Chasing a fix: Loving an addict

How substance abuse impacts family relationships

Chasing a Fix: Loving an addict


Seeing Arielle Butler play with her kids, happy and smiling, is nothing short of a miracle.

“Sometimes it’s hard to look at myself and see that I was that person,” said Butler.

It was barely two years ago that Arielle was shooting heroin. Like a lot of people, her spiral into addiction started with pills but quickly escalated into a daily hunt for a needle and bag of dope.

“I was chasing love. I was chasing a wantingness. I was chasing a feeling of wholeness. I was chasing a high that I could never accomplish, never. It was never as satisfying for me.”

For years Arielle Butler lived a vicious cycle: using, fighting to get clean, and relapsing again.

There were overdoses and arrests. She wound up in an abusive relationship and gave birth to two children, a son Aiden and a daughter Ali.

It was then, Arielle said she found something worth more than the high she was chasing.

Arielle Butler holds her daughter Ali.
Arielle Butler holds her daughter Ali. (Source: WAFB)

"Aiden had a difficult time because I didn’t choose to get sober at the current time with Aiden. With Ali, I gave Ali a chance. When Ali came out ok, and when Ali came out not addicted to heroin, not having withdrawals like she could have had, I knew that God gave me at least one more chance."

With help from family she got clean and into therapy and has slowly worked to rebuild the life she says she almost destroyed. Now she shares her story to whoever will listen.

“I backslid. I fell off. I went through what I went through just for me to be sitting here and talk about that you can, you can overcome and you can come through it.”


But so many times, stories of heroin use end not with a new start, but a final goodbye. That was the case for Gwen Knox, and her son Brian.

Photo of Brian Knox, who died at age 40 of an overdose.
Photo of Brian Knox, who died at age 40 of an overdose. (Source: WAFB)

“He loved how drugs made him feel. And it became his go-to thing for whatever was going on with him,” said Knox.

Brian Knox was the middle of Knox’s three sons. Every photograph she has shows him with a wide smile, surrounded by people.

Gwen Knox looks through family photos, remembering her son Brian.
Gwen Knox looks through family photos, remembering her son Brian. (Source: WAFB)

"He made you feel as if you were the most important person in the room.”

His mother believes Brian started using drugs as a teenager, never really learning to live life without them.

"He had then, really, a work ethic very different from what a lot of the other parents are experiencing. He always worked and so, he supported his habit and then it got really, really bad.

At some point, Brian’s drug use brought him to heroin. Three weeks shy of his 41st birthday, he died of an overdose.

Gwen Knox shared photos of her son, Brian.
Gwen Knox shared photos of her son, Brian. (Source: WAFB)

“The next day, after Brian’s death, I knew that there had to be an obit written. Neither he nor I are very traditional people so it had to be something very different. So, I told the story of this little hazel eyed boy who loved to play soccer and played soccer at Woodlawn High School," said Knox.

"He was such a great guy, but he never truly learned how to deal with the challenges of life.”

The raw obituary detailing Brian’s addiction went viral.

RELATED STORY: Mom pens touching obituary

Knox received emails from around the world from parents and families who saw their life in her words. Seeing a need, she began a support group, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones or PAL.

“What the PAL group does is that it’s a place of hope. It’s a place where you can meet other parents who are going through the same thing you are going through and you don’t feel so all alone,“ said Knox.

Gwen Knox speaks to a PAL group.
Gwen Knox speaks to a PAL group. (Source: WAFB)

PAL became a place of healing for Gwen and a refuge for others, like Rhonda, the mother of a heroin addict. She asked to only share her first name because she’s afraid of her daughter’s drug dealers.

"The first class we went to I learned that I was doing things totally wrong. As a parent you just try your best to protect them and help them,” said Rhonda.

“That’s one of the things I learned in PAL, that hurt her instead of helping her. We didn’t allow her to make mistakes and face the consequences.”

Rhonda’s daughter turned to drugs after she was raped. She’s been in and out of recovery centers, but her addiction always overcame her fight for sobriety.

After her last relapse, she left her daughter behind for Rhonda to raise. Desperate for help and support, Rhonda’s family found the PAL group.

“As a parent you think ‘What did I do wrong? How did I mess up that my child is doing this?’”

"You need that environment to talk amongst yourselves.”

Rhonda and her family say the group has given them comfort and guidance, taught them how to better communicate with her daughter, and to help her when they can.

"Don’t give up. Don’t give up on your child. I firmly believe that one day, my daughter is going to be free from drugs. I believe God has a plan for her life. He certainly saved her life many times. But don’t give up.”

Chasing a Fix is a WAFB original documentary airing Saturday, September 13 at 6:30 p.m. only on WAFB.

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