FARGO – John Nelson is an over-the-road truck driver who says he sheds tears at the wheel daily about his family's ongoing fight with drug addiction and the death of one son from a heroin overdose.
"Not a day goes by I don't cry about it," he said.
His ex-wife Darcy Nelson wears the pain plainly on her face, and in the tone of her voice, as she talks about the time she first learned that heroin had invaded their household.
"That was just devastating and shocking," she said quietly. "Everything just kind of went downhill from there."
Nearly three years ago, they lost youngest son Josh Nelson, 21, to heroin. Recently, their oldest son nearly suffered the same fate.
John and Darcy, the boys' stepmom who raised them from early elementary school, are reeling over a near fatal overdose to Noah Nelson, 26, on March 8 outside the Dilworth Wal-Mart. Noah was given the heroin antidote Narcan, but still spent four days afterward recovering in the hospital.
"We thought we might lose him, too," Darcy said, whose stepson, Josh, overdosed in a basement bathroom at Borrowed Buck's bar in Fargo in July 2013.
Noah's near-fatal overdose is outlined in a recent Clay County Sheriff's Office request for a search warrant to examine Noah Nelson's phone, presumably in an attempt to trace the source of the heroin.
"Look at all these kids dropping left and right in Fargo," John said.
"I thought Josh's death would straighten (them) up," he said. "They're from good families. I don't get it."
John and Darcy are at a loss to explain the heroin plague that has claimed numerous young lives in the area and endangered countless others.
Four people have recently died in Fargo-Moorhead due to suspected opioid overdoses, and police say at least one of the deaths may be linked to heroin laced with the powerful painkiller Fentanyl, prompting them to issue a warning to the public about its increased danger.
John Weed, 37, and Tyson Chaney, 24, both died on March 6; Lucas Anderson, 26, died March 12; and Ahmad Hajar Amin Gardi, 20, died March 22, all of suspected opioid overdoses.
There have been many more close calls. F-M Ambulance reports it used Narcan on emergency calls 10 times in the month of March alone and is on track to administer it more than 90 times in 2016.
Darcy and John are familiar with most of the young adults who've recently died or had a brush with death in an overdose. Both Chaney and Anderson once attended Fargo South High School, as did brothers Josh and Noah Nelson.
Darcy said it's time to stop thinking the problem affects only a certain, small pocket of the population.
"I know many people from growing up, people I work with that have relatives, daughters, nieces, sons that are using heroin," Darcy said.
She said talking to kids about the dangers is important, as is watching them closely for any signs they're using drugs.
"Dilated pupils, groggy, nodding off. Also sometimes being wired, high-strung, irritable," Darcy said. "Honestly, if any parent was paying attention, they would be able to tell."
She said if you think your child is using, get them drug-tested and into treatment as quickly as you can.
Both Darcy and John Nelson think drug treatment centers and health insurance plans are falling far short when it comes to helping people who are addicted.
"They're full and their programs aren't long enough, and insurance companies will only pay week by week," Darcy said.
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Instead of 30 days of treatment, for example, John believes therapy for opioid addicts should last more like nine months to a year.
"They (addicts) need a treatment facility, not prison or jail," he said. "These guys are sick."
Darcy says she's learned a few things since her son Josh died - one, that yelling and screaming doesn't work.
"It just makes them feel more worthless, makes them feel more alienated. I think it does more harm than good," she said.
She also realizes that calling bosses, police and probation officers to try to cover for a child, or to try to help the child's situation, wasn't beneficial either.
"Pretty much all it's done is alienated me from them," she said.
Without those avenues, she said a parent is left with few options.
"All you can do is be there, listen and love them, because there's really nothing else you can do," she said.
Darcy copes by visiting Josh's grave and decorating it each spring with angels and a sign that reads "Chillin' in Heaven." She says whenever anyone ever asked Josh what he was doing, his favorite response was "Just chillin'." Darcy now has that saying tattooed on her foot.
John wishes law enforcement could rid the streets of heroin, but when one dealer is arrested, it seems another takes his or her place.
"I'm sick of it," he said. "There's no way I can handle burying another kid."