Community

She didn’t have the money, but she didn’t care. Pam Rushing bought the book anyway.

It’s worth it, she said.

In the pages she might find the answer to the addiction wrecking her son’s life and hers.

Rushing’s 31-year-old son, Joey, is on year five of a heroin addiction that’s transformed him from a sharp-dressed and quick-witted kid to a withered young man struggling to find something to help him get clean for good.

His story is similar to thousands of others in Louisville and across the country in communities ravaged by opioid addiction. The epidemic is taking lives, taxing government services and leaving homes in tatters.

Rushing is one of countless parents searching for answers. On a recent weekday, she found herself in the basement of Fairdale Baptist Church stuffing brochures into a plastic bag and buying a book she can’t quite afford.

“I ain’t worried about it,” she said of the cost.

Rushing, 55, shuffled between the tables and talked to representatives from several treatments centers and support groups focused on breaking the cycle of addiction. They were there for a resource fair designed to help addicts and their friends and families find solutions — or at least a way forward.

She was elated about the conversations she’d had and the hope she’d carry home.

“I’m excited,” she said.

‘That’s My Son’

As a younger man, Rushing’s son was a good kid, she said. He didn’t take pills or like to be around people taking pills.

“He was a big pothead,” she said. “But pot ain’t nothing.”

Eventually, though, that changed. Joey started hanging out with a longtime addict and things went downhill quickly, Rushing said.

These days, she’s unsure where he lives.

“He won’t tell me,” she said.

He’s dropped weight.

“I bet he don’t weight 80 pounds,” she said.

He looks much older than his 31 years and is often disheveled and dirty.

“But that’s my son, and I love him,” she said.

‘Call Me’

Rushing is committed to getting answers and staying hopeful. She’s a recovering alcoholic and understands the difficulty of overcoming addiction. But she’s beaten the urge to drink and knows the freedom that comes with managing the disease.

She wants the same freedom for her son.

Rushing has heard too many stories from other mothers whose children have died after using heroin. It scares her. And the uncertainty takes its toll. She talks with a therapist.

But there in the church basement, she may have found another avenue for respite — if not for her son, then perhaps for herself.

She wants to volunteer. She wants to give her time to the mechanisms fighting addiction. With each brochure she picked up, she was sure to write down her name and phone number for the representative at the table.

“I told them if you need volunteers, call me,” she said.

Becoming a part of the solution to the heroin crisis — rather than a victim of it — will keep her focused on the hope that addiction can be beat, Rushing said, and that her son will be healed.

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.