BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gwen Knox has read her son’s obituary hundreds of times. She wrote it after he overdosed on heroin and died.
“To know him was to love him, but he was a tormented spirit trying to deal with all of his past choices and their consequences,” the letter reads. “I will no longer have to witness his pain and know this day is coming, because it’s here.”
Knox wrote the obituary to honor her son, but also as a plea to other parents: “Love your addict.”
She is using the lessons from years of reflection on her son’s tragic death to teach other mothers how to support their children if addiction nightmares becomes realities. Her October 10 address was part of Capital Area Human Services' Women’s Week, which partly aims to educate mothers how the opioid crisis is affecting families.
“We haven’t been trained on this, so we have to seek that training so that we can convey it to our children,” Knox said in an interview. “We have been so busy dealing with those who were abusing the drugs that we have kind of left the family out.”
Knox told the women at the event it’s important to let children fail so they know the pain of consequence. She stressed teaching children to be independent so they are accustomed to responsibility once they leave the home.
“It’s in our DNA to ‘fix’ as parents,” she said. "But when it comes to an addict, that fixing turns into enabling. If we fix everything for them, they do not have the opportunity to suffer the consequences for their own actions."
If your child is already struggling with addiction, Knox says parents should not blame themselves. She added she believes drug use begins as a life choice, but evolves into an illness that cannot be “parented” away.
Knox says emotional growth stops when a child begins using drugs or alcohol, which could explain why some 40-year-olds behave like 15-year-olds, she says. She also says it’s important to accept the illness and adapt to it without trying to fix it.
“Relapse is part of recovery,” Knox added. “They need to suffer consequences and we cannot be a safety net for them always.”
In 2016, one Louisiana resident died every 29 hours from an opioid related overdose, according to the Human Services District. For help, call the district at 225-925-1906.