TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There’s something special about moms. They are unique people. Their emotions run deep, on an entirely different level. They know how to nurture, how to soothe, how to heal – with a simple touch or reassuring smile.
And, they have razor-sharp instincts.
In fact, many of us know firsthand what it was like to get that well-known warning, “Don’t try anything, I’ve got eyes in the back of my head, and I’ll see what you’re doing.”
Indeed, mothers have a sixth sense about them – a “mama bear” spirit that allows them to tap into the very heart of those around them, specifically their own children.
But, there’s a demon among us.
It is a force so powerful, so sinister, so insidious – that it has derailed even the most perceptive parents. It has overtaken their instincts and left them powerless in a terrifying battle. It has tempted, lured, engulfed and ultimately destroyed lives. It knows no boundaries and seems to seep into any path it in which it gains access.
The demon is addiction.
It doesn’t care about gender, race, education or bank accounts. Addiction isn’t about where you live, where you work or what you look like. It seems to writhe its way in and, similar to a parasite, it doesn’t let go.
Just ask Lynne Knowles and Tracy Carathanasis.
They are two loving moms who are left with aching hearts – two different stories, yet both the same. Their worries, concerns, fears and doubts were identical at one point. Their days were spent waging war on a seedy killer. Their nights were spent sleepless. They died a thousand deaths every time their child didn’t come home.
Each has lived a draining lifetime of anxiety and worry. They existed on hope, faith and prayer. It kept them alive as they struggled to save their children.
That world is gone. For both moms.
They are now left with grief and exhaustion after a battle they couldn’t win, one they fought round-the-clock, desperate to make things better. .
They tried. They fought hard. They gave everything they had and more.
But, this demon was too devious, too clever, too tempting. It outsmarted them at every turn. And in the end, it claimed the lives of those they loved most.
Both mothers say the pain is so deep, so raw, so hideous – that it almost doesn’t seem real.
Each mom lost the love of her life, her own flesh and blood, the child created and born from each of their bodies.
It just can’t be, they explain.
But when you look in their eyes, you see it. When you hear the stories of their children – Jamie and Drew – you feel it. It is real.
The heartache. The disbelief. The shock, as fresh as the day it happened.
Both recently attended the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education candlelight vigil at Hillsborough High School in Tampa. The auditorium was packed that night with moms, dads, sisters, brothers, teachers, friends and loved ones.
Lynne and Tracy were among those in attendance. They sat in the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, with other parents. They shared their stories and opened their hearts. After all, these two moms have walked similar paths.
With tears in her eyes, Tracy explained how, nearly two years after his death, she still can’t bring herself to clean out Drew’s room or move his things.
It is just as it was.
It is just as it was.
“His shoes are still on the floor. His hoodie is still hanging up,” she explained, as her eyes welled. “It feels like he’s still coming home.”
Just as Lynne had with Jamie, Tracy also watched in disbelief and horror as addiction took over her son’s life. Drew was a bright, young man with the world at his fingerprints.
Success was his for the taking.
He was handsome, smart and charming. He had a loving family, dozens of friends and was good at sports.
At a young age, Drew began experimenting with prescription pills and found out quickly, he couldn’t stop. Drugs would rip his family apart as his addiction grew and morphed into an uncontrollable monster. He seemed to try, and subsequently like, almost everything he could get his hands on, says Tracy.
The damage began to take its toll.
Broken-hearted and feeling helpless, Drew’s family watched him slip into an angry shell. At times, he was combative and cruel.
This wasn’t the boy they knew.
Drew rebelled and broke every rule his parents set for him in his young teenage years. His entire world morphed into one daily goal, one sadistic mission – find drugs and use them.
But, still there was hope.
Just as Jamie’s journey was filled with speed bumps on the road to what looked like success, Drew’s journey went much the same way. He entered a drug diversion program. But, it didn’t seem to take. He was in and out of rehab multiple times. Tracy says that at first, he didn’t take it seriously.
Then, one day, he turned a corner.
She says he began to try – working harder to reach a goal of getting sober and graduating high school. She tells the story of visiting him at rehab and finding him alone at a picnic table surrounded by books and binders, studying for the SAT.
She knows he wanted to get better. She knows how hard he tried.
She also knows how tough it was for him to stay sober as he battled addiction. She encouraged him on his journey. She reminded him how much she loved him, how she wouldn’t give up on him. Ever.