by Alex McDonald
Over the past 15 months, Hudson resident Erin Holmes has dedicated her time to helping local families avoid the pain and regret that she felt after her son died of an overdose last January. She started the local support group Learn to Cope to provide the support she needed when she learned about her son’s struggles with addiction.
“Once he was safe in treatment, I scoured the internet for any information I could find to be the most helpful parent I could,” she said.
She decided that she wanted to join a support group, and after hearing the founder of Learn To Cope talk on the radio, she knew where she wanted to go. “She was a parent, and she was saying exactly what I was feeling. I instantly felt a connection,” Holmes said.
But the closest meetings were in Worcester and Framingham. And as her son got better, the need to go to the meetings decreased. She started to go less and less.
“I thought we were in the clear. He was clean for almost a year,” Holmes said.
Almost a year after treatment, on January 22, 2016, Matthew Holmes died of an overdose of Fentanyl, an opioid much stronger than heroin. He was 22 years old.
Only about two months after her son had passed, Holmes decided she wanted to help others struggling with addiction and their families. She knew she didn’t want anyone to go through what she did.
Holmes decided she wanted to bring Learn To Cope to Hudson.
“I have been able to bring a meeting to Hudson, which will allow for more accessibility for more communities to get the support they need. I also travel around to schools and other public venues to put a face and name to this disease as well as to educate children, professionals in the field of addiction as well as law enforcement.”
Hudson High School is one of those schools. Earlier this year, Holmes helped organize an event at the high school called Hidden in Plain Sight. Holmes set up a replica of a child’s room in the mini theater and allowed parents to come into the room and see all the places their kids could hide drugs.
“I just really want to spread awareness. The most important thing I want people to learn is this is a disease and not a moral failure,” she said.
Holmes also took Hidden in Plain Sight to Quinn Middle School. She succeeded in educating many parents.
“They were in amazement, and it was a total eye-opener for them.The principal did get a lot of feedback from parents thanking [Learn To Cope] for bringing the exhibit to the school.”
Some parents have found drugs and been able to help their child through treatment because of the exhibit, she said.
Holmes has been helping people all around Massachusetts, even former colleague and friend, Jessica Healy. Healy is the Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator at the Substance Abuse Coalition.
Holmes and Healy met through the coalition, and after Holmes decided to localize Learn To Cope, Healy and the coalition have partnered with Holmes on a number of initiatives.
“We have been doing lots of stuff, like she helps out with the 5k, and we are partnering with her on education efforts. The Health Department has also been helping her get all set up with Learn To Cope,”
Healy said. She loves working with Erin, and she is amazed at Holmes’ efforts.
“It’s awesome. She has got the cause. She follows her heart, and she wants to help others,” Healy said.
Holmes enjoys helping others work through substance abuse; however, it has not changed what has happened.
“Unfortunately I do not have closure. I don’t know if or when that will happen,” Holmes said.
But, she still encourages and helps everyone she can. “If I had only known what I know now. I don’t want another parent to say that or live with the guilt and regrets I have.”
Most of all, she wants to spread the idea of hope. “Never give up. Reach out to your family and friends. There is help out there for you. Don’t be ashamed. I don’t want them to lose hope. Hope is something they still have, and recovery is possible,” she said.