JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Studies say nearly half of all Americans have a family member or close friend who has been addicted to drugs.
Cheryl Howell never imagined she would become part of that statistic.
“Everybody says ‘it’s not my child.’ Well, I said that too about 14 years ago; I said not my child, and now, this is where I’m at. This is what I’m doing today," she said. "This is not where I foresaw myself going, but it is.”
Howell’s daughter Mandi battled drug addiction for more than 10 years. In 2014, Mandi had made several successful steps toward recovery.
“Had two jobs. Was working. Had moved away from all the old crowd, and then she somehow got into heroin,” Howell said. “She overdosed in Mobile. She was in a house with friends, and she had meth and heroin in her system.”
The painful experience of losing her daughter and the agony of helplessly watching her struggle with addiction fueled Howell to create the non-profit “Someone’s Child.”
“I just remember those long 10 years of kind of living in the shadows so to speak, just seeing the life being sucked out of your child," she said.
Her goal is to provide support and be a resource to help families find treatment.
“When you’re dealing with a child who’s addicted, there’s a lot of stigma, a lot of shame, and so parents and family members tend to not look, seek treatment, seek help because they’re ashamed,” Howell said. “If they don’t need anything but just somebody to talk to, that’s what we’re here for.”
Howell is planning a HopeFest event in April to remember those lost to addiction and celebrate those in recovery. It’s just one of many ways Howell is making sure her daughter’s death was not in vain.
“She told me at one point that she wanted to kick her addiction and become a drug and alcohol counselor to help others,” Howell said. “She’s with me all the time."
HopeFest will be held April 13 at Pascagoula Beach Park. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.