I am a Maine parent, like so many of you. Over the years, I’ve witnessed my daughter’s countless triumphs, from first words and tied shoelaces to sports and academic achievements. I’ve also been there with open arms to heal the tears from scraped knees and life’s disappointments.

As every parent does, I love my family unconditionally and would do anything to ensure their health and safety. Yet I almost lost my daughter to a debilitating addiction to drugs.

My daughter attended college in New York. In her sophomore year, my husband and I began to notice changes in her behavior on her trips home, but we didn’t fully understand what was happening until she returned to attend the University of Southern Maine.

We soon realized that she had become addicted to painkillers. As her addiction progressed, she eventually turned to heroin.

We fought hard to get her placed in treatment, but the lack of options in Maine forced us to send our daughter out of state to receive intensive inpatient therapy. After completing the program, she was released and relapsed soon after. As the vicious cycle of her addiction worsened, the consequences became more extreme, and she was sent to jail.

Mine is an average family. I never thought this could happen to us, or to my daughter. No parent should have to face their child’s addiction alone or suffer in silence.


Overwhelmed with fear and desperately looking for answers to our questions, my husband and I searched for help. We started attending Addict in the Family weekly support group meetings to be with people who understood what our family was facing. Through this group, we met countless others who did not know where to turn for help and couldn’t afford it when they did find treatment options.

The meeting facilitators were two addicts in long-term recovery who eagerly shared their stories, answered questions and provided support to families suffering from the repercussions of their loved one’s addiction. It was here that our family gained insight into the power of addiction and saw our first glimmer of hope.

After a heartbreaking and devastating journey, our daughter received treatment and is working on her recovery of 15 months. She now helps sponsor other young women.

We are extremely grateful and feel very fortunate to have our daughter back in our lives. She has worked hard to get where she is today and now has the ability to instill hope in others.

With the two co-founders of the local Addict in the Family group, I was asked to help establish The Family Restored, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that provides resources for families who have loved ones suffering from addiction and scholarships to addicts unable to afford treatment.

Since its inception in 2014, our organization has provided scholarships for in-patient treatment and sober living accommodations to 38 men and women. In addition, we successfully implemented an eight-week, 12-step workshop in the women’s unit at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland and are hoping to soon expand the program to men.


We have to talk about drug addiction and what it is doing to the families in our state. Throughout our communities, drug use is increasing at an alarming rate, and deaths from heroin overdoses continue to climb. We are in the midst of a public health crisis.

By characterizing all people who are addicted to drugs as drug kingpins and traffickers, we ignore the fact that this could happen to any family and any of our children. Families need access to treatment, and the state must take steps to prevent more people from becoming addicted. Our family’s lives depend on this.

House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Michael Thibodeau get it. They’ve helped change the conversation by fighting for a more complete approach to attacking the drug crisis, one that includes the treatment that families like mine desperately need.

By championing additional prevention and treatment spending and expanded resources for law enforcement, they’re standing with families like mine and yours. I would urge other Maine families to consider what’s at stake and ask their state representatives and senators to support this bill.

Karen Walsh of Portland is co-founder and treasurer of The Family Restored, a Portland-based nonprofit group dedicated to serving families who have been affected by addiction.

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