WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid crisis. This installment introduces us to two Loris: Lori Erion and Lori Yuppa.
The women share more than just a name. Both have had children touched by opioid addiction.
The experience led Erion to create the Dayton nonprofit Families of Addicts or FOA, to advocate, "that we are not alone," says Erion.
"Two-thirds of American families have been touched by addiction. It is really hugely important that we get the word out that people can, and do, get better. I wanted a place where our families could feel like they’re not alone, not feel ashamed, and miraculously enough, after they come for a while they shed that shame and the guilt, and they are out letting people know that we’re OK, you can be OK. So, I’m hopeful that we can turn this thing around,” Erion says.
That mission brought Erion and Yuppa together. And in this story, they share how their lives have changed as a result of their children’s struggles with addiction.
What follows is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Yuppa: My son Chase Cummings was 18. He passed away on September 18, 2012. He loved animals. He liked to do little rap songs. We'd be in the car together and he’d say a rap song and I'd do one. And of course we had to laugh at mine because my stuff didn't rhyme. And it was just silly stuff. He had potential but he had the low self-esteem. He didn't want to come around the family because he felt like he was ashamed of what he had done, and the family at times would be afraid to have him there because they were afraid he might steal something. Now, mind you, he was only doing this for four months -- the heroin. His father had back pain, a lot of issues and he was taking Oxycodone, Vicodin. Chase would get into that and then he got into the heroin. He was clean for a couple months and then decided to use and it killed him. Somebody injected him and left him and stole his radio, his wallet and his cellphone. It's the worst feeling in the world to get a coroner's report on your child, to have the clothes he wore the last night he was alive, or things like that. I have a box with a bunch of his stuff in it and, you know, once in a while I get into that box and I lose it. And that's okay. At first when he passed away I was like, gosh, why couldn't I save my child? you're supposed to protect him, but I couldn't.
Erion: My daughter is still living. There are days where I feel like I'm trying to keep her alive. April was 24 in April. She was due in May, so I didn't name her April because she was born in April. We've been on this journey for, I believe, about seven years now. Well, one day she was especially sick, so I took her to urgent care and I saw the marks on her arms when she was laying there. And I said, what is that? And she said, you know what that is. And that was the very first time I knew that she was using drugs intravenously. I had not even a clue. How would you ever think that your kid that is terrified of needles is going to wind up shooting heroin? I mean, it was unfathomable. That led us to years of rehabs, with some success here and there. But I think what was a really pivotal change for her was being locked up in the Greene County jail for 11 months. She got out and she did really really well for almost a year. And then she decided to go off her medication and wound up relapsing that way. It's very nerve-wracking. I told her, don't use in my house because I don't want to have to revive you or find you. I would rather get a call. I think it's pretty sad when a mom has to say that. When I forbid it and had zero drug-use tolerance in my home with her, what that did, it just promoted lying because she didn't feel she could come to me. We've been through this for so many years and I'm really just trying to let her figure it out for herself. She knows what she needs to do.
Yuppa: You don't want to force her because it's not going to work. You know that. You can pray, beg, cry, carry on and plead with them to please get better or please stop. But unless they want to they're not going to. That's one thing I do know.
Erion: There may come a day where I don't know what's supposed to happen with her and hopefully I can be as healthy about it as you seem to be, and I know it's taken you a really, really, probably a long time to be able to have some type of acceptance and peace about it. Is that how you feel?
Yuppa: Yeah, I do. I will never wrap my head around it. I know my son is gone. I know he's in heaven. But I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that he's dead. My mind don't go there. I remember driving down the highway and thinking to myself, that cement block under the I-675 bridge, I'm going to run into and just end it because that's how bad it affects the whole family. I have another son Chad, who is getting married. He is my world, if I didn't have that kid, I don't know what I would do -- my son who's healthy, he's always done right, he's a good boy. My son has said to me, mom, you know you have another son, and that makes you feel horrible. I was so consumed in the grief of losing Chase. But what does help me is the fact that I can help others and I can talk about him. And if it can help one other person hear my story, that would be great because just talking about him is keeping him alive to me. You know and just his smile, his sense of humor and just his beautiful face, his beautiful blue eyes. But I have to live for [Chad] and I have to live for others and that's what gives me joy. That's what helps me keep going.
Erion: And you know we've got a granddaughter on the way. It's the first time ever and it kind of changes the way I'm thinking. I don't want to miss out on this grandbaby growing up. I want to make the time for my son, his girl and the baby, and that might change how how I support or don't support April, depending on which direction she decides to go because there comes a certain point where I got to do things for me, do things for my other child and it's just a resetting of the priorities, I guess. I'm not willing to miss out on it.
Yuppa: Nope. I wouldn't either.
Erion: I feel like I have a bond with you from the very first day.
Yuppa: Me, too. [After the death of my son] I was so gung ho, I wanted to help, help, help and they gave me your name and number and ever since then it's been on like Donkey Kong, girl. She's just someone that's there for me. And I'll be there for her. I will always volunteer at every rally. I love doing that. I love you.
Erion: I love you, too.
This story is part of WYSO's Recovery Stories series. The series was produced by Jess Mador, with assistance from Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson.
Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.
Additional project digital support from 100 Days in Appalachia.
More about Recovery Stories:
WYSO’s Recovery Stories series brings you conversations from the heart of Dayton’s opioid crisis: stories of loss, stories of love, stories of hope, resilience and recovery.
Ohio’s opioid epidemic has killed more than 10,000 people over the last three years, touching thousands of families across the Miami Valley. But numbers alone don’t begin to tell the whole story of the crisis. WYSO’s Recovery Stories series documents the reality of addiction and recovery in our community, with first-person stories from Daytonians personally affected by the epidemic.