Cathy Timms’ son Jeffrey Jackson Jr. wanted to win his long battle with heroin addiction.
Just weeks before he died of an overdose last November, he called and said he wanted to get his life together, recalled Timms.
“Nov. 6, he looked so good,” she said.
Two days later, she got the call that no parent ever wants to receive.
Jeffrey, 33, was gone. It's believed that he got a strain of heroin laced with Fentanyl, which can be fatal when combined with other substances. Police are still investigating.
Timms, ministry leader of Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based support group at Kent Island United Methodist Church, wants to remember her son for more than just his addiction.
“I had to come to terms with the fact that it is a sickness,” she said.
Community in Crisis: Chasing the High, an in-depth look at the heroin problem in Maryland, airs Thursday at 7 p.m. on ABC2 News.
Timms started the Kent Island chapter of Celebrate Recovery to help other parents, as well as others struggling with addiction.
She points to recovering heroin addict Anna Fox, who has been clean for about a decade.
“She wanted it,” Timms said. “She had that drive so hard, to get free. I believe my son had the same desire. But he just couldn’t break free of it.”
To look at Jackson, you wouldn’t know he used drugs. He started experimenting with marijuana at age 15. But he was a good student, and Timms admits she had a “boys will be boys” attitude.
“I probably did everything wrong,” she said.
Jackson moved on to harder drugs and was in and out of rehab through high school. But he graduated and landed a job, making enough money to feed his drug habit.
“The more money he made, the worse things got,” Timms said.
He discovered heroin about eight years ago, in his quest for a more powerful high. He’d get clean—once for an entire year—only to relapse again.
“First of all, never say 'not my child,'” Timms said. “Get help for yourself. You need strength.”
She urges parents to seek out support groups like Celebrate Recovery and get educated—and above all, learn tough love.
“Learn how not to be manipulated,” she said. “Tough love is hard, but it is absolutely vital.”