A record number of people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2015. Many more died that year as a result of the negative consequences emerging from their drug and alcohol use. Misty Brooke Sanchez was one of those people. She died in a car accident in Arizona at the age of 34. There was evidence that Misty, her boyfriend, and the driver had all used meth and heroin before their vehicle crashed into a disabled truck at high speed.
When news of the fatal accident reached Misty’s parents, they were completely devastated. For many years, they had tried to save their daughter from addiction. Misty’s mother Cheryl Hughes Musick shared the tragic “mother-daughter addiction journey” in her book The Day The Musick Died, hoping that other families can learn from her experience.
Misty’s story illustrates dramatically how hard it is for families to beat addiction, even if they are aware of a genetic predisposition, and even if they ban drugs and alcohol from the house. Both of Misty’s grandfathers had alcohol use disorder and Cheryl wanted to spare her own kids the “house of horrors” she grew up in. Cheryl and her husband Buddy built a “protective box” for the children in their home in Wickenburg, Arizona. Alcoholic beverages were not tolerated.
Occasionally, the protection went too far. Misty was not allowed to go on sleepovers and she was homeschooled for a while to “shield her from the evil influences lurking in the public school environment.” But Misty was “a free spirit” and at 14, she started to sneak cigarettes into the house. In her attempt to create a “structured, peaceful, and healthy home” for her children, Cheryl realized too late that imposing her “Christian mindset” on Misty was a bad idea. In a misguided attempt to keep Misty away from bad choices, Cheryl and Buddy pressured their daughter into wearing a “chastity ring.”
Misty rebelled and started a relationship with the boy next door. Now, “alcohol was seeping through our door,” recalls Cheryl in The Day The Musick Died. Cheryl’s strategy to keep her daughter safe backfired badly. Misty got married at 17 and had two children at a very young age. She was unable to handle that kind of stress, years later she admitted to her mother that she was “doing almost every drug you can think of.”
The marriage failed. After the divorce, Misty went back to church and tried to stay sober. At church, Misty met her second husband Mark, who was the youth pastor at the time. They got married and Misty had a third son. Everything seemed to be going well. Misty got a GED and started studying for a nursing degree. Then her sisters found out that something was very wrong: “Misty was drinking—a lot.”
The warning signs multiplied. Misty and her husband “partied,” leaving the children behind. Cheryl realized that “Misty was losing any ability to have fun without booze.” She tried to talk with her daughter about the alcohol misuse but Misty insisted that her drinking was not a problem.
It was the symptomatic denial of an addict while the legal problems began to pile up. Misty started an affair with a fellow student from nursing school who was abusing painkillers to numb his own emotional pain. Finally, the family discovered that Misty was using heroin. Cheryl’s worst nightmare was unfolding despite all her efforts but she was determined to get her daughter into rehab.
Misty briefly went to treatment but only to save her nursing license. Her mother was never sure she could she do the “excruciatingly hard work required for any addict to claim recovery.” She could not and sneaked out of rehab. Misty was unable to stop using and eventually ended up serving a 14-month sentence in Yavapai Jail for offenses committed while in active addiction.
Cheryl Musick was disappointed to discover that “throughout this entire ordeal, drug rehab was never linked to my daughter’s penalties.” Misty kept telling herself she could “deal with abuse on her own terms.” She was released from prison for Christmas 2014. Misty had started doing yoga in jail and her mother was hopeful that “all the positive signs continued to point Misty in the right direction.”
It turned out to be another false dawn. Prison time and the continued support of her parents were not enough to initiate the re-calibration that Misty needed in her life. She started another toxic relationship, this time with a man she had met in jail. The relapse followed soon. The exhausted parents were trying to get Misty into treatment but she was still determined to handle the situation her own way. Misty continued to use drugs in physically hazardous situations and it killed her in the end.
Addiction is a complicated biopsychosocial disorder and treating it requires a comprehensive approach. If underlying conditions are not addressed, a lasting recovery is unlikely. Therapy for substance use disorder and mental health issues at Decision Point Center employs cutting-edge clinical and holistic approaches, including family therapy, life skills development and trauma therapy.
Misty’s story shows what a formidable enemy addiction can be. Every lost battle helps us understand it better and improves our chances of beating it in the future.