My son, Daniel was a sensitive soul with a heart of gold. He always had this enthusiasm and excitement in him that is hard to describe. He was a talented musician whose passion for music started at a young age. He could play many instruments with guitar being his favorite. He had a goofy sense of humor that he shared with friends and family. He was extremely smart and school was a breeze for him. I can’t even recall a time that he ever got in trouble at school. Parents and teachers loved him. He was an only child, but many of his friends and cousins considered him a brother. He was a ladies man and had just as many girl friends as guys. He loved getting dressed up to go to school dances. He was a mama’s boy and we were very close. He never went through that “embarrassed to spend time with mom” phase and we went to many rock concerts together. We almost always said “I love you” when saying goodbye. He was the type of person to lend an ear when you need it, or a hug, or do anything to make you smile.
My son, Daniel also was a person who suffered from the disease of addiction. And that disease ended up taking his life. On October 14, 2017 Daniel passed away of an accidental drug overdose after being in recovery for 7.5 months. He was 21 years old. He never did get to the point of being completely open with me about his addiction, so I will share some of what I know. Around the end of high school, I began noticing changes in him, such as being more distant, but thought this was normal sign of independence as he was becoming an adult. He ended up moving out of the house with roommates and later shared an apartment with just his girlfriend. He started struggling financially and asked to borrow money often, although in talking to others, I was told this was normal at his age. His life was slowly unraveling and I couldn’t shake my gut feeling that it was my worst fear. We have a number of family members that have struggled with addiction. We had already lost Daniel’s Grandma Robin and Uncle Erick so I knew how dangerous this disease is. When Daniel finally admitted he had a problem, he told me that he had not come clean sooner, because he was ashamed that he made the same mistakes that other relatives had made. These “mistakes” are ones that many of us have made, as science does not have a method yet to predict who will become addicted. Whether it is by taking that first drink of alcohol at a party, or using pills prescribed from a doctor, or in Daniel’s case an opioid prescription when he had his wisdom teeth removed at age 18. He sought out more of these pills and eventually turned to heroin when he could no longer afford them. His overdose was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is even stronger and cheaper to produce than heroin. Daniel had been doing very well before his relapse. He was back home (after attending recovery programs out of state), working full-time and spending time with friends and family. I truly believe that he wanted to recover and rebuild his life. Relapse is a normal part of this disease, and sadly, one more time is often fatal.
I had been hesitant to share Daniel’s struggle with addiction on a larger scale, although I’ve no problem sharing one-on-one or in a small group. I believe this is because that was the place Daniel was at when he left us. He would talk about his addiction and recovery with close friends and family. He even talked about going back to the rehab program he had attended and speaking to help others who were in treatment. But he wasn’t comfortable yet sharing with everyone and this is because of the stigma that surrounds drug addiction. This stigma makes it even harder for those struggling with addiction and their families to fight this deadly disease. Anyone who knows Daniel knows he has a huge heart and I’ve come to the realization that if it could possibly help even one person in any way by telling his story he would want that. I will do my best to be the voice that he no longer has.
There are no words to describe how much I miss Daniel, and I’ll never get over losing my son. I do find comfort in talking with others that have been through the same thing. Shortly after Daniel passed I started attending a grief recovery group called GRASP (Grief Recovery after Substance Passing). It has been so healing to be surrounded by people who understand the circumstances that are very unique to this type of loss. You can freely discuss how you feel. There is no judgment for you or for your loved one. GRASP is a nationally recognized grief recovery group where you’ll find much needed support, hope and understanding. If you’ve lost someone to an overdose, consider looking up a GRASP group in your area. http://grasphelp.org/
Thank you for allowing me to share Daniel’s story and for allowing Daniel and I to be voices for change,
Daniel’s mom, Andrea