A Mother’s Struggle With Her Daughter’s Opioid Addiction

May 9, 2019 Updated: May 9, 2019

Heroin and other opioid addictions are an arduous habit to break, and they can nearly destroy the lives of entire families. One young woman was in the throes of addiction, and her mother searched for her for years.

Katie Cavanagh of Danvers, Massachusetts first started dabbling with drugs when she was 19. At first, she experimented with hallucinogens like LSD and mushrooms.

However, she would eventually graduate to heroin at age 20. She was in the car with her boyfriend, and took her first snort of the drug. Two weeks later, she was injecting heroin intravenously.

The opioid epidemic in the United States has amounted to a national health crisis, and the addiction can affect anyone regardless of gender, race, or socio-economic status. In 2016, over 42,000 people died as a result of an opioid overdose.

A Slippery Slope

At first, Katie would only use once or twice a week, but gradually she found herself injecting a couple of times a day. She would often miss work or nod off in front of her mother.

Eventually, Katie told her mother about her heroin use. Her mother, Maureen Cavanagh, took her to an outpatient facility.

“It was still scary, but I thought when she came to me the first time that she would always come to me,” Maureen told The Epoch Times.

Maureen Cavanagh
Maureen Cavanagh would spend years searching for her daughter. (Courtesy of Maureen Cavanagh)

However, Katie continued to use without anyone else knowing for a year.

“It appeared from the outside that she was doing okay,” Maureen explained.

It wasn’t until Katie’s mother discovered that her jewelry was missing that she realized Katie was still using heroin. Maureen confronted Katie, and became deeply alarmed.

Katie was nodding in and out of consciousness when her mother saw the various track marks on her arm, and realized the extent of her daughter’s addiction.

“It was like the world shifted. My whole reality shifted. My whole view of what her future was going to be like was shaken. My feeling that everything was going to be okay was out the window,” Maureen said.

Running Away

That’s when Katie went to an inpatient facility for the first time. However, she was not yet committed to her recovery.

“It was miserable because I didn’t want to get better. I wanted to continue to use,” Katie explained.

After she left rehabilitation, Katie lived in a sober house for only a few days before she left and started using again. For the next two and a half years she strove to avoid her mother.

Katie and her mother
Katie Cavanagh (R) with her mother Maureen. (Courtesy of Maureen Cavanagh)

Nevertheless, Maureen and her ex-husband Mike searched for her. Often, they searched in rough parts of town.

“You’re looking in the worst possible places for her, so it was terrible. And it’s terrifying too because we all know that anything could happen to somebody in those situations,” Maureen said.

At one point, Katie’s mother kidnapped her outside of a convenience store. She blocked Katie’s car in, dragged her out, and threw her in the back seat of her own vehicle. Unfortunately, there was no plan after that.

Slowly but Surely

Throughout the course of her addiction Katie had overdosed 13 times, and had been to over 40 treatment centers. Over time, heroin had taken its toll.

Eventually, Katie reached a breaking point. She was so sick of her addiction, and sought treatment for the final time. She was prescribed vivitrol, and engaged in both individual and group therapy to address her addiction.

“One, I couldn’t do that to my family again, and I don’t want to do it to myself because there’s so much more to life than suffering,” Katie said.

Katie's at age 25
Katie Cavanagh’s first birthday since her sobriety. (Courtesy of Maureen Cavanagh)

Katie’s last treatment ended in July 2017. She’s now employed, going to school, and has recently become engaged. She’s been sober for the last 22 months, and a few weeks ago Katie and Maureen went wedding dress shopping together.

“I feel really good and I’m grateful to have this chance. A lot of people don’t get that second, or third, or fourth chance,” Katie said.

Maureen now runs a non-profit called Magnolia New Beginnings, which raises money for those who wish to reside in a sober living house during their recovery. The organization also hosts support groups for parents who have a child contending with an opioid addiction.

“I couldn’t be anymore proud of her. I think she’s like my hero,” Maureen said.