An addict’s mother reaches out
Ruth Plebani used to feel shame over her sons’ addiction to drugs, but after one nearly died from an overdose, she decided it was worth sharing her story if it helps others get into rehab.
Her son Keith Goosman had been confined to a hospital bed after an overdose of methamphetamine. He temporarily lost control of basic bodily functions.
Thankfully, Keith has made considerable progress, but he still has a long way to go.
As she looked at him hooked up to a ventilator, Plebani decided that she wanted to share her story and Keith’s, and hopefully reach at least one person and convince them to seek help for addiction.
“If I can get one kid into rehab, and possibly that kid will recover in rehab, and keep recovering, then it was worth telling Keith’s story. That’s how I feel,” she said.
In her estimation, Keith’s drug dependency resulted from prescriptions written after an injury, an all-too-common story for those affected by opioids.
In 2004, he was working for a company which trimmed trees near power lines. While cutting a tree, he struck a wire and was hit with 17,000 volts of electricity.
It caused him spinal fractures, cracked discs and epilepsy.
In 2004, the link between opioid prescriptions and heroin addiction wasn’t as well known as it is today. Doctors prescribed Keith opioids, and he became addicted. After the prescription ended, he was looking elsewhere.
“First, it was oxycodone. That’s too expensive, so you move on to heroin. And he’s a heroin addict,” she said.
Keith’s most recent overdose is the third that she knows of. In September, she had to use Narcan to revive him after he overdosed in her father’s house. The time before that, Narcan wasn’t yet available. She had to perform CPR as his breathing and heart rate faded.
Keith has gone to rehab and recovery houses. When he’s sober, he attends AA and NA meetings every day.
“Then something happens and he slips up, and we’re back in the same mess. I know how hard it is to keep trying, but they have to keep trying,” she said.
Keith has two brothers who are also addicted to drugs. Plebani knows that they suffer from a disease, and no matter what, she will never stop loving her sons.
She has had to accept that she cannot help them when they are not sober, something she learned from attending Al-Anon family groups.
She used to think that she could say something that would convince them to seek out rehab. Another thing she learned from Al-Anon was that people dealing with addiction have to decide for themselves that they want to recover. A parent, spouse or loved one can try as hard as they can, but in the end it is up to the individual.
“It doesn’t happen like that, that’s fairy-tale land. You have to just wait. You have to let them know, that I’m here for you, if you decide you need rehab, come to me, I’ll help you get in a rehab. Then you just have to let them go,” she said.
If she wakes up at night, her mind immediately goes to her sons, wondering where they are, and if they are OK. It’s impossible to fall back asleep.
“Every night when I would go to bed, I would think that the state police were gonna knock on my door and tell me one of my children was dead. I sort of expected it. I had to find some kind of peace that this was going to happen to me,” she said.
She used to think that drugs were something kids messed with in their teens and 20s. She said her sons’ addictions developed after they had jobs, homes and families.
She’s seen them lose those homes, cars and families. She and her husband purchased an RV to go visit their granddaughters in Florida, but they don’t get to see them as much as they would like.
“You expect them to go through the drug thing when they’re teenagers, then be on the straight and narrow,” she said. “Everybody’s lost. It’s killed the family.”
For the past three years, she’s become a hermit because of the shame she feels over her sons’ addictions. She had good friends she had known for years, who she has avoided because she didn’t want to have to tell them her sons were addicted to drugs.
Over that time, she’s asked her sons and other addicts the same question – what happens if you overdose? Without fail, they all say that they will be dead and won’t know.
Looking at Keith hooked up to a respirator, she decided that she wanted to show kids who use drugs that an overdose does not mean that you will die.
She decided to share videos of Keith as he recovers in an Allentown hospital.
“Something in my heart just said ‘I have to share it.’ I just have to put it out there, because somehow or other, people are going to accept me with my three addict sons, or they’re not.”
She never expected the reaction she received. Family members who criticized her sons are coming around and looking at them in a different light. Her friends, Keith’s friends, and people from high school came out to support them. There are individuals and entire churches praying for him.
“It’s just so empowering. Nobody is out there judging anybody. It seems like everybody has had it touch them,” she said.
In the 10-plus days since his overdose, Keith has made a huge turnaround, but he is still not back to himself. She said sometimes she looks at him and just cries.
She’s hopeful that when he leaves the hospital, he will be ready to seek help. And she’ll be there to see that he gets the help he needs.
“If he were to recover and be like he used to be, I know he would go back into a rehab. Enter a long-term rehab then go into a recovery house. That’s what I know Keith would do,” she said