What it's like to love a heroin addict

"In the Shadow of Death: Jason's Journey" is a multi-part "CBS Evening News" series that follows Jason Amaral, a 30-year-old addict living in the Boston area, on his path to recovery.


"I'll never give up on him. Never ever," Beth Eagan said. "No matter what."

Beth Eagan, 59, is the closest living family member to her two nephews, Jason and Andrew Amaral. Both are heroin addicts.

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Beth Eagan, or "Auntie Beth," got emotional while watching a video of her nephew Jason using drugs.

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"They're absolutely like my sons. I can't, and I don't want to, lose them. Everybody in the family loves them of course, but they keep saying 'You just gotta walk away, Beth.' But I can't."

Auntie Beth, as they call her, has been looking out for the boys ever since her sister -- their mother -- died of cancer when Jason was eleven.

Eagan was the first person Jason called for money the day he allowed CBS cameras to follow him as he looked for drugs on the streets of Boston.

"Can you send me thirty dollars? Believe me this is the last time I'm doing this to you," he begged her.

He used the money sent by his aunt to sniff crushed pills in a bathroom stall in City Hall, then to buy heroin later -- which we saw him inject several times.

Jason has overdosed eight times, and Eagan was there for one of them.

"It was not nice at all. I actually screamed -- I got removed from the hospital. But I screamed at him 'Who do you wanna be buried next to, Mom or Dad?!'"

Jason's life wasn't always like that. Until her death, Eagan's sister, Joanne, raised her boys in a happy home in Needham, Massachusetts. Jason and Andrew then went to live with their father. Jason was a good student, played sports, and went to college.

He made the mistake of trying the opiate pill OxyContin, and got hooked. A few years into his addiction, Jason's father died of liver failure. By then, Jason had been caught stealing, and went to say goodbye escorted by police.

"So I went to his wake in shackles and handcuffs in like a jumpsuit. My aunt was there with me," Jason told us.

"We sat there for hours in the prison that day and he kept saying 'I did that to Dad. I did that to Dad.' Of course he didn't," Eagan said. "He thinks he did stuff that probably added to his dad's death."

"Do you think your father had a broken heart?" we asked Jason.

"Absolutely," Jason said. "Like he didn't wanna face the fact that both his sons were heroin addicts. I think he kinda gave up a little bit, you know?"

Jason's brother Andrew is also walking in the shadow of death. He and Jason remain very close, each hoping the other lives to beat their common addiction.

Andrew now has a young son. He and Jason are fighting to live for him.

"I don't want him to be without a father. That would just suck," Andrew told us. "But if I keep getting high, I can't like f-----g see him."

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Andrew Amaral wants to live to see his son grow up.

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Andrew is now homeless, an addict who's had trouble committing to detox. But Jason is now in rehab working hard to stay clean. He wants to show his brother they can do it.

"I have to lead by power of example. I can't tell him to stay clean."

He doesn't want to get the phone call that his brother is dead. "No, absolutely not. That's the call I'm dreading honestly. I hope that never happens. I get on my knees in the morning and I get on my knees at night."

"Do you think [God] is looking out for you?" we asked.

"He has to be! You know what I mean? I'd be dead if he wasn't."

Jason has now made it through eight weeks of rehab. He was able to get a scholarship to go to Recovery Centers of America, but for most people who are addicted to heroin finding help is not so easy.

In our next report, we'll explore ways people can find the assistance they need for themselves or their loved ones.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, resources are available. Visit one of the links below: