No One Is Immune – Addiction
Addiction touches nearly every family. It’s time to talk about it openly and without fear.
Nothing safeguards you against addiction — not a loving family, not wealth, not faith, not age, not intelligence, wisdom nor willpower. Addiction can overcome anybody and, once it has you in its steely grip, it can cost you your health, your family, your home, your livelihood and even your life.
Jamie Daniels paid that ultimate price, dead at 23 from an opiate overdose while he was in the midst of a recovery program. His mother, Lisa Daniels of West Bloomfield, has been left “broken,” she says, “and the only thing that will partially repair me is to know that people like Jamie, young people struggling with addiction, get the help they need. They’ve got to be able to speak up and get help without being shunned, without fear of being labeled an addict for the rest of their lives.”
The alternative — silence — only exacerbates the problem. “I didn’t tell anybody,” Daniels says. “None of my friends knew what was going on. None of my family knew. We didn’t share what Jamie was going through. Now it’s time to stop that. If we had, maybe Jamie would be alive today.”
Jamie had struggled with an addiction to prescription medication. With great effort, his family worked tirelessly to get him help, but it was always “one step forward, three steps back,” Daniels says.
She and former husband, Detroit Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels, who will be speaking about Jamie at an event March 7 at Temple Israel didn’t learn about his problem with addiction until December of his senior year at Michigan State University. A friend told his sister that Jamie was getting into stronger prescription drugs.
“He didn’t want people to know what he was going through. He was afraid if people knew, they would use it against him, even his peers,” Daniels says.
Unlike the majority of families with an addict, there was no predisposition to the disease in Daniels’ family. “I didn’t know what the signs were but, in hindsight, I realized that from the time he was young, he was often alone and said he felt like he never fit in. Maybe he was depressed. I do know that he suffered from depression for a while before his death.”
She does know that at age16, Jamie gave a self-diagnosis to a therapist as having ADD and asked for Adderall. “He did not have ADD,” Daniels says. “He eventually told me he intentionally answered the questions wrong on the ADD test. It was that easy. He was struggling with something at 16, but Adderall was not the answer; it may have been the beginning of something terrible.”
Jamie continued to take Adderall through college. His family doesn’t know when he turned to opiates. “They were easily obtainable on campus and, by the time he graduated, he couldn’t stop,” she says.
She watched him try to detox himself several times. On three occasions, he was taken to the emergency room during an acute crisis, only to be discharged hours later with no long-term plan. They finally found a therapist Jamie liked, who guided him toward getting the medical help he needed.
During his most difficult crisis to date, Jamie called his therapist who recommended he go directly to the emergency room to be admitted to a 12-day detox program.
The hospital let him out two days early. “From there, they wanted Jamie to move into a sober living facility here in Michigan, but after speaking with Jamie’s therapist, we agreed to send him to a private rehab center in Florida.”
Jamie, still under his father’s health insurance, went to Palm Beach County, Fla., for treatment. He first spent a month at the Beachway Therapy Center, then moved on to a sober living house with a strong reputation in Delray.
He was sober, attended outpatient treatment meetings and eventually got a job working as a law clerk. “At work he was doing well, but, at home on his own, he was depressed,” Daniels says.
Florida has become the nation’s recovery capital with more than 400 sober living homes in Palm Beach County alone. These homes are linked with outpatient treatment programs, doctors and labs. Some owners, realizing there is more money to be made from a relapsed individual with insurance, pay “body brokers” to lure individuals in recovery into specific sober homes with offers of gifts, or in Jamie’s case, rent covered completely by insurance. Jamie had become the victim of “patient brokering.”
Nine days after transferring to this new sober home, Jamie died of a drug overdose.
The Daniels family tried to piece together the last week of Jamie’s life. They learned the doctor this home sent him to had prescribed a new medication for his anxiety, the highly addictive Xanax. “They set him up to fail,” Daniels says.
On. Dec. 7, 2016, just four days after he was prescribed the Xanax, Jamie ingested heroin laced with fentanyl (a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin). It shocked his heart and killed him. “We don’t know how or when he got the drugs,” Daniels says. “No medications or drugs were found at the scene.”
The Daniels didn’t find out about the corrupt nature of the home Jamie was in until months after his death. However, after speaking with the insurance company and the drug task force detectives, it was determined that most of the charges from two of the three sober homes Jamie lived in were fraudulent.
Daniels estimates that the fraudulent charges to the insurance company were between $55,000 and $60,000. Approximately two weeks after Jamie’s death, they learned the owner of the last house Jamie lived in had been under investigation. Eventually, he was convicted and is now serving 27 years in prison.
Daniels wants others to be aware of this danger in the billion-dollar industry of addiction and let them know it’s not just happening in Florida. “Jamie’s ability for successfully beating his addiction was taken away from him because he was manipulated,” she says.
She adds that addiction did not define the life of her son, however. “He was a beautiful soul: loving, caring and compassionate. He loved and protected his sister, Arlyn. They were the best of friends. He called his Bubbie just to chat and always ended each phone call with ‘love you.’ He would have helped anyone at any time.”
It is only random luck that Adam’s story doesn’t end like Jamie’s. Adam, now 27, has been struggling with substance abuse, depression and anxiety since high school. (Adam is not his real name — he wishes to remain anonymous because he still fears the stigma of addiction.)
“My drug and alcohol use began at a young age when my friends and I began experimenting with alcohol, often taking it from our parents’ liquor cabinets,” he says. “The alcohol made me feel better about myself. It made me more comfortable in social situations.”
Adam says he always felt different from his friends. “My parents were divorced, and all of my friends’ parents were still together,” he says. “This made me self-conscious in social situations such as birthdays and graduations, etc. My parents didn’t know I was experimenting with drugs, but they knew I was feeling unhappy and insecure.”
He graduated from a local high school and headed off to Michigan State University. That’s when he was introduced to harder drugs. “That first semester was tough. I was unhappy. I felt inferior to my friends who had been accepted into University of Michigan. Once I got into a fraternity, I felt much more comfortable.”
“Chemicals did it for me. They relieved anxiety. They made me more confident, more sociable.”
Being a part of a fraternity also accelerated his drug use. “I was exposed to harder drugs and started experimenting,” he says. “Once you get to college, drugs are just one phone call away.”
At first, Adam took the drugs just to party, “but they seemed to have a different effect on me than my friends. It was almost as if a part of my soul had been broken and never healed. Chemicals did it for me. They relieved anxiety. They made me more confident, more sociable. Nobody would have known I was struggling with depression.”
He says his drug use picked up through college, and he began using drugs every day. He maintained a 3.6 GPA. “That made it worse for me. I was getting accolades. It looked like my life was on a good path, but I was struggling, and my family didn’t know.”
He got accepted to law school in another state. This is when his drug use really became a problem. He did not understand how depressed he truly had become. He tried to get sober on his own when he was 22. “But I didn’t know how far along I was in my addiction. I started sneaking around, disappearing for hours in the day, not being connected with anyone. I was using Oxycontin every day,” he says.
By his second year in law school, he told his parents about his problem and began seeing a therapist. “I stopped taking Oxy because it was expensive and started using Xanax more,” he says. “More commonly, people go to heroin after Oxy, but growing up in the West Bloomfield Jewish community, I believed my life would never get to that point.”
After law school, he moved back home with his parents, saw a therapist, enrolled in intensive outpatient therapy but didn’t go back after the first session. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m Jewish. I come from a well-to-do family. I’m successful. People in my position do not have drug problems.’ I struggled with accepting the problem I had.”
He got a job at a law firm, but his drug use was an everyday thing. “I was in a haze, using Xanax off the street.” He tried to quit cold turkey and suffered a mental psychosis. “I was willing to go to rehab but was not ready to get sober,” he says.
The shock factor kept him clean for two months and then he started taking Oxy again. “No one knew,” he says. He began to use heroin. “However, because I was not using it intravenously, I was in denial about the depths of my addiction.”
Eventually, his drug use progressed to a point where he was no longer functioning and things such as his work and his social life had begun to deteriorate. This is when he quit cold turkey and became deathly sick, prompting him to ask his parents for help. He was sent to an inpatient facility in Florida for two months. He got out in October and has been sober for six months.
Adam’s family is very supportive and play a vital role in his continued sobriety; however, the shame is something both he and his family still deal with. “Everyone’s parents talk about how great their kids are, how they’re succeeding,” he says. “My family was in a dark place and couldn’t reach out. It’s the pressure of living in West Bloomfield, I guess.”
Adam attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is in group therapy, trying to understand his addiction and the shame that comes along with it.
He stresses that he could not recover without the understanding, love and support of his friends, community and family.
“The only reason I am here today is because of my support system and their belief in me,” he says. “I want people to know that in order to recover, you need to be able to ask for help. The biggest obstacle to recovery for me was my inability to ask for help because of the unfounded stigma that exists in our community.
“God-willing, I hope I hit my rock bottom,” he says. “But this is a chronic disease and I’m sure things could get worse if I went back to using.
“My life has made a complete 180 in the right direction. I have not felt this healthy, both mentally and physically, in the past eight years,” he adds. “I am now back to working as an active lawyer and look forward to the rest of my life. I want to leave this chapter of my life behind me; however, I never want to forget it either because it’s what has gotten me to this point.”
Jade Marx, 21, grew up with her twin brother and two younger siblings in West Bloomfield. She was a typical kid, involved in BBYO, at Temple Israel and had her bat mitzvah. She was an amazing athlete, excelling at softball. She’s been struggling with addiction since she was 13.
Her parents enrolled her in Frankel Jewish Academy her sophomore year after she had been hanging out with a rough crowd the year before at North Farmington High. “Her brother was already there. We thought putting her in FJA would be the magic,” says her mom, Jill Sherman Marx, who works as a fitness instructor.
Soon after, Marx got a phone call from the school social worker because Jade was self-harming, cutting. “I knew about this behavior from one of my clients,” Marx says. “I understood it was a self-soothing behavior, but I was horrified that my daughter was doing it.”
A short time later, Jade threatened suicide. That began a vicious cycle of numerous visits to the ER and mental hospitals. Jade admitted to using drugs, and her problems continued to grow worse. During her senior year, she got in trouble with the police and was sentenced to probation, drug classes and community service but wasn’t taking it seriously, her mom says.
“I knew we had to get her help, but there were no inpatient treatment centers in Michigan that would take a 17-year-old,” Marx says. She and her former husband, Darrell Marx, found a treatment center in Hawaii willing to take their daughter. It was a 30-month program.
“I can’t tell you how agonizing it was to send my child away for 30 months, but it was the only way I could help her,” she says.
Because Jade was a minor, the treatment center said that if she ever threatened suicide, they would have to send her home. After the first week, that is exactly what Jade did. “I was scared and angry because this was her one opportunity and she was blowing it,” she says.
After Jade was sent home, she spent two nights in jail for violating her probation. She never returned to FJA, instead enrolling in an online school to earn her high school diploma.
Meanwhile, her drug use continued. “She was a heroin user, an anything user,” Marx says. “She has no fear for herself. She’s suffered severe infections, lost the use of her hand on two occasions, and overdosed and survived several times.”
“I’m hopeful because she’s alive.
Where there’s life, there’s hope.”
— Jill Sherman Marx
She and Darrell have learned that they can’t bail Jade out. “In the earlier years,” says Darrell Marx, “your parenting instincts kick in and you want to do whatever you can to help. But we learned that the more we bailed her out, the worse she would get; but it’s still not easy.”
He recalls a time that Jade was living with him and broke the rules. “I told her she had to go. I sent her out in wintertime to fend for herself,” he says. “I didn’t want to, but I knew I needed to.”
Jade has been to at least six different facilities and hospitals so far, trying to beat her addiction. Her longest sobriety has lasted six months.
“It’s usually when I’m feeling super lonely and fed up with life — just feeling miserable — that I decide to get clean for a while,” says Jade, who works at a factory in New Baltimore, a job she enjoys.
Although her mother considers her to be “homeless,” Jade disagrees. She is not sleeping in the street or in a car, she says, but at a motel in Roseville with a friend.
The spiral of addiction is hard to explain, she says. The same reasons she cites for wanting to get clean are similar to the ones she cites for relapsing. “Boredom and depression,” she says. “That first time taking drugs makes it go away, but by the next day, I’m miserable again and feeling trapped.”
Jade says she’s been sober from street drugs for a few weeks. She quit on her own, cold turkey, and is not working any 12-step program at the time. She does continue to see a psychiatrist though. “I’m doing OK,” she says. “I work a lot, which helps.”
She and her parents maintain a good relationship, talking to each other almost every day. “I think they’ve done their best by me,” Jade says. “I’m glad they go to Al-Anon (a 12-step program for families of addicts). It seems to help.”
Darrell Marx says he supports Jade when she does anything positive in her life. “I want to fix things for her, but I can’t. I can only support her. I have to let her figure it out. But when she’s ready, she knows I’m here for her.”
Jill Sherman Marx says she’s not giving up on her daughter. “I’m hopeful because she’s alive. Where there’s life, there’s hope.”
She encourages anyone in the community struggling with addiction in their family to reach out to her at
firstname.lastname@example.org if they want to talk.
Jade has high hopes for beating addiction as well. “I have to take it day by day and just stay in the moment,” she says. “Looking into the future and saying, ‘I’m going to be clean and sober for the rest of my life’ stresses me out too much.”
ELIMINATING THE STIGMA
“Jamie’s story, Adam’s and Jade’s are just a few of many stories that need to be told to make a change,” Daniels says. “The Jewish community needs to open up and forget the stigma of what you think an addict is. It is not a weakness. It’s a disease.
“We can’t be afraid to speak up anymore. Even Jamie recognized the more your family and close friends are aware of your struggles, the more they can contribute to supporting your efforts to overcome them.”
Marx adds, “Addiction is a crisis in our world. I do need to talk about it, and I hope other people are listening. There’s no shame. No stigma.”
According to Lori Edelson, LMSW, ACSW, BCD, LMFT, and CEO/owner of the Birmingham Maple Clinic, “The stigma is going away very slowly, but it takes an educated public for it to go away completely. The more people feel ashamed and don’t seek treatment, the longer it will take.”
Edelson defines an addict as a person who feels compelled to engage in behavior regardless of the damage it creates and in spite of knowing it is unhealthy and dysfunctional — someone who has tried to stop the behavior and can’t and feels powerless to control themselves. “When they go untreated, they get worse,” Edelson says. “It’s not the fault of the patients.”
Now is the time to talk about the crisis of addiction and where families can seek treatment, according to Daniels.
“People all around us are struggling and need help from our community. That is the first step,” she says. “Let’s rally together to help our kids, mothers, fathers, grandparents — addiction doesn’t discriminate, and everyone is vulnerable. Until we step up as a Jewish community, we’re going to lose more people like Jamie.”
Jackie Headapohl Managing Editor
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