Green Hills Couple: Our Daughter the Addict
Betty Mason, a 40-year-old advertising executive, had some health issues that made her think she might be entering early menopause.
Her doctor examined her, ran some tests, laughed, and gave her a different diagnosis: "You're pregnant."
She and her new husband, successful finance executive Bruce Mason, saw the surprise as a miracle.
They would start their marriage raising a child together.
Kathyrn “Katy” Virginia Sophia Mason was the perfect baby, giggling during the day, sleeping through most nights.
She was a daddy’s girl as a toddler, always wanting to call his cell phone: “When are you gonna be home, Daddy?”
Her parents sent her to private school in fifth grade, where Katy flourished. She loved to dance — mostly jazz or tap or modern — and she loved to play soccer and ride horses.
One day, after she finished seventh grade, Katy told her parents she didn’t want to play soccer any more.
“But why, honey?” her mom asked.
“I think everyone’s staring at me,” Katy said.
That answer made no sense to her parents.
A year or so later, they found out about the boy. But he wasn’t a boy.
There was a guy she met through a neighbor’s family, a guy who Katy said was 17, a guy who turned out to be 21.
Katy regularly snuck out of the house to meet him. She got busted. Her parents got restraining orders. She argued. She skipped school.
Katy was 15, anxious, lashing out, losing weight. She no longer was the sweet girl her parents raised.
Betty doesn’t remember exactly when she first found pills in Katy’s purse, pills with the numbers scraped off.
Sometime in ninth grade. Mom also found a rolled up dollar bill in Katy’s closet.
“What’s this, Katy?”
“Oh, we were just goofin’ around. You know.”
Betty knew better, but Katy was so convincing.
“Addicts are some of the best liars in the world. They’re charming as hell,” Betty said. “And if you’re a parent, you really want to believe them.”
Betty took some of the pills to the drug store to ask the pharmacist what they were.
Xanax and “Molly,” a synthetic drug that creates euphoric highs — and can also cause rapid pulse, high blood pressure, prolonged panic attacks and seizures.
Again, Betty confronted her daughter, who snapped.
“You don’t have any business in my purse! They weren’t mine! What the hell are you doing?”
Betty, shocked, stepped backward: “There’s this strange person in my daughter’s body.”
Katy’s first rehab happened near the end of ninth grade. Thirty days at Cumberland Heights.
The day she came home, the girl told her parents she felt much better, that she had learned her lesson.
But, eventually, she continued to climb out her bedroom window at night to meet the boy, meet her drug-using friends.
Katy turned 16 and got her driver’s license. Her mother took the car keys away just a few months later.
A couple of days after that, Betty couldn’t find those car keys. She noticed what looked like keys bulging in her daughter’s pocket. The two got into a physical fight over the keys.
The police were called, and Katy went to juvenile detention.
Her parents got her out. A short time afterward, Katy disappeared after school one day, and she wouldn’t return her mother’s frantic calls.
Police didn’t find her for 19 days. She weighed 90 pounds and had scabs on her face, which Betty thinks were a result of Katy using meth. The girl had leg spasms all night.
“I knew she was coming down off some bad stuff,” Betty said.
Rehab No. 2 was in East Tennessee after a huge scene outside the treatment center.
“She was mad, cussing like a sailor,” Betty said. “‘I don’t need this! I’m being betrayed! My rights, my rights!’”
Katy’s meltdown rocked her mother.
“You feel like your heart’s being ripped out of your chest. You know you’re doing what’s right. And you know what’s insane? You start second guessing yourself,” she said. “It rips at your gut. But you have to remember, ‘That’s the addict. Don’t listen.’ ”
Katy stayed clean for several weeks. She switched to a small private school in the fall for 11th grade and got really involved in the Saddle Up! program, horse therapy for children with special needs.
She hugged family and friends a lot.
By Christmas, Katy again turned defiant, often throwing things and slamming drawers.
Katy was sent to a Texas treatment center for her next stay in rehab. There, an initial screening showed heroin, Xanax, opioids and other drugs in Katy’s system.
Betty and Bruce visited three months later and found a peaceful Katy riding horses, painting pictures, helping fold chairs after church on Wednesday nights. "That was such a blessing. I had not seen that sober child in three years," Betty said.
Katy stayed for another three months, and she came home, got involved as a volunteer for the annual Steeplechase horse racing fundraiser event, earned straight A's her senior year, graduated while her dad cried like a baby.
Katy got a job, started going to classes at Nashville State — and then it all fell apart again.
Last fall, she quit her job and sat watching reality TV shows on the couch at her parents’ house.
“We’d watch self esteem and ambitions melt away and peel away from her,” Betty said.
The night before she died, her mom took her keys again, starting a big fight again.
“I feel great!” Katy shouted maniacally at her mother. “I’ve never felt better!”
A friend picked her up outside the house soon after.
Betty’s phone rang about 3 a.m. A young man spoke.
“I’m sorry, but I could tell she was choking and I tried to resuscitate her and I took her to Skyline. I think she’s gonna be OK.”
A critical care unit nurse called a short time later, saying to get there quickly.
“I went in her closet, got her AA book, got her Bible, and her prayer book for young women. I had it in my head that she was going to be cognizant and awake,” Betty said.
Katy was on life support, a breathing tube down her throat. Betty wrapped a rosary around her daughter’s hand, and a small tear came out of the girl’s eye.
“Her chest lifted like she wanted to talk,” Betty said.
“I said, ‘No, calm down. I know you’re trying to tell me you love me and your daddy, and you’re sorry.’ ”
After three cardiac arrests, three rounds of shocking her heart, Katy was pronounced dead at 12:49 p.m. on May 14, just one month ago. She was 19.
Betty sat in the room quietly while Bruce walked out to the parking lot and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“You’re not believing what you’re seeing,” Betty, 60, said quietly. “Wait a minute. This is totally out of order of things. She’s supposed to get married and have kids. She’s never going to have any of that.”
The Masons say they are committed to sharing their story to give meaning to their daughter’s death.
“I think we’ve come here to help people on this Earth,” Bruce, 68, said. “Why would I not want to help someone else with my pain? That should be the way of the world. Find those who you can help and keep helping.”
Her parents included these two lines in the obituary:
“Katy’s bright future was lost to a life of drug addiction, starting at the age of 15. The epidemic state of drug addiction is the country’s biggest problem at this time, rapidly taking the lives of our children.”