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- February 16, 2009
- Vol. 71
- No. 6
Mary Bono Mack and Her Son Chesare Back from the Edge
Sonny Bono's Son Opens Up About His $120-a-Day Drug Habit and His Long, Hard Road to Recovery
Chesare: I had a really good childhood, but my dad's death was a big blow to me. He was a really good guy. He loved me and took care of me.
Mary: Sonny's death was huge for both kids [including younger sister Chianna, now 18]. The first impact was a fear of what will happen to Mom, but the long-term issue was that they just missed Sonny terribly.
Chesare: I was in seventh grade the first time I tried alcohol. I got drunk on margaritas and I liked the feeling. I'm a pretty shy person, and suddenly all the anxiety and fear went away; I just seemed more fun and outgoing. By the end of eighth grade, I went out into the desert with a bunch of older buddies to smoke pot. It started out as a weekly thing, but by mid-ninth grade I was smoking pot every day. One day when I couldn't get any pot, my friend offered me Oxycontin. I'd never heard of it. But it soon became the perfect drug for me. It was such a mellow feeling. I'd put it in my mouth, suck the coating off, then use a hose clamp to grind it up into a fine powder and snort it.
Mary: That first time he got drunk, I thought it was a terribly stupid thing to do, but I wrote it off to adolescent experimentation. In no way did I think it would lead to addiction. It was not until Chesare's junior year of high school that I started to notice a pattern. I found paraphernalia and I got really angry.
Chesare: By my senior year, I'd become a fiend. I started stealing from my mom, my sister and friends. I pawned all my video games, guitars, amps, my father's ring. My room was empty. I even snuck into one of my best friends' homes and stole his Xbox, then sold it for $100 to get some Oxy. As soon as I'd get a pill, I'd go do it in my car.
Mary: I used to do the old sniff test on him, just smell him to see what I could detect. But the thing about addicts and alcoholics, they always have lots of good excuses. If I smelled smoke, he'd say someone else was smoking, or it was just cigarette smoke. I started using the burglar alarm, not to keep burglars out, but to keep my son in.
Chesare: During my freshman year of college at the University of California, Riverside, I tried heroin. I had always thought heroin was the worst of the worst. But I smoked it off tinfoil and realized it was the exact same feeling as Oxy. At the most, I was spending $120 a day on drugs. I never thought I was addicted. But one morning I ran out of pills and woke up in my dorm room feeling terrible, wanting to rip my skin off.
Mary: I finally knew drugs were an issue when I found Chesare's hose clamp. At first I thought it was something he found on the street. Suddenly he had this hose clamp everywhere he went, even on his nightstand. A light went on, and I thought, "What's going on?" So I Googled 'hose clamp' and went to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's Web site and learned it was a tool used to crush Oxycontin.
Chesare: When my mom called and asked me how long I'd been addicted to Oxy, I acted like I didn't have a problem. But a couple months later, I ended up calling my mom up and asking her to take me to rehab. I was in so much pain. In the end, since my mom was in Washington, my sister Chastity drove in from Los Angeles [see box] and took me to the Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs. But I left early because I was fed up with the place and became hooked on Oxy again two months later.
Mary: I'd always had a fear of opiates like Oxycontin. Sonny had had a problem with Vicodin for years. My biggest failure as a parent was that I never told Chessy that he had a genetic tendency to like opiates.
Chesare: My mom eventually kicked me out of the house after she found a piece of aluminum foil I'd smoked heroin off of. I spent a couple weeks couch-surfing, telling myself I could control my using, but before long I'd run out of drugs and was going through withdrawals again. I went back to rehab, but after a few months, they busted me for using heroin. I ended up going to Cirque Lodge in Utah, and that turned out to be a pretty cool place where I learned all the things you can do to have fun without drugs. I'd do an indoor ropes course, climb and do archery. Lindsay [Lohan] and I were in treatment together, and we got pretty close. But most importantly that's where it hit me that I can never use again.
Mary: Recovery is a lifelong process for both the addict and their family. And I plan to continue to raise the profile of the issue on Capitol Hill. I've begun having discussions with the Partnership on how to better promote their message to parents.
Chesare: My life is pretty good right now. I'm back in school at Santa Monica College and also work as Barry Manilow's tour manager's assistant. I've come a long way, but I never think I have my addiction beat. No matter how good it is, it could all go bad again.
December 19, 2014
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