Saving Cathy

One family's story of 
addiction 
and finding their way out

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

One family's story of 
addiction 
and finding their way out

Lauri Ploch recounts the day she discovered her 26-year-old daughter was a heroin addict and what she did about it.

By Elizabeth MacBride — August 5, 2017

Cathy was on the back stoop again, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone. “I will never steal from my parents,” her mother heard her say.

That was the moment Lauri Ploch allowed herself to recognize the truth.

Sure, Cathy's rent had gone unpaid. There were the overdraft notices and the unexplained absences from work. But it was that word — “steal” — that told Ms. Ploch that her 26-year-old daughter was a heroin addict.

If there's a classic hallmark of an opioid addiction, it's stealing.

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Opioid addiction steals from everyone it touches. It steals from those who become hooked on the euphoria that drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine and heroin produce. It steals from addicts' families, many of whom will deplete their life savings to avoid seeing the person they love on the death roll that is unique to this particular addiction.

“More people will die because of the limited financial ability of families,” said Ms. Ploch. “Some are too proud to ask for help. Some are still stigmatized … they will spiral into debt themselves. They'll use every available resource. They'll get the second mortgage. They'll dip into their retirement funds.”

Funding rehab

After learning of her daughter's addiction, one of the first calls Ms. Ploch made was to her accountant. The expense of sending their daughter to a rehabilitation program would come from the nest egg she and her husband had built up.

Cathy's descent into heroin addiction was a familiar one. It began with a neck injury she sustained at work. Her boyfriend had a prescription for an opioid painkiller that he used to treat a back injury.

By the time Ms. Ploch overheard her conversation, Cathy had moved from pills to heroin.

As Cathy came in the house that evening, Ms. Ploch confronted her. “What is going on?” she asked.

Her daughter ran into her bedroom. Ms. Ploch followed. “Just say it.”

“It's heroin,” Cathy said.

Ms. Ploch took her daughter in her arms. “This is going to be a blink of time in the span of your life,” she said. “I promise we will get you through this.”

Hitting bottom

For a time, Ms. Ploch and her husband slept in sight of the front door so they could prevent their daughter from leaving in the middle of the night.

Eventually, the Plochs heeded the advice of a drug counselor. They would let their daughter hit bottom. While they waited, they lined up a bed in a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta. The cost for a three-month stint: $18,000.

A few months later, the call they were waiting for came. “I'm ready,” Cathy said.

Ms. Ploch picked her daughter up from the flophouse she was living in and the couple drove her 11 hours to Atlanta.

Cathy Ploch when she was a little girl (far left), a young adult (center) and recently with her parents.

Flash forward four years and the Plochs estimate they spent $50,000 to get their daughter back. They recently retired and informed her — on the advice of a financial adviser and drug counselors — that she was on her own financially if she relapsed.

A life restored

The calendar on the wall in Ms. Ploch's kitchen is open to a page that reads: “Trust your intuitive heart.” With luck, tenacity, and the help of a handful of trusted advisers — including her financial adviser — the Plochs were able to navigate a path out of addiction for their daughter.

“You can love a person to death,” Ms. Ploch said. “You can support them, you can enable them, but if you don't fix them, if you don't send them to long-term rehab and they don't become involved in a program, then they're doomed.”

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