They fear censure and judgment. They fear others will use them to get to their children. Sometimes, they fear their children. And, they fear that they are alone.
But the 10 who attended the third meeting of a support group for parents of methamphetamine addicts are learning that others have faced the same heartbreak, helplessness and challenges.
Still, they prefer to remain nameless.
"Meth trashed our lives," one participant said.
Filling a void
The woman who founded the group searched the Internet, attended local Communities Overcoming Methamphetamine Abuse meetings and still didn't find what she was looking for.
"I needed to talk to another mother,'" she said.
She worked with COMA to establish a support group and then broke away so support group participants wouldn't worry about being part of a group with ties to law enforcement.
Participation increases at each meeting, but members know that many more could benefit from the support the group offers.
"I wish I would've had this two years ago," one member said. "Then, I thought I was going to die. I thought 'I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to watch my daughter die.'"
The woman watched as her daughter, who was once her best friend, plummeted deeper and deeper into addiction. At the depth of her daughter's addiction, she walked into her house and took her grandson while a group had a meth party in another room.
"It took me four months to make the decision to take that baby," she said.
Her daughter called four days later looking for her son and eventually relinquished her parental rights to her mother.
"There's nothing anyone here can say that will shock me," the woman said.
"There's nothing anyone here is going through that I haven't gone through."
Her daughter has been off meth for several months, but the woman attends meetings so her experiences can help others.
"My biggest objective is to give back what we didn't have when we went through it," she said.
Each had horror stories to share, but one man reminded members to focus on themselves.
"I want to focus on parents, on family, not on the addicts," he said. "What we do here is for us. It's their choice no matter what, you can't force them to make a single, solitary change, but you can create an environment where they're able to change."
"You're tired," one man said. "You're tired of living in fear in your own home. It makes you sick -- the individual your child becomes on meth."
After the second support group meeting, one couple found the courage to have their meth-addicted daughter arrested.
"It's terrible to watch a child with so much going for them slowly kill herself," her stepfather said.
That night, he faced one of the hardest decisions he's ever made, he said. He wasn't the only person in the room who had faced that decision.
"It's sad as parents that you pray that your child will get busted," one woman said. "But that's the only way you know they're safe, you know they're warm."
She and her husband lost friends because they wouldn't bail their daughter out of jail, nor would they allow others to do so.
"You have to unlearn parenting," one man said. "Things you used to do because you love your children, you can't do anymore because you're enabling them."
None cried alone when the situation called for tears, nor did they laugh alone when a member broke the tension with humor.
"The entire community needs to be aware of the depth of this problem," a member said. "It has affected my family in a huge way. It's hell. It's hell on families, and it's hell on relationships."
Divided and united
Several participants talked about how a drug-addicted child can be a wedge in a couple's relationship. Arguments erupt over how to handle the problem, over what help to offer and sometimes even who's to blame.
"One wants to help, the other says 'no,'" one man said.
Another participant, a single father, wondered whether it would be easier to face his daughter's addiction if he were in a relationship.
"Sometimes I thought it would be easier to have someone, to share this with someone," he said. "But I don't have anyone."
"You do now," nine voices replied.