John Robert “Bobby” Baylis II
I am the mother of three wonderful children: Bobby, Ricky and Hannah. My oldest son, Bobby, was a funny, kind-hearted kid who played sports in high school. The summer after his freshman year in college, Bobby had ACL surgery and came home with a 90-day supply of OxyContin. That was the summer he became addicted to pain medication.
The following year, he suffered from anxiety and depression and had trouble keeping up in his classes. He dropped out in the spring and within six months of returning home he had several run-ins with the police.
I will never forget the moment when I realized that my son was addicted to drugs. I was rustling through his room and found a box in the back of his closet full of childhood memorabilia. Wrapped up tight in his baby blanket was a box of hypodermic needles. At the time, it felt like the most devastating moment of my life. Having a son that was addicted to drugs and in trouble with the law was something I never expected would happen to my family. Shortly thereafter, Bobby fell into a viscious cycle--moving between jail, rehab, recovery, and relapse. Despite the fact that I kept trying to get Bobby the treatment he so desperately needed, I felt helpless.
I often think that if Bobby had access to better treatment and if he hadn’t been restricted to serve probation here in Roanoke (the town where all of his connections to drugs were), he would have been better poised to succeed in recovery.
His addiction was destroying his life and the lives of our entire family. He had stolen my credit cards, pawned items from our home and put me into financial debt. I lived in fear--I lay awake at night worrying that a drug dealer would come to our home, worrying that I would receive the call from the police saying that he had overdosed.
He was convicted of possession and distribution charges and spent three years in a Federal Prison Camp. I was grateful for this because at least he was safe and drug-free for three years. At the Camp he got his journeyman’s license as an electrician, was certified in heating and air conditioning, and cultivated his relationship to his higher power. When I went to visit him there was light in his eyes, and for the first time in a long time I did not see my son as an addict.
Then he let people from his past back into his life and his addiction was triggered. It all happened over a weekend when he relapsed for the last time. On a sunny Saturday afternoon he overdosed from heroin laced with fentanyl. I found him lying on the floor in his bedroom and the EMS couldn’t revive him. He died on June 6th, 2015 at the age of 28. He hasn’t even been gone a year and it still seems surreal.
IF ONLY I KNEW...
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
this is a national epidemic.
how dangerous and addictive pain meds are.
I needed help to save my son – it takes a village.
addiction is a disease and needs to be treated like one.
his drug use wasn’t a matter of willpower or choice; it became a physical need.
his addiction could be “triggered” at any time, even after many years of recovery.
To know then what I know now may have saved his life. “May have” is good enough for me--what I would give to not have to relive the image of my son lying dead on the floor. At first I didn’t know if I’d be able to tell my story while still grieving the death of my son, but how could I not? Our family and friends are dying every day from this disease.
After the shock of Bobby’s death I felt compelled to speak out in order to change the stigma that surrounds this disease. Since then, many people have told me their stories about a family member who is struggling with addiction or has died of it. These stories are not public knowledge. We need to reach out to families who are struggling and grieving. We need to replace judgement with respect and support. We need to let them know they are not alone.
There were 24,000 deaths in 2014 from drug overdoses and thousands more that haven’t been recorded. This number doesn’t even reflect the thousands of people that were revived from near death. Who is going to die this week?
If I only knew…
We need to get this message out to our children, our friends and our families. That’s why I am telling my son’s story.