Red Ribbon Week: Cocaine addicts’ families travel path of devastation, too

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 26, 2011 

From his job and family to his decaying teeth, Ted R. Bobe lost nearly everything to drug addiction.

Years of smoking crack cocaine and injecting methamphetamine took an irreversible toll on his 50-year-old body, as evidenced by the jagged track marks that cover his arms.

But decades of drug use left a less visible scar as well: Three years clean, Bobe today is making up for lost time with a son who long took a backseat to needles and eight-balls.

Rocco Bobe was just a boy when his parents began using cocaine. Usually, they had the decency to wait until he’d gone to sleep before the party began.

But one day, the younger Bobe was abruptly sent to live with family in Nevada after his mother suffered a heart attack. She and Ted Bobe had been up smoking crack the night before.

“I was really mad at them at first, and I felt a sense of abandonment,” said Rocco Bobe, now 21 and living next door to his father in Auburn, Ala. “I felt like I wasn’t worth anything to them because they wanted to kick me to the side for something like that.”

Drug users become hooked on the euphoric effects of cocaine and other potent narcotics, often to the extent they forget about responsibilities and loved ones at home.

Just as drugs take over the lives of addicts, family members of users, too, are frequently ensnared in the path of devastation.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret what I did. I lost my marriage. I lost my family,” said Ted Bobe, who was so absorbed in his drug use that he was unaware for two months that his estranged wife had passed away. “If I had known I would have paid that price, I would have quit a long time ago.”

Crack cocaine is a common denominator in many households where children are found to be abused and neglected, said Warner L. Kennon, a juvenile court judge for the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

“Usually, the children are left alone,” said Kennon, who has presided over cases involving the state Division of Family and Children Services. “That’s oftentimes how we get the case. They’ll either be wandering the streets or a neighbor will call and say they’ve been left there by themselves.”

In many cases, children who grow up with a parent addicted to drugs begin to experiment with them as well. Before she got clean in 2005, Sabrina Tillman’s mother had been addicted to crack for much of her life.

“I started messing around with it when I was about 14 or 15,” said Tillman, 20, a graduate of drug court who has turned her life around. “It was normal to me. I always saw it around.”

It can also be painful when drugs split families apart. For Lucious Turner, family members tired of his crack cravings and mercurial tendencies walked out on him in Pensacola, Fla. Turner traces his drug history to marijuana use that began at 16 and caused him to search for a greater euphoria, which he found in cocaine.

“When I started smoking crack, that was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life,” said Turner, 60, who now lives in Columbus and has been clean nearly five years. “Once I started using, there was no turning around. It was all downhill from there.”

The Rev. Johnnie C. Robinson Jr., who heads the House of Restoration in Phenix City, said cocaine has “a very negative effect” on close relatives of users because it alters family dynamics.

“One of the first things that is lost once a first person is in true addiction is trust,” Robinson said. “You can’t trust them around the money. You can’t trust them around the food. You can’t trust them with the car. You can’t trust them with anything.”

Turner said he became suicidal and had a nervous breakdown after his common-law wife and their two children left him in 1988.

“That was the beginning of the end of my life,” he said. “That’s when my life started crumbling, when I lost my family.”

It wasn’t until Turner developed a personal relationship with God that he mustered the willpower to change.

Four rehabilitation stints were ruined by relapse, but he found his “spiritual awakening” at the House of Restoration.

“Once I did that, things miraculously changed in my life,” said Turner, who has since reconnected with his family. “The taste, the desire was taken from me.”

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