barbour’s son started using drugs at age 13, with the usual progression from marijuana to opiates. Barbour and her husband always talked to their children about drugs. The pair never drank or smoked.
They didn’t know to add prescription drugs to the mix Barbour said.
“You can’t smell a pill.”
Summerside city councilor Cory Thomas said he has met many families in similar situations wondering where they went wrong.
“Good families. Well brought up children. They felt they did everything right. It breaks your heart.”
Many of the signs of an opiate addict display are also signs of teenage rebellion. Moodiness and skipping school, a gradual weight loss.
In 2011 Barbour was starting down a road of depression. Her son’s addiction was taking its toll. Barbour went west for a week to spend time with her sister.
While there Barbour decided to attend a Nar-Anon group. The room was crowded. As people began to share their stories Barbour felt she could relate. Soon it was her turn to share.
“I’m Rose. I’m the mother of an addict.”
Barbour started to cry. The flood gates had been opened. She couldn’t speak. They told her to take her time.
Barbour left that meeting with a weight off her shoulders and when she returned to P.E.I. she ordered a package to help start her own Nar-Anon group.
The meetings were small. Many people were unsure of who would attend the meetings, afraid of the backlash of someone knowing their secret.
Barbour’s son was diagnosed with depression. The opiates filled the whole he felt in his body.
After a few failed attempts at Mount Herbert he filled out an application for a rehab facility in Guelph, Ontario which deals with concurrent cases. His doctor agreed and gave a referral. His psychiatrist also agreed.
While waiting to hear he spent a week in jail for a theft charge.
Mount Herbert rejected his application.
Barbour was shocked. Her emotions were raw after countless times at Mount Herbert, a few attempts at the Strength program, a pending application for the methadone program, a few trips to jail, no education, and no hope.
Barbour decided to write a letter to the editor, for The Guardian. Journalist Jim Day contacted her. Barbour was scared about attaching her name to the story. People didn’t talk about this.
She feared people would think she must have done something wrong as a parent, or her son was lazy. In the end she decided she had to speak out.
Barbour started to participate in the drug awareness program. Youth with drug addiction stories would talk to youth. Barbour would share her story as well.
Barbour and her son also shared their story in the Boys and Girls Club’s Lost Innocence documentary last year.
Last year Barbour decided to start a blog. Her first post was on Jan. 1, 2013. Since then Barbour has had 82,000 views.
Her blog features stories of other Island families, addicts, and one from her son. Barbour finds writing in the blog therapeutic. It’s a way for her to reach out an address the stigmas.
“I’m just a mom who had to break the silence.”
She receives phone calls and emails from others dealing with similar situations.
She has met many wonderful people, who are as well ‘typical families’, and who didn’t do anything wrong, she said.
More needs to be done in educating the public about the opiate epidemic facing youth on the Island she said.
“It takes a community to help an addict.”
Thomas agrees.
“We all have a role to play.”
Thomas led a committee in 2009, trying to find ways to combat the drug addiction epidemic. The committees report suggested the Island enact legislation for safer communities, improve services and create supports for families.
In the past 10 years the courts have been clogged up with addicts stealing to support their habits.
“I worry as a dad. I have a two-year-old and a six-year-old. You try to do everything right, but you just don’t know. Try to get them involved in sports, a good education and feed them a well-balanced meal,” he said.
“Seven days isn’t long enough. We wouldn’t take insulin away from a diabetic. A diabetic isn’t cured from the insulin. It’s the same with a drug addict and methadone,” Barbour said.
The provincial government announced last fall it would add to the methadone program. Thanks to that new addition, Barbour’s son has been clean for a few months.
“I feel happy. I can’t put it in words how we feel. When your child is an addict, nothing else matters in the world. They could die.”
The fake smile she used to put on is replaced by a real smile. She knows recovery is a life-long process, but is taking it one day at a time, she said.
“Never lose hope. Never stop fighting. Reach out. You don’t have to go through it alone. Keeping it in nearly killed me. We can do this as a community. With the Island being so small, I know that we could be a leader in treating this problem.”