Justin "Buddy" Pratt
My youngest and only son, Justin, was a cute, blonde-haired little boy who could make you mad one minute and laugh the next. "Buddy”, as he was known to friends and family alike, enjoyed fishing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, boating, four-wheeling, and bonfires.
On November 11, 2011, I lost my son to a heroin overdose.
He was only 26 years old when a friend found him dead in his apartment. Justin had struggled with addiction for over 10 years. He never wanted to talk about how bad it was and chose to distance himself from us when he was using. As his mother, I believe he probably had an undiagnosed mental illness as he often struggled in school and other highly structured environments. It was due to this struggle that he began self-medicating in a misguided attempt to cope.
One of the saddest aspects of his addiction was how it eventually turned him into someone he never wanted to become, and that others didn't want to be around. A year before Justin died, I began to realize the impact the disease of addiction has on an individual. I held onto the hope that he would someday defeat his demons and go on to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
On that fall day in 2011, that hope vanished and my life changed forever. I felt so alone and ashamed by the way my son had died, but I also knew that I had to share our story so that other parents did not feel the way I did.
I immediately began searching for a support group and found GRASP (Grief Support After a Substance Passing). Through this group, I met Julie Wendrof, who lost her son, Chris, only 4 months earlier. Through our common loss, we became instant friends and spent the next few months attending support group meeting and retreats together. In August of 2012, we held our first Overdose Awareness & Memory Walk, and through the support of our community, continue to do so annually.
We continue to actively participate in substance abuse awareness events around the country, including Chicago's Overdose Awareness Day and traveling with our daughters, Amber Pratt and Tiffany Halterman, to both the Fed-Up Rally and Unite to Face Addiction Concert in Washington, DC. Because of these events, we began to feel empowered in our cause and proud to be making history in the memory of our sons and brothers.
In 2014, on the crest of this empowerment and with the support and help of my family, we decided to take the next step in forming Buddy's Purpose to actively promote overdose awareness and substance abuse education throughout our communities in Illinois.
Justin is missed every minute of everyday!