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Opioid-Addicted Son, Shapes How Florida Mother Will Vote


Many of us have something going on in our lives that could shape how we vote on November 6. Maybe it's a family crisis, a pending job change, maybe the birth of a child. Over the next three days, our co-host Rachel Martin will bring us conversations about personal questions or anxieties that shape election decisions. The first is with Isabelle Simon from Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Fla. Isabelle lived in Florida for eight years. She has two kids - an older daughter and a 24-year-old son named Marco. When he was 18, Marco injured his back on the job at a grocery store. He was prescribed Percocet. And even though he was living with his mom, Isabelle had no idea that her son had become addicted. Here's her conversation with Rachel Martin.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: So when did you figure out that this was a problem?

ISABELLE SIMON: When I realized he was stealing from me - at first, I was thinking, hey, there's like $20 less in my wallet. And I confronted him about it. And he of course denied. But it got to the point where he would hug me good night and then, with one hand, go in my purse, you know, while I was reading in bed. You know, it was very heartbreaking at that point when I realized what was going on.

MARTIN: Was there a rock bottom for him?

SIMON: Not right away, no. This went on for a while. My father had passed away during this time period. And through getting through the grief of that, I didn't realize that my son knew my dad's ATM password and emptied out the bank account.

MARTIN: Wow, your father's - his grandfather's bank account.

SIMON: My father's, yeah - because I was the executrix of that estate. And yet he was just - whatever he could get his hands on at that time, he was just going full-bore.

MARTIN: So he ended up moving to Baltimore from Florida, right?

SIMON: Yes. I had friends in Hagerstown, Md., where we had lived for a short period of time. And he agreed to go into rehab. And they said the best help would be in Baltimore. And that's how he ended up in Baltimore because they had a lot of programs for people. And after I dropped him off, he didn't even last two days. And he got kicked out because he was combative. He did not want to be there, and he ended up on the street.

MARTIN: He was homeless.

SIMON: Yeah, he was homeless for almost three years. And, you know, there's only so much one person can do. But I felt if I gave up on him, then he would have nobody. It was the lowest point of my life with my child. I mean, I was losing him, and I could tell I was losing him. And then somewhere along the way, I heard something that just resonated with me. It said a mother can only be as happy as her unhappiest child. And I told Marco that. And he cried. And I think maybe that planted a seed because after that I could see that he wanted to do some things to get better. He's actually enrolled into a methadone program. And I honestly don't even know what the catalyst for this whole thing was - what it took for him to want to say enough is enough. But he's healthy. He's gained 30 pounds. He looks good. He wants to stay clean. And he's doing all the right things. He's trying to get his GED now. It's a process.

MARTIN: So it's hard to think about what's happening in Washington or how lawmakers can effect change in any life - but especially in a life like yours where you and your son have endured this. But as you think about voting, how would this experience affect your thinking about the choices that you make?

SIMON: There are so many programs that are out there, but not everyone can afford it. And why did my son have to go back to Baltimore to get the help he needed to get better? You know, why couldn't it have been in my home state of Florida? Why did we not have the ability to get the help?

MARTIN: Are candidates talking about this issue in Florida?

SIMON: No, they're not. Right now, we're so polarized - for I think ridiculous reasons - and we're not focusing on our own people and what our own people need to make it through the day sometimes.

MARTIN: Are you talking about like President Trump and allegations against him, the Russia investigation? All that stuff feels really far afield to you?

SIMON: Actually, I voted for President Trump.

MARTIN: Did you?

SIMON: I did not like the way the country was going. And I wanted to make a change. I was willing to try a change. And I still don't think the president's role in this is as much an issue as our local governments. Like, why is it state to state so different? Why is there help available in one area and not in another area? Why can't it be uniform? I look at the realities of our life. What candidate will give the access to the programs our people need - health care, drug counseling? Who will support that? And to me, I really don't care what party that is. I just want it to be someone who will say, OK, this is my cause, and I want to fix this problem.

MARTIN: That means, Isabelle, you're who everyone wants. President Trump especially wants to keep your vote with the GOP even though he's not on the ballot in these midterms. In general, are you satisfied with how he has done the job in the past couple of years?

SIMON: I'm very satisfied with his performance on the job. I wish he would get off Twitter though because that is an unnecessary - ah, I don't even know how to verbalize that. I just think it takes away, and it feeds into all the hatred we have right now and all the discord - it's like if he would just do his job. The economy's doing well. I believe for the things he stands for. He wants what's best for America, and I really truly believe that. But he can't help himself but to take criticism, and he just blows up and goes on Twitter with a rant. And that takes away from all the good he's trying to do in other areas.

MARTIN: Lastly, I'll just close by asking you how things are between you and Marco right now. I mean, I understand he's in a good place. How is your relationship?

SIMON: It's as strong as it's ever been. I've never given up on my son. I've always loved him. He knows I would do anything for him - that I've got his back till my last breath.

MARTIN: Isabelle, thank you so much for talking with us and sharing your story.

SIMON: You're welcome. Thank you.


GREENE: Rachel Martin speaking there to Isabelle Simon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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