Elannah Rose Sheklow’s parents thought they were doing everything right. They had family dinners. They checked their daughter’s homework nightly. They knew her friends. They talked to her about boys, drugs and school.
But at 16 when Sheklow confessed she was smoking heroin and had been using other drugs as well for three years, the La Crescenta family’s “idyllic life was shattered,” mother Hannah Spring Sheklow said.
“I kept wracking my brain,” she told a crowd of more than 100 people who had come to the La Crescenta Library to hear her daughter’s story Monday night. “How had we missed this? We missed a lot.”
After that initial confession, there were attempts at home detoxification, professional detoxification, bouts of rehabilitation and relapse. The Sheklow family was coming apart at the seams. The parents talked of divorce. But, eventually, after the fighting and the fear subsided, things seemed to get back on track, and Elannah Rose Sheklow was her mother’s “baby girl again.”
Then, a month before her 20th birthday, Elannah Rose Sheklow skipped an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to hang out with a friend. She didn’t come home on time. Her parents didn’t know where she was. Her father stayed up waiting in the living room for her return.
Hannah Spring Sheklow remembers a knock at the door that night and then a thud. It sounded like something had fallen to the floor. It was her husband. A woman was at their door to tell them that their daughter’s body was at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
Elannah Rose Sheklow had used heroin for the first and last time after sobering up. She took her last breaths in a gas station bathroom.
“When she was an infant I had nightmares about bad things happening to her, now I have nightmares about her decomposing body,” Hannah Spring Sheklow said, fighting back tears like many others at the event sponsored by the Crescenta Valley Town Council and its youth counterpart.
Her powerful account of her daughter’s demise prompted several teens to share stories about drug use —mostly heroin and marijuana — that they’d seen at Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High School. One teen said she had two friends in seventh grade that were smoking pot and cutting themselves. Another said she had an older sister who asked her to keep her drug addiction a secret from their parents.
“You have to love her enough not to keep her secret because one day you’ll have a very sad story to tell and no sister to hug,” Hannah Spring Sheklow advised, adding that while she would not normally speak in front of crowds, she was telling her tragic tale so that her daughter, even in death, could help others.
Heroin is one of the most addicting drugs because “the high is so high and the low is so low” and the Crescenta Valley isn’t the only community struggling with heroin use, Glendale Police Det. Matt Zakarian said at the meeting.
“It’s supply and demand. If there’s no demand for them, there’s no supply,” Zakarian said, encouraging parents to be aware of the problem. “That’s never going to happen though.”
Hannah Spring Sheklow said she wasn’t aware of any problems because her daughter was a so-called “high-functioning addict.” She got good grades, she received accolades at her job, she took dance classes and was involved in extracurricular activities. She was known for sticking up for others.
On her headstone, she’s called “protector of the small,” said her best friend Vrej Nalbantian.
But she couldn’t protect herself from drugs. When she wasn’t using, she got depressed and cut herself. One time she cut her wrists so badly that she had to be placed in a lock-down medical facility, her mother said. After she got better, she had the names of her two younger siblings tattooed on her wrists so she would never cut them open again.
Although Elannah Rose Sheklow died of a heroin overdose, her mother doesn’t describe it that way.
“She died of her addiction, which was an illness she couldn’t manage, and there was no amount of the substance that she was addicted to that was safe for her to take,” Hannah Spring Sheklow said.
After her daughter died, she would sneak away to comb through her Facebook page. There was a video on her daughter’s profile page of the young woman laughing.
“I couldn’t stop watching it,” she said. “I couldn’t stop because I would never hear it again.”
For more information about drug education in the Crescenta Valley, visit cv-alliance.org.
To learn more about Elannah Rose Sheklow's story, visit Hannah Spring Sheklow's blog mylittlelostgirl.blogspot.com.