‘You’re not the same person’

One area woman in recovery from drug and alcohol use offers a perspective from inside the ‘vicious circle’ of addiction

BRATTLEBORO — The way family and friends describe Emmy Bascom belies the narrative of her last hours of life described in court filings - a path of drugs and alcohol that came as a shock to many people in her orbit.

“Drugs change you into somebody completely different,” says a Brattleboro resident, “Lynn.” (At the request of one of the family members involved in this story, The Commons is withholding all their names out of respect for their privacy.)

“You do things that you've never done before you were using,” says Lynn, who is celebrating 23 weeks of hard-won sobriety. “You do things and act in ways that you're not the same person.”

At the same time, “People didn't know I used,” she said. “I pretty much never left my house.”

Obtaining drugs was easy. Lynn grew up in an environment where there were people around her who sold drugs.

“I've always known drug dealers,” she says. “It started for me with people who sold pot, then I got to know others who sold cocaine, crack, and heroin.”

Lynn's husband was using.

“I couldn't rely on him. I couldn't lend him $10. I could not leave my purse on my person. I couldn't leave my medications where he could find them,” she says.

“You lose all trust and belief in the person because there are so many lies, so much deception,” Lynn continues. “It's all about getting high. When the drug leaves your system, you get terribly sick, so you use again. It's a vicious cycle.”

Lynn started using because she has a health issue that keeps her in chronic pain. Her husband was stealing her pain medication and trading it for heroin.

And when she couldn't get opioid pain medication by prescription, she, too, turned to heroin, which she says you can get by the bag for $10 and as a 10-bag “bundle” for “anywhere from $40 to $80.”

Lynn says that people who have substance use disorder look for an image from a rubber stamp on the bag - an underground branding of sorts. If a drug has no stamp, it is likely of poor quality, she says.

“Here's something that's pretty sad,” says Lynn. “When the police announce that there is a bad batch of something in town, people actually go out and look for that stamp because they want that high.”

“They don't care - even when they know people are overdosing on that product. Isn't that frightening?” she says, shaking her head.

“I never used a needle - I snorted it,” Lynn says. “I smoked crack. I snorted coke, and I snorted heroin.”

But her go-to drug ? That was always alcohol, she says.

“I've got a strong family history,” Lynn says. “My father, my husband, one son are all addicted to alcohol, my other son was addicted to heroin. My younger sister is a meth addict.”

“I've lost so many people in the last four years that I have lost count,” she says sadly. “I've been given so much grief about being the mother of an addict and alcoholic.”

“No one, least of all me, wanted this to happen,” Lynn says. “It's what I knew. It's what I grew up with.”

Lynn left her husband, who was caught up in a big drug bust in Brattleboro a few years ago.

Yet she kept using.

“I was thinking I was using heroin, but it was fentanyl, and I overdosed,” she says. “I was found dead in my bed.”

The EMTs administered Narcan, the drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. They worked on her for 15 minutes and brought her back to life.

“And I still used after that,” she says.

“You don't see yourself when you are using,” Lynn says. “You don't think about how you are acting. It's a very horrible drug.”

Mother and son make a pact

One day in the recent past, when she had been using alcohol, Lynn hit her 31-year-old son, “Thomas.”

“I have few regrets in my life, but I totally regret hitting my son,” says Lynn.

It was then that she decided to quit.

She and Thomas had made a pact: If she quit drinking, he would quit using. She did.

And he did.

“He knew this time it was serious,” says Lynn.

“Thomas” has been sober for four months now, she reports. “We're doing this together,” she adds with a big smile.

Lynn says that there is a lot less support in town now than there was years ago for people who want to address their substance use.

“Mental health and drug issues go hand in hand. If you don't want to feel, heroin is definitely the way to go, because you don't feel anything but a desire to use more of it,” she says.

“There are fewer and fewer programs available,” she says. “If you want to stop drug use, we have to increase support for mental health everywhere.”

In 2018, she had tried to find a bed for her son in rehab and they couldn't find anything in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts.

“My son was willing to get clean, but if someone is ready, they have to go right then or they will go back and use,” she says. “At that point, he was doing 30-bag shots.”

But they were not able to find Thomas a bed, and he went back to using.

'It's a horrible vicious cycle'

Thomas started smoking marijuana when he was 9 years old.

“One of his dad's friends got him high. It's been a battle ever since,” Lynn says.

The pair are now in a much better place. Thomas takes methadone in liquid form every day, which has helped him stay in recovery.

While Thomas's body is processing a dose of methadone, the medication-assisted treatment keeps him from getting sick from drug withdrawal as the other substances leave his body.

“My son began using when he was 20 years old. Now he is 33,” Lynn says. “All those lovely years of his life were missed. He's in awe of all the money that he spent and all the things he did to get those drugs.”

She describes it as “a horrible vicious cycle.”

“He's clean now, and he deserves a chance. I haven't seen him like this for a long time. We're working it together.”

'She isn't any less human'

What might likely be going through the mind of someone like Cara Rodrigues, the Wardsboro woman facing charges of second-degree murder for the death of Emmy Bascom?

According to police, Rodrigues was revived from a drug overdose in Brattleboro just hours before they say she killed Bascom.

Lynn thinks carefully about the question of how someone accused of such a crime, in jail and unable to use drugs, might consider the consequences.

“I think if she gets clean because she is in jail, and she is proven guilty, she will be devastated by what she's done,” Lynn says.

“It doesn't matter how long she spends in jail; she will have to carry this with her for the rest of her life,” she adds. “As her mind clears, she will start to think about what she was willing to do for the drugs she craved.”

Lynn wants to remind everyone that though the situation is horrible, the person who police have named as the person who murdered Bascom is still a human being.

“That person is somebody's daughter, or mother, or cousin. She isn't any less human,” says Lynn.

And spending a long time in jail won't address the underlying substance use issues. Someone who goes into prison with a drug dependency issue will quite possibly emerge and go right back to the same routines.

“No one wants to use drugs,” Lynn says. “Users are trying to kill their inner pain.”

Lynn notes something that she learned from recovery support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

“They teach you about changing people, places, and things,” she says. “You will fall right back into the same cycle and go down that horrifying rabbit hole again if you don't change the people in your life, the places that you hang out, and the things that you did when you were using.”

“I have a long road ahead of me, but I believe I will succeed because I can't carry regret,” Lynn says. “I'm moving forward.”

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