On February 14, while most of you were sharing a time of love with your families and loved ones, my family was saying good-bye to my nephew, Josh Duvall. Josh was living in Florida when he passed away of what we thought was a drug overdose. It turns out that Josh had an enlarged heart. We always knew he had a big heart, but we never thought it would kill him -- it just couldn't take one more shot of heroin. They said there wasn't enough heroin in his system to kill him this time, but his heart thought it was enough. As I said at my nephew's service, there is a huge elephant in the middle of town, and no one talks about. And unless that elephant has come into your house and sat in your living room with your family, you can try toignore it. I know becauseit came into my house. On June 11 at 1:48pm, I was on break when my cell phone rang --it was my son. He told me through tears that he was a heroin addict and he needed help. Those words changed my life and the life of my family. We began a journey into a world where no one should have to go. When Max came to me and asked for help the lid blew off the whole stinking mess that had settled on my family -- and that included Josh. It was out. We knew. I had no idea what to do or where to turn. So I got on my computer and went to the Junkie's themselves. I found a group of people who changed my opinion of drug addicts. They taught me, they helped me, they told me what to expect, they told me where to look for help, they told me what Max would say to me, how he would lie to me about wanting to be clean. They told the truth about heroin and addiction and how these kids may make the decision to put that needle in their arm the first time, but after that, it's out of their hands. If they don't have it, they are sick. "Dope sick" is what it's called, and most would rather be dead than "dope sick." To function “normally” they must have the drug. There is a saying among addicts that, “When need becomes a must, the Devil drives.” That is when our children become strangers to us and their souls belong to something else. The empty shell of a man we took to rehab that day in 2003 only resembled my son. His soul was gone, given to heroin. I also learned from my friends that addiction comes in any size, shape and color. Heroin doesn't care what kind of family you come from or how much money you have or don't have or how much you love your child or care for them. No one wants to grow up to be an addict. Josh lost his fight with addiction after many tries to beat it, and his loss will forever be felt by those of us who loved him. As of this writing I am one of the “lucky” ones. My son always had a job and money for his habit. He never stole anything, robbed anyone, got arrested or overdosed. He graduated from rehab after four months in house, from cold turkey withdrawal, with training and counseling on how to deal with life after heroin. I am able to hold him and hug him and tell him I love him. But I have been to the other side and I know how very lucky I am. So if you're waiting until the elephant comes to your house, sits at your table and steals your child's soul. I doubt you'll have to wait long. Without a fight to stop it, it will come. In fact, if you look, you'll see it's already here. The loss of Josh is one that a whole community felt. How many of these bright, smart, loving people with so much to offer do we have to lose?
Partners for Hope raise critical funds on behalf Partnership to End Addiction – the nation’s leading organization dedicated to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Every dollar raised on behalf of the Partnership* will help ensure free, personalized family support resources, including our national helpline, peer-to-peer parent coaching, customized online tools and community education programs, can reach those who need them most. Please consider donating to this fundraiser and sharing this page.
*Donations made to Partnership to End Addiction are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. All contributions are fully tax-deductible, as no goods or services are provided in consideration in whole, or in part, of any contribution to this nonprofit organization. EIN: 52-1736502