Our children grew up in Lacey Township, New Jersey. During their pre-teen and teen years I spoke openly about boys, drinking and drugs as well as many other lifes do’s and don’ts. I spoke it often, over and over. I never explained why and unfortunately, Allyson did not listen. Like so many others I hear about, Allyson thought what she was doing was harmless. She felt what she was doing was normal teenager behavior. She never realized the dangers until she was in danger. She started binge drinking at an early age, began smoking marijuana, soon after cocaine, and then moved to opiates.
During these years certainly we suspected a problem but could never quite get to the bottom of it. We spoke to Allyson often. We were assured nothing was wrong. All the correct excuses she gave were easily at hand. We did not trust our instincts and should have. Looking back and learning about addiction, we were in complete denial. Allyson was still smart, responsible and looked healthy. She was a reliable worker and continued to attend Ocean County College and maintain good grades. At this point in our lives we believed substance abusers fit a stereo type. It took quite a long time for us to realize how wrong we were.
Small changes were happening in Allyson's life by the time she graduated High School. Still, after continuing to question her, we believed (we WANTED to believe) that everything was okay. Within the next year, we started to see more obvious changes as well as some rebellion. She did not always want to attend family functions. She was sleeping out often. Her performance at work and college began to decline. Allyson’s family and friends began voicing their concerns as did my friends. It was then that we knew there was a problem but had no idea of how to address it. It literally took an earth shattering moment for us to realize the real hard truth of how serious the situation was and begin our journey of supporting her recovery.
Allyson's addiction, well hidden by her had already progressed to a dangerous situation. She was using heroin daily and multiple times per day. We quickly set boundaries and Allyson sought the help she needed. Her first serious fight for recovery lasted well over 9 months. There were many relapses and many attempts at recovery as well as two arrests for possession.
At times during relapses she became a person we didn't know. She was frightened and couldn't believe this had happened so easily to her. We loved her unconditionally through all this, but still boundaries remained to help her regain her health. This was not easy, and often our love for her made us fail and we relapsed ourselves into enablers. So many people tried to help her, but nobody can control an addiction except the person the addiction controls. That is the hard part, the part that takes more control then some addicts can find at any given moment.
Allyson had become someone she didn't want to be and fought to regain control and live a healthy life. She worked through recovery based on the twelve steps. She was successful many times, but she was the happiest with the progress she made the last couple months of her life. She had moved to Pittsburgh, was working recovery, and was proud of the way she was living.
On March 25, 2008 our worst nightmare became reality. For reasons we will never know, Allyson relapsed while visiting us and it was just too much for her body to handle. She overdosed that evening at home at the age of 21. This one last decision was not how she intended her life to end. This was the drug pulling her back, stronger then she was at that very moment.
The day before Allyson lost her battle we were lucky enough to spend a wonderful afternoon & dinner together filled with laughter and love. Family and friends stopped by. We went to bed with hugs and kisses and I love you's. For this we will always be grateful. Allyson taught us a lot about life and love... and we will keep that in our hearts forever.
In Memory of Allyson Joyce
09/22/86 ~ 03/25/08
Beautiful & Moving ...Can You Hear Me by Cindy Morgan