Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 candlelight vigil: Janis McGrory speaks about her daughter's addiction

On September 23, 2012 at the 2nd Annual Cape Cod Candlelight Vigil, Janis McGrory shared the tragic story of her daughter's struggle with drug addiction.

Liz’s Journey

Good evening.

My name is Janis McGrory.

We are all here at this vigil tonight because all of you have either lost someone to drug addiction or know of someone who is suffering from addiction.  We all share this pain but we are gathered here to comfort each other.  This comforts me to be here.

We are also here to offer HOPE to those suffering and HOPE to their families who suffer along with them.

My daughter Elizabeth LeFort died last year of a drug overdose.  She was 23 years old. She was killed… drugs.   She was killed.

I will tell you about Liz. I know this will sound familiar to you because we all travel that same road with addiction.  We walk together in this journey.

Liz was brought up in Hanson and attended Whitman Hanson HS.  She was an honor student, a cheerleader, a youth cheerleader coach, a dancer, a gymnast, a soccer and basketball player.  She had a great group of friends.  Liz was on the National Honor Society and she graduated 10th in her high school class.  Upon graduation, she was awarded a scholarship to college.

She was a loving daughter…..kind, considerate, thoughtful. She had it all….beauty, talent, smarts….a bright future.  She mattered to her family and to her friends.

 Her drug journey started 7 years ago while a junior in high school.

For two years she kept her drug use hidden.  First signs of trouble….an arrest at a hockey game for possession, later followed by a trip to the ER for cocaine use.  She went to a drug treatment center and returned to high school.  Problem solved right?? Kids dabble in drugs, get caught and punished, learn a lesson from their mistakes and move on in life.  I knew my daughter and she was raised with “the drug talk”.  We openly discussed the dangers and Liz understood the risks.  I THOUGHT!!

Her behavior improved for awhile but then she relapsed.  Back into a program she went.  Soon after she graduated from high school, a friend of Liz’s contacted us and said she was worried that Liz was shooting heroin….HEROIN???
I was terrified… daughter putting a needle in her arm??  That only happened in the big cities,,,,to kids who did not have a caring family…not someone like my daughter.  But my daughter had NOT ONLY graduated from high school, but she had graduated from using oxys and cocaine, to shooting heroin.
I sectioned her….she went into a holding/detox tank for 30 days. 

I delayed Liz’s college start for 3 months until she became drug free.  She was tested regularly….again I hoped she learned her lesson.  Off to college she went to fulfill her dreams.  She even made Deans List while there.  Little did I know she continued using drugs.  She could not stop.  Looking back, I had no idea what I was dealing with, what she was dealing with.  I did not understand ADDICTION.

Liz returned home that summer, along with drugs, followed by detox centers and programs, another section, court which eventually led to prison and probation.  This cycle continued on and off for the next 6 years.

Liz attended programs in Hopkinton, Westborough, Foxboro, Lynn, New Bedford, Fall River, Boston, Amesbury, Brookline, Brockton, Georgetown, Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Liz always did great in a program,  She had hopes and dreams and looked forward to the future when we could  spend Xmas together again and we could go to the beach together and  talk nightly over dinner.    We had hopes.   She had hopes.  But every time she got out, she relapsed and the cycle would start over.

Her journey also included loss of a boyfriend from an overdose, car accidents and broken limbs, multiple overdoses and trips to hospitals.  It continued to abusing other prescription drugs as well.   But Liz never gave up trying….never did until her dying day.

 My hope never faltered….my daughter could beat this.  She was the most self disciplined, hard working person I knew.  She would reach her bottom and THEN pull herself out.  But I did not know the depth of her addiction.  I did not know what to do to help her other than to encourage her and  support her in anyway I could….I loved her. 

My mantra became “I will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”.  This was my beautiful girl, my daughter and I could no longer protect her. , I had to rely on her to help herself…..I prayed for her to  reach “her bottom” so she could begin her recovery and find her way back home.

You see, Liz always thought that she could beat it….but IT, the drug, was bigger than she was.  The drug became more important to her than her family, than her love for her family.  It was more important than her health, her friends…..It  WAS bigger than her. 

Liz would say “I wish I never took that pill” referring to Oxycontin.  So Kids…..Make the right choice.  You are playing Russian Roulette when you play with drugs.  Don’t do it…because the chamber might be full and you will be on the road to addiction.  It happens that fast and without warning.  So I am warning you.

Make the right choice….your life depends on it.

I have talked to several student and parent group and I mention that
Kids unknowingly and innocently get hooked on drugs.  A student of mine told me last year, after she heard me speak, that after she had some minor surgery that the Doctor wrote her a pain prescription.  My student asked “Is this a narcotic”??  He answered Yes….and she said, I don’t want them.  I was so so proud of her and her decision !!    So Parents  BEWARE of what Docs are giving your children….whatever happened to Tylenol??

I really didn’t know much about drugs available to kids today in the school….furthermore I knew my daughter would never do them.  Oxycontin I knew nothing about.  I never heard of it, I never knew how addictive it was.  I did not understand the true meaning of ADDICTION.  Oxy was a medicine prescribed by physicians right? How bad could that be. ?!!!

I was IGNORANT….with a Capital I .  HEROIN ??  That was a street drug, only people who lived on the street in big cities took that.  Who would ever dare take that drug??  I was so IGNORANT.

Drugs robbed Liz.  They robbed her of the life she deserved.    They robbed me the joy of watching my child grow and prosper.  Drugs stole my daughter away even before her death.  She was not my daughter most times.  I was usually talking to the drug not Liz.  They changed her personality, weakened her body to that of a 50 year old, weakened her mind and her spirit.

Liz died on January 6… will never be the same.

Her life mattered – to me, to her sister, to her relatives, to her friends, to society. It still matters.

A vigil by definition is a demonstration in support of a particular cause.  Our cause is not only to pray and offer support and guidance to those suffering, but to stop this madness.  We as parents need to be vigilant.  We know when our children are not acting right.  We know in our hearts that something is off even though we don’t want to accept to fact that our child might be trying drugs, after all, we taught them right??  They could not be so stupid.  But they are, and they will experiment and it is our job to make sure they don’t.  If they do, then we must be able to offer them help. 

You see, we parents are born with special gifts. Instinct and Intuition.  Moms especially are blessed with a strong intuition when it comes to our offspring.  DON’T DENY IT……use it.  If something does not feel right, trust your gut.  Act on your gut.  Trust your heart.

My Liz was an Addict.  Addicts don’t want to be addicts.  They made a bad choice in the past by taking a drug offered to them.  The word Addict should no longer bring to mind a derelict living on the street.   That was my vision 8 years ago.  We have to change that picture.  Look at this picture of my daughter……this is the picture of an addict today.  If it can happen to Liz, it can happen to anyone.  Liz once said to me, “Mom, I would rather have cancer”.  Addiction is a disease just like cancer and should be treated as such.  Do you know that if my daughter wanted help, she had to shoot up before a treatment facility would take her??  Really??  Do we shoot up cancer patients with more cancer to help them recover?  There is something very very very wrong about that process.  One which has to change !!  Addiction is an illness!

We have to hold vigil.  We have to protect.  We have to stop drugs from coming into this country, into our communities, into our school, into our homes.

We have to stop pharmaceuticals from knowingly producing highly highly addictive drugs like Oxycontin for the sake of making money and at the expense of our children.  We are all fighting back.  We have to.

We are at war with drugs.  We have to beat this war.  We cannot let the drug beat us and take our children.  The drug knows no boundaries, no town is spared, no socioeconomic status is spared, no school is spared.

Many people in the community are attacking the drug epidemic.  Lisa Murphy formed Parents Supporting Parents to support families of addicts.  That started at least    years ago with    members and now has     members.  Parents of middle schoolers are now attending these meeting.  Middle schoolers !!!!

My daughter, Amy, speaks to middle and high school students about making RIGHT CHOICES.

It takes a village. This village of the Cape.  Together, all of us.  We can make change.  We must make change.  We will make change.  It takes all of us…our community, the school, police, friends…all of us to watch…to be vigil.  This problem is way too huge to be silent…that would be a deadly silence.

 Liz and all others who have died because of drugs are here with us tonight in spirit.  She never gave up trying to beat the addiction and she whispers to me “Mom, don’t give up.  Keep trying”.  I will because she matters.  WE will win this battle.

The expression “undying love” has new meaning to me.  I loved my daughter from the moment she was born and I continue to love her while she is gone. Where there is love, there is hope. Love is powerful and the human spirit is remarkably strong. She lost the battle with drugs, but she would want me to continue the fight.  Liz says to me “Mom keep on trying, you can do it”.  She would want US to continue that fight.  And we, together, will win this battle.

In closing, this vigil tonight is a sign of making change.  It is an act of keeping watch of something….it is our children.  We need to do whatever we can to stop the drug and help our children.  It is a good thing. It is the right thing.  It is our only alternative.

By being here tonight, you are taking action.  We are comforting those struggling and praying for them and we are honoring those lost and praying for their families. By holding those candles, you are holding onto the light and bringing hope and promise of a bright future for those now struggling.  It brings ME great comfort and hope.

I thank you for having me tonight and I thank you all so much for coming.


  1. Janice, your story is incredibly moving to me as I move into the delicate days of teen years with my own daughter. I will share your story with her and thank you for bringing it to me to do that. I pray that your daughter and you will feel healing in your hearts for sharing this. Bless you, truly.

  2. Since September 7th, I believe there have been only four posts to this blog. I think it is an infomative blog that can bring local and state issues on the table for discussion.

    That said, local issues, in my most humble opinion, bring out the best and the worst of all of us. Sandwich is faced with many looming and costly issues that need vetting by the public. In my mind, foremost are the Public Saftey complex issue, the important major changes in the Town Charter (We were promised that no major changes would be made), and the school issue dealing with the proposed STEM program and Wing School and its issues as they relate to school population and STEM.

    To me, it is interesting that the Public Safety question "only comes up when its up", meaning that when there is news it is printed, but never are there any sort of input from the public until when it will be too late. The steam roller keeps steaming and burying the asphault. Questions need to be vetted on cable, newspapers, and at EVERY selectman and Finance meeting.

    How many people know why the Charter Commission chose to recommend that the Town Clerk be an appointed committee. Huh! appointed some on the committee have told me because it is "less political". Well, yes, politics does play a role in elections, but we do not appoint governors or senators or selectmen. Maybe we should have just one election for the local appointer. She could then appoint the selectmen, school committee, finance committee, etc. Then it would take politics out of the equasion, or would it? It is interesting that one of our two local newspapers had an aritcle every week and the other every so often albeit when it was an important issue. The point is that people in this town know little of what happened at the meetings and the issues they discussed where part of the town's "constitution".

    The STEM acadamy is very important to Sandwich. It can resovle the "what to do with Wing School" issue, declining enrollment and the need to attract students from other towns. We have a fearless leader in our new Superintendent and at least one obstructionist on the committee trying to slow down the program until it becomes to costly.

    I was not sure how to write a guest column so I did it this way.

  3. My prior post, the word committee appears as the last word on the fourth paragraph. The last word should have been "position".

  4. You're right Mason, we don't appoint people who govern. We elect them.

    The Town Clerk doesn't govern.

    And if you think his election wasn't political, look who financed his campaign.

    For him to say that having his position be elected instead of appointed keeps politics out of it...well, that's just laughable.

    Why are we talking about this in a drug addiction thread?


I monitor all comments. As long as there are no personally defamatory statements and/or foul language, I'll post your comment. For this reason, your comment will not appear instantaneously. To comment without registering, choose Name/URL and type a screen name (or your real name if you like) into the Name field. Leave the URL field blank.