PINCKNEY, Mich. (WJBK) - FOX 2 profiled a woman who lost her daughter Monday to a heroin overdose.
It was a story that hit far too close to home for thousands of metro Detroiters - including Courtney Atsalakis - who wants to prevent another tragedy.
"That's real life, and no mom or family member should ever have to do that," said Courtney, 37, of Pinckney.
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After watching a heartbroken Howell mother, Cheryl Towery who was forced to take her young, addicted daughter off of life support, Atsalakis felt her pain as her sister's story is the same in too many ways.
"Right before our eyes, we were losing her and we didn't know what was going on," Courtney said. "(We didn't know) how to help her, anything."
Courtney says her sister, Amber Reineck back in 2011 was a hard-working single mom of two girls.
"She worked in construction and she had a bulging disc and went in for pain and numbness," she said. "And got prescribed OxyContin."
Amber became addicted to the drug and Courtney says her sister slowly began to change.
"She'd always be tired," said Amber's daughter Justice Knickerbocker. "She would be asleep on the couch, drowsy."
"Her behavior, her appearance, her patterns, sleep and (she was) sick a lot," Courtney said. "But we had no idea it was heroin."
She says the moment everything changed was Christmas Day of 2015 when she received a knock at her door at 3 a.m.
"I couldn't believe it was happening to my family, my sister," Courtney said. "I can't even explain it."
With Amber's two daughters sleeping just steps away, Courtney held in the news for over 24 hours that their mother had overdosed and died.
"It was the hardest thing we ever had to do, was pretend she was there," Courtney said. "They kept wondering why their mom wasn't calling them on Christmas."
Courtney adopted Amber's daughters and got involved with the opioid epidemic, researching and finding ways to help others.
"It's everywhere," Justice said. "From there's teens doing it, parents doing it, even your neighbor could be doing it and you wouldn't know."
The family plans to open a recovery center in Amber's name, but want to remind Cheryl Towery that she isn't alone.
"It’s always going to be hard for her and I'm proud of her for being able to share her story," Justice said.
"Stay strong and know there's people who know what you're going through," Courtney said. "We are all supporting you and loving you."