Parents Reunite With Kids Battling Addiction After Seeing Them On TV

Parents Reunite With Kids Battling Addiction After Seeing Them On TV

By Paul Fuhr 11/20/17

One news segment about battling heroin addiction led to two separate family reunions on the streets of Boston. 

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A senior couple sitting on the couch watching TV

A recent CNN news report did more than just shine another spotlight on America’s opioid crisis: it unwittingly revealed to worried-sick parents that their opioid-addicted children were still alive.

According to an uplifting story from Boston.com, two separate sets of parents gained some peace of mind after the CNN segment revealed where their children were, albeit homeless on the streets of Boston. “I know I’m going to die from [heroin addiction],” Billy Donovan, one of the children in question, told CNN’s Gary Tuchman.

Tuchman found 31-year-old Donovan slumped on a sidewalk curb while trying to locate a vein to register for his needle. Donovan said his addiction began as a teenager, starting with prescription drugs like oxycodone that eventually paved the way to a much cheaper alternative: heroin. Similarly, Tuchman interviewed Meghan DiGiacomo in the same neighborhood as Donovan, just south of Boston.

Of her own heroin addiction, DiGiacomo claimed that she wasn’t even afraid of an overdose, even though she’d survived one that her boyfriend hadn’t. “Honestly, sometimes, death just seems easier,” she shrugged.

However, when the segment aired, Donovan’s and DiGiacomo’s parents sprung to action to reconnect with their children. 

Two weeks after the original segment aired, CNN’s Tuchman discovered that Paul DiGiacomo, Meghan’s father, had managed to track his daughter down and made a promise to live on the streets alongside her until he could convince her to get help. Paul had even brought Meghan’s dog to keep her company.

“I was literally sleeping here and woke up to my dog licking my face,” she said. “I looked up and my dad said, ‘All right, we’re all moved in.’ I’m like, ‘What are you doing here?’”

Even though Paul said his daughter was breaking his heart, he refused to leave until she checked into treatment or a hospital. “My kids are everything to me—they really are,” he insisted.

Despite being the one in desperate need of help and attention, Meghan DiGiacomo said that she continues to put others’ needs in front of her own. “I feel alright with myself sleeping on the street, but I check on [my father] 100 times during the night,” she admitted, underscoring the dark irony of her situation.

“She wants to help others before she’ll help herself,” her father added. 

“Why don’t you go? Am I being too simplistic?” Tuchman pointedly asked DiGiacomo in a follow-up CNN segment, gesturing to a detox center right across the parking lot from where they stood. “One moment, like, I really want [help] and in the next, I’m like, ‘I’ll go later,’” she said. “I’m a procrastinator.”

Soon after, Tuchman leaves the father and daughter to spend another night sleeping outside in plastic bags and the mud. Despite this, however, her mother Julie Chandler (separately interviewed) remained resolute about her daughter’s chances of finding recovery. “I’m never giving up on Meghan,” she said. “She won’t die. She can’t.”

Billy Donovan’s appearance on CNN, however, led to more than just a mother-son reunion. Despite his earlier, failed stabs at sobriety, Donovan's friends were able to locate him after the segment aired and convince him to enter a detox center in Fall River, Massachusetts.

“If my son were to die,” Donovan's mother, Kristina Barboza, told Tuchman, “I just don’t know how I would go on.” Of her son, she recalled a “kind and friendly” little boy, fighting back tears as she considered the hell her son faces on a regular basis.

Regardless, after bringing him some gifts and sentimental items from home for encouragement, Barboza remained hopeful that he’d find the recovery that has eluded him so many times before.   

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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