Heroin Wasteland (Part 3 of 5): In an exclusive series on New Jersey’s drug abuse epidemic, we examine the growing problem of heroin addiction in the Garden State and the programs being employed to combat the situation.
Daniel Regan and his mother, Lynn. (Credit: Regan family)

As New Jersey's heroin epidemic continues to play out, we've heard horror stories about teens and 20-somethings having their lives ruined by their addictions.

But what about their mothers, fathers and siblings? Many families are turned upside down and inside out for years when a son or daughter becomes a heroin addict.

At first, Lynn Regan of Farmingdale had no idea her son Daniel was using drugs.

It started with marijuana, but then he began using prescription painkillers after a car accident. Soon, he was addicted to crystal meth and heroin.

"Our family was turned upside down into a tailspin," she said. "Words can't even say how destructive in every angle, marriage, constantly fighting, blame, who did what."

Regan said the other kids in the family were severely affected by Daniel's drug problems - Ashley, a straight A student who was away at college, went into a severe depression and almost dropped out, hanging on by a thread. Her younger daughter, Emily, "started cutting herself with a razor."

"Emily had to live in the pain, she had to live in the arguments; grandma and grandpa were affected," Regan said. "It was like you're mourning somebody who is walking around alive, but is really absent from life."

Regan said she and her husband had always considered themselves good parents. They were always involved in their kids lives, and she wondered how could this have possibly happened.

"I began to question my ability to be a parent," she said.

Regan had owned several daycare centers, but when this all happened she sold them because she questioned her ability to offer advice to other parents.

During her struggle, she always felt "we've got to fix this - no matter if I have to throw myself in front of a train, whatever I have to do I'm going to do it."

Regan would have many more struggles ahead, but in the end she would create victory, for her son and many others.

Karen Kupfer and her husband (Credit: Kupfer family)

Another New Jersey mother whose family was thrown into chaos is Karen Kupfer of Manalapan.

Her son, Kyle, began using different drugs for years before she knew what was happening, but as things got worse she began to feel "stress, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness."

"Many times we said to him you're killing us, you're sucking the life out of us, the whole family structure is suffering here, your brother," Kupfer said.

Kyle's younger brother, Jake, was traumatized by what was happening.

"He was seeing us in fights, the police coming in, he was seeing crying, he was seeing Kyle out of control," she said. "We were afraid, there were people at the house coming by, phone calls, you're afraid for your life."

Kupfer was also worried that Kyle would overdose and die.

She repeatedly tried to get him the proper help, in different facilities, while battling with insurance companies and trying to hold her family together until a solution was reached.

In Part 4 of our Heroin Wasteland series, we'll learn about each family's outcome and how they faced their struggles.

Click below to view the first story in the “Heroin Wasteland" series: