There is an epidemic afoot, a plague on households across the land. It is an equal opportunity offender, impacting rich and poor, black and white. The opioid crisis is getting worse. The number of deaths from opioids in 2017 was six times higher than in 1999. According to the CDC, drug overdoses killed more than 700,000 people from 1999-2017 in just the United States.
The numbers can’t begin to tell the whole story of devastation and grief. More evidence of how pervasive it is: Almost all of us know someone who is dealing with drug use in some way.
I have definitely dealt with it. It started with a few white lies and ended with death for my sons, Christopher and Kelly. Both died before the age of 25. They were my only sons, and I miss them every day.
My wife and I raised them in as close to an idyllic setting as possible. As their father, I did the best I could for them. I had a good job and worked every day. I coached their sports teams. I went to all the school functions and parent-teacher conferences. I modeled, as best as I knew how, what a good life looks like.
Then, one day, trouble came calling. At first it was just a whisper, a hint of trouble and deceit here and there from my boys who, until then, had been as trustworthy as they come. Those small moments were just the first steps down into an abyss filled with anger, sadness, drugs and, eventually, overdose and death.
There’s a line in a Carrie Underwood song called “The Bullet” that says ‘mamas ain’t supposed to bury their sons.’ Fathers shouldn’t either.
As I went through this valley, I often wondered if others like me were going through this, too. I felt alone a lot of the time. I second-guessed myself and wondered if there might be something else I should be doing.
I have learned that this is a common feeling among parents who are doing their best but are still dealing with the scourge of addiction and all that it brings.
My sons are gone. But I decided that something good should come out of all of this, or else the whole experience would be a waste. I wanted my boys to leave a legacy, and I would see to it with everything in my power that their legacies would be all about helping and encouraging others. I launched the Chris and Kelly HOPE Foundation and began to offer financial aid and encouragement to the efforts of organizations around the country who are on the front lines of this battle.
This space will be a place for honesty. What you will read here will be unvarnished truth. It might be raw and emotional. I hope that you will find solace here, and if you are addicted that you will seek help because there’s a lot of help out there for you. If you are a parent and feeling like you missed something and that you should have done more, I understand completely.
Come along with me. We’ll walk together. Hopefully, you’ll reach out to me and connect in some way.
I’ve written a forthcoming book about my experiences with my sons and moving through grief. I’ll mention it here from time to time, but this is not a marketing column. I hope that my book will be a bestseller, but more importantly, I hope it will be a lifeline to those in need.
Because, at the end of the day, we are all in this together. We need each other’s support. We need to learn from each other. And if we do, maybe, just maybe, we’ll win this fight.