Seven years ago, I lost my wife to cancer. It was a long and brutal struggle, requiring mountains of opioids to help her cope with pain. My daughter, Katie, was 19 when her mother passed away. She was deeply troubled by her loss and, before I realized it, turned to her mother’s meds for an escape from her grief.
So began years of addiction and all the baggage that insidious disease carries with it. Katie began seeing a psychiatrist. But, the allure of the high was just too seductive. She had always been a good girl before the drugs, but, after her mother’s passing, she was arrested twice and was facing serious jail time when she died from an overdose in March of 2016. She was not quite 26.
No family in Loudoun should lose a child to drugs. Unfortunately, we lost 1,100 kids last year in Virginia. We are on track to lose another 1,400 this year. Too many. Too soon.
The Next Chapter
Six days after my daughter died, I saw an article in the paper about a program out of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Mike Chapman is trying to raise awareness about the local opioid crisis. He wants people to know that heroin is easy to find in our region and inexpensive to boot. To make matters worse, dealers are modifying their products to intensify the high—adding in chemicals that are, unfortunately, also lethal in small doses.
Last year alone, 44 children in Loudoun and Fauquier counties died from their addiction. This scourge is indiscriminate, taking people from all walks of life. It affects everyone. There are only three outcomes: you quit, you go to prison, or you die. But, people refuse to see the problem. We try to get our speakers in front of students, parents and educators. But, too often the response is, “There isn’t a problem here.” As a society, we are in complete denial. The few of us who know the truth soldier on.
I just hope that, before I die, one person approaches me to say, “I heard you speak, and you helped me.” That would help me make sense of a senseless tragedy and to do my part to End the Need in Loudoun. Won’t you join us and help save a life?
Over the next several months, as part of the Community Foundation’s Faces of Loudoun campaign, Loudoun Now will run monthly articles highlighting men, women and children who have found a helping hand when they needed it most. Learn more or donate to help End the Need at FacesofLoudoun.org.