ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- For parents of people addicted to heroin, Greater Cincinnati's suburbs can feel like a lonely place.
Neighbors are in denial, they said, and think heroin is an inner-city problem.
"It's not coming at us, it's already here," Marie Smith, pastor of Clough United Methodist Church, said Tuesday night. Her church hosts a monthly support meeting, Parents Helping Parents, so parents of addicts can meet each other, find strength and try to help their loved ones who seem swallowed whole by their disease.
"It's in our neighborhoods," Smith said. "It's in our next-door neighbors."
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"No parent can put themselves in these shoes unless they have walked in them," Kane Emery said.
Emery said she's been walking in those shoes for years.
"I raised my boys here in a very safe, wonderful, loving neighborhood with great schools, and here I am, talking to you about my blue-eyed, beautiful boy who used heroin, and he used it in our local high school."
Some, like Gay Straub, were at the meeting just so other parents know they're not alone -- that there's no real "perfect family," she said.
"You feel like you failed, and you just tried and tried, and I loved these kids, but ... you know."
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When someone breaks into cars in Emery's neighborhood, she said her neighbors think it's her son. No, she said, he's out of state, but she still sets a place for him at the table in case he comes home.
"This is not something that you try to push away," Smith said. "But it's something that we reach out to and say 'What can we do to help?'"
Parents Helping Parents meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at Clough United Methodist Church, 2010 Wolfangel Road, Anderson Township.
For more information on the group, please contact Laura Kunz at (513) 290-7982 or firstname.lastname@example.org.