Our son and brother, Adam, overdosed on November 24, 2012. He was only 22 years old. Adam was an incredible person, who lost his life after an accidental heroin overdose, after 150 days of not using. He struggled every day with a substance use disorder. Adam worked hard on his recovery through treatment, recovery support, and medication. However, due to the debilitating challenges faced by those with this brain disease, some lose their battle. We cannot change what happened to Adam, but we can be a voice for others so they know they are not alone.
Adam was born December 19, 1989, and we were lucky enough to bring him home on Christmas Eve. He was our 9 lb. 4 oz. big, baby boy. He was always smiling and happy. Adam learned to walk at a very young age and his motor was always running. My family often referred to him as the “Adam Bomb.” At five years old he was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication for hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Adam was gifted with his hands. He loved woodworking and became the handyman around the house. He was computer-literate and had received his A+ certification as a computer technician as well. He was regularly called by many with PC emergencies and were in need of troubleshooting or computer repairs. Adam never hesitated to help when asked. However, his true passion was working on cars. At age 13 he bought a 1966 mustang for $600 and decided to restore it himself and worked on it all through high school. He also loved his Mitsubishi Eclipse and always kept it in tip-top shape.
As a teen Adam struggled with depression and it was difficult to find the right treatment. The doctors put him on multiple medications, which ended up causing seizures. He was then diagnosed with epilepsy and once the medication was adjusted the seizures stopped.
Despite all the diagnoses and medications, the one that had the biggest impact on Adam’s life came in 2007, when he was 17 years old. Adam was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease and given a prescription for OxyContin. This dangerously addictive medication quickly became a problem, and Adam was soon physically dependent, not just for pain but also to function in his daily life. This was where his addiction began.
In January 2008, at 18 years old, Adam checked himself into the hospital for being suicidal. He was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder and an addiction to opiates. He received counseling, started on bipolar meds, and was put on high doses of Suboxone to help with his addiction and also relieve his back pain. But six months later, after another night in the psych ward, he gave up on that medication and started using heroin.
It is absolutely paralyzing to learn that your son has a substance use disorder. The stigma of having a child struggling with addiction caused us to withdraw rather than seek help. We learned how to live life with the truth hidden in the back of our hearts. We knew Adam was more than his addiction, and we desperately wanted our boy back. We joined a family support group to help us move him toward recovery. However, we soon learned that we could not fix our now adult son. Only he could find the answers to his sobriety. Real change had to come from his own motivation. We needed to support him, but not work harder on his recovery than his medical professionals did.
Adam suffered and struggled for many years; finally, he found a medication that seemed to work for him. Adam received injections of Vivitrol for opioid addiction, and his life started getting back on track. After not using for 13 months, he relapsed and this time he started injecting heroin. After a six-month relapse, he set up an appointment to start receiving his Vivitrol shots again. In early November of that year, Adam was due for another injection. When he went in for his appointment, he managed to convince his doctor that he was ready to “try” one month without the shot. His entire life, Adam hated being on medication; whenever he started doing better, he insisted he didn’t need it any more. So he stopped taking Vivitrol and scheduled an appointment for December to be re-evaluated.
Weeks later, Adam totaled his car on his way home from work. This was just too much and, after 150 days of not using heroin, Adam relapsed and lost his battle with addiction. Over 300 people attended his funeral. A woman Adam worked with told us that just a few days before, Adam stopped to help someone fix a flat tire; this just goes to show you that people are more than their addictions.
These past few years have definitely been difficult. We speak out about substance use disorders so other families can find support, resources, and recovery, but most of all so they won’t feel isolated or hopeless. We speak out so our community does not have to live with the shame and negative stigma society associates with addiction. We speak out because every time we tell our story, it diminishes the sting.
Never give up on someone you can’t go a day without thinking about!
Forever Young, Forever in our Hearts!!
We love and miss you, Adam!