Melissa Etheridge Reveals She Felt 'Helpless' as Son Battled Addiction Before Fatal Opioid Overdose

"You want to help them, but ultimately they have to help themselves,” says Melissa Etheridge, whose beloved son Beckett died of an opioid overdose last May

Melissa Etheridge is opening up about how difficult it is to watch a loved one struggle with substance abuse nearly nine months after her beloved son Beckett died of an opioid overdose.

"It's a nightmare so many families go through," the rock star says in the new issue of PEOPLE, "and it just eats away at good people."

Indeed, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128 Americans die of an opioid overdose each day. Etheridge's 21-year-old son joined those staggering statistics on May 13, 2020, when he succumbed to his years-long battle with opioid addiction. Today Etheridge is still coming to terms with Beckett's death.

Watch the full episode of People Features: Melissa Etheridge streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

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Melissa Etheridge. Magdalena Wosinska

"It gets better. It's been eight months — feels like two weeks," the Grammy and Oscar winner, 59, says. "I miss him. It's something that you have to grow with every day."

Beckett was just 17 years old when he got hooked on opioids. An avid outdoorsman, he was away from home, training to become a pro snowboarder at Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club in Colorado, where he broke his ankle in 2016.

"It gave him a whole lot of pain. It kept him from being a professional snowboarder," Etheridge says. "He was on that path, and he got lost then — because if he wasn't going to do that, what was he going to do?"

Beckett was prescribed painkillers to manage the injury, and he became dependent on the medication. When Etheridge realized he was addicted, she got him into treatment, but he left when he was 18.

"The drug abuse really turned him into someone I didn't know," she says of Beckett, who eventually began using heroin, then fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. "He was quicker to anger or mistrust. He stole money from me. The last couple of weeks, he was paranoid, and all of a sudden he was involved with guns. It's sad because it's not who he was before that."

Etheridge says she felt "helpless" as she watched Beckett struggle with addiction for years.

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Melissa Etheridge. Magdalena Wosinska

"When you have a loved one who is battling opioid addiction, it's horrific. You don't know what to do. You want to help them, but ultimately they have to help themselves," she says. "It's a journey for anyone around the loved one. You realize the only way to help them is to take care of yourself. You can't do anything for them; you can't make them be sober."

Since Beckett succumbed to addiction, Etheridge has refused to feel at fault.

"I could only do so much," she says. "You constantly think, 'If I had only done this, had I only done that.' That doesn't help you. That's making yourself sick with guilt and shame."

Since Beckett's death, Etheridge has grieved with her wife, TV producer Linda Wallem, 59; Beckett's older sister Bailey, 24 (with ex Julie Cypher); and 14-year-old twins Johnnie and Miller (with ex-wife Tammy-Lynn Michaels).

melissa etheridge and wife linda
Linda Wallem and Melissa Etheridge. Melissa Etheridge/Instagram

In June the rocker launched the Etheridge Foundation, which supports research into the causes and effects of opioid addiction. After Beckett's death, Etheridge also found purpose launching her at-home streaming platform, Etheridge TV, on which she plays concerts and covers and does a chat show with Wallem. And she's sharing Beckett's story to help others, as she did when she came out as gay in 1993, and then again when she revealed her breast cancer diagnosis in 2004.

"When opioid addiction took my son, I wasn't going to hide that. It feels better to be open about it, to be truthful about it," she says. "We're here to be an example."

For more on Melissa Etheridge and her late son Beckett, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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