By Jim Holt
Signal Senior Staff Writer
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.
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.
A month ago, Sunny reached out crying to Cary Quashen, from the other side of the country, over fears her “little boy” would die from a potent batch of heroin blamed for one SCV death and eight overdoses.
Sunny, divorced from James’ father and now living in South Carolina, set in motion with a single phone call, a series of steps designed to save her son’s life, beginning with family intervention, then rehab.
Today, her first visit to California since making that call, she wastes not one second on small talk.
“I miss you. I miss you so much,” she tells her son as he held her.
“I love you,” she says, still refusing to waste a single second. “You get better. I do not want you to die. Because I think if you keep doing this you will.”