Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part story on Judy Moffitt and her struggle with her son, Nick, a heroin addict.
Nick Moffitt didn’t finish his senior year of high school, at the urging of his mother, Judy. She thought he would feel overwhelmed by trying to catch up on school work. She also didn’t want him back with friends she knew were using drugs.
He was in South Glens Falls High School’s class of 2005, but the only endeavor from which he would end up graduating was a state prison program.
In August 2007, Nick called his mother from the Glens Falls Police station, saying he had been arrested for selling drugs and that his life was over.
Moffitt called the jail, worried Nick might try to kill himself. She asked officers to keep an eye on him. She contacted her lawyer, who promised he’d be present for the arraignment.
“I vowed to do everything in my power to not let Nick feel alone or abandoned,” she said.
Moffitt asked her lawyer to do what he could to get Nick help and keep him out of prison. He was charged with a felony and recommended for shock incarceration, or “boot camp,” a state prison program for young, nonviolent offenders.
Moffitt bailed him out of jail so he could get his GED before heading to prison.
On the day of his sentencing, Moffitt had to drive him to court, where she saw him handcuffed and shackled. She felt guilty.
“I felt no mother should have to do this,” she said.
He was taken to Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in western New York.
Moffitt had entered a new world. She always felt she rose above judging other parents, and now, she felt she was being judged.
At Christmas, she didn’t decorate the house. She bought some gifts for Nick to put away for when he was released.
She wrote to Nick nearly every day. She was his cheerleader. She sent him stories of others who had worked their way through trouble.
She visited as often as possible, making the 12-hour round trip every other week. She worried about how he was being treated and always left crying inconsolably.
Still, she started to see a change in Nick. He addressed people as “ma’am” or “sir” and followed the rules.
She was so proud, she bought him cigarettes.
From high to low
In August, Nick was released from Lakeview. He had survived and thrived, earning the right to work outside the shock camp. He received counseling during his time, and all seemed right. Moffitt was finally getting to see her son graduate.
Upon Nick’s return home, he was given a job in a relative’s industrial and contractor supply business. He was motivated. He and his father were starting to get along. Judy was starting to breathe easy, believing she had her family back.
“The pain was worth it,” she said.
Nick enrolled at SUNY Adirondack full time, where he excelled, and he worked full time, too. Moffitt let him live at home without paying rent.
The good times lasted less than a year. In 2009, she noticed Nick was acting withdrawn. He started going into work late. He came home drunk one night. He told his mother he was a “piece of shit” and thought about suicide. He lost his job.
He stayed holed up in his room during the day and went out at night. His mother never knew where he was. She texted him to make sure he was OK. She waited for him to pull into the driveway, regardless of the hour. She checked his car for dents.
On the day before Mother’s Day, Nick’s father found a pot plant growing in the closet. Judy told Nick to get out of the house. He wrote in her Mother’s Day card she wouldn’t see him again.
Nick was gone for a few weeks, but his mother kept in touch with his girlfriend. The girlfriend told her Nick knew he had a drug problem and if his mother let him come home, he would get help. Moffitt gave in.
In May 2010, Nick was arrested for possession of Oxycontin. Moffitt decided not to intercede, hoping he would finally confront his addiction and seek help.
A few months later, Nick’s girlfriend astounded Moffitt when she told her Nick was using heroin.
Needles and blood
Moffitt collapsed when she heard her son was using heroin.
“That made me fall to my knees. I had talked with him before and he promised me he would never be involved with heroin because even with heroin addicts, that is low,” Moffitt said.
She begged the judge to put Nick in a rehab program instead of jail.
At about the same time, she found out about a local counselor who could help people in drug court. She went to him but was surprised when he told her the only way to help Nick was to help herself. For the first time, she believed it.
She turned to her faith to keep her strong. “Let go, let God” became her mantra.
She also found a Naranon meeting in Colonie and started attending weekly meetings.
Nick asked his mother to help him get suboxone to keep him off the heroin, but Moffitt later found out he sold the suboxone to get money for heroin.
She was at school one day and got a call from the public defender, telling her if Nick didn’t contact State Police, there would be a warrant for his arrest. He had not shown up for any of his court dates.
Moffitt left work and found Nick in his bed at home. When she tried to wake him, she was horrified to see his face looked like “mangled meat.”
“I screamed with horror,” she said.
He was swollen and bloody. She pleaded with him to tell her who had done this to him, but he wouldn’t tell her anything.
She ran out to the car and saw the fender covered in blood, as if someone had smashed Nick’s face into it.
She wanted him to go to the emergency room but if he didn’t, she said, she was going back to work.
She then went to her mother’s house, afraid her house wasn’t safe.
State Police called. She feared the trooper would tell her Nick was dead. Instead, the trooper said her son was arrested for shoplifting at the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet.
“I literally said, ‘Thank you God! You saved my son again.’ ”
The police also found a heroin needle inside the door of his car’s gas cap. Moffitt was livid.
“I was done being used. I was done being an enabler. I was detaching with love. I was not going down with this disease,” she said.
Nick spent eight months in county jail for possession of Oxycontin. His mother refused to answer his calls.
She told him he couldn’t come home again.
Road to prison
Nick was released from county jail in spring 2011. He had been clean from heroin for eight months.
He managed to get a job, get food stamps and find a room to rent. Moffitt helped get him suboxone, but this time, she made him agree to let the doctor disclose information to her and made him get counseling.
Nick’s life, once again, seemed to be on track. He was seeing a counselor on a weekly basis. He went into a business called “The Tech Guys” with a partner. His attitude about himself changed, and he was excited about the future. Moffitt felt confident he was doing well.
One day, she stopped into his shop on Route 9, however, and saw he was wearing a slipper on his foot. He said he was being treated for an infection.
Moffitt continued with the Naranon meetings and began appearing in public to share her experiences with others. She was feeling at peace. She moved into a new house in Queensbury. Nick’s business was going well and he had a new girlfriend, Brittany Villarreal.
“I felt like I had finally found Judy,” she said.
In August 2013, Moffitt was relaxing on her deck with company when she got a call from Nick. He had been arrested for selling suboxone and was in jail. According to a Post-Star article, police said Nick was buying drugs and having them shipped to the business through an underground black-market website known as “The Silk Road.”
Moffitt discovered Nick would not only be withdrawing from suboxone, but also Xanax, a benzodiazepine prescribed for anxiety, panic disorders and insomnia. People die from Xanax withdrawal.
Nick was in the hospital for a brief time, having developed internal organ problems and an infection in his foot where he shot up heroin.
He stayed in Warren County Jail until he was sent to Downstate Correctional Facility for reception. He is now an inmate at Bare Hill in Malone, sentenced to 5 years.
Moffitt and Villarreal visit on weekends. Nick is polite, Moffitt said, but his emotions have “flatlined.”
“Smiling is painful for him. He carries on very limited conversations. When he hugs you, it’s very stiff,” she said.
Moffitt believes she has come a long way from the early days of Nick’s problems, but the journey isn’t over. There are plenty of rough patches. That’s when she relies on her faith most.
She follows the plights of thousands of “friends” who post on the Facebook page “The Addict’s Mom.” They share a common bond of having kids with drug problems. Many have lost their children.
Moffitt still has Nick.