We received word this weekend that my 41 year old son-in-law was found dead from a suspected overdose. Receiving that phone call and listening to the heart wrenching screams from my daughter was hard, very hard. But the reality is this, when there is active addiction in a family, every time you answer the phone, on some level, this is your greatest fear.
How it happened at this point is irrelevant, but what brought him to leave this earth at the young age of 41 is most likely the story you’d would expect. Suffice to say he endured a traumatic childhood full of stuff no child should have to endure. He most likely tried to get through the storms by self medicating, probably first with a little pot, then some pills and then the heavy stuff that the toxicology report will contain.
He was a part of our life for almost twenty years and in that time we saw the very best of him and the very worst. For the few years he and my daughter lived with us, he tried to be helpful, he liked to mow the grass on the riding lawnmower, cigarette in one hand, his signature Mountain Dew in the other.
But there was also the other side, the side where we suspected he was using, late night runs, things around the house that would turn up missing, always explained in a way that would arose our suspicions, but never in a way that would lead to an out and out confrontation. People who live with addictions in their families can relate.
When his son was born, he held it together, he worked hard to help our daughter get through school and for a brief period of time, we thought all was well, we were hopeful that this precious baby would be the reason he would stop. But that wasn’t to be.
Instead, overtime the addiction won, even with multiple times in rehab, each time leaving with a renewed sense of hope, it was only a matter of time that his body would crave more and he found himself falling prey to the desire.
There is such a stigma with addiction, the words people use, loser, druggie, why can’t they just stop, they got what they deserve, and on and on. Addiction is a disease, it’s been proven that there are actually changes in the brain and for so many addicts, as much as they want to stop, they just can’t. And for many, they have burned every bridge with every loved one which in turn makes it difficult for those left behind to figure out how to grieve, was there something they could have done to prevent their loved one from looking for that last high?
Today it was announced that over 100,000 people died this past year of overdoses, this is a staggering number and for every victim there is a ripple effect, wives, children, brothers, nieces, nephews, everyone in the family is touched in some way.
In the end, I believe that he deserved better, that perhaps with the right therapy or a comprehensive long term rehab program, he could have made it in recovery and instead of his son visiting him at the Funeral Home this weekend, he and his son would be shopping together for the Thanksgiving Turkey.