When Josh picked up his son Peyton from Jessica’s house, he drove into Lorain and told Peyton they were just waiting for a friend when he parked the car. As they waited there, the police arrived after receiving a call by someone in the neighborhood, and then proceeded to conduct a search of the car. A needle was found under the driver’s seat, and Peyton, a 6th grader at the time, was interrogated by the police.
That is how Peyton’s mother Jessica found out for certain that her ex-boyfriend and father to her child was doing heroin.
“A mutual friend mentioned they used it with him before and Peyton said he saw other signs, but that was definitely the confirmation,” said Jessica, a LCCC graduate who wishes not to reveal last names for privacy concerns.
Josh having an addiction problem with illicit drugs was nothing new to Jessica. It was a never-ending issue that plagued their relationship when they were together for many years. In the beginning, Josh was addicted to prescription pills, and she stood by him and supported him like so many others who have a loved one struggling with a drug addiction; believing that they will soon overcome and return to the be the person they once were. “He went to the best rehab available, and I really tried to help him for a long, long time,” explained Jessica.
As the years passed, his continuous thievery of her money and belongings to pay for his addiction put a strain on their relationship. “My car had been broken into multiple times, and I was so broke and so in debt because I never had any money. It was always gone before I even had it,” Jessica said.
More distressing than the financial impact of his addiction, Jessica recalls an incident of utter negligence Josh had with their infant son Peyton that pushed the limit for their relationship. “One time I went in the house and there was cocaine all over the coffee table and everyone was gone, but Peyton was there crawling around on the floor, and I just couldn’t do it anymore,” said Jessica. “I was to the point where I was (physically) abusive toward him because I was so angry and hurt, and I didn’t want Peyton to see the drugs as he got older.”
Currently, Josh and his son Peyton, now 14, don’t have a relationship and rarely ever speak to one another.
After Josh and Jessica’s relationship ended, they both moved on from each other and she was still concerned about him, but no longer having to carry the burden of watching over him was a welcomed relief. However, that relief would be shattered when Josh went to the emergency room for an infection he contracted from injecting heroin into his neck.
When she asked him why he would inject it into his neck, he explained that because he had a dark five o’clock shadow, nobody could see that he was using and it was easy access to a vein.
“The abscess grew for so long that it traveled to his heart, and they needed to remove the infection from him shooting in his neck,” explained Jessica.
Along with the spike in heroin deaths in the U.S., there has been a massive increase in the amount of emergency room visits related to opioid use. Between 2009 and 2014, the State of Ohio had a 106.4 percent increase in opioid-related emergency department visits; the largest increase in the nation, according to a report from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.
Josh’s medical emergency was the incident that made him realize he had hit rock bottom, and admitted to Jessica about how terrible he felt for the people who have been hurt by his addiction. “He told me if he didn’t leave he would rather be dead. He told me every time he used he wished he would die because he felt bad for everyone around him,” Jessica said. “He flat out told me if he used again he wouldn’t stop until he was dead, so he needed to leave.”
When Josh’s younger brother Jared heard about his condition, he realized he needed to take action soon. If he didn’t, he believed his worst fear that he would get a phone call from his mother saying she found him dead from an overdose would become a reality.
Having that disturbing thought on his mind severely disrupted Jared mentally and emotionally. The fear of losing his brother captured all of his energy.
When at home, he barely spoke to his wife and children. At his job, he was depressed and upset, and couldn’t function normally. “I got to the point where I just lost it at work. Broke down crying and shaking, and just couldn’t perform,” Jared said.
He would eventually speak with a counselor because he was in so much pain.
Jared’s breakdown was a fusion of both sadness brought on my his brother’s grim state, but also of suppressed anger against him for the all of the pain he brought on his family; particularly their parents.
While Josh lived at home with his parents, he would have them look after his children when they came over so he could lock himself in his room and use again. Also, his father unknowingly would help him to pick up more heroin. “Josh would ask my dad to take him to the store because he needed something, but our dad didn’t know he was going there to meet his guy (drug dealer),” said Jared.
Family situations such as this are known as codependency: where the addict will take advantage of family members care for them to further feed their addiction.
After his breakdown, Jared decided the best thing for Josh would be to move in with family in another state. Jared’s plan was to try to isolate Josh away from the temptation to start using again. “I know heroin is everywhere, but I figured if I could get him away from people who can get it with just a phone call, for me that was a really good idea,” explained Jared.
The move turned out to be the right decision, for Josh is doing much better and looks much healthier, according to Jared. Peyton has been spending much of his time at Jared’s house, and Jared has become a bit of a father figure to him. However, Jared doesn’t want to take his brother’s place as his father because he wants Peyton to know who his father is and know he’s not a bad man. “He’s a good person, but the drugs took him over, and he lost sight of his priorities,” Jared said.
Although sometimes it feels like Jared has lost a brother, he takes comfort in feeling he gained a sister in Jessica. Having shared the same pain and sadness with Josh’s addiction over the years is a bond that could never be broken. He also credits her for how well she raised Peyton in spite of the challenges they have encountered.
“I love Jessica to death. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where Peyton would be,” stated Jared.