She Turned Her Grief for Her Son’s Addiction into Hope for Her Community

Susan Salomone’s non-profit is helping families fight addiction.


- Posted on Sep 11, 2018

Susan Salomone, photo credit: M. Turton

There is a drug crisis in America and Susan Salomone is trying to help fight it.

Salomone and her husband Steve are the executive directors of a community-based addiction and recovery non-profit called Drug Crisis in Our Backyard. Since its founding in 2012, Drug Crisis in Our Backyard has been on a mission to educate and provide resources and training for families and people recovering from addiction.

It’s a mission close to Susan Salomone’s heart, one that hits very close to home. Just before the founding of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, Salomone’s oldest son Justin lost his battle with opioid addiction.

The mother of four boys and her husband had raised their children in a small town of 90,000 people, just north of Westchester in New York. But as opioid addiction reaches epidemic levels across the country, more and more families are realizing that drug addiction can happen to anyone, anywhere.

Justin had begun to experiment with opioids in college. “We found out about it because he got arrested,” Salomone shares with Guideposts.org. “That's how we found out that he was taking stronger drugs than marijuana.”

A year later, his girlfriend broke up with him and shared with his parents that he was taking prescription painkillers Percocet.

“We didn't know it was a very strong opiate,” she says. “I was on Percocet when I had my C-Section. To us it was a legal drug, and so how bad could it be? Little did we know how addictive these pain medications are.”

Her son tried to beat his addiction and went to rehab. “He actually learned how to shoot heroin while he was in rehab,” she shares. “That was dreadful because he came out and he started shooting heroin because it's cheaper and he learned that it was a better high and easy to get, and all those things, the reasons they switch over.”

It was at that point that Salomone learned some harsh truths about recovery. “I do think that rehab helps some people,” she says. “I think that sometimes that's the only place [people with addictions] are safe is in rehab. You just don't know what the outcome is going to be when they go to rehab.”

Salomone, who has a Master’s degree in counseling, now works with families of those with addictions and helps them through a common misconception. “The families think that when [their loved ones] go to rehab and get out they're going to be better,” she says. “That's what I thought. It's the furthest thing from the truth. When they get out, if they make it through rehab, that's just the beginning of the journey.”

Salomone is sharing the full story of that journey as a special guest during Guideposts’ Celebrate Recovery Facebook Live on September 12 at noon. Through events like Celebrate Recovery and the free community informational sessions Drug Crisis in Our Backyard holds for families, Salomone is hoping to reduce the stigma of addiction and raise awareness about the crisis. When asked about her hopes for the legacy of her son Justin and Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, she says:

“I know that we're saving one person at a time, saving one family at a time, helping people understand that this can happen to anyone.” She says, “drugs happen to anyone.”

By channeling her grief and anger over her son’s death into Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, Salomone has found meaning and purpose in the loss of her son and the struggles of her family.

“We're hoping that through our experience that families can learn that it's not hopeless,” she says. “That it isn't hopeless and they can get help.” That help for other families, “that's all part of his journey,” she says. “That’s his legacy.”

Watch Susan Salomone share her journey on Guideposts’ Celebrate Recovery Facebook Live on September 12.

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