31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: When Obama Came to Town


I’ll never forget the look on his face. “I’m trying to make a better life,” he said. “I have kids. I have a good job. There’s no way I’m going back to the person I was.”

Helpless. That’s how he felt. He’d been attacked from behind, claimed he didn’t know why. But people don’t want you to get out, he said. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

How do you fight against a system on the outside, and the inside? Where do you go to find the help you need?

I remember asking one patient how he did it. For years he lived a life of crime to feed his addiction. Dependent on prescription pain medication. “It’s so hard to beat,” I said. “How’d you do it?”

“Oh, I was in prison,” he said. “I didn’t have a choice. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Something is wrong when prison is the only place our kids can go to get clean.

President Obama was in my neighborhood yesterday, talking about prescription drug and heroin addiction. See, my sweet little home state of West Virginia claims the particular honor of the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation. And we all feel it. These deaths touch us all in some way.

President Obama said more Americans now die from drug overdoses than they do motor vehicle accidents.

“The numbers are big,” he said. “But behind those numbers is incredible pain for families … ”

I am a mother of two teenage boys. My nest is almost empty. They are good boys: straight A students, church-raised, please-and-thank you kind of kids. I still worry.

It only takes one time.

I need to know there are others out there looking out for us. Our community has fallen victim to dark ways. My husband has forbidden me to run down the out-of-the-way hollows so prevalent in this old farmland. He fears I will run upon a meth lab.

There is not just one cause of this epidemic. Our little community just happens to have the perfect storm: economic hardship and high unemployment, chronic pain/job-related injuries from years of back-breaking work, lax oversight of medical/prescription capabilities, lack of intervention programs, low educational level … the list goes on and on.

It is a system. A system that has failed.

Our president said it would take everyone working together to beat this problem. Everyone.

“… These are our kids. It’s not somebody else’s kids. It’s our kids. It’s not somebody else’s neighborhood. It’s our neighborhood. And they deserve every chance. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing right by them … We’ve all got a role to play,” Obama said.

Good words. And true. No government mandate will cure this ill. Will you join me in prayer for this problem? For our children, for our communities, for the future of our nation? We need a new way—creative leaders to carve out a new path.

And we all need to do our part.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.


  1. says

    So heartbreaking to learn about this “perfect storm”. Anthony Bourdain-Parts Unknown, a CNN TV series, recently broadcast a segment on small-town New England featuring the epidemic of heroine addiction stemming from prescription pain addiction. Joining you in prayer and EDUCATION efforts to halt this horror assaulting our communities.

  2. Kelly Greer says

    Laura – I saw bits of the President’s speech and I was so glad that he spoke up about this issue. It is not just your neighborhood..but all over..in the suburbs and the countryside. We have been affected and our neighbors have too. Their is plenty of responsibility to go around. And I am so very grateful for the faith-based organizations that are making headway in this area. My son was delivered from the grips of heroin on the heels of pain medications and a 2 year bout of joblessness and unemployment that fed his addiction. He was 2500 miles from home. I prayed and prayed and prayed and pointed him to Teen Challenge. I have witnessed similar stoties. Here in Missouri we have many resources. But it takes a willing heart to change. I pray more is done to stop this drug from coming in over our borders. And I am encouraged that a new non addictive pain medication is in the works. Most importantly, let us love and engage the addict that they might find hope and light. Know your neighbors. Report suspicions. Pray. Praying with you Laura. God is faithful.

    • says

      Kelly, thank you for the ways you share this part of your story. I know it gives hope to many. I have heard so many wonderful stories about Teen Challenge. I’m grateful for the difference they made in your son’s life. Thank you for praying for our communities and our children now. Yes. God is faithful.

  3. Susan Perry says

    I thought of our family as”normal”, whatever that means. My boys were healthy, happy, raised in the church, active in Scouting. – until one of them suddenly began to be different. It was drugs,taking over not only our son but our family. All of our emotional energy was sapped as we spent our time seeking “cures”, treatment, security and solace for our broken hearts. And while I would cry to God for help I would not, could not ask for prayer from our church family for him or even for us due to my pride. What would people think? Fortunately, God broke through my foolish thoughts and brought healing. He showed me, among many other lessons, that we are normal – flawed but normal. And beautiful and terrible, all rolled into one. My son is clean and works his program daily. We, as parents, friends, church family, can’t let embarrassment and shame hold us back from helping and for asking for help.

    • says

      Susan, thank you so much for your honesty and courage in sharing this part of your story. I believe it can happen to anyone. The president said something similar when he said addiction is an “equal opportunity” kind of thing. It doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you do … We are all vulnerable. I am grateful your son is clean and doing well. I suspect the battle made him a stronger person than he was before. Maybe going through these dark things make us all stronger. I don’t know. But I”m glad you found the courage to ask for help.


  1. […] Day one: Dizzy Day two: The Not-Alone Alone Day three: World Communion Day four: The Night Between Two Days Day five: Every Little Thing Day six: I Go Alone Day seven: Full Day eight: Disappointment Day nine: Secret Ingredient Day ten: Anniversary Giveaway! Day eleven: Dinner for Two Day twelve: Two Natures Day thirteen: A Table the Reaches Across the Miles Day fourteen: Growing Season Day fifteen: Horsepen Mountain Day sixteen: Unlocking Time Day seventeen: Writing as Prayer Day eighteen: When Obama Came to Town […]

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