Can you identify anything positive that has come from your experience with opioid addiction?
It has actually been good for our marriage, which is not a very good thing to say. It’s made me a kinder and more tolerant person. I’m not as quick to judge others and I will never ever again in my life judge how other people raise their children. Never. I will never pass judgment. As a young mother, I did judge others. I mean, all of my friends did. This experience has made me kinder. It’s made me more tolerant, less judgmental and much more loving. I cherish every minute that I have with Jack and with my other two.
Personally, I have learned so much. I have been self-taught for the most part. I’ve taken classes. I go to conferences on addiction. I go to family therapy sessions so I can help other parents go through this. I think it has made my son and I closer and more understanding of each other. My daughter … school is still out. She’s still revengeful. And because of my children and their illnesses, I have changed my career path. I work directly with people in addiction and their families.
So, man, it took me about a year of stumbling through life after Brady passed away. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had to retrain myself to get up and actually breathe. I know that sounds … that’s not the truth … but obviously you know what I’m getting at … that your world is never the same. Ever ever ever again. You just get up and pray and hope you don’t hear Brady’s favorite song on the radio that day, pray and hope that when you walk by his room that you don’t smell something – like that favorite cologne that’s still on his dresser. I dealt with that for a year and we still do deal with it but we are now able to see some of the emotional storms coming and we know how to prepare for them. But for the first year or so, you don’t know, you’re at the mercy of the emotions.
Once I started learning about the statistics, I became very frustrated. I was seeing the overdose death numbers continue to rise. And I thought “What in the world is going on?” So I decided to do something about it. I didn’t know where it was going to lead me, but the more that I got educated and the more I dug into it, the more I realized we have a serious problem here and nobody is talking about it. Pharmaceutical companies have all this money to keep everybody’s mouths shut and the doctors are not going to say anything about it because they don’t want to admit any wrongdoing. So I decided to get in there and do something. I have spoken to thousands of kids over the years, different high schools, youth groups and parent groups. With what I do and with everything drug awareness organizations do, it’s not a thankless position. But you really don’t know what kind of impact you’re making. What I get in comfort is every time I go to school and do a presentation, I always make sure that I leave enough time at the end. Because the school always says you have 45 minutes and not one second over. So I always cut it short at least 10 to 15 minutes and tell the kids if they have a story they want to share with me or any of our volunteers, we’re giving them enough time to come up and share and talk with us. If they want to pray, we’ll pray with them. After every presentation, kids will come up and they will share their story. Some of them cry. These are devastating stories, like my mom’s in prison and I’m living in a foster home right now. They might have been waiting for an opportunity to share that story with somebody and they felt comfortable enough with me, a stranger, that they came and shared that story.
I have a state certification now. I’m a certified recovery specialist. So I get to work on a quick response team. Anybody who has overdosed in the past 48 hours, we get to them and inform them of all the resources available. We give them or their family members Narcan. We exchange their dirty needles for clean needles. And I know that’s a firestorm debate, but what a lot of people don’t understand is dirty needles are very dangerous. So through the ashes, we’ve been able to do some positive things.
I’ve committed myself to working on the issue. I have a new understanding for people who are affected by addiction, no matter what kind. And a greater sympathy and awareness of what they have to go through.
The right people have shown up at the right time – everyone from the caseworker to the rehabilitation place to her sponsor. She has been an unbelievable support for my daughter. Angels have shown up through this whole thing, to be honest with you. I’m not a big angel person, but these people showed up. And now my daughter is counseling other girls who are in addiction. These little things have been great.
And I get my daughter back.
Absolutely. Some really good friends. You’ve met a couple of them – Dominique and Diane. It’s so nice. We’re just always there for each other. Always. And sadly it’s frequently because our kids are handfuls. I’ve learned to never give up on my kids. There’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing that even by doing this interview, I am making a difference. And I really believe that this addiction has made me more Christ-like which is how we’re supposed to be.
Travis: My whole life has changed. I am not the same person I was before Tyler died. You cannot prepare to lose a child. And you have two choices. You can become bitter or you can become better. You’re going to become bitter. You’re going to hate the world. You’re going to hate God. You’re going to hate everybody because this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Or, you can become better. You can start educating yourself and understand it as a disease.
There have been a lot of positive changes for me. I would hope my girls today would say I’m a better person today than I was. I would hope Shelly would say I’m a better husband and a better person. Tyler made me better. He taught me the hard lessons in life. Tyler taught me love and compassion.
For me to sit here and say there’s nothing good that came out of this, I can’t do that. Now, is it what I want? No. Would I give it all back to have Tyler back? Yes.
Shelly: I agree. I think we’ve all grown. Just the positive things that are coming from what we are doing. For me, I always had a desire to have something that I was giving to. I went all over the world on mission trips and I could never find that niche. And this is my niche. I want to pour into people. I want to help counsel people. I want to work with people one on one and still have hope in them. We’re getting to do some of that now. And this is all inspired by Tyler. Tyler had a heart. Tyler was a fighter. So we can’t lay down and just give up.
Travis: I have more compassion for people than I ever did. And I think that’s a good thing. You know, I was just your typical dude that didn’t show a lot of emotions. Wasn’t warm and fuzzy all of the time.
Shelly: Now he hugs everybody.
Travis: And I cry. I cry openly. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What I’ve learned is that in my weakest moments, that’s where some of my strongest moments are. But listen, I had to learn this all the hard way. And that’s okay.
Christy – The organization we started is a positive. Our friends got Wayne doing it. You don’t see the rewards of Wayne’s work. And a lot of times it is very stressful for Wayne. Because it is kind of like being on a hamster on a wheel and you’re on there and you never get off. He never knows the positives and whether it has prevented something. But periodically, someone comes up to him and says I want you to know I saw you speak three years ago and I was presented with a situation and this is what I did and you kept me from using. So Wayne gets these stories and those are what keeps him going and helps him see the light in what they are doing. That’s our reward. That is the positive.