Monday, November 9, 2009

Hold Your Children Tight


"Jakie"

June 15, 1987 - November 5, 2009


The first time I met Jake he was six years old, blond and blue eyed with a smile that stole my heart away. I loved him immediately. My son, Zach, and Jake met in first grade becoming fast friends. From that point on, for the next twelve years, he was practically a member of our family. I would sit at little league games with Jake’s mom cheering on the boys while his father coached the team. The boys grew older and their fathers would take them golfing. The two of them spent many hours together, fishing and swimming at the lake in our subdivision. I have photos of them in their white shirts and ties making their First Communions, and then their Confirmations. More pictures of them at grade school dances and graduation fill my photo albums. They grew older still, attending Homecoming dances and football games. Jake took up wrestling and won several state titles. My husband and I divorced Zach’s senior year of high school. His father moved to Singapore and I moved into the city. Zach changed schools and he saw less and less of Jake. Zach went off to college, but Jake would still drop by my house and see how we were doing. I saw a change in Jake that made me uncomfortable. I would call Zach and ask him what was going on, but I never quite got a straight answer. It was all speculation. Thursday night, at 10:30 PM, Zach’s quivering voice informed me, “Mom, Jake’s dead.”

My heart sank. Surely, he’s joking. It can’t be. I was in disbelief. Not the little boy who sneezed on your birthday cake? Not the little boy whose smile could warm any heart? Twenty-two years old? No! How did he die? I should have known better than to ask. My first thoughts were of his parents and the hell they must be in, the hell they must have been in for the last several years. These things don’t just happen over night. Yes, the boys drank in high school. Yes, I believe Zach smoked pot when he went away to college, but so did I. I did not want to believe that the little boy who came to visit me, making sure I was doing fine, had died of a heroin overdose.

Zach rode the Amtrak home from school Sunday morning. We arrived at the mortuary that afternoon, seeing the line of people come to pay their respects curving out into the parking lot. Forty-five minutes later I heard, “Oh, Zach!” and I watched Jake’s mom’s arms fly around my son’s neck. They stood there sobbing, unable to release each other for several minutes. I have never witnessed such a heart-wrenching scene. I knew she was thinking what I was thinking. How did things get so far off track? The sight of Zach reminded her of better days. Happier times. Wasn’t it just yesterday they were golfing?

Jake’s death was the third drug related death in the last several months from our former little haven. Heroin has moved into the suburbs, your suburbs. It is cheap and easily obtainable and it isn’t ghetto any longer. I beg you, hold on to your children. Educate yourselves and be involved. If you know of any child that has taken the road that Jake took, do not do what I did, which was nothing. Speak up! Say something. Show them you care about them and love them. Perhaps you will save a life. It is too late for me to go back, now. My heart may never heal and I know for sure, Zach’s won’t. Jake’s dead.



15 comments:

  1. That is tragic. No matter where they're from, kids should never feel the need to resort to such dependency. Where are we, as families, friends and communities, failing them?

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  2. kobico, you are absolutely right, it doesn't matter where they are from. I simply had no idea this drug had wormed its way into suburbs everywhere. When I googled it, I found tons of articles about it. It is absolutely heart breaking. Good question... How are we failing them? I'd like to know so we can fix it.

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  3. My heart goes out to all of you. Drugs shatter lives, and not just the one who took them. What a handsome young man, tragic loss.

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  4. alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription drug addiction is the epidemic we SHOULD be concerned about. We are loosing a whole new generation to the disease of addiction. we have so far to go as a society to understand how addiction sneaks up on an individual, how it progresses, how to recognize it, what to do. And to have compassion for that person. Yes, a person makes that first decision to try alcohol, or weed and other drugs. It is very accepted in high schools and especially college to "party". Don't think for a minute that alcohol is not a very dangerous substance. We have seen that over and over in the Peoria area in the last few years. No one intends to get addicted or harm others, but some studies say 10% or more will. We are just beginning to understand how big a role genetics may have. And it is a horrible, devastating,heart breaking road. We have treatment centers ( if you can even get that person to go, if there are openings and money)but, 30 -60 days is not a solution in itself. Sober living environments, communities,aftercare etc, need to be improved and available. Illinois has the worst offering of treatment of most states. An immediate, tragic situation. People die everyday in the state of Illinois from their addictions because they are on waiting lists to get in treatment centers.I doube many know that. We need to become more educated on how to stop enabling, and how to help. We need to educate ourselves,put money in research, reform our judicial system when it comes to addiction, love that individual, not look the other way, or look down on them because they brought it on themselves or think it will get better when they get older or "mature". Most don't have that time before addiction takes their life. Please don't ever think an addict deserves what he gets. That attitude is stopping any forward movement in this tragic epidemic. We ALL have "Jake's" in our lives if we look around. Unfortunately if not you probably will sooner than later. I knew the smiling , big heartd Jake too. We had lost track of him too. I am so sorry and so sad. I have learned more about addictions than I ever wanted in the last few years for many reasons. I continue to seek out how or what I can do to make a difference. I keep getting pushed that way. There is hope and recovery is possible.

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  5. It appears that the pattern of alcohol or drug use begins as either a method to enhance life or to escape life, or as a self esteem issue. The person doesn't feel like they fit in, or feels like life is boring and drugs/alcohol would make it more exciting. It's hard to say at what point it becomes an addiction, and how much is a physical addiction and how much a psychological addiction.

    Jake's story is all too common, and I think there must have been some underlying personal story that led to the common use of recreational drink/drugs going beyond the point of no return for him. There's always a story.

    What a young age, though, to get into a heroin addiction! We've had a problem in our area with meth and kids stealing prescription drugs. Well, whatever a person's drug of choice is, it's just a cryin shame that so many kids and young people feel that need to enhance/escape this life in the first place. And I just don't think there will ever be an answer for how to stop it, because there will always be a base of people who get those drugs out there in the first place - for profit, and with no thought to the damage it does to the individual, the family, the society.

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  6. karen, you are so right... drugs shatter lives. Losing Jake was tragic beyond belief.

    Anon, My heart goes out to you also, because I know what you have been through these last few years yourself. I can hear the pain in your voice when you try to relate it to people. Jake's death had to bring so much of it back for you. It really hit home. Education is key. And we need to step out of our boxes to help others. Fear keeps us back.

    Wander, Yes, I have asked myself many times what makes one child go one way and another the other. Prescription drugs is a huge problem. And yes, it isn't just our children. So many adults are in this painful state also. God.. it makes me want to scream.

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  7. MAWB:

    My heart goes out to you...

    http://emergepeoria.blogspot.com/2009/11/my-heart-goes-out-to-you.html

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  8. Thinking of you & yours right now... that sounds so trite as I write it, but it's true. Peace... Carey

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  9. just happen to wonder on this website typing in google "middleaged women" which is what I am...I have a son who is incarcerated because he robbed to feed his heroin habit. It was a nightmare for 5 years trying all that we could do to help this wonderful, talented, educated youngman my son...was told many times to kick him out let him fall and he did...though I feel lucky he is alive..though soon he will be home and life will start once again for him and with hopes of a better future...I wish there was an answer to this...my heart goes out to all who have been scared by this awful empidemic.
    d

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  10. Emerge, thank you for your empathy. It's so sad... One week later, I still cry daily.

    Carey, Thank you.... thank you!

    Anon, I feel your pain. E-mail me at MAWBlogging@gmail.com I can put you in touch with someone who has been through it.

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  11. Oh, my. As a mother of two boys around Jake's age, this just broke my heart. Thank you so much for sharing it. I send you lots of thoughts of healing and sympathy.

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  12. This is a very hard post for me to read. The high school my son attends is experiencing a cluster of suicides right now. Four teens have stepped in front of the train in less than six months. It is absolutely heartbreaking and frightening.

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  13. Dutchbaby, I am so sorry. What goes through these children's minds and how do we change it? What brought them to this point that they feel their lives are worthless. My heart cannot stop breaking.

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  14. I read stories such as this and think "but for the grace of God..." It's so sad. My son has struggled with depression, drugs, etc., but is so loved and was always taught wrong from right. It's so hard to understand how they can make such terrible choices.

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