Melissa Etheridge Shares Her Story About Personal Loss and Hope for the Future

Known for countless accolades, including 2 Grammy® Awards and a “Songwriter of the Year” honor, Melissa Etheridge says what many people don’t know about is the loss of her son Beckett to opioid addiction.

In a recent Addiction Talk with Joy Sutton, Melissa Etheridge shared how she went from this devastating loss to hope.

How Beckett Developed Opioid Addiction

While Melissa’s son Beckett’s opioid use began with a prescription for Vicodin after he sustained an ankle injury snowboarding, she recognized earlier signs of an already “on the edge kind of kid.”

At age 18, the Aspen Snowboard Team invited him to train with them in Colorado. He was exceptionally talented and excited by the opportunity. Unfortunately, after shattering his ankle during training, his dreams of going professional came to an end.

A doctor prescribed Vicodin for Beckett’s pain and when Beckett ran out of his prescription, opioid addiction had already taken hold of him. He quickly turned to street drugs and went from Vicodin to heroin to fentanyl to death. Melissa recalled how quickly it escalated. In May of 2020, Beckett died from causes related to opioid addiction.

Efforts By Melissa and the Family to Help Him

Melissa and their family tried to help Beckett several times throughout his struggle with addiction. They tried bringing him home as well as sending him to various rehab programs.

After his last stay at an addiction treatment program, Beckett went back to Colorado where he loved to spend time outdoors mountain biking. As far as Melissa knew, he was not using opioids at that time.

However, after the pandemic hit and everything closed down, Beckett struggled with being alone and unable to do the things he loved. Melissa recounts how his coping systems were thin and while she wanted to go to him, the pandemic prevented her from traveling.

On a Friday night phone call with his mom, he let her know he was addicted to fentanyl. By Monday or Tuesday, he was dead. Beckett was only 21 years old.

Challenges Faced When Trying to Do the Right Thing

Facing a child’s addiction and knowing the right thing to do does not come naturally to a parent. Navigating how to love your child and support them without enabling them requires the ability to feel out a situation that is unfamiliar and most times agonizing.

For Melissa, coping with having a son with active addiction was “probably the hardest thing [she’s] done in her life.” It was hard on the entire family. She and her wife had to set boundaries and protect her other children while still loving her son.

They decided if he was using, he could not come into the home. But she always gave him options for treatment programs. “As a mother,” she says, “you want to save them. You want to think that you can save them…There’s so much guilt and shame.”

She did the best she could, always kept an open line of communication, and told Beckett she loved him. She maintained boundaries with him, however, and while she would ensure he had a place to live so he would not be living on the street, she did not send him money because she knew where the money would go.

With 3 other children to care for, Melissa said she had to consider the general health of their family and decide what they could allow. She recognizes how hard doing this is.

However, as a cancer survivor who went through breast cancer 20 years ago, she knew if she didn’t take care of herself, she could risk getting sick again. She “wasn’t going to give up on herself.”

“If you have a child or a loved one who’s going through [addiction], the best thing you can do is take care of yourself…You can’t get sick enough to make a sick person well,” Melissa says.

How Cancer Changed Her

Melissa’s cancer journey made her realize that “how [she] feel[s] emotionally and inside is going to have a direct effect with [her] physical wellbeing…Our own stress causes illness. And that joy and happiness is medicine.”

In addition to changing her diet, Melissa discovered a spirituality. For her, spirituality is not any specific teaching but rather “an understanding of the nature of reality.” She believes there are “many, many ways to connect with this sort of spirituality…And it’s a path that if you say, ok, look, I’m open, I want to be well, I want to be healthy. And you put that out and then do your best to stay in as good a state as you can, then it will get better every day.”

Coping With Beckett’s Death and Finding Hope

When Beckett died, Melissa found support in her family, and they were able to lean on each other. Her own beliefs also helped her. She still feels that “him dying doesn’t mean he’s gone forever and ever but that that soul that was him lives on.” She found comfort in knowing he was no longer in pain.

After Beckett’s death, Melissa wanted to do something to change the world and feel like she was making a contribution. To this day, she believes if there had been an alternative treatment for her son, he may have been able to find what he needed in life to move through what his soul was enduring.

As a result, she founded The Etheridge Foundation. The mission of this non-profit organization is to “support groundbreaking scientific research into effective new treatments for opioid use disorder.”

The hope is that by conducting research, they can help find ways to treat substance use disorders and mental health issues using new plant- and nature-based treatments.

Ideally, by demonstrating its benefits through research, plant medicine could eventually be legalized and administered like other proven medications and therapies.

If you would like to support the foundation’s research or learn more about the studies they fund, visit You can also hear all of Melissa’s hopeful story by watching her on Addiction Talk.

At Desert Hope—a drug rehab in Las Vegas—we understand that addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all. Our highly experienced clinical team employs evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders as well as co-occurring disorders.

If you or someone you love need help with addiction, please call us at . Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions and tell you more about the treatment admissions process. Please don’t wait to start your recovery.

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