SAULT STE. MARIE — After losing her son Jason to a fatal drug overdose in 2011, Sault Ste. Marie’s Susan Celetti is dedicated to helping other parents work with children who are battling drug addictions by steering their children to the right resources for recovery.
The most recent part of Celetti’s efforts was designing - with other local parents - a handbook entitled Parents Like Us in cooperation with Sault Area Hospital.
Based on an original Parents Like Us handbook produced in Victoria, B.C., the Sault-produced version helps parents and caregivers find local mental health and addictions support for their struggling children.
“I walked for 11 years with my son through his addiction and during that time I kept a list of all the places I went for help. There were about 50 places that I visited here in our city,” Celetti said, speaking to SooToday.
“The support was there but it was hard to find. It took a long time but I found the Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Strategy team.”
Celetti volunteered to work with the Drug Strategy team and still meets with its members regularly.
Through that group Celetti was asked - in early 2022 - if she would participate in developing a local version of Parents Like Us and began working with SAH on the project.
“As soon as I heard that I said yes,” Celetti said.
“The group discussions we had were very good. We as parents got to contribute to the development of the handbook over many group sessions and we got to include our experiences each of us had as parents with our children.”
“This guide hopefully is going to help someone who is stepping into this with their child. We created the handbook by sharing our stories and experiences to help other parents.”
The Sault-produced version of Parents Like Us includes signs on problematic drug use, the science of addiction, overdose and drug poisoning, harm reduction and local resources.
“I think it would be awesome to do a handbook in every city for local direction,” Celetti said.
“This book isn’t the be all and end all but it’s a tool.”
“In the book it says one day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”
The book is meant to show that parents with children battling drug addictions don’t have to go through those feelings of alarm and heartache themselves.
“You’re never alone and there are always places to reach out to you. There is hope in this addiction and it can be overcome,” Celetti said.
“Sault Area Hospital, along with local and national partners, developed a custom handbook - Parents Like Us - to help clients and caregivers find and navigate local mental health and addictions supports. This handbook is a valuable resource for parents of young people with substance use disorder. It provides information on navigating the system, resources, and support systems available to clients and families,” wrote Brandy Sharp Young, SAH spokesperson in an email.
Parents Like Us is available at SAH, on the hospital’s website and throughout the community.
Celetti said her son Jason was addicted to Oxycodone.
“He got addicted to that and ended up fatally overdosing on fentanyl.”
Jason was 31 years old when he died.
“He had been in rehab many times and he did really well. He had some really good years where he was doing really well but he told me ‘mom, you have no idea of the power and strength of this drug.’”
“He was a young man who had dreams. He wanted to be a carpenter. When he was working he would get better.”
“He was loved. Everyone in our family loved him. I believe that’s why my son lived so long, because of love. He tried. I know he tried,” Celetti said.
Apart from Parents Like Us, the Drug Strategy team and a number of other local resources used as tools in the war on drugs, Celetti said she also welcomes the opening of SAH’s 20-bed Residential Withdrawal Management building on Old Garden River Road.
“I believe it’s going to help our community. I really believe that but it’s just the start of it. I’m really thankful that is happening but I think these programs really need to be supported by our city in order to make our city a safer place to live in.”
“Addictions really do change the community but also the community can help people in addiction as well. Community members just have to keep working together and keep talking together to keep doing what they can to create change.”
Working with others in producing Parents Like Us and her involvement in other groups are not the only sources of Celetti's ability to cope with Jason’s death however.
“I had my church community. They were a strong influence for me with the help of prayer. I really believe in that. I really do believe God helps us through things in our worst times. I give all glory to God for the people that loved Jason through it. A church community is very important,” Celetti said.
“My son was a Christian. He was a believer and by the grace of God I’m going to see him again. The Lord was with him.”