P.J. Newberg, 50, a Glenview resident since 1984, remembers the first time she suspected her daughter Paula was using heroin. Paula was 16.
“She started acting different, she was losing weight and not coming home,” Newberg recalled.
This was in November 2010 and repeated stints for her daughter in a drug treatment center failed.
“After the first and second treatments that were unsuccessful, she kept using heroin,” Newberg said.
As bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse, P.J. said. Four of Paula’s friends, including her boyfriend, died of heroin use, their overdoses providing impetus to start information sessions on the dangers of the drug in Glenview and surrounding towns.
in front of a packed room at the .
Paula Nixon, her voice quivering at times, described her experiences to the crowd.
“When I was a sophomore in high school [at ] I was going to school drunk every day, smoking weed all the time and once that high wasn’t good enough, next thing I knew, I was doing heroin," she said. "Then I began mixing the drugs. I’m lucky to be alive.”
Paula said she's been clean since October 2011 and has been able to withstand the temptations experienced by addicts.
Newberg, a recovering alcoholic, had her 24 years of sobriety challenged by the difficulties her daughter faced.
“Dealing with watching your kid killing herself is beyond stressful," she said. "It tore me up inside."
Newberg is hoping the experience of her daughter will get some of the teenagers tempted to use drugs not to, but she also recognizes that the mountains in this battle are steep.
“All these suburban kids drive down the west side and get it,” she said. “It is very cheap.”
Parent of overdose victim speaks
Another parent at the forum, retired Chicago Police captain John Robert, said he's also experienced the tragedy of heroin addicition through his son, who died of an overdose at 19. Like Newberg, he is also trying to educate the community and speak to groups about the dangers of drugs.
And he agrees with Newberg that it won’t be easy.
“It’s an incredible sensation the first time you try this stuff,” Roberts said. “A lot of them get sick and never try it again. They’re the lucky ones. The kids who have been smoking weed and then they start smoking something else and they get an incredible body and mind high. It starts with that.”
Roberts said he is determined to make a difference and hopes to one day begin speaking to school groups in hopes of preventing more overdoses.
“There is a lot of power in pulling people together to protect their community,” he said. “If we don’t start standing together and pushing these people [Mexican drug cartels] back, then, instead of them being in the shadows, then we should be in the shadows with the window shades down because they are going to win the war. I won’t accept that.”
Questions for police
Some of those in attendance Tuesday wanted to know why the Glenview police were not taking more action against
But said the issue was not that simple.
“There are rules we have to follow,” he said. “We are very well trained not to break those rules so you do not see us on TV in an embarrassing situation.”
Johnson could not provide specific statistics regarding the extent of teenage heroin use in Glenview, but he did sum it up this way:
“It is not an epidemic, but there is a problem.”
“This is a community problem,” Roberts said. “It is a disease and it is spreading.”
Another parent at the forum Tuesday evening was Glenview mom Katie Cox, who has three teenagers. She was distressed that her suspicion about drug use in Glenview was confirmed.
“For several years I thought there was a problem as kids were dying," she said. "Tonight was an affirmation of what I’ve known.”