Addiction Hits Home For Bono Mack

California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack
CBS/Ten Speed Press
California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack has not only developed a thick skin after enduring the accidental death of her husband, Sonny Bono, and her teenage son's, Chesare's prescription drug abuse, but she has also gained a strong sense of understanding.

Mack was elected in 1998 to fill the seat (in the 45th district in Palm Springs) left vacant by her husband, Sonny Bono, who was killed in a skiing accident.

Within five years, their teenage son, Chesare, developed an addiction to drugs, which he battled for years.

Chesare gave an exclusive interview to People Magazine last week to talk for the first time about his drug addiction since he was 14-years-old going from smoking pot to alcohol to heroine, until finally settling on Oxycontin, a highly addictive pain killer.

"Why did you decide to talk publicly about the struggle?" asked Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez.

"We both felt that it was very important to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse in children. My son saw it happen in his friends. He wanted to make sure that other kids knew as well to stay away from prescription drugs," Bono said.

Chesare was 9 when his dad died.

"You saw that effect on him immediately?" Rodriguez asked.

"The loss of a parent is a huge loss, but it really didn't manifest itself in any way that I think was more troubling that would indicate future drug abuse until later on in high school," Mack said. "My son knew to stay away from drugs like Crystal Meth and all of the bad drugs, but he thought that if it came in a little brown bottle, it was safe and it was fun."

Chasare dabbled with Oxycontin, and it turned into an addiction.

"And I'm very proud of the fact that he's been fighting that. He knows it's a lifelong struggle, but he's a great kid and wants to keep other kids away from it," she said.

"Do you think his dad's death was the trigger, even though it didn't happen until years later?" Rodriguez asked.

"I don't know that it's for me to analyze that. I think that people have various triggers. They deal with stress in different ways," Mack said.

She also admitted that addiction has run in both sides of the family.

"My mistake as a parent, I didn't go earlier to and start looking at what I should be doing. I started taking countermeasures that were incorrect. For my son, it was a genetic factor, yes, stress factors and my mistake was that I didn't really turn to the proper place and get some help for myself and how to help him a lot sooner," Mack said.

"You say it was your mistake. Why is that? Did you notice warning signs that you ignored?" Rodriguez asked.

"His addiction is not my mistake. It's his disease, but my managing his disease was a disease into itself, co-dependency is a whole different issue, but, parents always sort of -- you have to -- when you deal with prescription drug abuse, it's not that your kids come home and they smell like alcohol or pot. You can't do the old sniff check. It's a lot more complicated and dangerous than that," Mack said.

"But did your gut tell you something was wrong? Was the behavior different? Did you have any way of knowing all those years he was addicted?" Rodriguez asked.

"So many families deal with this issue. And it's important to realize that there's an insanity that develops around addiction. And you start putting pieces together that don't really fit. But it takes a lot and a lot of courage to really realize that it's an addiction," Mack said.

"How did you discover he definitely was addicted to drugs?" Rodriguez asked.

"He told me," Mack said. "It was important for me and with help of people like Partnership for Drugfree America, I was able to see how to set an environment for him to come to me and to make it safe."

She stressed the importance of trying to remove the stigma to tell your child "You're not a bad kid if you're using," but this is a problem in America and a disease.

"And luckily he is such a great kid that he called me up one day and said, 'Mom, I need help.' And I'm blessed and I'm lucky that he came to me and said 'I need help and I want to help my friends,'" Mack said.