Every month, dozens of former addicts and those with loved ones who are addicts gather at a Southington elementary school.
The tie that binds the group of nearly strangers 60 comes from a dark place. They call themselves Parents for a Change.
Everyone has a story of the pain that heroin has inflicted in their lives.
One woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, Mary, said her 22-year-old son had to hit bottom before things started to look up.
"I prayed to God for an answer for this because I was afraid my son was going to end up dead,” said Mary, from Farmington. “When he got arrested, that was really a turning point for him."
The battle is one that Ricky Hebert’s sister, Erica Hebert, did not win. He remembers painful conversations begging his sister to stop using.
"I kind of said I don't want to bury you,” he recalls telling his sister. “And unfortunately that's what happened"
These families also all thought they lived in places where heroin would never touch them. Mary’s family lives in Farmington. Erica Hebert grew up in Windsor Locks.
A Yale University study finds Connecticut’s suburbs are the latest fertile ground for the spread of heroin. The fastest growing demographic of heroin users is suburban males between 18 and 24 years old.
It’s a trend drug enforcement officers have seen coming for several years in rehabilitation facilities around the state.
"About 2 years ago, 60 percent of the clients in those facilities were being treated for pain medication abuse and addiction,” said Brian Crowell, of the U.S. Drug Enforcement agency. “In the last two years, 90 percent of those types of patients are now in for heroin addiction."
There is a connection between prescription pain medication and heroin. Prescription medications like Percocet, Oxycontin and Vicodin are all opiates. Heroin is also an opiate.
Addicts start with the prescription medications, assuming they are safe, but when they can’t find them in the family medicine cabinet they turn to the street market.
The value of one pill can be as high as $60 to $80. A bag of heroin can go for as little as $5 to $10, making heroin the economic choice.
At 13, Kevin Oulette started using cocaine, At 17, he was using heroin. But now, 17 years later, he’s clean. He comes to the Parents For a Change meetings to share the darkest spaces of his life.
"It's the most uncomfortable ache and pain, and jonze to have it than anything that I can describe,” Kevin says, explaining being in the throws of addiction. “And you'll do whatever it takes to get it. "
He also warns that no matter where you live or your social class, heroin is a threat everywhere.
"No one is completely safe from heroin and drugs and stuff on the street. Nobody," he said.
That is why parents like Mary from Farmington keep coming back to these meetings, looking for support, looking for help and looking for a way to save someone they love.
"Once you have a heroin addiction, you have that all your life,” says Mary. “So it will be a battle for the rest of his life. I just pray it's a battle he can win."