For many parents, a favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 22:6 which says "train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." A Shelby county couple followed the scripture. What they did not count on was the devil that almost killed their son - heroin. Rick and Cheryl Kelley admit it is difficult to tell their story, but, feel compelled to do so to help save others.
Rick advises parents to not be deceived about what is happening to young people. The Kelleys now live in Atlanta, but raised their family in Shelby county. Their son was a smart, talented child who loved sports and music. Then, in his junior year, two close friends died and a devastating leg injury took him out of the sport he loved and put him on medication. His mom isn't sure if that could have possibly been the beginning of some prescription abuse. Both parents saw the change that happened. Rick Kelley said, "This happy child became distant, troubled. His circle of friends changed. Everything about him changed."
Still, their child graduated high school and moved to Auburn to begin college. One night, Rick Kelly answered a phone call. It was from Auburn police. "He informed me that they had our son on video tape selling marijuana to an undercover officer" The Kelleys hired a lawyer. Their son got youthful offender status and three years probation.
The family kept most of this to themselves because they were embarrassed. What they didn't want to admit was that while at Auburn, their son got hooked on heroin. They brought him home, but that was just the beginning of more issues. Cheryl Kelley says their son stole pills from his grandparents. "He very often took money out of our account," she said. "He took things from the house, sold them, and he sold drugs at Auburn so he could pay for his heroin habit."
The family kept asking when this would end. It finally happened when the son caused a four car pileup on Highway 119 and Caldwell Mill Road in Shelby county. No one was injured, but deputies found drug residue in the trunk of his car. He had violated the terms of his probation. He was 23 years old.
For Rick Kelley, it was a devastating moment. "Nothing is more difficult than seeing your son handcuffed, put in the back of a police car and taken to jail, but it was a relief if you can believe it." The Kelleys says this was the best thing that ever happened to him. They believe it saved his life.
Shelby county sheriff Chris Curry convinced the Kelleys not to post bond for their son. Curry remembers, "For months, he was in our infirmary here in the jail. Terrible withdrawals! Unbelievable faking seizures, having seizures, conduct and behavior aggressive and uncooperative."
It is dangerous to go through withdrawal from methodone and heroin cold turkey. It can be deadly. But, after seven months behind bars, the child Rick and Cheryl Kelley had raised began to return to them. They proudly say he has been clean for five years. Still, once an addict always an addict. Their son struggles with self esteem issues even now at the age of 29.
The Kelleys say there is now a special young woman in their son's life, and, he feels accountable to her. He is working, making new friends and being with his family.
The Kelleys, however, want every parent to understand this. Once a child turns 18, the parent has no legal right know what is going on. Their best advice is don't go into denial. Do whatever is necessary to save your child.
Posted: Nov 20, 2012 11:10 AM CST
Updated: Nov 20, 2012 11:10 AM CST
By Pam Huff, ABC 33/40 News