I-Team: The Faces of the Opioid Epidemic

I-Team

It may be your daughter, your neighbor, or a former classmate. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by the opioid epidemic.

The 22News I-Team spoke to three people, who got caught up in one of the worst epidemics in our country’s history.

For Michael Bressard, it all started nearly 20-years ago, when his doctor prescribed opioids for a back injury, “My first use with opioids was back in 2002.”

Little did he know at that time, that one pill bottle would change his life forever, “The first intravenous use was actually oxycontin. I remember the sensation and the feeling and how intense it was. It was done at that point, within a couple of weeks I was injecting myself. There was no fear left there anymore, it was just the high that I had been chasing.”

Michael went from Oxycontin to heroin, and from living in a house to living on the streets, “I didn’t think I had a problem for many years. I was functional until I wasn’t.”

Elaine’s son Jarrod went down a similar path, “He was 23 when he started using drugs. He was married, he had a baby, he said his back was hurting. His friends gave him some pills and his back didn’t hurt anymore.”

Just like in Michael’s experience, prescription pills quickly turned into heroin, and getting high quickly became his top priority; his only priority. “I watched his personality change. I watched him change and there’s nothing more heartbreaking then watching somebody that you love change.”

Ed Perrault’s son Ryan was also in his 20s when he became addicted to heroin, “It was devastating. My son wasn’t living with me anymore, it was one of his friends that told me he had a heroin problem.”

A fear that all parents pray they never have to face, became a daily reality for Ed and Elaine. They helplessly watched their children fall deeper into addiction, until their lives took a drastic turn.

“He had actually overdosed,” Ed said. “We had gone to the hospital, his mother and I went to the hospital.” Ed still remembers his heart sinking when he got that phone call. Little did he know at that time, it may have saved his son’s life. 

Ryan survived the overdose, then went to a detox center in Texas, followed by a rehab in Florida.

Back in western Massachusetts, Elaine’s son was also fighting for sobriety, “He went to treatment, and used for another couple of years, went back to treatment, and was clean for 3-years. Then he relapsed and has been relapsing on and off since then.”

Sadly, these two stories have two very different endings. 

Elaine’s son Jarrod left a recovery program in Boston back in October, to find one closer to home. He was staying at her house, when one night, it all came to a tragic ending. “I heard the dog’s chain rattling at 11:00 in the morning on Saturday. I cracked the door just a little to let her out, and I saw a needle on the bed. I opened the door, and he was face first down.” 

Elaine buried her son this past October, “I can’t even explain it because I never felt anything like that before. My heart was broken.”

Ed knows the same thing could easily have happened to his son, but Ryan didn’t relapse. He stayed on the road to recovery and has now been sober for 5-years. “I’m so proud of him. There’s a saying that sobriety is never owned, it’s rented, and rent is due every day. They need to work at that for the rest of their lives,” said Ed.

As for Michael, he knows a thing or two about working to stay sober. He celebrated 9-years of sobriety last month, “My life is better than I could have ever imagined right now. I never thought my life could end up like it did.” 

Michael said his journey with addiction is a reminder that no matter how far gone you think you are, it’s never too late to get help and start over.

Michael, Elaine and Ed all now dedicate their lives to helping others.

Michael is the director of Michael’s House, a sober living community in Springfield and part of the Michael Dias Foundation. They offer recovering drug users a structured and safe environment, while they continue their journey towards recovery.

Ed serves on the Board of Directors of the Michael Dias Foundation, which helps educate individuals and families on substance abuse, and also helps those who are battling the disease of addiction.

Elaine is the founder of the Able House, a co-ed recovery home in Springfield. She currently owns two houses in the city, where people can stay to support one another while they continue their journey to recovery. She said they have helped hundreds of people stay sober over the years.

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