Hinckley Yachts purchase: Families Torn Apart by Addiction

Kim Jones lives in a neat house on a road lined with cattails and lilies near the Delaware River with three dogs, four cats, her new husband, her 19-year-old daughter, Hannah, and her father, Curt. Kim has planted blueberries in the backyard and plans to start keeping bees. A wooden sign in the window of her garage conveys her hope for the future: “Honey For Sale.”

But she dwells on the years when her drug addiction erased her from her own life. While she was using — mostly crack cocaine and heroin — and for the 25 months she spent incarcerated, her parents and sister were raising her two kids, Hannah Moumen and her older brother Curtis Jones. Kim’s aunt Julie stepped in from time to time, and neighbors, friends, colleagues and the parents of her kids’ friends were worrying and picking up slack.

Sitting on the back porch at the house in Middletown, Del., Curt, who is 77, talked about the retirement travel that he and his wife, Roberta, had been planning when Kim disappeared in 2011. They had their eye on a smallish motor home with a Mercedes cab, dreaming of touring the West and pursuing one of Curt’s passions, competitive trap shooting.

“We were this close to buying it,” Curt said, holding up his thumb and forefinger in a pinch.

But in the end, there wasn’t a choice. Curt served 20 years as a state trooper in Delaware. The police have a saying, “There’s no such thing as an old addict,” he explained. “I told Roberta, prepare — you know — prepare the casket. It’s done. If this continues on, you’re going to bury her. So the main thing is, let’s get these kids squared away.” Curt and Roberta let the motor home fantasy go, and Roberta, a nurse, took early retirement so she could care for Curtis and Hannah, who were 8 and 6.

In Delaware, it seems everyone knows everyone — “It’s two degrees of separation,” Curt said. So the trial of President Biden’s son Hunter on charges of lying about his addiction to purchase a gun felt to some of the state’s residents like a reality show cast with their neighbors and friends. Curt attended the University of Delaware with Jill Biden’s first husband, Bill Stevenson, and as a state trooper assisted at the scene of the car accident that killed Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilia, their baby daughter, Naomi, and injured both Hunter and his brother, Beau.

The Hunter Biden trial, which ended Tuesday with his conviction on all three counts, was a national spectacle, a prurient display of betrayal, excess, indulgence and lies: a pistol in the trash, a crack pipe on the porch, a cadre of girlfriends and wives orbiting Biden offering him their love, fear and vigilance — and sometimes more drugs.

Hunter Biden didn’t testify in the case, so he never reckoned under oath with the toll of his addiction. But the Joneses see themselves in his story and know the calamitous effect drug users can have not just on themselves but also on the people they love. “We all have the same problems,” Curt said. Forty-nine million Americans have at least one substance-use disorder, each one creating its own ripple effect.

Curt was surprised at the guilty verdict: He never imagined that a Biden could be convicted in Delaware. But for him, what matters is personal accountability, which he finds lacking in politicians. He believes most of them, including the Bidens, fail in that regard again and again. “It’s how you deal with the problems, work through them, that make or break you,” Curt said. As for Hunter, “I think he’s been enabled. Entirely. For too long.”

Kim Jones has been sober for a dozen years. “In recovery we talk about needing to forgive yourself and being able to move on,” she said. “I’m not sure there’s really such a thing.

After hearing her father describe the abandonment of his retirement dream, Kim, a pale, lanky woman nearly six feet tall and on the brink of 50, crumpled, crying without sound. When she was able to speak, she said, “It’s what keeps me up at night. Because I don’t have a way to make amends other than through my presence. I think a lot about robbing my parents of their retirement and the plans that they had with each other and the things that they wanted to do. And my kids of the childhood they deserved.”

‘Off to the Races’

Kim Jones’s addiction started in the summer of 2009, after her divorce, when she was feeling ashamed and bereft at the loss of her marriage. She met a man at the beach and they snorted cocaine. He was an experienced user, “Mr. Charming,” she said, “and I was off to the races.” She had previously experimented with alcohol and weed, as well as with a little cocaine and LSD when she was younger. What started as a weekend joyride quickly became a daily habit.

The man eventually moved to Florida and she continued to see him, raising the stakes, and the risk, with every visit. Snorting cocaine became smoking crack, which became injecting Dilaudid and, eventually, heroin. Kim and her kids were living with her parents in their big house in Bear, Del., and everyone could see she had changed.

“She dropped the ball on a lot of stuff,” said Curtis, now a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, in a phone call. “If she took me to a friend’s house, and she was supposed to pick me up that evening, sometimes I had to spend the night and didn’t know why.”

Kim started lying to her parents to cadge extra cash. She made up stories about parking tickets, flat tires, nothing that would raise too much suspicion. Once an absorbed and attentive parent, she became “lackluster,” Curt said. She would flake or bail or stay out for days, becoming sullen or combative when called to account. Little lies became bigger: Kim sold some of her mother’s jewelry and her father’s watch. She forged her parents’ signatures to take out a $35,000 loan.

“I remember looking out the windows and seeing my grandparents and my aunt and my mom arguing,” Hannah said. “I remember my aunt begging her not to go to the bar, begging and begging, and she went anyway.”

Kim’s parents began to draw lines. She had lost a good job managing contracts at a pharmaceutical company. She was using. She had to move out.

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