A Mother's Testimonial on How Heroin Overdose Changed Their Lives

It was still dark when the phone rang early in the morning. It jolted us from our sleep. Did the voice say "This is the Emergency Room doctor. How soon can you get here?" "What is it?" we asked. "What happened?" Silence. "How long will it take you to get here?"

Someone there had been told to wait for us in the lobby and whisked us into a little room. The doctor came in. He did not need to say a word. The look on his face said it all. I have never begged for anything in my life. But I begged that doctor. I begged him to tell me it was not true that my 18 year old daughter who had not come home that night, lay dead on a stretcher in that ER, of a heroin overdose.

What had we been thinking as we drove to the hospital? A car accident, maybe? But not this. No. This is not the sort of thing that happens to families like ours. Hardworking, honest people who love our children. We are your next door neighbor. This doesn't happen to….. US…….right?

My daughter.

She smiled, a lot. She liked to do the kinds of things that some of you probably like. Dancing. Horses. Girl Scouts. She wanted to do good things too and she did. She volunteered for The American Cancer Society Relay for Life three years in a row. She loved the horses and the people at Somerset Handicapped Riders, now known as Mane Stream. She was always eager to help with the turkey drive, or to deliver food at the holidays. But there was more to her than that. She struggled with low self-esteem and friendships. She was impulsive, and often failed to connect the dots between her actions and consequences. Characteristics of a person who is at risk of drug use.

She was really mad at us after high school graduation. Because we would not allow her to go out of state to college. We knew she was not ready. But she was working, and going to a local college, and things seemed okay. Then, sometime that summer, things started to get weird. She got fired from a good job. She was skipping classes. Hanging with a new crowd…….

There is no story to tell of a protracted struggle with drugs. No DUIs or stints in rehab. We never even saw her with a cigarette or a drink. We kept being parents: setting limits, keeping lines of communication open arranging for more therapy. And we kept believing…we WANTED to believe…. that she was telling us the truth, until we could no longer believe. July, August, September….. Things just didn't add up any more.

What we did NOT realize was that this change in personality was a major red flag. For us not to see it was our failure to connect the dots.

An epic fail.

Now what? What do you do after an immeasurable loss?

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust Survivor and a brilliant physician and author wrote a book called "Mans Search for Meaning." In it, he said: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances; to choose one's own way."

Which brings me to what I want other parents to know.

My daughter did not get a second chance. For her, it was one and done.

I believe I have.

YOU are my second chance.

YOLO. I know….. Nobody says that any more.

A couple of years ago that saying went viral with the hip hop song "The Motto" and for a while it became an anthem for the younger generation. Because what is youth for, if not a time to test the limits of acceptable behavior? People used it to persuade their friends to take risks, or do something they normally wouldn't do. Buy those expensive jeans? Go for it! Pop that pill? Hey, why not? YOLO! So…. no one says it anymore, because it's not "cool"….. But people are still living their lives that way, and using "you only live once" as an excuse to make a bad decisions.

It's all about happiness, right? If someone asked you what you want from life, chances are you would say "I just want to be happy." What does that mean? What is it that will make you happy? Stuff? Money? Cars? Clothes? If stuff made people happy, then the people who had the most stuff would be the happiest. And we know that's not true.

So what if there is something more, something better?

Happiness, I believe, is a side effect. It is what happens when you figure out why you are here. When you find your passion, and live it. What does that mean to YOU? Is it Art? Music? Engineering? Nursing anyone? Do you care about the environment? Animals? The answer is inside of you.

It starts when you look in the mirror and say "I am unique. I am irreplaceable." Yeah… you might want to close the door before you start talking to yourself. But go ahead and SAY IT. Because it is true. "There is a reason why I am here. The decisions I make matter, not only to myself but to the people who love me and care about me." Now…. when you really believe it, proceed to step number 2.

There is so much that is wrong with our world. You need only to turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper or …the phone…. to see it. It is broken. Where to we start? We feel so small, overwhelmed and powerless to change it.

But we are NOT powerless.

I am 100% sure that someone sitting here tonight knows someone who is in trouble. Would you do nothing if you had a chance to change a life, maybe even save a life? You don't have to confront someone face to face. You could write a letter, even an anonymous letter to a parent, teacher or another trusted adult. Here is the problem: My own kids and their friends have told me: The worst thing you can do is "tell" on someone……Really? I can think of something worse than that. To stand by and say nothing and do nothing while another human being self-destructs.

If you don't believe that can happen, I am here to tell you, it can.

Edmund Burke said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I am asking you NOT to be a bystander.

I will close by telling you about a dream I had. I don't remember exactly when, but it was soon after my daughter died. She was just standing there. No smile. No frown. And she said two words: "I'm sorry".

Then she was gone.

My daughter is not here to speak to you. But if she was, I imagine she might say something like this:

I really AM sorry.

It wasn't worth it.

I didn't think I was going to die.

If I had another chance, I would make a different choice.

I would CHOOSE LIFE.


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