Their son had stolen from them. Lied to them. Made them pariah's in their community.
But John and Linda, whose last name was withheld for privacy, still loved their 19-year-old son, and they traveled from Spring Lake to be his advocate once again.
Sitting in the gym Tuesday at , a Mendham non-profit substance abuse treatment organization, John and Linda testified to the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use Amongst New Jersey's Youth and Young Adults with details of their plight, and the hope that their experience could help make a change statewide.
Their testimony was first before the panel, who will be crafting a report of their findings for Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature on how to address the epidemic of opiates in the Garden State.
And while they did discuss the difficulty they had in getting their son into treatment, both Linda and John expressed their concern that facilities were not easy to work with.
"In these facilities he could sign himself out after three days," John said. "Even if we are the ones paying for the treatment he can sign himself out."
While leaving a facility early is a major concern, just getting in for treatment can be daunting.
According to John, it is difficult to reach the criteria for admission, which is why he and Linda are pushing for parity.
"If my son had cancer, he would be able to get help," Linda said. "This addiction is a disease. He needs in-patient treatment at a good facility."
Beyond the financial cost of fighting the addiction, both John and Linda discussed stigma of their son's illness.
"We have had educated, professional people look at us and treat us like we were no better than drug addicts," John said. "There is a stigma attached to this."
Linda understood some of the reaction, even from their neighbors.
"They're parents too," Linda said. "I can understand that."
Editor's note: This is the second of a five-part series about a hearing held at Daytop Prep School in Mendham by the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use Amongst New Jersey's Youth and Young Adults.