I am in the midst of a horror that no parent should ever be subjected to. My 34 year old son died today of an overdose of heroin which was laced with fentynal. Am I blaming others for this tragedy? Yes and No. I blame no one and I blame everyone. I blame my son for his weakness to what became a fatal addiction and I blame the so-called "friend" who introduced him to "recreational" heroin. But most of all I blame myself for not seeing what was right in front of me, a brilliant young man being taken over by a poison that he couldn't control. And yet I know, when someone becomes an addict, they become two separate people, the one you know and love and the one which is driven by the drugs.
My son was unlike other users, but just like them. He was salutatorian of his high school class, all-state on the instrument he played, linebacker on the football team, and mile runner on the track team. He was president of his congregational youth group. Not exactly, the resume of a future addict. At the point of high school graduation, he was admitted to all six colleges that he applied to and was offered scholarships to each. In addition, he won both locally and nationally based scholarships. This young man went to a division I school, marched in their band, became a section leader, and played in the University Symphony Orchestra. He graduated college magna cum laude. Still not quite the resume of a future addict.
Then the world of work. He went west, was hired by a prestigious school district, and taught honors mathematics and chemistry. Eventually he came back east and was quickly hired by a local school district to teach junior and senior math. During this period of time he earned a second bachelor's degree and was completing his Master's of Education degree in Mathematics. He planned to go on for his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics.
And then the roof caved in. A "close" friend somehow got him to try a "recreational" dose of heroin. For my son, there was no such thing as a recreational dose. He became an addict. The addiction quickly deepened and his personality changed. Anything for a fix. He used his math skills to deplete my retirement accounts by over $110,000 in two years. I would have gladly given him that money if it went toward getting him clean. He was arrested and jailed twice. He went to rehabilitation twice. Finally, at the end of his last incarceration, he came home and appeared to be getting his life together again. His eyes were clear, his sense of humor was back, he passed all of his random drug tests. He had just passed his real estate tests and was scheduled to start a new job in a week. Things seemed to be going well.
And then the call that every parent dreads. "Can you please come to so and so hospital? Your son was involved in an accident." After you calm down you travel to the designated hospital, you are led to the ICU and told what really happened. Your son overdosed and they think that his heart stopped for at least 17 minutes. Your heart palpitates because you know what the end result is going to be. The hospital may be able to keep the body alive, but the brain is gone. The brain that performed so admirably through high school and college was already murdered by the body that craved drugs. My wife and I had to make a decision. We held it off as long as we could, but the cerebral cortex was destroyed, the brain wave connectors were gone, the seizure activity was constant. As my wife cried hysterically that all she wanted was her son back, I had to make the decision to end life support.
Unless you've lost a child, you can't understand the agony of these moments. I can only give this advice to the rest of you. If you even suspect a loved one is addicted, intervene in any way possible. They may hate you in the moment, but it is far better than being a parent pleading for the return of a child who is never coming home.