I would like to tell you about my son, T.J. The day of his birth was the happiest day of my life. He was my first born and was a wonderful baby - always happy. T.J. grew up to be curious, friendly, smart, had many friends, and was a good student. In a mother’s eyes T.J. was the perfect child, but I hope that someone listens to T.J.’s story and it will prevent people from making the same deadly mistakes T.J. did.
Today, thousands of teenagers and young adults are dying every year from accidental drug overdoses.
In middle school, T.J. was one of the kids that came home after the drug presentation and talked about how bad drugs are, and that he would never do them. Less than one year later, in 8th or 9th grade, T.J. started smoking marijuana. When I found out it became a constant argument between us. He initially denied it, then told me there was nothing wrong with it - marijuana was natural and was going to be legal soon.
It is said that marijuana is a gateway drug, and T.J. argued that it wasn’t true. T.J. was wrong. I believe he started drinking alcohol at the age of 16 or 17, at parties with his high school friends. Until his senior year, T.J. was doing what some teenagers do; go to school every day, complete schoolwork, work a part-time job, and then smoke/drink with friends on the weekends. I am sure T.J. thought he did not have a problem; it wasn’t like he was going to school high or drunk – it was only on the weekends.
T.J. was a very active member of our church’s youth group. He attended five mission trips with our church throughout all four years of high school. After T.J.’s death, one of his close friends from the youth group told me she was sitting on the bus next to T.J. on the way to one of their mission trips in West Virginia and had a conversation about drugs. She vividly remembers how adamant T.J. was about never crossing the line of doing drugs other than marijuana. He talked about how “crazy” kids were that used pills and other drugs.
During his senior year of high school T.J. was high and/or drunk and was offered a pill. It was that one pill, that one decision that sealed T.J.’s fate. Things for T.J. quickly escalated and later spiraled out of control when he went off to college. When T.J. would come home for vacation he was out every night. I used to tell him that the habits he was getting into could easily become an addiction. T.J. laughed off my concerns.
T.J.’s grades for the first two years of college had been acceptable. He later joined a fraternity and I knew he was having more fun than he should, and not studying the way he should have been. I later found out that T.J. stopped attending his classes the fall semester of his junior year and his friends were concerned.
When T.J. came home for Christmas break his junior year, I was so worried about him that I set up an intervention and offered to take him to a treatment facility. I did not know at that time how serious T.J.’s addiction was. T.J. stayed out every night and always appeared to be drunk or high. The many times I tried to talk to him about drugs he always denied that he had a problem, always saying he was home from college and just having fun with his friends. I had his driving privileges taken away because I was worried about him hurting himself or someone else. Either his sister or I had to take him everywhere or his friends would pick him up.
Instead of returning to school the spring semester of his junior year, T.J. was admitted to an inpatient treatment facility for 30 days. I came to find out that what started in his senior year of high school, with trying that pill, turned into a heroin addiction two years later. When I asked why he tried heroin, T.J. said he was was curious, and already high on pills, marijuana, or alcohol when that decision was made.
Once he completed his treatment, T.J. said he couldn’t believe how stupid he was and would never do those things to his body again. The sad truth was that he had already changed the way his brain functioned and as much as he didn’t want to be addicted - he was.
T.J. stayed clean for about six weeks and turned to drugs after several stressful events. I will never forget walking into the basement and finding him on the couch in the dark crying. T.J. hated what drugs had done to his life. He told me many times he wanted his regular life back. After two months of taking drug tests on a regular basis, which he would periodically fail, I forced him back into treatment against his will. This time T.J. only stayed for two weeks.
When talking with T.J.’s drug counselor about why he released earlier than expected she said, that T.J. seemed to know what he had to do and had told her that he did not want to end up dead or in jail.
Four days after he was released from the second treatment facility, I came home from work early after not being able to get in touch with T.J.. I went to his bedroom, but the door was locked. I banged and screamed his name. Finally I had to call 911, so they could break into his room. The police told me a few minutes after breaking into his room that T.J. died from a heroin overdose. That was May 28, 2014.