Opiate abuse is on the rise across all demographics, according to recent studies. And educated, stay-at-home moms aren’t immune. Just ask Jen Simon, a successful writer and mother of two who detailed her five-year addiction to painkillers in a powerful essay for The Washington Post on Monday, June 6.
“My life as a stay-at-home mom was the perfect disguise,” Simon wrote. “There are millions of us addicts disguised as regular people. We’re not all rock stars: We’re your neighbor or you sister. We’re in the pickup line, waiting for our kids. We’re on the PTA.”
Simon’s troubles began after the birth of her first child, Noah, in 2009. In addition to crippling menstrual cramps, Simon, then 31, suffered from postpartum depression. “It felt like nothing was right and nothing would ever change and nothing would ever get better,” she revealed in the piece. “And the pain, the unbearable pain that lasted for a week out of every month, added to my inability to function. To want to function. I started many days not wanting to open my eyes. I ended many days thinking about ways to end my life.”
Then, when Noah was 6 months old, a doctor wrote Simon a prescription for Perocet. It was a life-changing moment.
“With just one pill, my period was no longer insurmountable; I was able to uncurl from the fetal position and leave my bed,” Simon wrote. “One pill made it possible to pick up my son without wincing at a muscle spasm. Percocet was the magic elixir I was seeking. It did the impossible: It made me feel better.”
At one point, Simon had four different doctors prescribing Percocet.
“None of them checked to see if I was getting prescriptions from anyone else … In fact, a few times my doctors apologized for having to write a physical prescription instead of being able to call it in to my pharmacy,” she wrote. “Because of that, no one suspected me of being an addict. Why would anyone suspect me? I was a normal-looking, put-together, caring mother. Mothers aren’t addicts, are they? More and more often, we are.”
Rock bottom was when the now-39-year-old helped a childhood friend clear out her father’s home after his funeral. While her friend cried on the couch, Simon raided his medicine cabinet. “It was years in the making,” she mused, “but stealing from a dead man made me finally admit the truth: I was an addict and I needed help.”
In May 2015, Simon told her lawyer husband, Matthew, about her secret. The next month, she entered rehab. Since then, the mom of boys Noah and and Ryan, 2, has been in group therapy and individual therapy. She also sees a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction recovery.
“I wanted to write the piece that would have helped me when I was struggling,” Simon tells Us Weekly. “There aren’t many first-person essays by women in my position. By sharing my story, women, and moms in particular, know that they’re not alone.”
“Addiction is often isolating and secretive and it’s hard to get help if you can’t break the silence,” the New Jersey-based writer tells Us. “I hope this piece can be used as a launching point for someone to say to a friend, ‘I’m worried about you,’ or for someone to take a closer look at herself and her interactions with drugs or alcohol.”
If you or anyone you know has been struggling with addiction, call 877-662-4357.
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