Mom finds online support in Arizona after son's overdose

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TAM is a national non-profit grassroots organization that operates through a closed Facebook group for mothers of addicted children. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) TAM is a national non-profit grassroots organization that operates through a closed Facebook group for mothers of addicted children. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
It has been six months since 27-year-old Daniel Natale of Phoenix died from a heroin overdose. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It has been six months since 27-year-old Daniel Natale of Phoenix died from a heroin overdose. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It has been six months since 27-year-old Daniel Natale of Phoenix died from a heroin overdose. Life for his mom Candi Fuller will never be the same. 

Natale was the light of her life along with her other son Logan.  

“He graduated high school and just took a wrong turn, I guess," said Fuller. "He ended up addicted to drugs, heroin and meth and he battled that for a few years."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Opioid Crisis in Arizona]

Drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed in the past couple of years and opioid use is driving the epidemic. 

Addiction not only affects the person who is using drugs or alcohol but it also has a tremendous impact on family members and loved ones.   

“My biggest thing is that you feel so alone. You feel like you are the only mother, the only family, that is dealing with this," said Fuller. "I had both of my children addicted to drugs. One in prison and one I sent to another family member because I wanted him out of the state of Arizona."

Like Fuller, many moms in her position have no idea what to do or where to turn. Fuller started attending Nar-Anon Family Support Groups, which she said helped her a lot. 

[RELATED: Report: State’s drug, alcohol, suicide death rates to climb by 2025]

“I have learned so much from going to those meetings. You walk into those meetings thinking that you're going to get answers for them, that you're going to be able to fix the addict. And that's not what that's for, it's to be able to fix you and to help you and to give you the tools to be able to deal with them and not yell and scream and fuss and fight,” said Fuller

But many people can’t bring themselves to attend those kinds of meeting. Sometimes they are too ashamed or embarrassed to share publicly about the issues ripping their families apart.

That’s where the online group called The Addict’s Mom can help. It’s a support group Fuller also takes advantage of. 

[READ MORE: Gov. Ducey declares health crisis after opioid deaths rise] 

TAM is a national non-profit grassroots organization that operates through a closed Facebook group for mothers of addicted children. Anna Rittenhouse is the administrator for the Arizona Chapter of TAM. 

“TAM saved my life at a point about six years ago when I was going through my youngest son's addition. I was so lost, I had no clue what I was doing, where I should go what I should do," said Rittenhouse. "And I found this place and I went to the page and everybody was like, 'oh, I'm so upset.' It was the same experience. Everything that I was going through and there were some other people that had some answers I felt."

TAM allows people to share and post and read posts without the stigma of shame or fear. 

“The site is a place where people come together and discuss what they’re going through. Your friends and family for the most part, just don't get it. I remember I was not a fun person to be around. I was pretty crazy at the height of my youngest son's addiction and there are so many people going through this it's just heartbreaking,” said Rittenhouse. “But they get it, they understand. They can reach out and give you a virtual hug that somebody that you've known for 20 years could give you in the same room and it doesn't feel the same because they just don't get it.”

[READ MORE: State health officials release opioid action plan]

Both Rittenhouse and Fuller agree that support is the key to dealing with addiction. 

“It was really nice to be able to read other people's posts that I personally could have written myself. I’d read through them and just, wow, you know, I could have written that. It’s exactly how I feel today," said Fuller. "I was able to find the TAM of incarcerated children when Daniel was in prison, and that too, people talk about all the frustrations that they deal with, with our judicial system and the jails and the prisons and everything else."

TAM, for many, is a place of solace and comfort. It’s also a place of education and support. Accessing the public page for The Addict’s Mom on Facebook will allow you to then be directed to a closed group that fits your needs. 

Fuller continues to attend meetings in person for support and continues her involvement on several of the closed groups TAM offers online.  And she thinks of Natale every day. 

[RELATED: Arizona opioid treatment providers respond to public health emergency]

“He could walk into a room and just infect it with his smile and his laughter He was a jokester and just loved to play pranks and tickle and just laugh. His boys are the spitting image of him. They really are. They each have gotten a part of him and I love that,” said Fuller.   

If you need help and support: www.facebook.com/addictsmom and www.nar-anon.org

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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