Lawlor / Fairfield schools team up to host a Heroin and Opioid Awareness event
We keep getting these emails from the school district, even though our youngest kid graduated in June. We also get reminders to put more money in lunch accounts, even though our children now enjoy their meals in college dining halls. Do we ever get off these lists? My wife asked me if I recently saw the school notice of a workshop on the growing opioid epidemic, and if I was I interested in going. I said, “No, our kids are in college. It doesn’t affect us.”
What I didn’t know was that Laura had already talked to the high school, and she was even helping to plan it. I guess I was going. Laura said, “It really does affect us. Do you know our friend Dan?” I replied, “No.” She said, “Yes, you do. Dan? You always see him at Stop and Shop and Home Depot.”
“I’m not good with names, does he always wear a baseball cap?”
“Yes, his son died of an opioid addiction. I think it was heroin. I went to his funeral.”
I never think of heroin as a problem here in our suburban utopia. I think of it as an inner-city problem. It turns out I was wrong. At my wife’s urging, I called Dan up. His son grew up in Westport and Fairfield. They were a middle class to upper middle class family. Dan taught his son to ride a bike, to hit a baseball, and Dan buried his son when he was 33 years old.
As his son grew, Dan did things with him and his brothers, things that a good suburban Dad does. He coached him in Little League. “I remember one year where we tied for first in the league. He was the second baseman. He was pretty good.” In between second base and his death, there were some very difficult years.
According to Dan, at 15 years old, his son went to a concert with a very pretty girl. Someone who was out of his league. She, according to the story, offered him Ecstasy. “A pretty girl offers you Ecstasy and it’s pretty hard to decline.” It might have been laced with something else, or there might have been other factors, because after that he was gone. Dan found out about the night about 18 months later. By that time, things had started to go downhill fast.
What followed was 18 years in and out of countless rehabs. What followed is a father picking up a son, a fully-grown son who was too far gone to walk, and having to carry him. What followed is lots of money spent on things like five months of rehab in Utah, and countless heartbreaks.
“It was the worst, I think, on his brothers, and my estranged wife. He did everything to get high. He would steal and sometimes become violent. He needed to get the next rush, and the next and the next.”
The son and the family tried everything: AA, NA and every available rehab program, draining patience and bank accounts. He went to “multiple, multiple, multiple programs,” according to Dan.
Dan isn’t a fan of certain programs. In particular, he didn’t like the way the methadone program was handled. They were not open on the weekends, so they gave his son a methadone weekend package on Fridays. He could trade that on the street for heroin. “Opioids change the way your brain works; you need to get high,” Dan lamented.
A year ago, Dan’s son got hold of some heroin that was stronger than he was used to. Dan gave the eulogy at his son’s funeral that my wife went to; my wife said Dan did not gloss over the elephant in the room when he spoke about his tragic loss.
The two high schools in Fairfield have teamed up to host a Heroin and Opioid Awareness community event for parents on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. The featured speaker will be Deirdre Daly, U.S attorney for the district of Connecticut. Plenty of scary facts will be shared, such as it really is a sweeping epidemic, with 900 people projected to die of overdoses in Connecticut this year alone — more than from car accidents and gunshots.
They will have videos of former heroin addicts telling their stories. Unfortunately, Dan’s son will not be there to tell his story, so I am sharing part of their story here. Turns out it does happen here.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunica