Get sober or die

Sunny Ludlow hugs her son JamesFusca after seeing him for the first time since he entered Action Family Counseling's Piru rehab facility on May 9. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

When heroin addict James Fusca walks into the tiny room at the center in Piru, he finds it markedly different from what he found there the day before, when two counselors and eight of his peers held him accountable for his bad behavior.

Where he found distrust, disappointment and anger in group intervention participants – who, for a brief moment, kicked him out rehab but who then reeled him back in for a second chance – today he finds love.

“Hi mom,” James says with a sudden smile. Taking a one-step lunge, he embraces his mother, Sunny Ludlow.

James reads his “f*** you” letter to drugs to his mother, Sunny Ludlow, during a family session at Action Family Counseling in Piru on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

His voice is not defiant as it had been the day before, nor is it as abusive or sarcastic as it had been during the group intervention. The bad-boy bravado is gone and there’s no sign of the tough guy who talked back to the group 24 hours earlier.

Today, quietly, the voice of James Fusca is soft and tender. When he speaks, the lanky 19-year-old sounds as if he’s 10 years old.

As they embrace, his mother does all the talking. Although muffled and hard to hear what she says, the emotion Sunny Ludlow conveys is loud and clear.

She does not want the boy she gave birth to – to die.

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