His Dad was a successful entrepreneur and Mom was gainfully employed. We weren’t wealthy but we had everything we needed. Steven wasn’t unloved, uninsured or poor. He wasn’t raised by active addicts or neglectful parents. He was a beautiful, kind, sensitive and caring boy who was surrounded by love his whole life. But Steven isn’t here with us anymore and his absence has left behind a family that is broken and will never be whole again. We all have a giant gaping hole in our hearts where our boy belongs.
When Steven was around 14, he was diagnosed with a severe mental illness. When he was 19 he experienced his first psychotic break and the mental illness was labeled Schizophrenia. We began actively seeking help for him when he was 14 because he was so sad, lonely and depressed. In the beginning, many doctors and psychologist, refused to treat him because he was honest and admitted to smoking pot. I argued that smoking pot was a symptom of his issues, not the cause of his issues, but more than not my argument fell on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, even though he was always surrounded by friends and love, Steven continued to feel very much alone. He felt like he didn’t fit in anywhere on this earth. He spent many days and nights at home crying and screaming out of frustration, despair and a deep feeling of hopelessness. On those nights, and many others, I cried right along with him as he asked me desperately “what’s wrong with me?”. Although much of the time I felt helpless, we never gave up trying to find help and we continued from doctor to doctor.
It wasn’t long before Steven began to self-medicate with a vengeance. He moved quickly from smoking pot to any other form of drug he could get his hands. Eventually, when he was 16 he began using heroin and his story became more and more desperate very quickly. Our once loving, kind, sensitive and caring boy became focused on how to get his next high. Even in his addiction and around others suffering with the same addiction, he didn’t feel he fit in. So heroin stepped in and took a sweet but desperate boy who felt alone and unaccepted, and made him exactly that, alone and unacceptable. The “partying” he used to do with friends gave way to a solitary life locked in his room with his heroin…and eventually, hidden away under a bridge in Hartford.
Early on Steven knew he needed help, and after a family attempt at “intervention” he agreed to go to rehab. Now the roadblock became the insurance company. After the first detox, they approved an outpatient program. After the second, another outpatient program, then we graduated to a 2 week stay. It wasn’t until after 7 attempts to get clean that the insurance company would even consider any type of long term care, and then there was nowhere to go. There was even a time when he couldn’t get into detox because he hadn’t used in a few days and I actually had to give him the money to get some heroin so I could get him into detox. At every detox, there was a new psychiatrist who prescribed a different anti-psychotic, but they didn’t keep him around long enough to determine whether the medication was even effective. Steven continued to get sicker and sicker.
The thing that most amazed me about my son throughout his 7 year struggle with heroin, although he tried and failed over and over again, he never stopped trying. He would go out to the streets, eventually hit bottom, go to rehab and try again. Each time he truly believed that he had won the war and would never return to that life. Our beautiful but tortured boy would be back home with us for a while. But inevitably, when things got tough, and they always did, heroin was right there waiting for him. Good old loyal heroin.
During Steven’s last psychotic break, he was hospitalized for three and a half weeks while doctors attempted to stabilize. Prior to the psychotic break, Steven had been staying at home and hadn’t been using on a regular basis, but he was on shaky ground. When the doctors wanted to send him home, Steven was scared. He felt safer in the hospital than he had in a long time and he was afraid to go home. He asked the doctor to get him set up in a group home because he felt he needed the sense of “community” that he had found such comfort in while he was in the hospital. The doctor said “the people in group homes are sicker than you” and sent him home with a prescription to an outpatient substance abuse/mental illness program. When he was released he was still struggling with psychosis and felt unaccepted, isolated and lonely. He was reaching out for help in many directions and really trying to do all the right things but it was just too hard. He gave up the fight on November 13th, 2016. My 23 year old son was found dead in a hotel parking lot. My world stopped spinning. The lives of his family and friends were changed forever.
Now, looking back, I find myself grateful for the mental illness that I fought so hard to conquer all those years. It brought Steven home to me one last time, for what I know now was the last 3 months of his life. He gave me a huge hug and said “I love you Mom” every morning and every night and he thanked me most every day for sticking with him through it all. We had coffee together every day on the porch before I went to work. He got up before me every morning to make my coffee for me just the way I liked it. He called me several times a day and always closed the conversation with “I love you Mom”. I wouldn’t give up those last 3 months for anything in the world. Those hugs and “I love you”s have to last me a life time. I will never hear those words or feel that big bear hug again.
TWENTY-YEAR-OLD JUSTICE CROUTCH
Join us at the Health and Recovery Fair
in Manchester, CT on May 14th!
This is a free event to learn about helpful tools regarding beating addiction, healthy lifestyles, and promoting recovery.
Steven & his mom, Marie Sienkiewicz
It will be held at the Manchester Senior Center (549 East Middle Tpke. Manchester, CT 06040) from 11:00-3:00 pm. Others in attendance will be: Manchester Human Services Department, Counseling Centers of New England, Manchester PD, H.O.P.E., CHR, Prudence Crandall Center, Hartford Dispensary, and many more... Download a PDF flier here...
FedUp! Rally for a Federal Response
to the Opiod Epidemic
We are a 2016 Partnering Organization with the FedUp! Coalition and will co-host a rally with Pathfinders in Manchester, CT on August 31st, International Overdose Awareness Day..
The mission of The Fed Up! Coalition is to create one voice calling for an end to the epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths attributed to opioids (including heroin) and other prescription drugs.
The ANGEL Initiative
Justice's Fight is currently working to learn more about and support The ANGEL Initiative, a grassroots project started by the Gloucester, MA, Police Department.
Justice's Fight members met with Manchester Police Department in March to see how we could help support a new ANGEL Initiative program.
My son Steven was born a beautiful, red haired baby boy with sparkling blue eyes. Steven was our third child, and with his sweet and adorable demeanor, he quickly became the focus of intense love and attention from our whole family, including his two beautiful big sisters. Steven was raised in an upper middle class loving family, in a small Connecticut suburban town.
... tragically suffered a catastrophic brain injury in August of 2015. To this day, she remains in a vegetative state and is currently being treated at a specialty hospital in central New Hampshire for her ongoing care and rehabilitation. This facility, specifically designed to care for brain injury patients, has been critical in managing Justice's fight for survival on a 24/7 basis.
If you want to join Justice's Fight and help combat the heroin epidemic, please contact us!
In the 7 years that Steven was using on and off, I watched him change from a beautiful young boy who loved his family and friends very deeply, was always sensitive to other people’s struggles and loved helping others, to a sick drug addict living on the streets of Hartford, Waterbury and Bridgeport. For a stretch of time he chose to live alone under a bridge in Hartford into the early winter, rather than staying in a shelter where he could be safe, warm and dry. During these times, we always stayed in touch. I would visit him every week to take him out for lunch, give him a huge hug and kiss and my spare change, and drive away in tears praying that he would live through the night and hoping that someday we would find the help he needed.
I’ll never forget picking him up one Thanksgiving morning so he could have dinner with the family. When he took off his shoes and socks, his feet were covered with blisters and bleeding from the cold and continuous dampness. When I dropped him off later that day, with new socks, sneakers and a box of Band Aids, he hobbled away from my car with his backpack like and old, homeless man. Steven was 21 years old. The sight of him broke my heart but there was absolutely nothing I could do. This is what heroin did to him and he couldn’t wait to get back to it. My son was mentally ill, but that didn’t destine him to live a life cold and wet in the streets of the city…….it was heroin that determined his destiny.
"When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top"
Parents and friends coming together to bring awareness to the heroin epidemic, educating parents and youth, and eliminating the stigma of addiction.
Justice's Fight: Justice for All Addicts