Parents are often the last to know, and in the case of Libby Cataldi’s son Jeff, that was definitely true. But many parents—and Libby among them—are hard-wired to trust their children and what could be wrong with a high school kid who was a wonderful son, loving brother, and star athlete? Lots as it turned out.

During his early teens, Jeff Bratton started using drugs. At first, alcohol, pot and pills, but in time he spiraled into using cocaine, ketamine, crystal meth, and eventually heroin. How could his parents be clueless? How could his mother, the long-term and beloved head of a private school, be so blind?

STAY CLOSE is the intense account of what a child’s drug addiction feels like from a parent’s point of view—of what the family did wrong, of what they did right, of how they often thought they were supporting their son but were instead supporting his habit. It’s also, in places, an addict’s account—Jeff’s voice comes into his mother’s book from time to time to describe what things were like from his point of view, and details what was really happening to him. Jeremy, his younger brother, talks about how he struggled with knowing how to help Jeff. Dr. Patrick MacAfee, who has worked with addicts and family for over forty years, writes the Afterword, which offers compassionate and detailed information about how to deal with addiction when it enters your life and the life of someone you love.

“Stagli vicino” an Italian recovering addict told the author. “Stay close - never leave him, even when he is most unlovable.” This is not a book about saving a child. It is a book about what it means to stay close to a loved one gripped by addiction. It is about one son who came home and one mother who never gave up hope. It is a story of deep trauma and deep despair, but also of deep hope – and healing.

STAY CLOSE is Libby Cataldi’s story about her son’s dangerous habits, and also a story about dealing with addiction without withdrawing love, learning to trust again while remaining attuned to lies, and the cautious triumph of staying clean. Brutal and compassionate, clear-eyed and warm with feeling, it’s one mother’s unforgettable addiction story.

He told her, “Mom, never quit believing.” And she didn’t.