Like many before and after pictures, the images Jennifer Salfen-Tracy shared on social media show a stark difference. But the mother's photos are especially tragic: They show the heartbreaking devastation of addiction on her oldest son, Cody Bishop.
“The face of heroin and meth … is reality for so many people and families in the world today,” Salfen-Tracy wrote in a Facebook post that she made private. “I have learned along this path that so many people and families deal with the same heartache but just do not talk about it.”
Taken only seven months apart, the first picture of Bishop showed a healthy young man with broad shoulders, a muscular build and blond hair. The later photo revealed what looks like the ghost of the first man. Bishop still had the telltale blond hair but he is emaciated, his collarbones poke out of a tank top and sores cover his skin.
While Salfen-Tracy was not only concerned by her son’s sickly appearance, she was consumed by worry because she had lost touch with him.
“Cody is still homeless in Las Vegas and I have not heard from him in weeks now. Hearing how bad he is doing is hard but not hearing at all is worse. The unknown is what makes a person not sleep at night. It is hard to understand how someone who has families and children who love and need them live the life they do,” she wrote on Facebook.
Salfen-Tracy shared her pain and frustration as to raise awareness about addiction.
"This is a true issue in our world today that we need to pull together and focus on to fix," she wrote.
The post had gone viral with 41,000 reactions to it, almost 30,000 comments and more than 60,000 shares. While many people offered prayers and encouragement, others shared stories about their own loved ones grappling with addiction. One woman explained that she lost her husband to heroin.
“I still don’t know what I could have done to change the outcome,” the woman wrote. “I pray your son sees the light and love you are offering and goes to rehab."
Another woman noted she and Salfen-Tracy have something in common: Both have sons struggling with addiction that they can’t find.
“I have a son that’s out there on heroin. And he’s been missing for a month now. I’m tired of worrying but I can’t help myself not knowing if he is dead or alive,” she said.
America is caught in a terrible epidemic of addiction and drug overdose deaths. Almost 1 million Americans had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2016 and heroin use has been on the rise in the U.S. since 2007, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Salfen-Tracy thanked the people she’s met that knew Bishop and have tried to help him and urges the nation to address addiction before ending with a personal plea.
“Let’s get a hold of this issue America and help each other. Thanks again for everyone’s love and support. And, Cody if you see this please call us,” she wrote. “We love you!”
In an update, Salfen-Tracy says they have located Bishop and he's willing to get help.
"Hopefully in the next few days (Bishop) will be in the treatment facilities," she shared. "Continued prayers in their strength as we merge in that direction. I just want to thank EVERYONE who may have been involved at all. It all started with just a FB post as an update to my family and friends and awareness about addiction."