ROCHESTER - For sisters Lynn Morin and Michelle Senechal, the debilitating misery and pain of heroin addiction is very much a family affair.
Both of their immediate families have been forever traumatized, with Seneschal's son now incarcerated at Strafford County Jail awaiting possible trial on two May home invasion charges and Morin's grandchildren struggling to bounce back after their mother wrestled with addiction even while raising them as young children.
Morin's son was finally able to win parental guardianship from the children's mother, putting the three youngsters on a path of stability they had not known before.
"It's destroyed our family, there's been a lot of hurt," Senechal said recently inside her Rochester home. "It will eat you up."
Senechal's son, Jacob Barrett-Carr, was indicted last month in a home invasion at a Rochester motel. The next night police say he and three others struck again, beating a man with a baseball bat while looking for drugs at his East Rochester apartment.
Ironically, Senechal said her son used to be so afraid of needles, he'd cry whenever he had to get a shot, even in his teens, but last November she learned from her daughter that her son was shooting heroin and that he'd been snorting it for about four years.
"I was a licensed nurse's aide for years in the state of New Hampshire, and I worked at the men's prison in Concord, yet I didn't see the signs," Senechal said.
She said since he began using drugs he's tried to commit suicide twice and had taken to cutting himself as well.
Senechal said the worrying has taken a physical toll on her, too, losing 40 pounds since November, always wondering if that time she saw her son would be the last.
|Michelle Senechal says she gets through most days remembering, "Hope, Hold on, Pain ends," a mantra indelibly etched in her consciousness and on her right arm.
"Agony is an understatement," she said. "You cry every night, wondering if you'll get that phone call that, you know, they're gone."
Morin and Senechal are as close as sisters can be, each one comforting the other over the pain they have endured seeing their families ravaged by heroin addiction.
"It was harder for her, it's her son," Morin said referring to Jacob's troubles. "For me, it was my son's girlfriend and my grandkids."
Morin said the girlfriend, whom The Lebanon Voice will not name, left the three children in strangers' homes, often traveling from house to house for days seeking her highs.
"My grandkids were left for days, the oldest granddaughter was kept out of school for four months," Morin said. "There'd be no heat, no food, in strangers' houses for days."
Morin said her son worked with the Department of Children, Youth and Families for two years with no success.
Finally the mom got busted at a Dover convenience store in 2015 and the father, Morin's son, ended up with guardianship of all three children, now 11, 9 and 6.
Morin said when he first took custody of the children there was more trauma.
"If Dad (her son) left for the store, they would be scared silly he wasn't coming back," Morin said. "And they were so afraid they weren't going to get to eat, that's all they did. They'd eat 24/7. Plus they were all behind on their shots."
While Morin's and her son's nightmare is mostly over and his children's lives begin to enjoy more stability, Senechal's road ahead is far more uncertain.
Her son, Barrett-Carr faces serious jail time, and the fate of three children he's had in four years with a woman also indicted in a home invasion is also in doubt and hugely worrisome for Senechal, their grandmother.
While she has legal guardianship of the couple's 4-year-old boy, one-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, continue in DCYF custody, though she would have liked custody of all three.
Recently, she along with Barrett-Carr and the children's mother, whom The Lebanon Voice will not name for this article, were in family court, with the two parents both video arraigned from Strafford County Jail.
As Senechal continues to try to navigate the DCYF system hoping to ultimately have guardianship of all three, she says the pressure has been unbearable and often frustrating and confrontational.
The one overriding positive lately, she said, has been her son, Barrett-Carr, who she says has realized he's at rock bottom and wants to fight his way back to being clean of heroin once and for all.
She said she and Jacob had been on a rough patch in the past as she would hold him accountable for his actions, but recently he's written her some half-dozen heartfelt letters from jail that, she says, shows he's turned a corner.
Senechal reached for a pile of letters on her kitchen table, and crying softly, read from one dated June 13, "I'm so sorry I let you down, it's not your fault, I made my bed now I got to sleep in it."
From another, she read, "You're my mom, and I know you love me."
Barrett-Carr is currently undergoing an intense program of therapeutic counseling at the jail and has no contact with anybody, Senechal said.
"This drug has destroyed my son and my relationship," she said. "Now we're rebuilding it while he's behind bars. I never gave up on him."
She said Jacob's a bright boy who dropped out of high school but got his GED just a couple of months later at the age of 15 and scored well on pre-induction Army tests before he began doing drugs.
The two sisters said they don't know where they've gotten the strength to fight the deluge of despair and fear that comes from having a family member addicted, but they have a clue.
"Our mother's been gone 10 years," Morin said. "And I go by what would she do? I can hear her saying, 'Give it up to God.' I say that to myself some days, or I would go absolutely nuts."
Morin added that it's unfathomable to her how addicts know there's a good chance heroin - or fentanyl - can kill them and yet they still do it.
"It's all over the news, so many people dying," she said. "My daughter has lost three friends to overdoses. If other kids see that people are dying, how can you wrap your head around that they're still using?"
To make things worse, Morin said two of her daughter's friends who died left babies behind, one alive and one still in the womb who died.