Christy Adcock Stewart tells an audience at the Ruth Haven fundraiser about her son, Ethan, who took his life after struggling with drugs. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
Christy Adcock Stewart tells an audience at the Ruth Haven fundraiser about her son, Ethan, who took his life after struggling with drugs. (Staff photo by Phyllis McLaughlin/pmclaughlin@madisoncourier.com)
Much laughter and a few tears were shared during a fundraiser for the Ruth Haven transitional house for women Thursday at the Old Market on Main.

With 160 people attending, more than $3,000 was raised during a live auction by local auctioneer Jim Pruett. The final total raised has not yet been tallied.

Ruth Haven, operated by Jefferson County Transitional Services, is a four-month residential program for women recovering from drug or alcohol addiction as they transition back into society.

“Before coming to Ruth Haven, I didn’t know the meaning of life or what it was like to live sober,” testified Tasha, a current resident at the home, which supports nine women at a time. “I had no care or feelings for my family – most importantly, my children. ... Since I’ve been living in Madison, I have a job I love and enjoy it. I have a big support group, which I’ve never had. Today, I finally have a car, and have my family and kids back in my life. I even know how to save money. But most importantly, I have recovery. Today I can actually look at myself and love who I am.”

“There’s a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, but I want to say one thing: We don’t support addiction, we support recovery,” said Debbie Judge, a founding member of the Ruth Haven board of directors. “These ladies work hard.”

The true toll of addiction on a family was described by guest speaker Christy Adcock Stewart, who lost her 19-year-old son, Ethan, to the disease last year.

Stewart said Ethan began using marijuana during his freshman year of high school. “Like every teenager, he just wanted to fit in,” she said.

In 2011, she discovered he was trying to sell his brother’s video games on Facebook to get money for his next fix.

It was a revelation.

“Our son was using drugs and he was selling stuff to get it,” she said. “What had we done wrong? Why would he turn to drugs? We had a huge problem on our hands and we had to do something to help him.”

But help was almost impossible to find. The family quickly learned that there were few resources, and even when they did get him into a facility, he would be released days or even just hours later. Stewart said they knew he needed more.

At one facility, he was released just five days later, and though they understood he needed more help than that, “we didn’t have the means to pay $2,000 a day for him to stay,” Stewart said.

The roller-coaster ride continued and the family watched as the teenager vacillated between trying to get sober and ultimately relapsing into the nightmare of addiction, which sometimes involved violent confrontations when Ethan was using.

Ethan eventually graduated from high school and was clean for a time, but he suffered depression and his demons “had a strong hold on him. Those demons were only suppressed for a short time.”

In November 2014, Ethan and two other young men broke into Shawe Memorial High School looking to steal money so that they could buy drugs. He was arrested.

“We decided that we were not going to bail him out,” she said. They hoped that a stint of jail time would help strengthen his resolve to stay clean. “I will never forget the day we picked him up. He said to us, ‘I will never go back there again.’”

It worked for awhile. Once again, Ethan stayed clean and was getting his life back. He turned 19 and was working two jobs.

“He was saving money to buy a truck. He met a girl he loved very much,” she said. But, he was still struggling; at work, he was constantly being asked to use. One Sunday, they had decided that, if necessary, he could quit that job and Stewart promised to take him job-hunting the next day.

That night, however, Ethan lost his battle and took his own life. “His demons became more than he could handle, and more than we could handle as a family together,” she said, fighting back emotion.

She urged that the community work to “provide a path of hope” for the growing number of people who are finding themselves trapped in the cycle of addiction. “We must help addicts to rebuild them. We can’t let (drugs) win. ... Ruth Haven is one of those stops on the road to recovery.

“We will forever be broken-hearted, but if this story saves just one life or changes someone’s life, then we know by telling Ethan’s story that something positive has come from something so devastating.”