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Caleb S.

By Caleb's mother, Heather

Caleb Smythia

Loudon, Tennessee

Fellow mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters,

I am here to tell you how addiction has affected my family. I have been raising my children as a single mother for the past twenty years. My children found ways to get drugs as soon as they reached junior high because many their peers were medicated for ADHD and shared their medications. Soon after that, my oldest son was introduced to meth. In our small rural Tennessee town, I knew several parents who were struggling with addiction and it didn't take long before their children followed suit.

My oldest child, Caleb, was addicted by the age of 16. I had lost control of his behavior and I didn’t know what to do. When objects and money kept going missing at home, I filed an unruly charge against him and he became a child of the state. He spent over a year and a half in three different foster homes and one group home. Not once was he placed in a rehabilitation facility, even though he relapsed during one home visit and the test revealed that he had five different drugs in his system. He went right back to the group home.

I do not regret the time he spent in foster care because he learned a lot from the families that he spent time with. He eventually came home and when he graduated high school I thought he was going to be OK.

But within what felt like just days after graduating, Caleb was right back with his old friends using meth and pills. Things got so bad that I told him he was no longer welcome in my home. One late night in the pouring rain he knocked on the door. I told him I would take him to the ER or a rehab but that he couldn't come into the house. He was at such a low point and begging for relief, but was turned away at the ER.

Another night he arrived at the door bloodied and broken. Back to the ER we went. He had been beaten and tortured for two hours by eight members of the local college baseball team. One of the players had given Caleb $35 and asked him to get percocets so he could study for exams. My son was so deep in his addiction that he kept the money in order to get a fix. The team forced a mutual friend to trick my son into another drug deal. When Caleb went outside to meet the friend, he was attacked, thrown in the back of a truck and held down by his throat. They drove him to a field where he was kicked and stomped while curled in a fetal position. He begged for his life and promised them $50 if they let him go. I had no idea about this part until the next day when two of the boys came to my house in broad daylight to get the money. One of them was holding the same baseball bat they had used to break his knee the night before.

Three of the eight boys were charged and received 10 years probation and felony assaults. My son would never have snitched and refused to testify against them in court. He felt like he deserved it. My boys went by a certain street code--a ‘never rat on another’ code. We moved soon after that and my son started doing well again. I was working two jobs and didn't know that he was getting into my mother’s pain pills just enough to keep him subdued. He went to live 200 miles away with his father, who promised to take care of him and keep him safe. But he wasn’t kept safe--his father was an addict too.

My son Caleb left this earth on Christmas morning of 2015. He was sold a black market pill that contained Fentanyl.

Caleb left behind a younger brother named Spencer who entered the system after stealing a bicycle when he was 14. His drug of choice was marijuana and after failing drug tests for THC, Spencer has spent the better part of the past two years in different rehab facilities.getting placed in a treatment facility, our young people are being sent right back to the streets.

Spencer came home just three days before he lost his brother. Since then, he has been on a downward spiral. He recently turned 18, which means that if he screws up again he won’t go back to rehab, he will go to jail. He has an active warrant for missing court. Spencer is running from his grief and now the law. He does not deserve to go to jail. He needs to grieve. Because of all that my family has endured with the loss of our beloved Caleb and my health problems, we have been derailed. I haven't been back to work since Caleb’s death and we sleep on the couches of extended family. I am here to fight for Spencer and all the other young people who are suffering from addiction and loss. Kids who commit petty crimes should not be incarcerated but rehabilitated.

We need more beds in rehabs and less in the jails.

We need better supervision in rehabs. Once during a stay in a state-funded facility, Spencer was given half of a pain pill that was brought in by a parent. The next morning he was beaten by a staff member and three other boys at the facility.

We need programs in place so that when someone goes to the hospital begging for help they are not turned away. Instead of getting placed in a treatment facility, our young people are being sent right back to the streets.


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