February 26, 2015 \ Rachel Jellinek
“It’s Not Gunna Be an Addiction”

AmyGradWe work with a variety of nonprofits, including some that help folks who are struggling with addiction.  I also used to work at the Department of Public Health in the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, so the topic is one of concern to me.

Recent news about the surge in heroin overdose deaths across Massachusetts is very alarming.  As a parent of a pre-teen, I worry about whether my son will make safe choices, in the face of potential peer pressure and typical teenage identity struggles that he may grapple with as he gets older.

I recently read the book, It’s Not Gunna Be an Addiction: The Adolescent Journals of Amelia F. W. Caruso (1989-2009), which was a very difficult experience.  Amy’s diaries reveal her pain and angst as she struggles with depression, low self-esteem, negative body image, and the challenges of how to define “who she is” amidst the eyes and ears of her peers.  Reading about her fear of judgment by others and not feeling a sense of her own self-worth was absolutely heart wrenching. Her attempts to self-medicate through cutting, pills, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin resulted in heroin addiction and an overdose at a treatment facility at the age of 20.

In an effort to capture Amy’s spirit and struggles so that others may learn from her experience, Amy’s mother, Melissa Weiksnar, has been on a mission to share Amy’s story with others.  In addition to It’s Not Gunna Be an Addiction: The Adolescent Journals of Amelia F. W. Caruso (1989-2009), which is aimed at young people, Melissa published Amy’s rehab journals in Heroin’s Puppet – Amy (and her disease), which are mainly for parents, educators and clinicians.

My mother always says, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.”  Reading Amy’s story, for me, was a sobering reminder of my fears and limits as a parent.  My son, who will soon be 10, asked me the other day, “Mommy, what is your greatest fear?”  A bit taken aback by the question, I shared that my greatest fear is actually not being able to protect him from some of the struggles that he is going to have in life.  Knowing that I won’t be able to shield him from hurt, despite desperately wanting to.

Hopefully Amy’s story will somehow allow someone else to avoid the same pain and struggles.  May she rest in peace.