Tell me the story of your child’s addiction.
I call it a journey, although it feels like a roller coaster ride. Jack was 12 years old when we first realized he was smoking marijuana with friends who were twin boys. He had been spending a lot of time at their house, and we found out he was smoking marijuana with them. So I made a phone call to the mom to let her know what these boys were doing. She didn’t seem very concerned about it. She said she was going to punish her boys by having them cut the grass for their dad that week. We grounded our son for a month. Surprisingly, through addiction, he has always been truthful with what he’s doing. He owned up to smoking marijuana.
Fast forward to high school and we noticed Jack was skipping school a lot. I called his counselor at school. She looked at his attendance records to see what was going on and said, “He doesn’t appear to be skipping anymore than any other kid in the school.” I was like … in our house, it is not OK to skip school. You don’t skip school.
Honestly, it was so long ago that I don’t remember how we ended up finding out that he was stealing pills out of people’s medicine cabinets, his friend’s parent’s medicine cabinets, and from our house. I remember one time I had a brand new bottle of cough syrup with codeine in it, and it was empty. I asked all three of our kids about it. And Jack said, “Oh I spilled it.” So I went and got another prescription and the bottle was empty again. I still didn’t think anything about it. The thought never even entered my mind that one of my kids could be taking it. Then he had his wisdom teeth taken out and they prescribed Percocet. Actually I think that’s when it probably started was with the Percocet. Then he got dry socket, and they prescribed more. And then stealing from the medicine cabinet started happening.
He got in trouble when he was a junior in high school. He got arrested for underage drinking at that time and after that, it all just started to go downhill. Probation from that included drug testing. He tested positive for opiates and he swore he didn’t take anything. He went in front of the judge because he violated his probation. They basically told my husband and I that we were crazy to believe Jack because the tests don’t lie. He came up with all sorts of “Oh it was in the cough medicine.” He ended up going to jail for eight days because of that. He was in high school at the time and they put him in big boy jail. He didn’t go to juvenile. I remember when they put the handcuffs on him and took him out of the courtroom. To this day, I just still can’t even believe that happened. My husband had to take me straight to the doctor from there because I couldn’t cope.
But going to jail didn’t seem to scare him. Then he went away to Indiana University. He got into a fraternity house and was introduced to heroin. We weren’t sure what he was doing at that point. We had taken him to counselors. We had taken him over to Fairbanks Hospital, which is a drug and alcohol hospital. He went through anger management counseling. Finally it got to the point at IU where he asked to come home. He said he needed help and that he needed to come home.
When his addiction started, it wasn’t a big thing then. We didn’t know where to go. We couldn’t find any help. We had no one to help us. I had tried the school. I had tried different facilities around here. Places were good with alcohol at that time but they didn’t really know a lot about opiate abuse. So we were kind of at a standstill at that point in time. I think he was twenty-two when we decided to hire an interventionist.
This all happened towards the beginning of the opioid crisis. The interventionist suggested a facility in Nashville, Tennessee. Insurance wouldn’t cover anything. So we spent $30,000 out of pocket to get him into this treatment facility for 30 days.
My husband drove him to Nashville. Jack used heroin all the way to Nashville. My husband would have to pull over and Jack would get out of the car and go into a gas station to use. The interventionist told us at the time to let him do it. Let him do what he needs to do and once he gets there they’ll put him through detox medically and supervise it. What was a five-hour trip turned into a ten-hour trip. Jack fought and screamed the entire way.
Another facility recommended to us was in Delray Beach, Florida. So he went to Delray Beach. And I think over the past eight years that he’s been using heroin, he’s probably spent six years down there, which is known as the recovery capital of the United States. Sending him down there is probably one of the worst moves we’ve made so far. There are dealers at every corner waiting for these guys to come out and offer them heroin. And that was the first of his six overdoses that I know of.
Not only does Jack abuse heroin, he also abuses meth. I don’t know if that’s because he can’t find the heroin or if the dealer doesn’t have heroin or what it is. We let him come home once for a short amount of time between rehabs. In the middle of the night he said to my husband, “I need to go to the hospital.” So I took him. Jack said he lost his eyesight and that he couldn’t see. That alone scared me enough. He told us he had overdosed on meth, and he needed to go to the hospital. I went to the entrance of the emergency room and ran in to get the nurses. I told them my son was overdosing and I needed help. Jack was awake at that point in time. He had his hoodie on with his hood up. He always wore a hoodie and long sleeves to cover everything. I went and parked the car. They took him to the back. They put a sheriff outside of his door. I couldn’t figure out why the sheriff was there. They had taken all of his clothes off. I looked in the room and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It didn’t even look like my son. His face was just disgusting. Open sores all over the place. And he had been living in our house. We didn’t see it because he hid it so well. Unbeknownst to him at the time, I recorded his overdose, which was horrible. Even now I can’t watch it. It just was so horrible. His legs were jerking. His head was jerking. He couldn’t control any of it. I kept asking what was wrong with him. They said it’s just the effects of overdosing on meth. I asked why the sheriff was there. They said he’s here to protect everyone because sometimes these patients can go berserk and attack people. They couldn’t keep him at that hospital. They transferred him that night to a different hospital and put him in a locked psychiatric ward for three days to try to get him medically detoxed.
That was his second stint in a psychiatric ward. The first one was when he had totaled his car.
He was driving home from Bloomington. He had gone to IU for the weekend to visit and was coming back on the interstate and fell asleep while he was high. He drove his car into a retaining ditch. They actually closed the interstate. I asked him if he had any drugs in the car and he said yes. And I’m ashamed to say that I told him to get rid of them. But he didn’t get rid of them. They didn’t search his car other than to shine a flashlight in there. That’s when we took him to the first hospital and they put him in a psychiatric ward for seven days. He actually ended up coming out worse than when he went in. They had him over medicated and that was a mess. We swore we would never put him through that again.
He can stay well for about 10 or 11 months and then he falls off and has a relapse. I wish I could tell you how many relapses and how many different times he has detoxed and been in a 30-day treatment program, which is a joke. It takes much longer than 30 days. And he’s such a great human being, as most of these abusers are. They’re all good people. On Facebook last week, a friend of mine actually made a comment about two women who were arrested for dealing opiates. She said, “Get these scumbags off the street.” I sent her a behind-the-scenes message and wrote that those are someone’s daughters, and to please remember that these people belong to someone. They came from decent families. And even if they didn’t come from decent families, they are someone’s children. She took it down and apologized. She said she forgot and that she wasn’t thinking when she posted it and that she’s sorry she did it. So I’m pretty comfortable letting people know that. And Jack is pretty open. He allows me to be open and to tell his story. It took us years before we told our parents. Absolutely years, and we had to hide it. Finally it got to the point where we couldn’t do it without the support of our families.
Jack has been everywhere. So this time I said to my husband, let’s let him come home and try to get well. We’ve never done that before. Let’s have him come here and try. My husband said this is not going to work and that he didn’t want to do it and that he didn’t want him in the house. I said let’s try it. Jack always said, “I want to be around my family. I miss everybody. It’ll help me.” He did OK until right before Christmas when Jack started using again. We picked up on a lot of the signs.
As a matter of fact, I’ll show you one of the signs. I brought it. It’s a shampoo bottle or a body wash bottle. You see the black marks? That’s from his hands when he would cook his heroin. And these black marks are all over his bathroom: on the door, on the sink, on his toothbrush, on the soap, on his carpet. It’s everywhere. Or it was. I’ve kind of kept this as a reminder to myself, not that there aren’t a million reminders. It makes me sick to my stomach every time I look at it. I want to keep it so he can see when and if he gets better, he can see the things that we saw. Because he doesn’t remember.
So, back to letting him come home, we let him come home and he started using again around Christmas. Jack’s bank account is hooked to our bank account. My husband opened accounts for all three kids when they were minors. And this is the only account that Jack has. I check it maybe once a week, and I saw that he had all this money being deposited into his account and he was taking it right back out. I confronted him and I said, “You have no money. You have no job. Where is this coming from?” Jack said he stole a check from his dealer and that he’ll never know it’s missing. I came to find out he had stolen his father’s business checks. He picked the locks on a file cabinet and took forty-four hundred dollars from my husband’s account and six hundred from his younger brother’s account. His younger brother works so hard. He is on his own. He is twenty-six years old. He’s done everything to be able to do this on his own and he never asks us for money. That was his rent money. So not only did we have to cover the forty-four hundred dollars plus all the fees that came from Jack’s account, we had to cover his brother’s rent. So that’s when we told him he had to leave and he couldn’t come back. Jack did all the legwork and got himself back in the same place in Prescott, Arizona. And that’s where he is now. It is a 30-day treatment program in Arizona. He arrived there mid-January and then he moved into a sober living house with other men. He goes to his meetings and groups while he lives there.
There’s nothing worse than telling your own child they can’t live in your house. I mean there are worse things: he could be dead. It’s hard. I mean … he’s just … he’s a part of me. He’s my heart. And to tell him that he isn’t welcome in our house … is just … it’s devastating. I can’t even cry about it anymore, which is hard too. It’s just been so long. And I’m so tired. The nice thing about finally being able to cut him off is he doesn’t call as much anymore. I used to get 10 – 15 text messages or phone calls from him a day. And now he might call once a week because he knows he’s not going to get any money. My husband hasn’t spoken to him since he left. He’s so angry. His brother and sister have cut off all ties. That’s probably another one of the hardest things is to have your kids hate one of their siblings. We don’t do family trips. We don’t do family dinners. When they say it affects the whole family, there is nothing further from the truth. I’m the oldest of six. It affects all of my siblings. It affects my husband’s siblings. It affects our friends. We’re lucky because our friends haven’t shunned us. They’re all pretty understanding. For the first probably three years we didn’t leave the house. We didn’t go out. We didn’t do anything. We didn’t tell anybody. Because Jack is not a polite drug addict. He’s very mean and nasty and for years the name he used for me when he didn’t get his way was three horrible words.
Recently when Jack asked me for 15 dollars and I said no, he argued with me about it. I said, “I’m arguing with a 28-year-old man over fifteen dollars.” But he thinks like a 12-year-old. He thinks like he did when he first started abusing drugs. And it’s hard to reason with him because he thinks he is entitled. He does tell his friends that we are the best parents and that we’ve never abandoned him and that we’ve done everything we can. But to us, he tries to manipulate us. So it’s quite a ride.
But this time I’m very proud of myself. Jack hasn’t had a dime from us since January 15 when he left. He got on an airplane and called when he got there and said, “How are you going to get my car here?” We said we’re not getting a car there. We’ve shipped his car twice: once from Arizona to Washington state and then from Washington State back to here. This time he hasn’t had a dime from us. Or his car. He likes to throw in little jabs like “I had to walk here.” So we just change the subject quickly and move onto something else. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It hurts my heart. But I know he’s not homeless. I know he’s not going hungry. And I know he’s safe. So … this may really piss him off. But you know what, we’re pissed off too. If he had cancer, he’d fight cancer. But he’s not fighting this the way he would fight a disease like that. It is tricky though because this disease messes with your will to fight. I mean … I get that this disease changes your brain. I get that. It’s so tough to understand for those of us who aren’t addicted. It’s just so hard because your typical thought is that these people are dirtbags standing on the corner all dirty and their clothes are shabby and gross, and that’s not my son. My son is a good looking boy. He’s been raised well. He was raised the best way we knew how to raise him. He had just about everything he ever wanted in life, which is a detriment also. He was a varsity athlete all through high school. He played basketball with the number one NBA draft pick when he was in high school and with another boy who is one of the highest paid players in the nation. Jack had good role models. He is a good person. His brain is just so whacked out and changed. He hates authority. He rather punch someone with authority instead of sitting and having a decent conversation with them.
I feel like we’ve done everything we possibly can for him. And we’ve been so blessed because we have been able to, for the most part, afford most of the treatments for him. My husband did have to go into his retirement account to fund some things.
I have two children in recovery right now. My son was the first one I knew was ill. I remember the day he and I were putting groceries in my car at the grocery store parking lot. He says, “Mom I have something I need to tell you. I’m using heroin.” I’d known he had been using Oxycontin before that and now he had transferred to heroin. I was aghast that my son was doing this knowing I was a medical professional.
With my daughter it was a little bit more insidious. I didn’t know she had been using hard drugs like that until much later. She would tell me little stories and it began to sink in that she too was ill. She used more than heroin. She would also use meth and benzodiazepines.
Both of my children have overdosed more than once. One afternoon we happened to walk in on our son while he was in his bedroom — he said he was really tired at four in the afternoon. I was actually videotaping him only to realize he had overdosed. I quickly put my phone down and told my husband to call 911. Luckily I had Narcan at home and we were able to revive him before the paramedics got there. My daughter has overdosed three, maybe four times that I’m aware of. I’m lucky to have both of my children still alive. My son first came to talk to me about his illness about nine years ago. My daughter — I couldn’t tell you how many years she has been sick. She’s been sick for a long time with alcohol use when she was in high school. Both of my children are in their 30s now.
Brady’s addiction was very fast. And realistically, that was a lot like his lifestyle. Brady was an individual that was fast forward at all times. He would try to fit 26 hours of life into a 24 hour day. Seeing his addiction advance so quickly didn’t surprise us. I remember when Brady first started his senior year in high school – he came to me and said that he wanted to follow in his big brother’s footsteps and join the military. Brady was also academically sound. He was very smart, and so he was kind of torn. He didn’t know if he should follow his brother’s footsteps and join the military full time or whether he should go to college. I told him he should look into the National Guard because that way he could do both: he could serve his state and his country one weekend a month, a couple weeks out of a year.
So we contacted a local military recruiter. Brady scored so high on his test, which we knew he would, that they said if he agreed to join they would pay for 100% of his college. As a parent, you can imagine how thrilled we were with that idea.
Brady had it going on. Everything was clicking for him at the beginning of his senior year. But it didn’t take long to notice that Brady started to change some of his friends. We started to see less of the church-going friends he was once really connected with, and we started to see some new faces. These new faces were kind of shady, you know, kind of sketchy individuals. As parents, we investigated some of these individuals just through word of mouth. We found out some of these kids were experimenting with marijuana. So we questioned Brady about it. He said he wasn’t doing any of that. He said maybe the others were but they don’t do it around him. At that particular time, I had so much trust and so much faith in Brady. I encouraged him to be careful because peer pressure can be horrible. I talked to Brady about the idea of using peer pressure on his friends in a positive way by encouraging them to go to church with him or do something else positive.
Then we started to see his grades start to slip a little bit, and he became more ornery. Nothing to where we wanted to push the panic button, but it raised a red flag. It was his senior year in high school, but Brady had given us really no reason to doubt anything. We started to watch his grades and started to climb on him a little bit about them. “Get it back going, Bud. Come on.” Brady was very active in football, and it was football season. Brady was the starting running back. He was good. When we showed up to one of his Friday night games, we noticed that he wasn’t playing. That was concerning to me as a father. I thought why in the world isn’t Brady playing? I actually showed up kind of late and the game had already started. I thought, well maybe he rolled an ankle or something. I finally got Brady’s attention. I said “What’s going on? Why aren’t you playing?” He said, “Oh Dad, I got in trouble at school today so the coach made me sit for the game.” My first thought was, “Good for the coach and enjoy your time on the bench. You got in trouble at school. The coach is stepping up even though you’re a star player.” That was on Friday. The very next day, at about 10:00 a.m., I got a phone call from one of the coach’s assistants. We had actually been friends for a long time. He called me and he said “Dustin, I heard what Brady said to you last night about why he was sitting the bench. I got something I want to tell you. It’s going to sting just a little bit.” And I said “Sure, you know you can tell me anything. We’ve been friends for many years. What’s going on?” He said the reason why Brady was sitting the bench was because he’s been missing practice. And the rumor is, he’s missing practice because he’s getting high.
Brady was enrolled at an ICE program at school. So what that means is if your grades are good enough, you can leave school half day and go to work for the second half of the school day. And when school lets out, if you play any sports, you come back to school for practice. Well, what Brady was doing is he would leave half day, and instead of turning left and heading to work, he would turn right and go to one of his buddy’s house. They would sit around getting high and be too high to come back to school for practice.
When I first heard that, my initial thought was … like every parent really … “Not my child. You must be talking about somebody else’s child because my child does well in school. My child is going to college. My child is joining the military. My child goes to church.”
So I said I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll fix this. That’s what dads do – we fix things. Brady got home from football practice. I sat him down, and I said, “Tell me that the phone call that I just got isn’t true. Tell me you’re not willing to risk it all for some weed.” And he was very honest with me. He said, “Dad, I’m sorry. I screwed up. I tried it. I didn’t like it. It gave me a headache, and I got sick.” And then he said the famous words: “Dad I promise I’ll never do it again.” As parents, we want to believe our children. Even though that gut instinct is telling us something else, we still want to believe our children.
There were some consequences. I think we took his vehicle away. I think we took his cell phone away as punishment. I knew that kids experiment and I hoped it would pass. I hoped it was just a speed bump and that we would get over it. A couple of weeks later Brady’s boss called and asked if everything was okay with Brady. I said, “Yeah everything’s fine. Why what’s going on?” He’s said, “Brady is not showing up for work.” And I go, “What do you mean?” He said, “He’s not showing up.” I wondered where he’s going. I know he’s not coming home because we still have food in the refrigerator. You know how teenagers, especially boys, eat like horses.
So we decided to play 007. One day we spied on him. We followed him and sure enough, Brady led us right to his friend’s house. And we walked in. They were getting high and smoking weed.
I was devastated. Here is this kid is who has everything, including a really bright future. And we’re seeing him going down this other path that we know is a dead end. I said, “Brady, what about that promise you made me?” Brady’s attitude started to change at that point. He started to get a little aggressive with me like, “Why are you making it a big deal Dad? It’s just a little bit of weed. Just be thankful I’m not doing something else. It’s just weed.”
So we catch him again. Consequences are a little bit more severe this time. At that particular time I told him, “If I catch you again, I’m going to report you to the school. And not only am I going to let the school know that you’re not going to work and the reason why, but I’m also going to report your friends.” I didn’t want to tell on my son, but I was trying to scare him straight for lack of better words.
Our house sits on a whole block and it’s a circle. At one point we had taken Brady’s cell phone away and Brady’s friends would drive around our block hoping that Brady would be outside. One day I was coming home and saw those kids circling our house. I followed them and they finally stopped and they started cussing me out. I said, “Look guys, I don’t care what you are doing. It’s not my business. Just stay away from my son.” You have to remember, at that time I was a ticked off parent trying to fight for my son. This one kid started talking about who his dad was and I said I didn’t really care who his dad was and to just stay away from my son.
Sure enough, a couple of weeks later we catch Brady again. So I called the school and reported what Brady was doing and who he was doing it with. I was really upset emotionally because I knew what I had just done. But I also knew that my son was going down the wrong path. My son had been doing so well and then he made this immediate 90-degree turn to the negative. And I was trying to get this ship turned around. So here I was at home really upset. My wife was really upset. Once the word got out what I had done, we were hoping for some community support. But unfortunately we didn’t get any of that. Instead, we got parents calling us saying, “I cannot believe you told on your own son. I can’t believe that you told on my son. How dare you.” Football season was over and now we were into wrestling season, so the kids got kicked off of the wrestling team and off of their spring sports as well. There were a lot of upset parents.
The very next day when I woke up, I told my wife, “I can guarantee you I’m going to go outside and I will have four flat tires.” I went outside and nobody had touched my tires but they shot all my windows out of my vehicle. They broke into the vehicle and tore all the inside up. Registration, insurance information, ripped it all up. It was good old-fashioned street justice. And I was devastated. Brady was upset too, you know, because there is a certain line you don’t cross. But the kids thought I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have crossed. And I felt like they crossed a line by damaging another person’s vehicle. It was pretty severe. So Brady was upset. And I thought “OK, we’re done.” The kids gave me some street justice. We can move forward. But unfortunately that wasn’t the end of it. From that point on, for the rest of Brady’s senior year, I had to carry around a cardboard box in my truck. We have a pretty big yard and when I would get home, I would drive around our yard and pick up drug paraphernalia and empty beer cans that kids were throwing all over our yard. We would get that 2 o’clock in the morning phone call where the person on the other end of the line would say, “Hey narc. Are you awake?” You know, stuff like that. It was really taking a toll on our family. And the whole time, Brady was still using and we were still trying to figure out how to help him.
People who haven’t been affected by a loved one’s addiction don’t understand how many little negative branches addiction causes. Here we were dealing with Brady still using, and now my marriage had a wedge in it. Brady’s mother and I divorced when Brady was very young. She remarried. I remarried. So my wife, Brady’s stepmom, was saying if Brady couldn’t sober up, he had to go. It got to the point where my wife and I would argue so much over what Brady was doing or what was happening to us because of Brady’s addiction, we would then go trying to find our youngest son Daigen. He was eight years old at the time and we would find him up in his bedroom upset, crying because mom and dad were hollering again. So there are those negative branches that addiction brings into your house.
We dealt with this through Brady’s senior year in high school. It just kept gradually getting worse and worse and worse. Finally it was almost graduation time. I sat Brady down and I said, “Bud, you’re going to graduate. Your grades are good enough that you’re going to graduate. And four weeks after you graduate, the military is going to come and pick you up. They’re going to take you to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for your basic training. And when you get there you’re going to have to pee in a little cup. And if you fail, not only are they going to kick you out of the military, they’re not going to pay for your college.” And I said, “Brady, are you really willing to risk all of that for some weed? Think about what you’re risking here.” And like before, he said, “I promise, Dad I’m done. I’m done.” And this time I really felt Brady was more sincere about it. Some kids and adults experiment for a while and then … it’s just not for them. So … they’re out. And I thought maybe this has run its course and Brady has come to his senses and he’s going to leave that behind.
Graduation day came. It was a great day. You remember how graduation was when you got your grandparents there and your aunts and uncles? And in front of everybody, they asked for Brady to stand up because he was the only one in his class who had signed up for the military. They made a special recognition and that was a proud moment for me … and it was for Brady too because I could see that gleam in his eyes. And I thought OK, we’re getting dialed back in here. I remember saying “Lord, just give me four more weeks.” I felt like I had Brady at a turning point. The military will come and take him to Oklahoma. They’ll whip him into shape physically. They’ll whip him into shape mentally. They’ll bring him back. And this whole marijuana thing will just be a speed bump in our life, and we’ll get back on track. Two weeks after he graduated is when I got that phone call that Brady had passed away from a prescription drug overdose. We missed that four weeks by two weeks.
It was exactly eight months from the day we found out that our son was smoking marijuana to the day we laid him in the ground. It happened that fast. A lot of families fight this thing for years and years. We didn’t even have a fair fight in a roundabout way because we didn’t know that prescription medicines were in in the game. We had no clue until we got that call that he was dead. Only eight months, eight months … and it was over. And that’s one of the things that these kids just don’t understand is: once it grabs you, it’s gotcha. Scientifically, there is proof that drugs change things in your brain. We know that. Why do we see parents choosing drugs over their kids? Day in and day out they lose their children because of addiction. They’ll go to rehab, or prison, or both. And they come back and they get their children and they relapse again. Drug addiction is so strong. Someone who doesn’t know this would wonder why someone would risk it all. But we see this every single day. We see so many people who are successful in life who lose it all just so they can gamble, get high, etc. There are so many things out there that we don’t understand. I think addiction is a chemical imbalance where wires get crossed, for lack of better words. And it’s just so hard to get turned back around. You can give these individuals all the tools that they need to stay sober. But at the end of the day, it’s up to them to use them. And if they choose not to use them, it’s going to be a struggle.
Our daughter had a fairly typical upbringing: small-town, outgoing, active, responsible, caring. She was a very good student in school and active in sports, captain of her field hockey team, helped organize Relay For Life, active in the church youth group, your typical well-rounded kid.
Senior year of high school, we noticed she was losing weight. She was exercising a lot. Doing a lot of running. We had her seen for what we figured out to be exercise anorexia. The counselor she went to see really did a great job with her.
She finished off school.
She never really had any serious boyfriends. There was one in particular who paid a lot of attention to her – kind of a bad boy. Come to find out he would tell her that he was her boyfriend, but it had to be a secret. Then we find out that he was telling this to other girls, too. We came to see him as a master-manipulator.
She graduated high school and went off to college in Philadelphia. Gets on her field hockey team. So she’s on the field hockey team and seems to be doing pretty well in school. But she gets injured. Gets a stick in the back. Gets taken to the hospital. I run down there. She was diagnosed with a fracture in the back of her spine and was prescribed painkillers. The pain from her back never really went away. It got to the point where she couldn’t play field hockey and was in pain all the time. After a year, she decided to come back and live at home. Part of this was also that she realized she wanted to go into nursing and the school she went to didn’t offer nursing. So she came back home, took classes at the local college just to keep going, and at the same time applied and got into a nearby university that had nursing.
At this time, she had back surgery. She had four screws and two rods put into her back. They gave her opioids after the surgery, which really kicked everything into high gear.
Mental health-wise, something started shifting. She had lots of depression and she started to see pain doctors. A couple things happened – she made what would be seen as a suicidal threat. The university found out about it and their policy is straight to the hospital whether you like it or not. So she was in a hospital psych ward for a week. Came back out. She was living on her own – in her own apartment with her boyfriend. Very nice guy. We’ve known him for a number of years. Things were going well.
Then the mental health stuff started really going off the rails. She started seeing different therapists. The diagnoses ranged from depression to bipolar to dissociative disorder, all over the place. Then she got caught shoplifting, which really threw us for a tizzy. I’m condensing a lot here, by the way. The pain meds were being used. Eventually she got arrested again for shoplifting. She kept claiming it was dissociative … that she didn’t remember. It got to the point where she lost her relationship with her boyfriend. Before the boyfriend broke up with her, we found out she stole pain meds from my father and then stole pain meds when she went to see one of her best friends … she stole them from her father and got caught. So we sent her off to detox for her first 30 days of rehab.
The boyfriend broke up with her and said enough. It was just too hard.
She moved back home and things got progressively worse. She started a new therapist. The therapist, come to find out, was over-medicating her big time. Then we started noticing little things were happening. One night I came downstairs and she was on the couch. I couldn’t rouse her. I’m like, “Is she breathing?” I called 911. I started doing rescue breathing on her. They came, gave her Narcan and took her off to the hospital.
And that was when it really hit us that there was something more going on. We started finding things, like needles and Q-tips and things like that. At one point she said she wanted to kill herself. We took her to the hospital. The hospital sent her to a mental health and addiction facility; then she came out and did intensive outpatient at a facility. That was pretty bad. She would have these hissy fits where she would say “I’m leaving” and she would just leave the house and take off. What would happen is the bad-boy boyfriend I talked about earlier would swing by and pick her up at the corner. Or he would come by, bring drugs and hide them in a location near our house. She would leave the house, go out and get it, do her thing and come back.
Part of this was we were naïve. The dynamic also was that my wife was the hard-ass. I was seen as the softie. Part of it was denial … pure denial on my part, which comes into play at the end.
During all of this, she finished her nursing degree and graduated no problem. She was very functional in that way. And then all the school bills started coming to us. So we were paying her education bills.
A couple more times we had the ambulance come to the house. She overdosed. They narcaned her right in the house. Here I am, in the position/job I am in, I think well respected in this town—people know me. And here they are, finding out this is happening in our house. Everyone was incredibly supportive.
This just kept going. This just kept going, going, going, going. Every day was just another thing. We were on pins and needles all the time. She turned out to be a master manipulator and would put my wife and I against each other. Eventually we said OK, enough of this. My wife and I became a unified front.
It came to a head … when one day she was in her bed and I was up in her bedroom trying to get her going for the day. I found a needle. And I … I just lost it. My wife was home, so she came upstairs. I just totally lost it. Basically what I did was I just screamed at her. I literally dragged her out of her bed and onto the floor. I said, “Pack your bag. I’m taking you out of here. I don’t want you in this house anymore. You’re done. I’m taking you down and I’m dropping you off at a corner in Trenton. You’re done. I don’t want to see you again. You are not mine anymore. I am not putting up with this. You have had every chance in the world. We have given you everything we can. We have paid for everything. We have done everything. And you don’t want to do it. I am DONE.”
So she packed her bag. I came back upstairs and said, “I’m going to give you one last chance. If you agree to go to detox and rehab, I won’t put you on the street in Trenton. But if you say no, you are going. You’re done. I’m changing the locks on the house.” I mean, we were locking her out of the house at times.
She said yes, she would do it. I said, “Okay, then let’s go downstairs and look in our health plan to see what would work for you.” I’m very lucky that I had a great health plan. We looked together and found a program we both liked. She said, “I think I could like that.” I again said to her, “you’re willing to go?” She said yes. So I called them up and they connected us to their intake person. I gave her the information. She said, “I need to talk to your daughter because I want information from her. I also need to know that that she wants to be here.” So my daughter got on the phone and they talked. Afterward, the intake person said, “OK. Let me check with your insurance and I will give you a call back in an hour.” Sure enough, she called back within the hour. “Good news: your insurance will cover all of your expenses. Do you want a ticket for tonight or a ticket for tomorrow morning? We’ll buy it and you put her on the plane.” The next morning I drove my daughter to Newark. We were not really talking at that point. I was fuming. I decided that I would keep the strong fuming face on. I didn’t want her to think that she could get away with something, but inside it was killing me. We had a very tense goodbye. She had to make a plane change in Chicago, which made us very nervous. But she made the change. She got there. We got a phone call from the people at the rehab center: “say goodbye to your daughter. You’re not going to be able to talk to her for 30 days.” So we said goodbye and had no contact for 30 days. They were wonderful. At the end, they got her to go to a rehab place and from there she went to a sober house.
The bottom line is: here was a good, decent, pretty, smart, intelligent, National Honors Society, captain kid and she got into this. The way I think of it is she has a combination of an addictive personality and was prescribed opioids. Put them together and it’s a bad mix.
I’ll start with my older daughter first. Her name is Riley and she’s currently incarcerated. Right now her out date is October 15th, 2020. Riley was always a rebel. Even in kindergarten she always hated school but she loved being popular, and she was very outgoing. She was a cheerleader in junior high but she just liked hanging out. I was always trying to get her to be more active. When she got to high school her grades were failing and failing.
She just didn’t like school. As soon as Riley turned 18, Riley went into the dean’s office, quit high school and came home. She didn’t have enough credits to graduate. I was beside myself. I knew it was coming. She told me she was going to do it. I made her leave home and she went to stay with her cousin for a little while in Mishawaka and then she came back. She came back home and said she would take her GED. I figured she was smoking pot, but back then I was like pot is just not that big of a deal.
She had a lot of anger problems – like the one time when she was a juvenile, I had her arrested because she threw a glass of orange juice in her sister’s face. She was just obstinate. And she went to juvie for it. She’s so bold that the next morning in court she was kicking me under the table. The judge had her shackled up and taken out of there because she was trying to get me to not say stuff. She was saying, “Shut up. Shut up. Don’t say that.” And this was before it even started. So when the judge first spoke he said, “You know what? You are out of here. I’ll just talk to your mom.” Now they have Obstinate Defiant Disorder. If anybody had it, I would think Riley did. It was so difficult to manage.
I took her to take her GED. She didn’t study. She didn’t do anything online. She just walked in and took the test. I think we had to go there two times for the testing. I can’t remember now. And at that point, Riley’s not at home anymore. She’s just drifting around, living here and there, partying and having a great time. She got an honors GED. She only missed a few questions on the entire exam. She’s brilliant.
This is just horrible parenting on my part, but Riley would show up at my house with friends and they would stay the night. I could tell everybody was high, and I didn’t want them to drive anywhere so I would let them stay. That’s when a lot of my stuff like my jewelry was all gone, except for what I wore. Things like my grandmother’s engagement ring and Doug’s dad’s one-carat diamond ring were also taken. I never thought to hide things. And then money was missing. You know, 20 here. 20 there. “Can I have a 20?” That’s their favorite line. “I need 20.” And 20 again. I need 20 for gas. Or, “My friend and I didn’t have any money and they paid for me and I need 20 to pay them back.” They beat you down. They’re so relentless with the harping that you finally just say here is 20. Because it’s that bad. They won’t leave you alone and they’re just nipping on you.
It was obvious Riley was high all the time. She was moving around a lot. She eventually got an apartment in Indianapolis. That apartment was a pit and there was traffic in and out of there. There’d be big piles of pot and a lot of cash. It was Riley’s apartment and it was horrible and heartbreaking. Riley’s sister Bailey was staying with her for a little while.
Riley got arrested a few times along the way. One time she was here at home and leaving and it was getting dark. She was driving somebody’s truck that didn’t have a headlight. The police pulled her over. I wasn’t a witness to any of this but they had her outside of the car, handcuffed and sitting on the ground. With dogs. I don’t even remember what the charges were but they kept her over the weekend in jail. And you’d think she would learn from this stuff, but no.
So Riley ended getting arrested a couple more times and then the third time she got probably nine months in the Marion County Jail. I would never bail her out. And that’s an awful experience to have. There was a point where she said, “Mom, I’m probably eventually going to go to prison. It would be better than being in a county jail like this.” She got out of jail and went straight to this horrible house and lived there.
One time Doug, my husband, was over next door in the garage having a beer with a neighbor and I was having a board of directors meeting for parents of recovering addicts here in my house. All the seats were full. I was sitting just like I am now and the people across the counter sat where you are sitting. We all looked out the window to see these cops come in and block off our street. A couple of them came walking right there looking in all the cars. Doug thought I must have invited some police to our meeting because that wouldn’t be unusual. Then Doug realized they’re looking in cars and they have their guns drawn and that they’re not here for a meeting. I answered the door. They said they had a warrant for Riley. Well at that time, Riley was living in a halfway house in North Carolina. We had gotten permission from the courts and from the probation department for her to be able to go there. But then when she got to North Carolina, they wouldn’t reciprocate with Indiana. A warrant was issued for her. And so the police were here looking for my daughter. I told them the judge knows all about it and everything is OK. And she’s currently in treatment. They said they needed to search the house. I told them that was fine and to make themselves at home. I ended up giving them all snacks and cookies and cheese and crackers. That was insane.
My girls have iPhones and I have an iPhone. I pay for their phones because that’s just some kind of a lifeline from me to them. And if they are going to have a phone, they have no choice – they have to have Find My Friend on it or I won’t pay for it. I’ve turned their phones off before.
When Riley got back from treatment, there was one time when I dropped Riley off at a methadone clinic. Riley had an appointment with a counselor. It’s a horrible place. They do the best they can but it’s just horrible there. And you’re herded like cows. It’s degrading. Everything about it is horrible. But if you’re going there and you’re doing things the right way and not using heroin, I’m okay with it. So I dropped Riley off at the clinic and I asked her if she wanted me to wait for her. She said no and that she would get a ride. She was really ugly then and spoke to me in a hateful way. After I dropped her off, I was looking on my phone and could see she was at this Phillips 66 gas station on the west side. She was there for a long time. And then I get a call from Riley’s cell phone. Apparently Riley had overdosed in the gas station bathroom and her friends had left her.
Riley got all kinds of charges and then that was the end of it. She went to prison. And she’s coming out hopefully early next year or by next fall. October 2020 is her out date. She’s done time cuts and she’s done a lot of good things while in prison. She does so much to help other offenders. She spends a lot of time in the law library at the prison and she’ll help people file things or appeal their charges or whatever they need. She’s really good.
She’ll have good letters from people in the prison. She’s real good [about] going to Mass in prison. She gets people to go to Mass and to Bible study with her. I hope she means all that and it’s just not faking a sell out to get out of there. But I believe it. It’s hard not to believe in her because she’s not where she can do anything she shouldn’t.
She’s amazing. I have high hopes for her. Doug, her stepdad, he’s been in her life ever since she was 6. Doug visits her every other Saturday. I visit her every Thursday. It was hard on him to see the way I was treated by her. Because when somebody is high, they’re awful.
So I guess I’ll move on to Bailey. One day during high school, Bailey shattered her big toe. She and her boyfriend were chasing each other around in the living room. Our coffee table has a granite top it weighs a ton. Her toe hit the corner of the coffee table. It was horrible. She had surgery. She had pins. She was in a wheelchair. And she just complained about the pain all the time after her surgery. She was a bright kid. She was academically great and athletically great. Bailey never gave me any worries or troubles. But after that accident, she wasn’t able to play volleyball anymore.
And then things were different. She kept complaining about pain. Kept complaining about pain. She had a boyfriend that was constantly spending the night. Why did I ever let that happen? It was my house. But by now I was deep up to my knees with Riley. I just noticed things weren’t right and she was just hollering in pain. All of her pain pills were gone. Bailey would just be upstairs hollering. So Riley told me she had some medication that would help Bailey. I said whatever. Just quiet Bailey down. Bailey was relentless, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I asked Riley what medication she had and I think she told me she had opioids. I’m like OK well that should be good because that’s what is in the pain pills.
Bailey and Riley don’t have a relationship right now, and that hurts me a lot. But I understand. Riley wants to have a relationship with Bailey but Bailey doesn’t want anything to do with Riley. I think she will as she’s going through the steps. I just kind of have to step back from that. It’s not like we’re having holidays with everybody.
I’m sure Riley didn’t intentionally think she was getting her sister addicted to heroin. And Bailey didn’t know what she was doing. I just feel like there’s some fog in the understanding between the two and what all went down then. But bottom line is Riley did give Bailey heroin for the first time, not to have her sister become an addict. Riley is my child that will take care of anything with a broken wing. I’m sure Riley was thinking that she could make her sister feel better.
For Bailey, heroin was instant for her. That whole summer and into the fall, things weren’t right. Bailey was spending a lot of time in the bathroom. She wasn’t getting anything done. She was sleeping all the time. She wasn’t accountable for anything. Money was missing. Things were missing. Anything you can think of that could be pawned was gone.
Right before that Thanksgiving, I was doing Bailey’s hair. She was standing in my dressing room and I said, “Something’s going on with you and I don’t know what it is. I’m just so worried. Do you need help?” Bailey started bawling and she said, “Mom I can’t stop.” So I told her we would get her help.
Bailey meets a lot of boys at these treatment centers. The boys latch onto her, especially this one boy who is dead now from a heroin overdose. Sadly he was camping with his parents and he overdosed in the tent. He was doing really good and everybody was excited about his camping trip and he overdosed and died.
Bailey was such a mess and it was her birthday. I bought two packs of cigarettes, and I went to Riley’s apartment and Bailey had locked herself in the bathroom and she’s like I don’t want to see you right now. And I said well it’s your birthday and I have the right to give my daughter a hug on her birthday. She’s like, “No, Mom. I’m not going to come out.” I told her I have two packs of cigarettes and I won’t leave them here. “You can come out give me a hug or I’m leaving with no hug and you won’t have any cigarettes.” And she came out and it was horrible. Bailey was a mess and she had become sick. Very sick. Bailey had MRSA but we didn’t know what it was. I talked to her pediatrician and she said Bailey has got to go to the hospital.
This is Bailey. This is what she looked like. And that’s what Bailey looked like with MRSA. She was in the hospital for 21 days or so. It was a long time hospitalization. Her scars did a really good job of healing. And look how horribly thin she was. She was in a room down the hall from the nurse’s station. I was there and I was so tired.
When Bailey is using, when she’s really in the depths, she’ll do some meth. She’s going to die if she doesn’t stop. Each relapse becomes more and more dangerous. She’s never overdosed that I know of.
We sent her to Tennessee. She did 30 days inpatient and then we got her in a place called Sober Living in Delray Beach, Florida. So she went there and she was doing really well. My sister and one of my best friends and I flew down to visit Bailey. Then we meet this guy J that Bailey had been talking about and he is obviously no good. And he’s not even attractive, and he’s little and Bailey’s really tall and he’s obviously manipulating Bailey. All three of us were upset about it.
Well, while we were in Florida, I got really sick. Bailey was staying with us and she and I were sleeping on a futon together and I just couldn’t catch my breath. Something was wrong. I woke everybody up. They drove me to the hospital. I had a whole lot wrong. It was all my heart. Then they did a cath to see what was going on. I had a blood clot. So this was Friday and then I didn’t have surgery until Monday. Surgery was a big deal. It was a triple bypass. I was fifty-eight. I’m pretty young and fit.
So I came home and find out Bailey is moving to New Jersey to be with J. Before all that happened, Bailey asked me to call her because J had already started beating Bailey and chasing her down alleys. And she’s in love with J and she wants to move to New Jersey with J and his parents. I think J’s dad is definitely an opiate addict. He’s on disability and takes pay most of the time. I’m not judging them, but there are just some crazy things. I tried to become friends with his mom and honestly, I think she just needs help. I try to be kind, but I sure wanted to choke Bailey plenty of times. I’m like – wake up!
Bailey was in New Jersey for Christmas. I ordered presents for Bailey. I got her a winter coat and shoes and a pair of boots and gloves, hat, scarf, maybe a couple of pairs of jeans or leggings. I had it all shipped here to my house so I could cut the tags out of the clothing. I’ve learned some things. Cut off all the tags and labels out so they can’t be sold. And then I paid to ship them to her, which, in this day and age is ridiculous.
Bailey would let me know that she needed some lotion and cream rinse and shampoo deodorant. I used to send her money. Well, I learned that if you order online at Wal-Mart for something to be picked up at their store, whoever picks it up cannot return the item for credit. Wal-Mart will only give credit back to the credit card originally used. So I started doing that. Then you always feel good as a mom that you are getting your daughter shampoo and lotion and cream rinse and throw in a couple boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Bailey eventually left J and came back home. We got her to go to the methadone clinic. The next thing I know, J is moving here and she and J got an apartment. It was for less than 30 days. He was awful and she was terrified. One day I went over to their apartment. My son, Joe, and his wife, Ashley, went over there. Bailey wanted her stuff and wanted to leave. It was crazy. J was crazy. It was like some stupid reality show. J grabbed Bailey and had her against the wall.
Bailey then started staying with a friend. One day when I was going to work at the Renaissance fair, she called me and said she wanted to come there and hug me goodbye. She said J was here and that she was going back to New Jersey with him. For real. And I said you know what, I’m working and this is going to upset me and I will get hysterical so let’s just say our goodbyes on the phone. Bailey then starts this dramatic “I don’t care enough” thing.
So they went back to New Jersey and she was back in New Jersey for over a year with him. Things were horrible. He raped her. He beat her. He burned her with cigarettes. In the meantime, I’m back in the hospital a whole bunch of times. I had so many surgeries in those few years. One day Bailey called me and she told me she was afraid. We had talked a few times when I was in the hospital. She said she was just so afraid. And I said you can come home and we’ll help you get home. She said she was afraid to leave. And I said, “Well listen, I’m in really bad shape and I need you. Can we tell him that I need you to care for me?” We agreed she would talk to him that morning. Then she called me back and said she just talked to J and she’s terrified. And I’m afraid. I said, all right you just have to listen to me. I told her to get her purse. I told her I’m going get an Uber to pick her up and take her to the airport, and I’ll see what I can do about getting her a flight out of there. Bailey is hysterical. I get a text from the Uber driver that they’re there and that they’ll wait 5 minutes. I texted back and asked if they can please give me a quick call. It was a woman Uber driver, and I said “I don’t even know how to explain this but here’s the story. The person you’re picking up is my daughter in New Jersey. I am her mother and I am in Indiana. We need to get her to the airport and I’m going to fly her home. This is a domestic violence situation. Please help me. Please help me.” And she says to me, “Oh I know all about domestic violence. I will not leave here without your daughter.”
God is good right? So she went in and talked to Bailey. This woman gave her a water bottle and a package of crackers and some things for the airport because at this point we don’t even have a flight. And this woman talks to Bailey. They’ve actually become Facebook friends. I wrote a thank you note to her. Bailey keeps in touch with her. This Uber driver witnessed her father murder her mother.
We couldn’t get a flight until the next morning. Bailey was terrified because they wouldn’t let her past security, and she was afraid he’d come to the airport looking for her. So we pretty much stayed on the phone together all night. We had an early flight out for her. And she was screwed up. She was fully addicted. He would control her with heroin. She was a mess. I texted a friend of mine at the clinic and she was very helpful getting Bailey started. She has relapsed I don’t even know how many times since she’s been home. I’d be on the sofa and I could watch her in the kitchen and she’s slumped against the counter falling asleep standing up. It’s just horrible. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s been hard. It’s just been hard.
Bailey started school but it was just too much. She had great benefits. They got insurance for her. Her insurance has a lot of downfalls but it has great coverage for addicts. And so we got her to go to treatment. I was hoping she’d get the Vivitrol shot. She goes through this whole treatment thing. When I took her to Fairbanks, there were some real hang-ups in the whole admission process. An example is they wanted me to have all of her medicine. And I’m like – she is a drug addict. She’s got pills spilled all over the place. I don’t even know what goes to what bottle. They said they couldn’t do anything until I brought her medicine in. I was able to bring them pills of whatever drugs I could find. That’s a ridiculous rule – when you have a drug addict sit there and wait while her mother is trying to figure out her medicines.
I contacted a friend of mine who works at Fairbanks. She’s just amazing. She’s in recovery. She’s been sober for probably 30 years. I reached out to her and also to my neighbor and both of those people helped Bailey get an appointment. Bailey did the inpatient treatment. She started out good but that didn’t last. We spent an hour with a psychiatrist talking about all these different things. He explained to me that he wanted to keep her on Suboxone. But I am sick of Suboxone. I’m sick of how she freaks out about prescriptions because it is hard to get, especially when you only have one day of Suboxone left. These doctors don’t call back. The clinic is overwhelmed with patients and excuses.
So the psychiatrist said with Bailey’s drug use, she has to go get off Suboxone first to go on Vivitrol. And that’s about a 10-day period. He said he didn’t feel that she’s safe to go the 10 days and that she needed to stay on Suboxone. Suboxone could be very long term for her. So we decided to do that. And she was still getting outpatient treatment and it wasn’t 60 days in and she was in a full-blown horrible relapse. She wrecked her car but she said she wasn’t high.
It was February 11th and I’m coming home and passed a bunch of businesses. I looked over and there’s all these cop cars. Standing in the middle is my daughter. So I pulled over and said I’m her mom. The cops said she’s high. I said, well, I’m not surprised. I said I could show you my phone and that we’ve been texting and you can see that I kept saying to her that if she could just come home, we’d get her to treatment. I said I’m just two more blocks this way. And the police officer said they’ve heard that before. And I told him I would be taking her to Fairbanks and he said no, they’ve heard it before too. Then I said you know what, you do what you have to do. And so they ended up arresting her for possession of a syringe. It’s crazy to drive up on a scene like that and to see your daughter high with all these cops.
The police had received a couple 911 calls about her driving and she had pulled over into the parking lot for whatever reason. I don’t even know why she was in that parking lot. The police saw her car. So they didn’t catch her moving, which hopefully will help her case. They arrested her.
She asked to come home. And I told her she can’t come home. I told her her options: we can go to Fairbanks, Gallahue, I can take you to a shelter, or if you really want, I’ll take you to your drug dealer’s house. Whatever you want. She said, “You’re just going to make me do whatever you want me to do anyway so why don’t you just decide.” I was really praying like “Holy Spirit help me here. Guide me.”
I decided to take her to Fairbanks. They are most aware of what’s going on right now. I dropped her off at the door. Parked my car and walked up to the entrance to find Bailey walking out to tell me they’re full. And I said, “Well they’re going to go make room then.” We went back in and turns out they weren’t full. We had to wait a little while but it wasn’t even that bad of a wait. And wouldn’t you know … God sends you these signs … they took us back for assessment and truly by the power of the Holy Spirit, standing right by her door was that psychiatrist we had been working with.
He didn’t know she was there. I’m like, “Hey remember us?” And he said yes. And he said to Bailey “Oh – you’re feeling pretty bad” and she said, “Yeah, you know I’m really sick right now.” And he goes, “Well let’s get you in here and we’ll get you well. We’ll see what we can do.” So we went through the first part of the intake with the social worker. Bailey was just such as snot. She kept falling asleep and she’d wake up and complain. She was just mean. That’s just how they are.
Right then, my girlfriend texted me and asked if I wanted to get something to eat. I told her sorry, I’m in intake in Fairbanks. I let her know it’s been a tough day and that I had an appointment to get my nails done that day but I couldn’t go because I was at Fairbanks. I sat there looking my hands, and they were in awful shape. Bailey was asleep again. So I decided to walk out to the desk and let them know I was leaving. They said I can’t because Bailey is not admitted and somebody needs to be here. And I said you know what, I have been here so many times and in other places so many times. Look at these nails. I need a manicure. I’m going with a mom who’s got a son just like my daughter. You’ve got my number. I’m only talking about this because that was a brave thing for me to do.
So we’re over here getting manis and pedis and my phone rings and it’s Bailey and she’s hysterical. She said she woke up and asked them to get me and they came back and said I left. She said, “My mom wouldn’t leave me while I’m being admitted”. She made them go back to look for me again and told them her mom would never ever leave her. And I said, “Bailey what do you want from me? There’s nothing I can do.” So that was a good thing. She kept calling me back and I quit answering. She’s like “How dare you?” But that’s her high self talking to me like that.
Once when I was in church, there was this moment during the concentration of the Eucharist where I just felt this … I don’t even know how to explain it but it was a moment. I am thankful that God gave me that moment. I always tell Father Pat what’s going on and ask for prayers and everything. We had Mass and then afterwards I was in the sacristy. Bailey called me and she said she was with her counselor and they were saying how Baily really needed to live in the Sober Living Program (SLP) program. It was $196 a week, which we cannot afford. Father Pat kind of heard my conversation. He said, “The church has a fund. That’s what the Saint Nicholas fund is for. That money is there because of our parishioners and we will help.” And Bailey, who has shunned the Catholic Church, she actually went to confession with Father Pat last Saturday and has met with him a few times to just tell him how she’s doing. So she was able to be in the SLP program for a month. And then she got kicked out last week. There was this big to-do about her Gabapentin, which is an anxiety medication for addicts. There was an issue with some of her Gabapentin being missing. Bailey was peeing clean. She had a roommate. But the second time they did a pill count, she was missing 15 Gabapentin pills. So they kick her out. And there’s always room for doubt. See, you’re dealing with addicts so you don’t know, but I keep telling Bailey I believed her on this because she’s testing clean. I wish there was just some way we could give her a lie detector test. I don’t think she would have sold her Gabapentin to anyone because she doesn’t have anything to show for selling it. Plus she loves it at the SLP and she is taking things very seriously. And Bailey just got a job for the first time in years. She’s waiting tables at a restaurant and it’s right across the street from the apartment. In order for her to keep Medicaid there’s a limited amount of money that she can make, which is so unfortunate because they just keep people in their hole.
Bailey called Father Pat and made an appointment with him and she asked me to go with him. She told him what happened with the Gabapentin and he said, “We will still help you.” And so the church paid for a month for Bailey to live at an extended stay hotel until she can go back in the SLP. She has to wait for 30 days until she can go back in.
So right now she is currently living in this extended-stay hotel with a roommate. Her roommate works and she’s clean. I don’t want Bailey to be alone. So really in a way I hope it’s a blessing. I do feel good about her being there. It is my hope and prayer that she will go back to SLP because she did love it. All the halfway houses are horrible. Any that I have found are in bad neighborhoods and they are just not in good environments. I feel good about her being at SLP. She’s mad and hurt by the people that are in charge that she really trusted and she thought really loved her. But this doesn’t mean they don’t love her. And so she’s got a lot to sort through. So we’ll see how all that goes.
Shelly: Ty basically was a perfectionist with everything he did. If you said he couldn’t do something, he could do it. He started wrestling when he was four. When Ty was ten years old, he was wrestling a kid that was two years older. Ty had never been pinned in six years … and the kid almost had him pinned. Tyler posted his arm and used all his strength so he didn’t get pinned. While he ended up losing, he didn’t get pinned.
Ty started complaining that his arm hurt after the wrestling match. We took him to the hospital and they misdiagnosed it. I don’t think they really thought it was a fracture, but they casted him. And then it happened again. And it happened again that same year on his skateboard and this time we’re like, “OK, we’re going to a different doctor.” They ended up figuring out that he had pulled cartilage off his bone. I believe it was May of 2011 that he had his first surgery.
Travis: So the doctor found a hairline fracture in his right elbow. The ligament was still attached to the hairline fracture but it kind of turned over upside down and it was healing wrong. As soon as the doctor figured this out, he said we had to do surgery. The first time he had surgery, Ty was 11 years old. That was the first time he was exposed to opiates.
Shelly: We just gave Ty what the doctor prescribed. I had no clue what opiates were.
Travis: Tyler was really athletic. He played every sport there was. He continued to get dinged. Ultimately he broke his arm four times. What we believe happened is that somewhere during his senior year in high school, he started using prescription pain pills. We put the pieces together after the fact. We didn’t understand any of this while we were in it.
Ty eventually had another surgery on his right elbow shortly after he graduated from high school and then had another surgery. Ty became addicted to the opiate prescription pain pills. When he could no longer get the pain pills, it led him to heroin. Four out of five heroin users begin with the use of opiate prescription pain pills.
We slowly started seeing a change in him his senior year. We kind of saw a change in him during his junior year, but you just kind of write it off and blame it on being an adolescent.
Shelly: So he stared changing a little bit. And that Christmas during his senior year was the first time I saw him react in a crazy way. Signals started going off.
Travis: So, we had no idea what we were in. I certainly had no idea what we were in. He pretty much moves out but he’s only staying right up the street from us. And he’s mad at me. He and I are battling a little bit just from the mess we’ve been in. We know something’s going on. We’re just not sure what it is. At the point you turn 18, you’re kind of your own guy. Parents aren’t in charge anymore and all that kind of stuff.
He was enrolled in Akron University and he was supposed to take night classes. We had kind of mended the fence a little bit. We helped him get a car. He was staying with the neighbor up the street from us. And I came through and noticed that his car was there. So I called him and I said, “Hey, I thought you had class tonight.” He said, “Yeah I do. But, uh, I have no gas in my car so I’m not going.” I said, “Well, I have gas in my car and I’m coming to get you and we’re going to class.” So we’re driving to Akron University … and … he was just out of it. I didn’t know what opiate withdrawal was at the time, but that’s what he was in.
Opiate withdrawal is like the worst flu you’ve ever had times about 50. You’ve got shakes. You’re sweaty. You’re vomiting. You’re aching. You’re just really in bad shape. And I knew something was wrong with him, so I stopped and pulled over and I said, “Tyler, what is wrong with you? What’s going on, man?” And he said, “Dad, I’m using heroin.” The first person he told he was using heroin was me. And so … I turned the car around and came back home and told Shelly where we were at.
We immediately started trying getting him into treatment. She got on the phone. Calling everybody. Looking everything up.
Shelly: And we couldn’t get him into treatment. They told me to call back every hour to get him into detox. I was calling back for two straight days. Finally Travis is like, “That’s it. We’re just taking him down there.” So we got him in the car and took him down. He had to argue with them and he told them, “You’re going to see him.” And then they took us in, did an intake and then sent us back out in the waiting room for hours. Finally we just left. But he had his intake so he was able then to get in their outpatient program.
Travis: The next five years looked like relapse, recovery, relapse, recovery. His best spell was when he was on Suboxone. At the time, there were nowhere near the amount of doctors treating patients with Suboxone as there are now. And the only place around here was a doctor an hour from here. So three days a week I had to drive him up there and go through counseling and then he would get his strips [a film that dissolves under the tongue] for Suboxone. During that time, he was clean. He’s going through recovery. He walks on the golf team at Walsh University. Gets a golf and academic scholarship. Plays half of the golf season for Walsh and is doing great. But it was also a huge pain to get from here to there. And we would take him because we didn’t trust him to go by himself. I would drive him up there and sit in the car and wait until he came out.
But Tyler eventually missed a meeting and the doctor kicked him out of the program. I don’t know if he had a class that evening or a test or something. That was the rule though. The doctor was pretty clear at the start and said if you miss a meeting, you’re out — because he had all sorts of patients and could only treat 50 and he had 100 in line. But it wasn’t that he missed a meeting to miss a meeting, he missed a meeting because of school.
When he would relapse, we would go four to five weeks with him on the street. Didn’t know exactly where he was. We would text and be in contact with him. But he was definitely using. Then we would get in contact and get him back into a treatment facility and he would then go through another short-term treatment program. We actually took him to Michigan once. We got a sponsor from a friend that was a $10,000 voucher. I drove him up there and stayed with him.
Shelly: They put him under anesthesia to get all of the opioids out and then they gave him a generic version of Vivitrol. It lasts in your body for a month and then wears off. And so he came home. We got a couple months of Vivitrol for free, and then we had to start paying for it. He was on it for about five months. At the end of one of the months, we were gone on vacation. And since Vivitrol wears off at the end of the month, he had used and relapsed before we even got back from our trip. And we usually didn’t go on trips because we didn’t want to be far away.
Travis: Vivitrol was a shot. And I gave him the shot. So we knew it was in his system and we knew you’re only supposed to give it every 30 days but that it does wear off at 27, 28, 29 days. Then it came down to pills because we couldn’t afford the shots. The shot was about $1,000 per shot. And we did it for a while and we couldn’t afford it. So then we went to the pills. When you are on the pills … if you don’t watch him take them … right? So, he relapsed.
Five years of our life looked like that. Relapse. Recovery. He did a lot of great things. He did a body-building show where he was clean for a big stretch and was crazy about working out. He did Junior Mr. Ohio and was runner-up. First show he ever did. First time he ever tried it. He was a really talented kid … smart … athletic … good-looking — and of course I get to say that because I’m his dad.
Shelly: He had straight A’s until his senior year.
Travis: He could do anything. There were times he struggled with self-confidence. But there were other times he was a real risk-taker and showed strong will. He had tons of friends.
Ultimately … Tyler relapsed. He was on the street for a while. Living in his car. All of a sudden his buddy gets in big-time trouble. He steals a car. He breaks into the neighbor’s house and steals guns. At that point, we didn’t know if Tyler was involved in that or not.
We had gotten Tyler into rehab and that was a chore in itself.
Our insurance was two times inpatient, lifetime, 21 days. My insurance would pay for 42 days of inpatient treatment. So we obviously exhausted that. And were financially exhausted because we had put him into treatment and then we were down to state-funded programs. So … Tyler completed his 21-day program. Shelly and I decided we would start making plans for when he got to the end of rehab. We were going to get him into a sober-living home. Because we were not bringing him back here. We were not doing that dance again.
So we let him pick a place with his counselor. He picks Delray Beach, Florida — the capital of the world for sober living and treatment. This is in 2013 around Christmas. Shelly and I take him from Ashtabula, Ohio, and drive him straight to Delray Beach, Florida, to this sober-living home. He’s there for his birthday, which is December 23. He’s there for Christmas. And initially he’s doing pretty good.
Shelly: We get home Christmas Eve to celebrate with our girls. It was our second Christmas we spent without him. And that was really hard.
Travis: So he’s in the program for a couple months. It’s a sober-living dorm. They have a men’s side. A women’s side. You have to go through outpatient treatment and counseling. You’re supposed to get a job. I send money to pay his bills for his rent and those kinds of things. We pay for his groceries. You’re not giving him the money directly. He has an account set up because you can’t trust him.
Shelly: Some time in February, they called us because he had relapsed. So they put him in a detox center. After maybe a week there, not very long, we find out he’s on the street and homeless.
Travis: So he’s on the street in Delray Beach, Florida. We don’t have any family there. We don’t have any friends there. He doesn’t know anybody there except people he met in the program. I’m in contact with him pretty regularly. He has a cell phone. We had it set up so all he had to do was call a number and a treatment provider would come and get him and take him off the street. We had set it up several times so he could just go there. But he would never show up. He was homeless and on the street in Florida for five weeks.
Shelly: Our faith is the only thing that got us through this. This was all new to us. We’re learning to let go of him and let him try to help himself. And at that point, we pretty much knew we were out of control. God had him. And we had to let him figure this thing out. It was pretty much the hardest thing we had to do, was to know that he was on the streets.
Travis: So there’s a fine line between enabling the person and unconditionally loving them. Because I didn’t understand addiction as a disease — I made all of the mistakes in the world. There were times I was too tough. There were times I looked at it as if it were a phase. I made every mistake you can make. But here’s the mistakes I didn’t make — and these are the things I encourage readers to do. The mistakes I never made were I never stopped loving my son, I never stopped believing in my son, and I never stopped trying to get him help. And we lived in that lane — not understanding what we were up against — not understanding it was a disease, not understanding he had a brain disease, not understanding the power of addiction and why he couldn’t just stop.
Shelly: We didn’t raise him this way. We didn’t understand. He was the most caring and compassionate kid growing up. He knew better.
Travis: And we don’t claim to be saints, but our kids were in church. We have good jobs. We have a nice home. We are active in our community. Understand that we played by the rules. And Tyler could have done anything.
So he’s down in Florida. He relapses down in Florida. He’s always telling me, “Hey, you gotta send me some money.” “Yeah, I cannot send you money Ty. Call this number. We’ll get you into treatment. All you got to do is call the number.” Ty: “I’m not doing that. I’m hanging out with this Army Ranger. We’re going up to Fort Lauderdale and we are going to start working.” And then he’d call me from Fort Lauderdale and say, “Hey — you gotta send me some money.” In one breath he’d say, “I’m dying out here on the street,” and the next breath he says, “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be working.” It was crazy. We know at that point, we are out of control, meaning there’s nothing we could do. And the only thing we could do was provide him a number for treatment. He’s got to make the call.
Shelly: And not only that, he had his driver’s license and birth certificate stolen, so had anything happened to him or if he had overdosed down there, we probably would have never known.
Travis: So for about five weeks, he’s homeless on the street. Eventually he calls the number. They come and pick him up, take him to the rehab facility when we get a call saying, “Listen, we couldn’t accept him into the rehab. We had to take him directly to the hospital.” I ask what’s wrong with him. They say they can’t disclose that to us. HIPAA laws. So Shelly calls the hospital. Of course they didn’t want to share much with us. We explained to them, “Listen, we’re in Ohio.” And finally Shelly got through to a nurse.
Shelly: I’m like, “If this was your kid, what would you do?” And she said, “I would come down.” So we’re like … all right.
Travis: Within a day we leave for Florida. We drive to Florida. And this is just heartbreaking but it is a fact of life. He’s in this hospital. He’s diagnosed with MRSA in his right arm, the same arm he broke four times, the same arm he had two surgeries on. And his arm is swelled up. Just huge.
Shelly: But it wasn’t only in his arm. He had MRSA systemically through his whole body. He had pneumonia. And he had a blood clot in his leg.
Travis: We get there and we walk in the room and the first thing you notice is the stench. The smell of a homeless kid on the street for five weeks. He’s kind of laying in this bed. He’s got the homeless man beard going. The homeless man hair going. Kind of laying in his gown. Half in it and half out of it. And they bring this nurse back and the nurse just starts saying, “He’s been argumentative, a little bit combative,” and blah blah blah. And I’m like, “Time out. Can we start by giving the kid a bath? Can we at least start there?” I was pissed. It was heartbreaking. Because they treated him just like they treated every bum on the street. And to us, that wasn’t a bum on the street; that was our kid.
And so I got the nurse out of the room. I said, “Just go. You don’t want to take care of him? I’ll take care of him.” And so we got him up. Got him in the shower. Got him cleaned up. I shaved him. And we start bringing him back to life even though he’s in a lot of pain. He’s got MRSA running through his body. He would get very tight convulsions in his stomach. Just gut-wrenching.
They treated him with IV antibiotics for two weeks. They would have let a normal person go home. But because he was an IV drug abuser, he had to stay in the hospital. Plus he had no home to go to.
Shelly: And he wasn’t withdrawing from opioids because they had him on Dilaudid. And of course every time they asked him what his pain was, he’s like, “10,” smiling. But he had to be on it to get to rehab because we didn’t want him detoxing there.
Travis: We sat with him for the next two weeks in that hospital. Changing his bed every day. Getting him in the shower. Feeding him his food. The hospital was set up with travelling nurses. You were seen by the same person only two or three times. No one really gave a shit about what they were doing.
Shelly: The whole stigma was seen there. Had we not gone down, he probably would have never gotten a bath.
Travis: But a lot of those two weeks were good memories for Shelly and me. Once we got four to five days into it, we started heading out and would bring him food he liked. We’d sit and watch golf. We would clown around. He would need to grab his stomach because I’d make him laugh … and he couldn’t really laugh.
Shelly: We got to spend some time with him that we hadn’t spent in a long time.
Travis: We were there every day. First thing in the morning we’d be there and spend time with him. Go back to our hotel in the evening. We did this for two weeks. Hotel bills the whole time. We spent our whole tax refund. We’re financially a mess … but that’s another story.
Ultimately, we got him out of there and into treatment. Once we got him into the doors of treatment, we drove home. And he got back into sober living after 21 days.
Shelly: But the thing is after those 21 days, he was begging them to let him stay. And they tried to get him a grant, but it didn’t go through. Probably because he’s not from Florida. The point was — he knew he needed longer. He knew he wasn’t ready. So they send him back into sober living. He’s there maybe a month.
Travis: We had planned a family vacation where we were going to take our girls and go to Florida where he’s at and spend two weeks down there and see Tyler. It looks pretty intentional to us at this point, but Tyler failed out of the program two days before we got there because he knew we were coming. We had called him and texted him and we picked him up on the street somewhere. At this point, he’s going to stay with us. We go into some of his counseling and spend some time with the counselors. And get a better feel for where Tyler is at. A lot of heartburn in those conversations for Shelly and me.
We have to make a decision. We were wanting Tyler to stay down there and stay in the program. But Tyler’s like, “I’m not staying here. I’m coming home. Either I come home with you or I beat ya home because I’m going to hitchhike or take a bus or something. Because I’m coming home. I’m not staying here one more second.” And so Shelly and I and the girls talked about it. We made the decision to bring him home.
He stayed here at our house for a couple nights. Hooked up with an old girlfriend. Was doing pretty good there for a while. He then moved in with her family. He was talking with Walsh about getting back into school and back on the golf team.
So Ty had two roommates while he was sober living in Florida. In July, his second roommate died. He jumped the I-95 bridge and committed suicide. That kind of screwed up Ty.
We don’t know exactly when he relapsed … whether it was the end of August or early September. But he relapsed again. Now his girlfriend and her family are going through it and they don’t know what the signs are or what this thing looks like. We tell them. Finally, Tyler comes clean. He’s relapsed. We need to get him back into treatment. I no longer have health insurance for him. We no longer can financially afford to put him into any type of treatment. So we get him lined up with the ADM Board [Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health] in Summit County. He signs up. He wants to get into treatment. They put him on a three-week waiting list before he can get help.
We’re in communication with him. He’s using one of our cars. He’s like, “Hey. Come and get the car so I have no way to go anywhere.” So we went and got the car and took it from him. He takes off on foot. And his girlfriend calls and says, “Hey. Tyler’s taken off. He’s not around.”
Shelly: And we’re kind of used to that. He would leave for days and so I’m like, “All right.” It will be all right.
Travis: Yeah. We’d been down that road before. That was typical relapse — him disappearing for two or three days and then texting you for something.
So the story is … and of course we figured this all out after the fact in the police report. Our youngest daughter was a senior in high school and she had her homecoming that Saturday night. You’re supposed to be celebrating that and we’re trying to do the best we can. Of course we know Tyler’s relapsed. The girls really don’t know at this point.
Shelly: I got up that day and I actually felt really good. I had written some stuff in my Bible and gone to church. Some people that had been praying for us took me aside and were praying. I came home. Travis had left to go to a golf outing. And someone comes to the door. It’s two sheriffs. And … I’m like … all right. Come in. I should add that we’ve left some things out. Ty had been in trouble with the law many times. He had been through drug courts, speeding tickets, all kinds of issues. And my first response is, “Please just tell me he’s OK.” And the one sheriff looks me dead in the eye and says, “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that.” I just immediately take off and go in the office and just start screaming and crying. My youngest daughter, Taylor, was upstairs and heard it. She said immediately she just knew. So she came down and was in there with me and consoling me.
Taylor tries to call Travis and has no luck for a long time. I’m in the office. I’m just bawling. Holding pictures. And Taylor finally gets a hold of Travis and —
Travis: — so she finally gets a hold of me. I’m on the golf course getting ready to play golf. My daughter calls and says, “Hey Dad. You have to come home.” And I’m like, “Hey, is everything all right? What’s going on?” And she’s like, “You gotta come home.” I say, “Taylor, I’m at a golf outing. I’m an hour away. Can I handle this?” And I could tell in her voice when she said, “Listen, you gotta come home.” I said, “All right.”
I come in through the garage right there and my youngest daughter is in my office. I see her face and I walk over here and Shelly comes out and meets me right there in the kitchen and she says, “Tyler died.” And so we both just kind of fell on the floor. Cried. Taylor came out. We just laid there and cried. And we decided we had to call our oldest daughter. She was at work and we kind of did the same thing for her and told her, “Hey, you just have to come home.” Can’t tell someone their brother died on the phone. And so she comes in. We tell her. We all lay on the floor there and just cry. And then you have to continue the process. We have to tell Shelly’s mom and dad. You can’t do it on the phone, you have to go tell them in person.
Shelly: Tyler was the first grandson. Tyler was their everything.
Travis: Tyler was super-close with his grandpa and his grandmother. He was the first grandchild. He was the golden boy. They cherished him and Tyler cherished his grandparents too.
Shelly: Driving there, we had to stop several times because our girls were throwing up. And my mom and dad live maybe 12 minutes away. It’s not very far.
Travis: So ultimately what happened with Tyler was … Tyler takes off on foot. Meets this kid at a gas station who is also addicted to heroin. They decide to get together and go buy heroin. It’s pretty routine for guys to know who’s using and who’s not using. They communicate pretty well with each other. And so Tyler hooked up with this kid, and within the buy, Tyler decides to take it. Within four to five minutes it puts him into an overdose. Because they’re not friends, this other kid panics. Drives down to a vacant lot, pulls Tyler out of the car, dumps him in this field. They find Tyler the next morning.
Shelly: The weird thing we found out from the lawyer is that the kid went home and used the rest of the heroin dose and was fine. It didn’t put him into an overdose.
Travis: That dose of heroin was laced with Fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. So Tyler probably got all the Fentanyl. The other kid takes the rest of it and it is heroin and it doesn’t kill him.
Shelly: They immediately caught the kid because he dropped his driver’s license.
Travis: A resident found Tyler that next morning while walking through the neighborhood. Called the police. Police find this kid’s driver’s license lying next to Tyler. They go arrest him. He goes to work with law enforcement. They make two more buys to the drug dealer. They then arrest the drug dealer, who’s an 18-year-old kid. He’s the one who sold the lethal dose of heroin laced with fentanyl that killed Tyler.
Shelly: We had to go through the chance of having a trial. It never ended up going to trial. He ended up pleading and we got him to plead out.
Travis: This happened real fast. So now … our life has been flipped on its head. We’re walking down this lonely, dark road. Shelly’s in her journey and I’m in my journey. And … for me … and I don’t know why I am the way I am, but I am. I’ve had some things happen to me in my life. I lost my brother when he was 18. I was 11 years old. So when I got the call from the sheriff saying we got this kid, I knew almost instantly that that wasn’t going to do anything for me. It wasn’t going to change my life. It wasn’t going to bring my son back. I also knew at that point that I needed to start moving into the lane of forgiveness. Because if I couldn’t get to forgiveness, I was going to self-destruct. I was raging. I mean … we used to have some picnic tables and chairs in our backyard. I burned everything up in my fire pit over that week. My buddies started bringing in cords of wood for me, going, “Man — you’re going to burn your house down.” I’m a mess.
So I’ve got this internal struggle going on saying that I’ve got to start moving to forgiveness. And it’s not that it’s easy. We have a whole lot of people we have to forgive. I’m pissed at the doctors. I’m pissed at the drug dealer. The lack of treatment. I’m angry. And I have a lot of people to be angry at, including myself. Because I didn’t understand the disease. I made all kinds of mistakes. I have everybody in the world to forgive, including myself. And if I can’t get in that forgiveness lane, I’m going to self-destruct.
It took about a year and a half to get to this trial. And over that time, we’re talking and realizing we didn’t want to be dragged through a trial. This is Tyler’s name. At the end of the day, it won’t do anything for me. So we encourage the prosecution to cut a deal. If you sell a lethal dose of drugs that kills someone, you are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is 11 years. Most cases get seven to eight. In this case, this kid got four. We encouraged them to cut a deal because we didn’t want to go to a trial.
At the sentencing of the drug dealer, Shelly spoke. Her sister spoke. My girls spoke. A couple of Tyler’s friends spoke. One of the things I knew I had to do is I had to look this kid in the face and tell him I forgive him. And that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t do it for him. I did it for myself because I knew I had to do it. I did it for my girls so they could start working towards forgiveness. So they could see that if Dad could forgive, maybe I could forgive and I can start moving on with my life.
Tyler was the third young man to die of a heroin overdose in this community within 11 months. My youngest daughter, a senior in high school, has two friends who also lost their brothers to an overdose. So these three girls start working with the guidance counselor. They decide they’re going to put a program together and start sharing their story.
Shelly: They shared it from what they experienced. Each one of them. Going through it with their brother. They talked about how their parents weren’t able to be there for them.
Travis: Within two months of Tyler dying, they had a community event at the Lake High School auditorium. Over 800 people in the community showed up. These three girls each share their stories. For me — I’m sitting there watching this thing and watching my 17-year-old youngest daughter have more guts and more courage than her dad has, leading our family and telling our story. During this whole time, no one knew what was going on in my life. I didn’t tell my closest friends. I didn’t tell anyone at work. I sat in shame. I sat in embarrassment. I thought I’d failed as a father. Shelly and I would get into arguments. She would say, “Hey, we have to start talking about this.” I remember getting really mad at her one time and saying, “If you think I’m going to be the heroin advocate, you’ve picked the wrong man.” Shelly wanted to start shedding light on it. I didn’t. In my job, I have to get elected every three years. I work for the Teamsters Union. I could see the negative ramifications of how our story could affect my career and affect me. I’ve always done the right thing. How did I raise a heroin addict?
Any person who knows me and knows our family or knows Shelly was in shock. Everyone was in shock. All of my friends and a lot of our family found out about Tyler by watching the news on Channel 8. And now two months after that, I’m watching our youngest daughter courageously tell our story. So I sat there — very proud of my daughter. Proud that she learned guts and strength and courage. But I was embarrassed for myself. I was embarrassed for a couple things. One: I didn’t have the guts to tell our story. Two: One of the things I heard her say there was, “The first time I ever saw my Dad cry was when we told him Tyler died.” I was embarrassed for myself that I didn’t have enough guts to share my true feelings with my family and with my girls because I was always tough. Not that I didn’t tell them I loved them. Not that I didn’t hug them. But I didn’t show feelings. I can get tunnel vision real easy and can really grind. And I did for almost six years through Ty’s addiction.
Once these girls started sharing their story, they spent the rest of their senior year visiting schools throughout Star County and Summit County. Shelly’s sister then creates a Facebook page. We dream up this name. We call it Breaking Barriers, because of all the barriers you have to break that are associated with the disease of addiction. We start advertising where these girls are going to go out to speak. And that is how our organization starts to grow — through my daughter.
Shelly and her sister come up with a backpack program for the holiday season. Shelly starts reaching out for names in the community of people that have overdosed and died. We reach out to their families and ask them to put a picture of their loved one on with a letter about their loved one that would be received by a homeless woman. It was through RAHAB Ministries [Reaching Above Hopelessness and Brokenness] which ministers to prostitutes and drug addicts. So they had all of the kids’ names embroidered on backpacks. Names and dates. They had gloves and hats and snacks in these backpacks and we gave them away. Shelly called that project “Hope Is Alive.” And so we called our organization “Breaking Barriers: Hope Is Alive.” The thing we know is hope.
Shelly: The mother I started the support group with — we knew each other from high school but I only knew her name. Our girls played basketball together and we’d say hi. Her son died five months before Tyler. When someone dies from addiction, it’s not the same as someone else who loses a child from cancer or even a car accident. Because you have that stigma. We knew what that felt like.
Travis: Not only are you going through the grief of losing your child, OK, but you’ve brought all of this additional luggage to the table: the shame, that you weren’t a good parent, that you didn’t raise your kids right, all that stigma associated with addiction. You’re just dealing with all that. No one understands that lane unless you’ve been in it.
Shelly and Sue decided they were going to start a support group for families who lost a loved one. I think the first meeting had 27 people. Now the average is about 12. It’s mainly women. This group has been up and running for a year and a half now. There is such a solid core group of about 15 that have brought each other back to life. I go there sometimes and share and speak. What I’ve learned from that group is I’ve watched them be broken and shattered and then come back to life. When I’m self-involved and it’s just me, myself and I — I drown in my own self-pity. But when I start sharing and I can encourage you and you can encourage me, we bring each other back to life. Often people say, “How do you do this? How do you share your story?”
Shelly: My son took his last breath on the land this rock was on. It just had a special place for me. It was really hard at first to go to the lot. I would just break down. After a while it became my favorite place to go. I would go and pray over that land. I started feeling like something’s going to come from this. We’re going to get this land and we’re going to do something on this land.
Travis: Shelly would start going to this lot and she would walk over there and spend time there. Then she would tell me about it. She would bring home some flowers she picked there. Wild weeds is what they were, but she’d bring them home and call them something beautiful. Then she even started taking a couple friends over there that she’s close with and they started praying over there.
Shelly finally convinces me that I have to go over there. So the first time I went to the property, I threw up. I stood there for maybe a couple minutes. And then I slowly started going over there. It was better than the graveyard.
Shelly: At the one-year anniversary of Ty’s death, we decide to have our closest friends and Ty’s closest friends go over to the property. We got permission from the guy who owned it. There were probably about 20 of us. We went and had a remembrance circle. We played a song. We had a pastor that prayed for us. I had little roses and at the end everyone took one. I had made a memorial up by the road — a cross my dad had made. I added flowers, a picture of Tyler and the dates. Everyone took a rose up there and placed it at the memorial. And that’s when I took this rock. Basically, I was claiming that land.
Travis: Shelly started suggesting we should do something with that property. I would tell her to take a deep breath. And then she’s no longer asking. She’s telling me, “We’re going to buy that property. I want you to get a loan. I want you to start negotiating a deal to buy that property. I want you to call a realtor.” I really didn’t want the property. I wasn’t that excited about it.
What happened in between there was we took the next steps to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3). We formed an executive board. We started speaking in middle schools and high schools. We started sharing our story in churches and community events.
So we’re doing our thing and going to the next level. We had our national convention coming up for the Teamsters Union. As union leaders, we are also community leaders. And there’s nothing affecting our community bigger than this epidemic. So I put a letter together, shared our story, telling about our nonprofit and I float out there that I’d like to speak at the convention and get the awareness piece going.
I really struggled internally with whether I should write it. Who are you? Who do you think you are? Right? Like you’re going to change something. So I wrote the letter and brought it home and shared it with Shelly. She said put it in the mail. Send it.
I got a call back from the international office a few days later saying they agree with me and to plan on speaking at the convention. I figured the next call I was going to get was that before I share my speech I had to share it with them. And they were going to edit it and tell me I’m limited to five minutes. But that never happened. They said, “You take as long as you want and you say whatever you want.” So I gave this speech at the Teamsters convention. Shelly was with me. My oldest daughter was with me. Out in Las Vegas. It was about 15 minutes. It’s on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnNruLJ7ClA&t=314s
There were four or five thousand Teamsters in the room. After I gave my speech, Teamsters started coming to the mic from all across the country. First donation was $5,000. Second donation was $10,000. Third donation was $50,000. And it went on like that for the next hour and forty-five minutes. People sharing stories. Walls came down. People saying I’ve never told anyone I’m in recovery. Just crazy things. People coming to the mic saying, “I lost my nephew. I’m pledging $5,000.” Another guy coming to the mic saying, “I’ve been in recovery for 25 years and never told anybody because I never had the guts to. I’m pledging $5,000.” And this went on for an hour and forty-five minutes. We raised $1.4 million.
Shelly: We have received $1,375,000, so we’ve received almost all of it. They also took a floor donation and raised $22,000.
Travis: The next day after I told my story, they passed the hat and took $22,000 cash right off of the convention floor. Largest donation in the history of the Teamsters. So it was crazy. And now I get to tell Shelly we get to go buy that property.
Shelly: The property is not big enough and won’t work out for what we want to do. But the property started the vision for something bigger.
Travis: One of the things I said in the speech was our mission is to buy the property and put a treatment facility right there where they found our son. Our vision has grown because now we have tangible money and we can really do something. That property is not big enough to do it on. There was a used-car dealership next to it, but if we had bought it, we would not have had any money left.
At that point, we start working with Summit County and the ADM board [Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health] and start talking about trying to fill the gaps. Ultimately, that leads to forming a partnership with another nonprofit group. And the county donated 28 acres to us.
We started talking to the county. We told them they had an obligation to this epidemic too. Help us solve this problem. They decided they had to tear down the sanitarium because of asbestos. They spent $800,000 demolishing the buildings and getting the land ready to sell. So I’m going to them and saying, “Hey, I want you to give me this property.” And they’re saying, “Hey, we just spent $800,000 to get this property ready to sell. We’re not giving it to you.” So Shelly and I talk a little bit and we realize we don’t need 100 acres. If we can get 25, we can do everything we want to do. So I go back and try to get them to give us this property. And they say we’re not giving it to you. And I say I need 25 acres. Give me 25 acres. I don’t need it all. We finally convinced them to do it. The epidemic is that bad. Summit County gave us 28 acres for long-term treatment, relapse prevention, wellness, and sober-living homes. It will be a sober-living campus.
The Teamster’s pledge gave us a whole bunch of money. It gave us credibility. To raise money as a nonprofit, you have to be credible and you have to have resources. You can have the greatest heart in the world, but if you don’t have resources, you can’t get anything done. If you’re not credible, you can’t raise resources. People are not going to give money to someone they don’t trust.
How did you feel after you raised $1.4 million at the Teamsters convention?
Shelly: We were calling people to tell them about it and no one believed us. I am so glad I was there because it was the most awesome thing to see.
Travis: The Teamsters union has its own stigma. There were a bunch of grown big hard Teamster guys and at that meeting they were crying. We were breaking down barriers. It was crazy. It was an incredible experience.
Shelly: We were still at the conference for two or three more days and we could not go out of our room without people coming up to us. It almost got exhausting because everyone was sharing their life stories with us. It just knocked down walls.
It allowed us to dream big. We already knew the gaps, but we were now really able to identify them and see how we could fit in. We will be providing education, awareness, support, recovery and a wellness center that will treat people once they get out of treatment so they don’t fall through the cracks.
Travis: Here’s what we know: All scientific evidence says it takes a year for the brain to heal from opioids. But we only treat people for 30, 60, 90 days and then tap them on the butt and say good luck. And then we wonder why people relapse and go through treatment and then relapse and relapse. 70% of people who go through treatment relapse within the first year. Usually the first week in coming out of treatment. Because treatment isn’t long enough.
We need long-term treatment. And the nonprofit organization we are partnering with is going to provide long-term treatment on this property.
The next gap is sober-living homes. When you’re talking about sober-living homes, everyone says, “That’s great, but don’t bring those druggies into my neighborhood.” So what we do is we put them down in the inner city, two streets down from the drug dealer. And everyone wonders why they fail. The biggest gap is that not everyone can get into long-term treatment. What we’ve decided is we’re going to build a relapse prevention wellness center that’s going to be named “Tyler’s Redemption Place.”
Shelly: We are lacking community. That is partly why people have addictions because they’ve lost connection. They are also lacking coping skills and life skills.
Travis: What we know about addiction and mental health is that some form of trauma happened in that person’s life, whether it’s spiritual trauma, mental or emotional pain, or in my son’s case, physical pain. He broke his right arm four times. Had surgery two times on his right elbow. He had pins in his elbow. Pain is the driving factor in mental health and addiction.
We share our story in an effort to educate about the opioid epidemic, but also to try to bring hope. Because life is painful. And we’re on a painful journey, but we’re trying to use it in a way to offer hope back.
Shelly’s Bible is one of the things we wanted to show you. Every day when we were in active addiction, I would come down the stairs and Shelly would be in that chair reading her Bible. She just didn’t read her Bible; she wrote in her Bible and read it so much that the pages are falling out. I would come home or get up in the morning and I would kind of have my head down and Shelly’s in there crying and crying out to God and working through her Bible and praying and continuing to volunteer in our church and continuing to volunteer in our community even though everything in our life is a mess. Everything in our life is a mess.
Shelly: Let me just share this. This is the page I opened to. This is a verse I believe God gave me on 5/6/12. That was our anniversary. It says, “I will go before you and level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness which are stored in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel who summons you by name.” And I felt like God was giving me this verse and my perception was He is going to heal my son. He’s going to go out there and help others. I wrote several different times, on 1-13-12, on 3-2-14, and on 9-22-14, five days before Tyler died — I wrote, “Claiming your promises. God with faith.” I know now that He gave me that verse. And that is what He is going to do with this and that is how He is going to help others.
Travis: Some people might say, “How does a heroin addict end up in heaven?” Right? Some people might say, “How does someone die of a heroin overdose and end up in heaven?” Obviously, they don’t understand the Bible. They don’t understand the cross. And they don’t understand what forgiveness really is. Once you accept Christ as your savior, you don’t bounce in and out of heaven because of your behavior. Once you accept and you are forgiven, you are forgiven for your sins and your future sins.
Shelly: But listen, I struggled after because it was so contradicting. I knew my son received Christ. I knew he prayed with me when he was young. I knew all of these things. But it still was like … you know … I needed to be reassured. And I just prayed, “Lord, just show me.” And I’m cleaning my bookshelves one day and going through them all. Not looking at any book. I pulled this one out and happened to open it.
Travis: The thing that drives me now when I want to give up or when things don’t go my way, what I hear now is Tyler pushing me back with things I used to say to him. You know … “Well, that’s not what you told me. Why aren’t you going to work?” The best way for us to honor Tyler is to become the very best people we’re capable of becoming. And in that, we will honor Tyler’s legacy. And we’re not going to say Tyler’s story ended because Tyler is with us in this journey. There’s a lot more to this story than just death. Or just a heroin overdose.
Wayne – That’s a long story. We want to say that ours started at University of Akron. Playing football. He had a bad shoulder injury and had it repaired after his sophomore season. He got exposed to opiates. He was prescribed 60 mg of Vicoden for the pain after his surgery. We think that was when things started to change. He started to change soon after.
Christy – It was November of 2009. We really started seeing something was not right. He was running out of money. He was on a scholarship and he should have had plenty.
Wayne – Before that, he was a normal high school college athlete. Fun-loving mid-western kid. Did he drink alcohol? Yes. Did he try marijuana? Yep. He was the type of person though that if he put something in his body that couldn’t help him become faster, stronger or better at that sport he loved, it wasn’t going to go in to his body. He looked at the body as a temple. We think he found that – through opiates – you can play with injuries and pain. There was a lot of pressure to stay on the field and compete.
So his addiction started there. And from our knowledge of it, we had a very short window to when we lost him, which was about 18 months. So it wasn’t enough time in our estimation to get educated and get help. We were parenting him through it, meaning moms are natural enablers and dads tend to coach it out of him. There’s scare tactics. There’s yelling. Screaming. Just tough it out. And both of those are not good for an addict. They’re already embarrassed and shameful of what’s going on. So my tactic wasn’t helping. Mom’s enabling wasn’t helping either.
Christy – What it comes down to is we didn’t know about addiction. There weren’t really resources. We went to intensive out patient therapy with him, but there wasn’t enough education on our part. We didn’t understand. And so you don’t know you are enabling. I didn’t even know what the word meant.
Wayne – Looking back, we probably harmed the situation more than anything. We really have to educate people on how to handle this because we did it completely wrong. And we hid the fact. It was our dirty little secret. We, like all parents, closed the doors. We were going to fix this at home and no one’s going to find out and we’re going to get back on track and no one is going to be the wiser. That’s how we approached this.
So Tyler was prescribed pain medication and then he used it for at least a year and a half, until he ran out of money. And he would get more powerful drugs. He started using heroin after a couple rehabilitations. They learn things in rehab from others – and it is always in the back of their minds that heroin is a replacement for drugs but who in God’s name wants to use a needle? He was afraid of needles.
Christy – Tyler and I were watching a show one time and it was about people using heroin. They were dirty and in an abandoned house and shooting up and I remember sitting there with him and I said “Oh my gosh. That’s so scary and that is disgusting.” And I must have said something to him along the lines of this is what could happen. And he said “Mom, I would never do that.” And it disgusted him too. That’s how strong that addiction is because that is the only choice they have because they can’t afford buying pills anymore. And that conversation was very close to the end.
Wayne – We found some signs in his room and we looked it up and thought “Oh no.” That’s when we immediately put him in inpatient rehab in Glenbeigh, which is up in Cleveland. It was an expensive rehabilitation facility with a great reputation. We called every day for a week. Three times per day. No openings. No openings. No openings. So finally on a Saturday morning they had an opening. And we rushed him up there and thought that would be able to fix everything. We had it in our minds that you go to rehab for 30 days and you are then fixed. That’s it.
Christy – And that you’ll be all better. Again, we weren’t educated and didn’t understand it.
Wayne – No. We didn’t understand relapse. And we didn’t understand how one’s tolerance level could drop. None of that.
Christy – I do remember one time in outpatient therapy going with him. It was for guests and parents too. One doctor did a presentation and I remember him saying “it takes one year for your brain to recover from opiate use.” I was stunned. I knew nothing about opiates. I remember Tyler was right next to me and I was doing everything I could not to completely break down. I remember him looking at me and he could see the fear in my face. I had no idea it took a year. And I had no idea that is how it affects your brain. All I could think of was “Oh my gosh. This is so serious.” I mean, I knew it was serious, but I didn’t understand the depth of it. Or that it was deadly.
Wayne – We have a calendar on our fridge. I would ask Tyler when the last time was that he used. He would tell me and I would circle that date and I would say “And now we have 12 months from this point.” I would tell him whenever he got that urge, let’s do something else. Let’s put on your shoes and let’s go run. Run until you are so tired. Get in the gym. You’re a gym rat. Do whatever. But just don’t give in to the urge to use drugs. Again, that was me trying to think I could coach our way out of this. Now we understand how the brain functions and that addiction overrides your pre-frontal cortex, rationalization, food, water, shelter, etc…. They turn into animals and we didn’t understand it.
Christy – So Tyler was at Glenbeigh and the counselor called and they said they wanted to release him after two weeks. I was stunned. The insurance said he was ready. The counselor was telling our insurance that he was not ready. He was not ready. Seven years ago they didn’t understand that this is long-term recovery. Even professionals didn’t understand it.
Wayne – They were treating it like the crack cocaine epidemic. They told me we’ve never had a heroin epidemic and we’re treating it like the last one until it proves us wrong. And I said “So my son’s a guinea pig?” and they said “Yes.”
Christy – I called the insurance company and cried and begged, I mean cried and cried and cried and begged.
Wayne – Christy is a school district employee so she has great insurance. That’s some of the best insurance and it still doesn’t cover enough.
Christy – So the insurance company finally said “Ok. We’ll let him stay for another two weeks.” And then at 28 days and it was time for him to leave.
Wayne – They all admit that he wasn’t ready. He said he wasn’t ready. I guess they did give us the option that for $7,000 per week, he could stay. And that was hard to comprehend. Looking back, we would have mortgaged the house and have sold whatever to stay. But you didn’t really feel that threat. It wasn’t there. So we were proven wrong.
Christy – I went and picked him up and brought him back.
Wayne – This is that point in time where you go “You know what? God has a funny way of putting things together.” Christy would never drive 3 ½ hours by herself and she had many offers from other relatives saying we’ll ride with you to go get him. And she said no, she would go by herself. They stopped at a few places on the way back to visit relatives. They had a ton of windshield time.
Christy – We stopped to visit different family members on the way home. We came home. His brothers were in the driveway. Wayne was there and he was high-fiving everyone. When I picked him up from Glenbeigh that day, he looked fantastic. He had been working out and he had cleansed himself. He felt so good and he looked good. And he had this great outlook. But when I picked him up, his counselor said to him and she looks right at him and said “Now remember, you have to do 90 meetings in 90 days.” “I will”, he said.
So we got home and he’s high fiving his brothers and hugging everyone. And that night he said “Mom, I have to go to that meeting.” And I said “I’ll go with you.” He said “You don’t have to. I have to do this on my own mom.” So he told me where he was going and what meeting he was going to be attending. It was getting late. It was midnight. And I remember looking at my phone and I was going to call him. It was 12:05am. I was getting ready to call him and he walked in the front door. He looked fantastic. He’s standing here at the counter and drinking milk and having snacks and telling us “I figured it out. I think what I want to do is be a counselor,” which a lot of addicts do. But he was talking about his future and what he wanted to do. He was healthy. He looked better than he had before he went in, of course.
Wayne – Yeah. It’s almost as if you could tell it was a different Tyler. He had a sparkle in his eyes.
Christy – It was our son.
Wayne – He was like the kid we sent to college three years ago. That funny, witty, fun loving, healthy kid. Physically, he was 20 pounds heavier and muscular. And I went “Geez, dude, you can’t play safety at that size.” And he said “I’m done playing football. Too many injuries. Forget it.” I said “Well, I’m coaching at this school. Do you want to help?” He said “Yeah, I’ll help. But tomorrow I’m going to sleep in. I’ve been getting up at 6am and going to bed at 9pm. Yeah, I’ll help you coach.” And it was all good. And you could just tell this was different. And we thought it was fixed. We’re done. Right? Going to bed was the biggest sigh of relief.
Christy – And so we all went upstairs. He jumped on his brother, our middle son Ryan, jumped on him …
Wayne – … because Ryan was on his phone and it wasn’t a school night but he was teasing him for being on his phone. And we were wrestling around. Wrestling in the bed a bit. Yeah … we went to bed fun. Laughing. We were all relieved because his brothers were happy. He was happy. We’re happy. And I think “Whew. Thank goodness.” Right? So you go to bed. You go to sleep. And I got up early and went to practice. I have a ritual where I’m the last one to bed and the first one up so I check on the kids. So at night I go check on them and make sure they’re there. And in the morning, I do the same thing. Just kind of peek in. They all have their separate rooms. But in the morning, Tyler’s door was locked. And I just thought … 23 years old … privacy … what the heck. No big deal. I remember leaving. But the weird part was … I go down the stairs and there is a crack of light under all of the doors. In his room, I saw a shadow move.
Christy – I saw the same thing.
Wayne – And I swore I heard him snoring but maybe I’m wrong. But I saw something move. And I went to practice.
Christy – A couple hours later I was making breakfast and my neighbor stopped over for something and I’m realizing it is getting late. The boys are all sleeping in and it’s a beautiful Friday morning. And it’s sunny. They need to get up. I went upstairs and opened Ryan’s door. “Ryan, you need to get up.” Went to Tyler’s door. It was locked. And before that, I had gone up earlier and I swore I had seen the light on under his door. It looked like the light was on and I thought he was getting up. So I got to Tyler’s door and it was locked. And I said “Tyler” and he didn’t answer. And I said his name again. And then something just came over me. Concern. We can unlock our bedroom doors from the outside if you want to really get in. So I did that. And I found him. And of course from there it was chaos and everything else. So he passed away. He used …
Wayne – … so Tyler used in the privacy of his room from midnight or 1am, until whenever he went to bed.
Christy – Something transpired from the time that he left here to go to his meeting and when he came home. He somehow got heroin. And it is so hard as a parent because you think he is doing great. He is saying he is doing great. He seems like he is doing great. And that weak moment that he had … ended his life. And to find your child dead … will never leave my brain. It will never. And you can’t live any worse nightmare than that. And there is so much guilt too. How can I lay in my bed at night and not … not … you know … know … that happened. How could I not know? So there is just so much that goes with that. And the guilt later of not knowing how to treat, doing all of the wrong things you thought were right as a parent, enabling and then finding out what it means, and yelling or whatever was Wayne’s version – there’s so much guilt there. Because if we had known, we would have done things completely different.
Wayne – Completely different. And we would have probably never let him come out of rehab knowing that he’s not ready. It takes much longer. He should have been there for 3 months, or 6 months, and then outpatient. But we didn’t know.
A few years later I remember going to Glenbeigh because I happened to be speaking up in Ashtabula County. I asked them if Glenbeigh was close and they said it was 5 minutes away. I said “Wow.” I hadn’t been back there yet. When Tyler was there, we would go on weekends for family counseling. You’d go as a group and you would go individually. And it was very emotional. And you’re trying to learn about this addiction too with your child. So I went to Glenbeigh. It is a beautiful place. It used to be owned by the Cleveland Clinic. So I walk in and I have no idea what the heck I’m going to say or do. It was the opening day for the Cleveland Indians and some lady was busy putting up stuff for it. And I said “You know what, I don’t even know why I’m here, but this is who I am” and I put out my business card and pamphlet for Tyler’s Light. And she just stopped. And she goes “I know who you are. I remember Tyler.” And she started crying. And I said “How do you remember him? There are so many people.” And she said “I remember him. Trust me. Everybody here remembers him.”
I said that I heard some of the people in recovery with him had put their money together and bought a plaque. She then brought me into this theater room and there’s 100 chairs. Half of them had these plaques on the back of them. So I sat down and I’m looking at my kid’s name on a gold plate on the back of a chair that the other kids bought. So I said to her “Let me ask you a question. Why did you guys let him go? And when you let him go, why didn’t you tell us that right then that Tyler was so vulnerable to an overdose because his tolerance level went down? Why didn’t you tell us that?” She goes “To be honest with you, Wayne, we didn’t know. We didn’t know enough.” And I went back to remembering Tyler was essentially a guinea pig and I said “Geez.”
His counselor told us afterwards that she almost gives odds when people leave rehab – who’s going to make it, who’s coming back, who’s going to relapse. And Tyler was the one. She said he wasn’t coming back because he was so strong. He was leading groups.
Later that morning after Christy found Tyler, we’re sitting in our formal living room and there’s a coroner sitting next to us. The county coroner is there because Tyler’s upstairs. Our house is full of people. The coroner said “Did Tyler just recently get out of rehab?” And I just stopped and said “What kind of question is that? Why would you ask that question? I’m just curious.” He said because a lot of these fatal overdoses happen directly after rehabilitation. I said “You’re kidding me. Why?” And he explained about tolerance levels. I said “They should have told us that, right?” And he said “Absolutely.”
Again, uneducated. We learned when you’re using heroin, you should be with someone. Because you pass out. You want someone with you so you can keep each other alive. Awake. If you can get through that, then you’re ok. When you are by yourself, you are high risk. But we learned that after.