Mother shares photos of drug-addicted son, starts conversation over opiates

Michelle Garcia shared these pictures of her son, Michael, who is a cocaine and heroin addict. She's hoping to shed light on the epidemic.

Michelle Garcia has been a photographer for 15 years.

In that time, she's documented weddings, engaged couples, toddlers and landscapes.

"Each picture is a story," Garcia says. "There's something always behind it.

Photography is more than a job or hobby.

It's her therapy, too.

"It is the hardest absolute hardest thing in the world to watch, you feel helpless," she says, about her latest collection of photos.

They feature her son, Michael.

A picture of him from last April shows him happy, in an embrace with Garcia.

"He was in great spirits," she says. "He had direction in his life."

A picture of him taken last week, is a sharp contrast.

"When I pulled up, this is how I found him," Garcia says, pointing to disheveled a man lying on the floor."

Garcia says her son went through a rough break-up, and his life went off-track.

"It threw him for a loop. He started derailing and couldn't get back on the rails," she says.

"He had lost his job. He was on the verge of losing his apartment. he had wrecked his car."

That's when he started using cocaine.

Later, heroin.

He wound up homeless.

"Immediately tried to get him help, treatment and he was more willing to go back then, but wasn't committed," she says.

"He has to want it. That is the most frustrating thing in the world. Knowing that is his choice and you can't do anything about it."

Garcia says she struggled to cope with his addiction.

So, she grabbed her camera.

"This is how I found him," she says, of the first picture she took of him. "I had no idea if he was breathing or anything. So just nudged him."

Another shows him cracking a half smile, sitting against a wall.

"He got mad the first time I took pictures of him," Garcia says.

One picture shows him picking at the bottom of his feet.

"The tracks in his arms were dominant in that," she says.

She kept the pictures in her camera and computer, and only shared them with a few family members.

She was stunned when he asked her to share them.

"He'd be like, 'Have you posted those pictures online?'" She says. "'People should see what it's really like out here. I want you to post them.' That's why I posted them."

Garcia shared them to Facebook over the weekend.

They have now been shared almost 3,000 times.

Most of the comments have been supportive for Garcia.

People thanked her for her vulnerability and willingness to start the rough conversation.

"The opiate epidemic is real and it is out of control. It is a wildfire," Garcia says.

"I would rather be posting pictures of him graduating college or starting a career."

Garcia doesn't know how much longer she plans to continue taking Michael's pictures.

But she says she takes every picture, with a glimmer of hope.

"If he ever comes out of this, and he ever has the want or temptation to go back, I can go back and say 'Michael, remember this? Do you remember when I walked out of my house lying in the concrete not knowing if you were dead in my parking lot?'" She says.

Garcia says her son also struggles with mental illness -- he has Schizophrenia and is bi-polar.

Her Facebook post has led her to find support groups-- although most of them are outside of the Central Valley.

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