Freedom Newspapers: Helena Rodriguez Sheila Savitz, left, visits the grave of her son, Rob, in Portales Cemetery with her daughter, Amanda Ziegler. A copy of Rob’s last letter, “My Sad Story,” is embedded in the gravestone for all to read. The letter is as a warning to would-be meth users.
By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on methamphetamine, a manmade chemical, and its growing impact on local communities.
At the southeast corner of Portales Cemetery is a granite headstone with a letter titled “My Sad Story” embedded on the surface for visitors and passers-by to read.
Robert E. Savitz wrote the letter two months before taking his own life Sept. 14, 2006, at the age of 27. After staying clean from methamphetamine for four years, he relapsed and was facing a nine-year prison sentence on drug-related felonies.
His mom, Sheila Savitz, found the letter the day after he died. Since his death, she has shared his story with students at several area high schools. She and her daughter, Amanda Ziegler of Hobbs, have also distributed hundreds of copies of “My Sad Story” in area communities.
Sheila Savitz plans to continue sharing Rob’s story through her Angel Ministries in Portales and Clovis. Ziegler will also, through her involvement with the Palmer Drug Abuse Program in Hobbs and a pilot meth prevention program in Lea County supported by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
In addition, Mothers Against Methamphetamine (MAMa), another Christian-centered, support group based in Clovis, serves as a support system for mothers of meth addicts. Women are able to find some comfort by sharing their family experiences with addiction. They also educate the public about the dangers of meth. MAMa is a part of a national organization started in Alabama.
Dot Robinson, president of MAMa, which formed in Clovis a year ago at New Life Assembly of God Church, knows through experience that you cannot help someone, not even your own child, unless the person wants help. And because mothers’ hands often feel tied, MAMa offers them support in accepting the things they cannot change, she said.
“As parents, we’re taught to take care of our children, and when you have a child on meth, the guilt is very strong. We try to blame ourselves, and there is anger, but you can’t live your life through your child. They have to live their lives,” she said.
Robinson started MAMa after seeing a story about the group in a Dallas newspaper and then talking to her pastor. The group has a prayer list with 40 names of addicts they pray for. They also have a list of people who have been able to stay off meth. The group has a sister chapter in Muleshoe.
As for Sheila Savitz at Angel Ministries, she hopes to see success stories come about through her son’s tragic story.
“Through Rob’s death, I can truly say I see life in others, and hopefully recovery. I always told Robbie that my heart’s desire was for him to preach the gospel. From the grave, Robbie is reaching so many people.”
While being interviewed recently for a video documentary on meth addiction being produced by Paul Hunton of Portales, Sheila Savitz was asked, “How can you be effective to anyone when you weren’t effective with your own son?”
She responded, “I won’t reach everybody. I just know that my heart is right. I don’t want another mom to suffer the pain that I have suffered. It’s about the ones that I can help.”
Two weeks after Robbie Savitz’s death, Logan High School Principal Gary Miller and school counselor Elnabeth Grau asked Sheila Savitz to talk to the students about drugs and addiction.
“I didn’t think I could do it two weeks after my baby died, but the principal said there were children with drug issues,” she said. “I showed a DVD of Robbie’s life and we passed out copies of Rob’s story. By the time I finished, there were big boys crying. I knew it was touching hearts.”
She also spoke at Grady Schools. Word quickly got around because she was already involved in the war against drugs. She had moved her family in 1995 from South Carolina to Portales, when Robbie was a high school junior.
She purchased a consignment store in Portales, Consigning Women, and, being a born-again Christian, started a food and clothing ministry. She opened a second store in Clovis, Consigning Women Boutique. She was also active with a drug ministry started by a Catholic priest.
Mother finds calling
After moving to Portales, Robbie, who had never been in trouble before, became involved with drugs. Sheila Savitz ended up in court with Robbie, who was arrested with less than an ounce of marijuana. She spoke to the judge and told him jail was not the solution. The judge asked her to find a solution and she promised she would.
When she saw the judge again, however, she said, “I don’t know what to do. Rehabs all have waiting lists six months long.”
“That’s what I tried to tell you,” the judge said. He then went on to tell her he felt God had a special calling for her.
Since then, she has worked to be a part of the solution. She started a drug rehabilitation ministry before her son died and has become a familiar fixture in courts, offering moral support to drug addicts and their families, and has working relationships with drug rehabilitation centers in Texas and New Mexico.
Rehab center sought
Sheila Savitz and Robinson feel a rehab center is needed in this area. In fact, Savitz has written a rehab program and is trying to get it funded by private entities.
The women in MAMa share similar stories to hers. Many struggle with daily decisions of trying to help their loved ones without becoming “enablers,” or being part of the problem by making excuses for their children’s behavior or bailing them out of financial problems caused by their drug addictions.
At a recent gathering, one Clovis mother described how her daughter hit rock bottom. Her first marriage ended in divorce, she lost her job, home and savings. In the process, the mother also had to have her daughter evicted from her rental home and charged with stealing money from her bank account.
Her daughter is now in a court-ordered rehabilitation center. Although statistics of relapse rates are stacked against her daughter, she has high hopes her daughter will remain drug-free.
According to an Office of National Drug Control Policy report, long-term cure rates for meth may be less than 10 percent and statistics show high relapse rates six months after treatment.
As for Sheila Savitz, when she goes with one of her “clients” to court she tells them, “You have to do the best job you can because it is about the next person in line behind you. If you succeed, then that person behind you will see hope for themselves, too.”
The third and final part of the series will be published in Tuesday’s CNJ.