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Mother deals with son’s death


Jeanne Ferryman looks at her son’s portrait after reflecting recently on his life. Her son died in September from a drug overdose. (EXAMINER PHOTO | NATE SMITH)

Jeanne Ferryman begged her son to think of his mother and consider her feelings.  “I told him, don’t you do this to me,” she said, sitting up in her in chair, glancing at his senior class portrait that sits to this day on a nearby side table.

“He fought those demons for 10 years, but couldn’t get away.”

Mrs. Ferryman lost her only son last September after he died of a multiple drug overdose in their DeGraff home. He was 33.

She recently spoke candidly about her son’s addiction and overdose, requesting only that the Examiner not publish his name.

“I found him lying at the top of the stairs,” Mrs. Ferryman said. “He’d been there for several hours when I found him.”

Mrs. Ferryman said her son long struggled with an addiction to prescription pills and heroin, a habit she says that began in his teens when he started drinking alcohol at the local bar.

He lived at home most of his life, and Mrs. Ferryman said he was good about helping out around the house.

“He would mow the yard and help out around here,” she said. “He knew I knew he was an addict, but he still tried to hide it as best he could.”

Mrs. Ferryman said her son overdosed on two previous occasions before his death, and was treated both times at Mary Rutan Hospital.

Another time she said he nearly lost a limb after his arm became infected from using dirty needles and excessively shooting up heroin.

“That was enough to scare him straight for a while,” Mrs. Ferryman said. “He would get out of the hospital and we would sit down at that kitchen table and he would promise, ‘Mom, I’m going to get clean.’

“He sat there and cried and told me he wanted to beat his addiction.”

Mrs. Ferryman said those words came from a temporarily sober mind, and were trounced as soon as he ran into one of his buddies, or craved a high.

“Addiction,” Mrs. Ferryman began, trying to describe how her son had articulated it to her, “once you get hooked, you’re in.

“He was a totally different person when he wasn’t on drugs, but when he was using he was not himself.”

She said he always acknowledged his addiction and, “never made any excuses for it.”

He found modest stretches of sobriety, according to his mother. He’d pass mandatory drug screens with his probation officer and attend weekly AA meetings.

The line was always a tenuous one, though. One time, Mrs. Ferryman said her son had been given permission to use his parent’s car to go to Bellefontaine for an AA meeting. He and a friend, instead, ended up in Dayton buying heroin.  

The car was impounded and the addicts were arrested that night, held for a time and released, Mrs. Ferryman said, “back onto the streets of Dayton where they just went back to doing what they’d gone down there for.”

Needles and assorted drug paraphernalia were uncovered from his room when family went through his belongings after the overdose, she said.

Through it all, Mrs. Ferryman said she never considered kicking him out of the house.

“He had nowhere to go,” she said. “Where was I going to send him?”

She estimated he’d stolen thousands of dollars of cash and prescription medication from his parents over the course of his addiction.

“If I made him leave, he’d just crash with one of his drug-addicted friends. I was trying to keep him away from those places,” she said.

Mrs. Ferryman said her son desired treatment at an in-patient facility, but the family didn’t have the money to send him to rehab.

“And the courts only pay for rehab if he’s sentenced on a felony drug crime,” she said. “He kind of fell through the cracks.”  

Counseling and out-patient treatment aren’t effective in the presence of unhealthy influences, she said.

“(He) used to tell me they would joke about going out and getting high,” after counseling, she said. “My son needed to be someplace where he only had to focus on his recovery and getting better.”

Mrs. Ferryman is still struggling with the loss of her son. She’s emphatic about drug addicts getting help before it’s too late.

“That’s what I would tell anyone struggling with drugs: Don’t do this to your mom,” Mrs. Ferryman said. “If you won’t get help for you, get it for your mom because your addiction is killing her, too.”

“His death leaves a giant hole in my heart,” the mother went on. “My son had a giant hole in his heart, too, and he tried to fill it with drugs.”

Editor's Note: This is the final part of a 3-part Examiner series exploring the prevailing use of drugs locally and their addicting effects and consequences.

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