After losing her son to opioid addiction just eight months ago, Melissa Etheridge says that talking openly about his struggle has helped her grieve. The singer, 59, also hopes that her candor helps other families who might be dealing with a similar situation.
"When opioid addiction took my son, I wasn't going to hide that. It feels better to be open about it, to be truthful about it," the 59-year-old told People in a new interview. "We're here to be an example."
In May, Beckett Cypher died at 21 from causes related to opioid addiction. He first became hooked on drugs at the age of 17 when he was prescribed painkillers after breaking his ankle while training to become a pro snowboarder, Etheridge told the magazine.
"It gave him a whole lot of pain. It kept him from being a professional snowboarder," Etheridge recalled. "He was on that path, and he got lost then — because if he wasn't going to do that, what was he going to do?"
The singer sent her son to get treatment as soon as she realized he was facing addiction, but he left when he turned 18. Soon enough, Cypher began using deadlier drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
"The drug abuse really turned him into someone I didn't know," she said. "He was quicker to anger or mistrust. He stole money from me. The last couple of weeks, he was paranoid, and all of a sudden he was involved with guns. It's sad because it's not who he was before that."
Etheridge was quick to acknowledge that many families across the country are watching loved ones deal with substance abuse and called it a "nightmare" that "eats away at good people."
"You don't know what to do. You want to help them, but ultimately they have to help themselves," she said. "It's a journey for anyone around the loved one. You realize the only way to help them is to take care of yourself. You can't do anything for them; you can't make them be sober."
Etheridge said she felt "helpless" watching her son battle addiction, but said the support of her wife and her three other children has helped her immensely.
"It gets better. It's been eight months — feels like two weeks," the Grammy winner said. "I miss him. It's something that you have to grow with every day."
Since losing her son in May, Etheridge has turned her pain into passion and founded the Etheridge Foundation in June to help fund research related to opioid addiction.