Opioid crisis: one of the victims of the worst drug-related death year in the United States

Her life mirrored that of many people trapped by drug addiction – in and out of rehab; prison time; distressed and upset family and friends.

Of course, for his mother, he was always special. When she wants to feel close to him again, Karen Butcher wraps herself in a quilt made of her son’s favorite shirts. And in an attempt to help others avoid her plight, she toughens up and speaks openly to CNN.

Helping other young drug addicts is how she lets Matthew’s death offer hope. “They let Matthew’s legacy be that of helping other people not follow the same path,” she said.

Karen said Matthew was a gift to her from the start – born seven years after her brother when she waited and yearned for a second child.

He was a sociable, lively boy, always on the move. But he also had health problems, suffering from hemophilia, a disease in which the blood does not clot properly and can cause chronic pain.

So Butcher used to watch over him, watch out for trouble, but there was nothing out of the ordinary.

She and Matthew’s stepfather Gene Butcher say he rebelled like any other teenager, but they had no particular reason to worry until he left the house after high school and starts working in a restaurant. On good days he was the jovial bartender, happy to make people laugh. Other times he would leave sick, with flu-like symptoms that butchers now recognize as signs of withdrawal.

“He got in trouble one night for rummaging through the handbags of working women,” Karen said. “He was filmed rummaging through those handbags, of course looking for money.”

He took from his own family too. “I had some jewelry missing and I thought a friend of his had walked into my house,” Karen said.

“I never dreamed it was him. And then he stole from a friend, then he stole from a girlfriend.”

Matthew’s parents say his addiction may have started with the opioids prescribed for him for the severe pain that often accompanies hemophilia. They think he may have started to crush them and sniff them, and the switch to intravenous use may have come easily for a young man used to injections of other drugs for his condition.

When he first went to rehab, Karen hoped and believed her son would be the one to overcome his addiction.

But he’s been through what she recognizes as the common cycle of rehabilitation and relapse. He even overdosed several times, rescued by people who saw him and paramedics bringing him back to life.

Until Memorial Day 2020.

Karen was about to visit a friend when she saw missed calls from Matthew’s number on her phone. When she called back, it was Matthew’s girlfriend who picked up, hysterical, and they were on their way to the emergency room.

She believes he chose to take heroin that day, and that she was contaminated with a tiny amount of fentanyl, a drug so deadly and potent that it killed 64,000 of 100,000 overdose deaths. , although most people didn’t know they were taking this.

“I just knew in my mother’s heart that my son was dead,” Karen told CNN.

This is the last photo Karen has with her son, Matthew.  She says she always feels his absence at family gatherings.

She went to the hospital room to see him.

“I guess he had been dead for a while because his body was cold,” she said. “I just remember screaming, ‘I wasn’t ready to let you go’ and spending time alone with him, you know, patting his hair, touching his hands, he had it. seem to fall asleep. “

While Matthew was alive, his parents sought information and feedback on what he was going through and how to help him.

Some of the comments weren’t helpful – people who thought he could just stop or that rehabilitation was a guaranteed solution – but they were also presented to support groups like Parents of Addicted Loved Ones.

Karen ended up creating the first chapter of this group in Kentucky and stuck to it, trying to help others, even after losing Matthew.

Karen Butcher had a quilt made from Matthew's favorite shirts.

“I don’t want this to happen to other people. I even have a special place in my heart for other people’s sons,” she said.

“Got a call yesterday and he’s probably been through 15 treatment programs and he knows I’ve lost Matthew and told him about what you want in life?” What is preventing you from continuing the treatment? ”

She knows how difficult it is to go from treatment to a life of recovery, but she tries to find a way for those who contact her.

She says she takes a step back from the crushing loss statistics to keep them manageable. “I think, ‘Who can I help today?'” She said.

She wants to prevent others from suffering the loss she will never get over, how she and Gene’s blended family of five sons always miss one.

“There will always be a hole in the pictures, there is no longer a picture of our five sons, there is a picture of four,” she said.

“I imagine a hole in this photo or at family meals. There is no chair with Matthew.”

CNN’s Miguel Marquez reported this story from Kentucky, and Rachel Clarke wrote in Atlanta.

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