When she was 10 years old, Brooklyn Bodenheimer overheard her parents talking through the walls of their home about their oldest daughter, Misty.
“What’s gonna happen if we find her dead in a river somewhere?”
This was only the beginning of Bodenheimer family’s odyssey.
“It’s constant anxiety and wonder of what’s going on and what’s going to happen next,” said Brooklyn Bodenheimer, who has since graduated from Southmoreland High School.
Marijuana is commonly referred to as the “gateway drug.” But in the case of Misty Bodenheimer, alcohol played a leading role that spiraled into heroin addiction.
“We used to spend a lot of time together,” said Brooklyn about her sister. “I loved seeing her. It was my favorite thing to do. But now I don’t think she realizes what she’s doing.”
According to research, drug use changes the brain in ways that make quitting a challenge even for those who want to stop using. Researchers and scientists know more now than ever before about how drugs affect the brain, but that doesn’t mean people think of the consequences while they’re using drugs.
“It’s changed her so much,” said Brooklyn “She used to be so positive, but now she just hates herself.”
Not only has this family member’s decisions affected Brooklyn’s life, but it has affected her other siblings’ lives as well. Madesyn Bodenheimer, a senior, recalls times seeing her sister “fall asleep while eating” and other side effects related to drug addiction.
“From when she was 19 to 24 we never knew if she was dead or alive,” said Madesyn. “My parents would wait around for phone calls. It was just a long period of wondering if my sister was dead.”
Her mother, Tracy Wallace, knew she had to take action.
She started taking her daughter to a drug addiction treatment center in Youngwood, Med Tech, to get her daughter the help she needed. This process continued with smaller and smaller doses of methamphetamine every morning until eventually she “got off the heroin.”
According to Elements of Behavioral Health, centers that provide clinical care for addiction and mental health disorders, “beating a heroin addiction is a challenge that can break the backs of even the most resilient people.”
This challenge can start with merely one thought, one idea, one action, one person. And often imes in high school it is that one person who persuades a student into using a drug that causes not only themselves but their families a lifetime of stress and anxiety.
“Be a leader, not a follower,” Wallace offered in a way of advice. “They need to think about the people it will affect. It doesn’t only affect them when they become addicted. It (addiction) destroys families.”
And that is exactly what happened to the Bodenheimer family. Wallace would spend countless sleepless nights because her daughter “wouldn’t come home.”
“I never knew if she was alive or dead,” said Wallace. “My husband and I would be constantly stressed out. My three other children (including a son, Nate) felt like I was always too focused and busy with her to focus on what they were doing.”
Wallace was forced to quit her job because she had to be “focused” on her daughter’s drug addiction. And despite all the other series of events that had the family’s lives on a roller coaster, Wallace experienced another turn of events that “turned our lives upside down.”
“I got custody of one of her children at 8 months old,” said Wallace. “He is now almost 8 years old. Instead of being his grandparents, we are his parents.”
Instead of being the stereotypical grandmother who spoils her grandchildren, Wallace has to take on a disciplinary role and “give him his needs” and not just his wants. Because of this, Wallace and her husband’s lives were put on hold. From having to get a new job that doesn’t require working on the weekends to having to find a babysitter on the weekends if she wants to go out, Wallace is one person who became responsible “for my daughter’s responsibilities.”
Wallace said people are affected by the people they surround themselves with, especially their “habits and how you behave.” She cites Bible verse 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
“It definitely did have an effect because of the friends she had,” Wallace said of Misty. “They live in the moment and maintain the mentality that it will never happen to them. These days everyone just wants to fit in. They will do almost anything.”
Raising children in an area where these drugs are becoming more common, Wallace describes her feelings in one word” “Scared.”
“But I feel you can only do so much as a parent,” said Wallace. “You teach and guide them, but you can’t shelter them from the world. That’s reality, and you just have to trust in God.”
"Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud"- Maya Angelou
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