Benjamin John Oliphant loved music. He found joy in many genres, but was drawn to rap and dance-club music in particular. In that respect, he was just like many teenagers.
In two others ways, he was not. One was that he was a skilled DJ -- especially in the art of old-school record "scratching." It was like Ben stepped out of a Beck record onto the streets of Niagara Falls. Give him "two turntables and a microphone," and a gathering was suddenly a full-blown hip grooving party. All the cool cats and kitties knew that if Ben was laying down the beats, the dance floor was the only place to be.
The other way that Ben was different was that he was autistic. Ben was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
This is what the KenCrest Organization of Delaware has to say about Asperger's and the difficulties that people who have it face in dealing with day-to-day living:
"Asperger's Syndrome is the mildest and highest-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome experience problems in social interaction and often have restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities.
"These difficulties may include eye contact, facial expressions and social gestures; poor peer relationships; lack of spontaneous sharing with others; lack of social or emotional give-and-take; preoccupation with certain interests and subjects; inflexible routines or rituals; repetitive movements."
Ben's family believes that a combination of these two differences led to a decline into drug use that cut Ben's life short last year.
On Oct. 19, 2010, Ben was found dead in an apartment on Ashland Avenue in an area known for drug-dealing. The official ruling was that a lethal cocktail of morphine and cocaine ended Ben's life, but his mother believes that the coroner's report might just as easily have read "Died by falling through the cracks."
Maribeth Oliphant still tears up at the memory of her loving son.
"This may sound bitter to you; I wrote it back in 2005, and it details the early years of Ben's life," Maribeth told me as she handing me a paper entitled "Ben's Diagnosis."
The paper talks in vivid detail about Ben's birth, early childhood, and years of misdiagnosis by the teachers and specialists in his school district.
After being misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia and being an underachiever, Ben was finally characterized as having issues that were "attitudinal."
Thankfully, Dr. Prado at the Monsignor Carr Clinic examined Ben and made a very quick and accurate diagnosis of Asperger's.
"I cried a river that night," Maribeth said. "After all of the years of them saying Ben was slow, when he actually tested out two grades ahead of his peers, of them trying to put the blame for his poor grades back on him, it was like a huge weight had been lifted."
By that time, Ben so hated the experience of school he wanted to drop out. It was recommended that he attend Niagara Academy on Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn. The school is operated by Orleans Niagara BOCES and is designed to provide a "caring and supportive environment that enhances the academic, social, emotional and vocational skills of our students."
"Even though the size of the school scared him a bit, it was a place where he was accepted, and it was a place where he could feel like he was home," Maribeth said.
Ben graduated from Niagara Academy and tried to get into Niagara County Community College, but the experience of the entrance exams was overwhelming.
"There just isn't help for these kids as they transition into adulthood. Ben knew technology, computers and sound like he knew the back of his hand, but when he went in (to the entrance exams) he was so overwhelmed by the new environment that he froze up," Maribeth explained.
Ben took a job at Smokin' Joe's for a time, but soon found himself entwined in a drug culture that links the rural areas and suburbs of Niagara County with the mean streets of Niagara Falls.
"He was taking prescription meds, opiates, ones he was buying on the streets -- Oxycontin and Oxycodone. He was trying to fit in, and drugs helped take away the anxiety he felt," said Maribeth.
It's a dirty little secret that there are a number of people who live in what is considered the "safe" part of Niagara County -- the "white" suburbs and countryside -- who routinely sell their addictive prescription pain medication to drug dealers, who in turn sell the drugs on the streets of Niagara Falls.
Ben fell in with two middle-aged women doing just that as they were trying to keep their Sanborn home from going into foreclosure. Ben did lawn work for the women in return for payment in prescription medication. One of the women would pick Ben up in the middle of the night, drive him to Niagara Falls, and drop him off to sell the drugs from the shadows of alleyways that have seen far too much heartache and early death.
Eventually, prescription meds gave way to cocaine and heroin. Ben's behavior changed, and his mother became alarmed.
She said, "It was like that scene in 'Panic in Needle Park,' where the woman is sitting there almost as if asleep, with her eyes rolled back up in her head. Ben actually looked like that, and it scared me to my core."
After a couple of near misses with drug overdoses, Ben finally took a hit that his body couldn't handle. He'd found out in the last year of his life that he suffered from an enlarged heart, and the drug speedball that he took that fateful evening was too much to overcome.
The details of his final hours are not clearly known and may never be fully understood. What Maribeth does know is that her son was staying in the home of a known drug dealer and had been to her house that afternoon while she was at work. When he arrived at her home, he had a number of drugs and prescriptions with him, including intravenous morphine with a street value of $2,000.
Maribeth's oldest son, Tom, recognized that his brother was high and had a number of illegal drugs in his possession, and threw him out of the house. That decision is a heavy burden he still carries.
"I told him, you can't do that to yourself. If it wasn't that night, it would have been another. We all loved Ben and did what we thought were the best things to do in each moment," Maribeth detailed.
When Ben couldn't be found that night, his father went looking and found Ben's car abandoned on a city street. There was vomit all over the inside of the car. When he knocked on the door of the apartment where Ben was staying, a man answered and responded to the question of if he knew of the young man's whereabouts with words that will forever haunt the Oliphant family: "He dead, man. He dead."
Maribeth Oliphant may never know just what happened the night her son died. The police investigated, but ultimately no criminal charges were filed. What she does know is that there is nothing she can do with the past, save mourning it, but she can impact the future.
Maribeth has partnered with Niagara Academy to establish the Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit kids graduating from the school and help with their transition into secondary education and adulthood. It will also serve to aid in drug-prevention education and to raise awareness of autism and the needs of those afflicted.
The world lost a kind, trusting and talented soul when Ben ascended to the heavens. His demise is a cautionary tale about the need for proper early diagnosis and placement for kids with autism and other developmental disorders, and also illustrates the evil influence of drugs here.
Ben loved music, and his mother hopes that the scholarship created in his honor will help other young adults with autism find the harmony that so sadly eluded him during his brief time on earth.
To make a contribution to the Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship, please mail your check or money order to: Benjamin John Oliphant Memorial Scholarship, c/o Niagara Academy, 3181 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn, N.Y. 14132.
Tell us about Brian: Like many of you
reading this, you have children that light up your life. Brian was that
for me. He began talking at an early age, and for the next twenty five
years he never stopped. Brian loved the outdoors. Whether with his
friends or his brother Greg, he would play in the woods for hours,
fishing and searching for frogs.
As Brian entered elementary school, his struggles began to emerge. I watched him struggle with so many things we all take for granted; holding a crayon, and simply keeping his balance. When he began middle school he had a hard time paying attention and he began to struggle academically and socially; he felt as if he didn’t fit in. He was originally diagnosed with ADD, however over time this diagnosis included anxiety, depression and traits of Asperger’s.
Brian’s curiosity was endless. We would end our evenings talking endlessly. He would want to know about everything; my favorite memories growing up, how I liked my career, how the people in the Dominican seemed so happy with so little material things.
It is impossible to describe Brian without mentioning his smile. He had the ear to ear to smile that was his trademark.
However, the character trait of Brian of which I am most proud was his compassion for others. I have spoken publicly about his crawling under a fence at Yankee stadium when he was eight to give a homeless man a quarter. His favorite memory of high school was taking a trip to the Dominican Republic on spring break to play with children who had so little. After Brian’s death, his sober coach wrote “After Brian and I had lunch together he gave money to homeless people on the street.” Another friend wrote “his big bright smile, easy approachable demeanor and kind eyes are things that come to mind when I think about Brian. It's a lovely memory.”
Tell us about Brian's struggle with addiction:
Brian and several of his friends tried marijuana for the first time at
age thirteen. While his friends had varying degrees of interest, for
Brian it was different. Maybe the marijuana eased his anxiety. Or
perhaps it was genetic. Whatever the reason or combination of reasons,
Brian quickly became addicted, and is often the case, over time he
became addicted to more dangerous drugs.
Brian was sent to a wilderness program when he was seventeen. Throughout these years, when Brian was not relapsing, he was often reflective. He responded to what he read of Taoist philosophy in a note to me, “’Emotion which is suffering ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.’ It’s similar to what I’m working on.”
Brian was also deeply pained by what he was putting his family through. In one letter to my mother he wrote, “Dear Grandma Kitty, I don’t know what to say about this anymore. I feel horrible that I keep putting everyone through this. Thanks for sticking with me and I’m sorry. Love and miss you, Brian.” Brian’s relapses were many. After his last relapse Brian told me, “Dad, even when I think I have this under control, I have now learned that this disease is doing push-ups inside and getting stronger and stronger.”
After his last treatment program, Brian succeeded and was able to stay clean for thirteen months. However five weeks after his one year anniversary he tragically took his life. In his loving and compassionate note to our family, he condemned the treatment system for its lack of integrity. And although he did not state it explicitly, I believe he also felt enormous shame and guilt that tore him apart inside. It seems like yesterday we were sitting on the bench in our back yard when he told me, “Dad, three hundred years ago they burned women on stakes in Salem, Massachusetts because they thought they were witches. Someday society will recognize that I have a disease, and I am trying my hardest".
What made Brian smile?: More than anything Brian loved “family time” and seeing everyone happy. He also had an amazing sense of humor, and loved making us all laugh.
What do you miss most about Brian: What I miss most is the emotional connection we shared. We were soul mates. As Brian once wrote in a letter from a wilderness program, “Dad, underneath we are twins; I see it out here a lot - Mom and Dad – I don’t think I’ve ever missed you more or realized how much you do for me and I want you to know I know all your decisions are out of love. Love, Brian. “ I miss Brian every minute of every day.
Brian lost his fight as he took his own life on October 20. 2011 due to the disease and struggle of addiction. Brian's memory will live on through our stories of experience, strength and hope! To those who have lost the battle with addiction - Gary has chosen to be a voice for the many lives lost and those who struggle today. Make sure to check out the webpage at www.shatterproof.org
I was born and raised in Campbell, Ohio. "Soup City" is on the east side of Youngstown. Campbell is known for the city of churches and bars. When I was in High school, Youngstown was the murder capital of the USA two times. I learned my survival of the fittest mindset at a very young age. I learned how to exploit peoples weaknesses and devour them to get whatever I wanted. I worked on the front lines of satans rebellion for years. I was a master manipulator. I had no patience to wait for anything. If i wanted something I would do whatever I needed to do to get it immediately.
My first addiction was baseball. I had dreams of being a major league baseball player since I could remember. I used baseball as a way to relieve stress and get away from life when it was bothering me. I started lying at a young age and getting into neighborhood trouble so I was grounded ALOT! Since I was grounded so much I used the neighbors garage to work on my throwing, infield and tee work daily. I practiced so much that by the end of the summer there was no paint left on the garage lol jk (addictive personality??? lol) In 2000 I accepted a scholarship to Kent State University. In 2003 I got drafted by the Montreal Expos (Washington Nationals) and played 6 seasons of minor league baseball.
I came close to capturing my dream. I blew out my UCL in my 3rd year of pro ball and had tommy john surgery. My identity was in baseball and when I lost baseball in 2009 I lost everything.
Anyway, my second addiction was alcohol. I occasionally smoked weed but didn't like weed cause it made me paranoid. Alcohol made me feel invisible. I had my first drink when I was 11. I was raised Roman Catholic so I was an alter boy and I would slam the communion wine in the sanctuary when no one was around. I snuck beers at family events and anywhere there was alcohol. I knew I had a drinking problem at 14 when I drank a whole bottle of ouzo and had to be hospitalized cause I had alcohol poison. I was proud to be an alcoholic as sick as that sounds. I started binge drinking a few days a week during my high school career. I believe i was even drinking the night before I started the state semi championship game my junior year. I pitched the game of my life and was offered scholarship to Ohio State because of it. So being praised and honored for my talents in baseball I grew to have a "god complex". I turned my back on God when I left for Kent State and only prayed to him when I had to close a game and the bases were loaded with no outs.
My first week in college I got busted for possession of marijuana and almost lost my scholarship. I drank daily and used cocaine whenever it was given to me. People would feed me drugs an alcohol because they thought I was on my way to stardom. I was constantly getting away with all the trouble I got into or with minor consequences and because of that it made me feel invincible and it really fed my disease. My motto through college and pro ball was "party like a rock star, play like an all-star and "f**K" like a porn star". Them 3 statements were all I cared about that was my life and I loved it. I have been all over the USA to play baseball. Baseball gave me money, cars, jewelry, women, alcohol-drugs.... Baseball was my God.
I never used opiates until I had Tommy John surgery. When that narcotic hit me I had my first whole body orgasm. I fell in love and became a slave to the pills. I played for another 3 years after surgery staying high off of pain pills, alcohol and cocaine. I was scheduled to go to Perth, Australia for winter ball and a few weeks prior to leaving my daughters Mom showed me a positive pregnancy test. I retired from baseball in full blown alcoholism and opiate addiction with the bright idea I was ready to start a family. I tried everything to replace the high i would get from closing a game with thousands of people packed in a stadium chanting my name! Never found it until I felt the Holy Spirit for the first time. So anyway, I cleaned up with her during her pregnancy and did get not high again until a few days after my daughter was born. I started back up because I was still a little boy who was afraid to man up and take care of the family I had. Drugs and alcohol robbed not only me but 3 other lives of what could have been wonderful if I was sober. The pain I brought into these lives is embarrassing. if I ever hurt anyone who is reading this please accept my deepest apologies and know that I am not that same evil man today.
The opiate addiction started right back up from where it left off. This lasted almost 2 years. We broke up and I moved back to Youngstown and someone told me it would be cheaper to start using heroin so I did. Heroin now was my god and i would do anything to get it. Crack cocaine was also present at this time. I boosted,cheated and manipulated everyone to get it once I finally lost everything. In Dec 20 of 2012 there was nothing left of Gus. I lost my family, baseball and almost my life. I cut my own copper pipes out of my house to get heroin. I had overdosed 5 times and during one od I stop breathing for almost a minute. Death was looming over me, I was ready and willing to die, I didn't care. I was mad at God and didn't want anything to do with him.
On January 23, 2013 I decided I was done and quit cold turkey. I was getting picked up and being brought to Akron to join a program to get my life back. On January 26th, I was on my way to Akron and I fell asleep in the car. In my dream I was picked up by something huge and shaken out, I woke up to my friend and now brother in Christ (Jim Reinsel) grabbing my arm cause I had opened the door and was trying to jump out in my sleep. He was driving 70-80mph on route 76 if he didn't grab me I would have been DEAD! I believe that's the day Jesus delivered me. He forcefully came into my life like a hurricane and rid my spirit of Satan. Whatever I was possessed by tried one last time to kill me in that car ride to Akron. I tried everything then I finally decided to give God a try after Jim and i talked a few days later....WOW! I tried recovering myself but not until I full surrendered to God did I get success. God requires me to work my butt off to stay clean but i know as long as i stay focused on Christ i will be ok. These last 17 months have been a roller coaster ride but i wouldn't change a thing. My recovery has become the most important thing in my life because without it I'm no good to God or anyone else. If I go back out again I am positive I will die and my daughter will have to tell people her dad died of a heroin overdose.....not happening.
JESUS CHRIST IS MY EVERYTHING. I HAVE DEVOTED MY LIFE TO TRYING TO LIVE IN HIS WILL. GOD HAS BLESSED ME WITH A BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER AND THE ABILITY TO SHARE MY TESTIMONY WITH THE STILL SICK AND SUFFERING TO SHOW THEM JESUS IS THE WAY. I HAVE DEVOTED MY LIFE TO SHARING THE GOSPEL. IF GOD IS FOR US WHO CAN BE AGAINST US? IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SAVOIR PLEASE MESSAGE ME AND I WILL BE GLAD TO SHOW YOU HOW TO ACCEPT JESUS INTO YOUR HEART! AND I WOULD BE HONORED TO WALK WITH YOU IN YOUR OWN PERSONAL RECOVERY IN CHRIST! WITH CHRIST BEING MY ANCHOR IN MY RECOVERY HE HAS BLESSED ME WITH A GREAT SOBER SUPPORT FAMILY. I ALSO THANK HIM FOR ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS AND THE HEROIN ANONYMOUS PROGRAM HERE IN AKRON, OHIO.
I Hope my story can help you! If I can do this so can you.......My new motto in life is....."from the bullpen....to the grave...to a life in Christ!"
I love you all and God Bless!
A Delhi couple who allegedly sold the heroin that led to an overdose death will face involuntary manslaughter charges.
It will be the first case in Hamilton County in which an alleged drug dealer faces charges involving an overdose death, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said in a release.
Shea Fricke, 21, died June 26 at her Delhi home after purchasing heroin from Stephanie and Christopher Eaglin, also of Delhi, an investigation revealed. The Hamilton County Coroner determined her death was a result of a heroin overdose.
The Eaglins each face one count of involuntary manslaughter stemming from Fricke's death, Deters announced Monday. They are also charged with one count each of trafficking in heroin, possession of heroin and possession of drugs. Those charges resulted from a search warrant of the Eaglins' residence on Aug. 28, from which police recovered heroin and pills.
If the Eaglins are convicted of all charges, they could each face 12 years in prison.
Deters said he has been working with Attorney General Mike DeWine to change the law surrounding how drug dealers are charged.
"The law needs to be strengthened to allow us to charge these kinds of cases as murder," he said in a statement. "If the law is changed, drug dealers would then be facing the possibility of life in prison for selling the drugs that take too many lives."
Ohio House Bill 508, which was introduced in April, deals with increasing criminal punishments for drug dealers.
Under the bill, the charges against a dealer who sells drugs leading to an overdose death of a minor could be increased from involuntary manslaughter to aggravated murder. The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 11 years in prison. The maximum sentence for aggravated murder under that circumstance would be life without parole, according to the Ohio House of Representative's website.
The bill would also increase charges against a dealer who sold to an adult who died in an overdose to murder, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison.
"To get a handle on the heroin epidemic. you really have to look at traffickers and have harsher punishments in order to deter this kind of behavior," said Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, who introduced the bill.
"When they deal heroin, they know it's going to destroy somebody's life ... That's why I think it is appropriate that they're charged with murder when that happens."
Lawmakers in Kentucky are also working to impose harsher punishments for drug dealers.
Kentucky Senate Bill 5, which failed to pass in the General Assembly in April, would have allowed prosecutors to charge high-volume drug traffickers with homicide if the person died of an overdose.
Many were outraged by the bill's failure. Jason Merrick, president of Northern Kentucky People Advocating Recovery, told The Enquirer in April his organization isn't giving up.
"We were expecting more action and responsibility from our elected officials," Merrick said. "We will now begin a campaign asking – begging – Governor Beshear to declare a state of emergency.
"Too many lives are at stake. Something must be done."
TO MY SON:
Where does a mother begin when she has to write a eulogy for her child? Does she start at the beginning on the day the doctor told her she was pregnant? Does she tell you about how it felt the first time she felt that little being move inside her tummy? Does she tell you what a long drawn out labor it was and how when she looked at that tiny little bundle for the first time she thought her heart was going to burst from all the love she felt?
I’m not sure where to begin. Surely I could go on and on and tell you all the first-time moments that we shared as he was growing up, learning to sit up, walk, talk, first tooth, etc., etc. I could tell you all about his first day at school and all the other days in between, both good and bad, because Lord only knows, my son did not like school. I could share with you how proud he made me when I watched him plays sports – basketball, baseball and football. What an athlete he was.
Maybe you would like to hear the stories about how he struggled to graduate from high school, and when he finally did, it was one of the proudest and happiest moments of his and my life. I cried like a baby.
We could move forward to when he went out on his own to start his own adult life. And he started studying to be an electrician and I was so proud of him. And lest I forget the time he told me I was going to be a grandma. What a joyous occasion, one that not only changed his life but mine too.
While I realize this is a celebration of life, and I certainly do celebrate all of these momentous occasions in my son’s short life, I cannot help but reflect on the sadness I feel today. As a parent you always think of growing old, watching your children grow up, marry, have children of their own, and live their lives to the fullest. Never do you ever imagine you will out live your children. But sadly, it happens. Why? No one really knows but God. He is the higher power and he is the one with the master plan.
I would be remiss if I did not share some of my personal feelings surrounding my son’s death. As most of you are aware my son was an addict. He had an addiction that plagued him for several of his last years here on this earth. He battled the demons every day for a very long time. We went through a lot of hills and valleys that most of you will never experience, and I pray to God you never have to.
Addiction is an awful disease. It’s one that most people don’t understand unless you are an addict or you live with an addict and witness the destruction it causes. Addiction turned my sweet little boy so full of life and energy into a man that I didn’t recognize anymore. It could turn him into one of the meanest, uncaring individuals you ever wanted to meet. That was not my baby. It would drain all the energy and caring from his soul and turn him into a complete empty shell. It was like the devil himself taking over.
I stood by my son through thick and thin trying to help him battle this monster. Even when everyone else practiced the “tough love” that we all hear about, I couldn’t give in. We went through rehabs, recovery houses, long talks, long arguments, and a whole lot of tears.
Then this last time we were facing the crisis mode again, I finally put my foot down and said no more. This was his last chance to get better or I wasn’t going to be there anymore. I wasn’t going to pick the pieces up and dust him off. He was on his own. He had to fix himself, because this was something I couldn’t do. So off he went to another rehab to detox and hopefully find the way out this time. I went to visit him in rehab and I truly felt there was something different this time when I saw him. It was a peacefulness that I didn’t have before when he was in these situations. He opened up to me so much and shared things I didn’t realize about him and his addiction. He told me he knew what he had to do this time. He knew what it took because he had been down this road so many times before. He wanted it really bad this time. He wanted to be a better father. He wanted to make me proud of him. Little did he know that as a mother no matter what the circumstances were in his life I was always proud and I loved him so very much.
He completed rehab and moved on to a halfway house. He didn’t want to return home this time. He wanted to go away where he wouldn’t be influenced by those distractions here that he turned to every time he relapsed. I was proud of him for standing up and trying. Maybe this was going to be the time. I wasn’t giving up.
Then that dreadful night came when the policeman came to our house to deliver the awful news that our son had passed away of an overdose. What? What did he say? Not my child! No way. I just saw him. I just talked to him yesterday. He was doing so good. How can this be? Then for the next punch his phone rings to tell us, no, he has been revived and he is in critical condition in the ICU in a hospital two hours away.
I cried, I screamed, I didn’t believe it was true. But we gathered ourselves up and made one of the longest journeys of my life. When we arrived and I got to see my son, I knew instantly he was gone. Oh the machines were keeping him alive, but he wasn’t there. It was only his body I was looking at. I knew in my heart, as any mother would know, my baby boy had moved on to another life. But I was there when he took his first breath and I was there when his heart took its last beat. The demon took control once again, and this time my son lost the battle.
There is nothing that can come close to explaining the depth of losing a child. How do you explain losing part of your heart, mind, soul and breath? How do you explain losing part of your today, yesterday and your tomorrow? How do you explain losing love that was connected to your soul? How do you explain losing such intense feelings for another that you’d gladly trade your life so that your child could live? There are no words to adequately explain child loss.
But my dear son, even though I am grieving, I am also celebrating your life. I celebrate the precious years I was able to have you here with me on earth. I am celebrating the fact that you are free of the demons that have plagued you for so long. I celebrate the fact that your are in heaven with the Lord and are whole once again. No more pain. No more worries.
For those of you suffering from addiction, please let this be a wake up call. Take this terrible tragedy that happened to our family and learn from it. Let my son’s death be a reason for you to find strength to make yourself whole again by fighting and never giving up. Every day is a struggle in the addiction world, but it is not a struggle you cannot overcome. Stand strong and fight.
Life is a gift, accept it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is a mystery, unfold it. Life is a puzzle, solve it. Life can be a struggle, face it. Life is beauty, praise it. Life is an opportunity, take it. Life should be your mission, fulfill it.
To you my son, I love you and will cherish you for the rest of my life. Until I see you again with your twinkling eyes and crooked little grin, fly free with the angels and watch over us.
I love you.
My parents divorced when I was 12 and abandoned me. I quickly looked for something to numb the pain. I started hanging out with older kids that accepted me and found they knew where to get alcohol. Alcohol made me forget about my parents splitting up. I started drinking often by age 13. By age 16, I was using cocaine and drinking. By age 18, I was living in a crack house selling drugs to support my own habit.
At 22 Years old, I was hooked on cocaine and alcohol. I wanted help, but I did not know how to get it. I kept doing what I knew best and that was to get drunk and high. One night after partying with my friends. I was dropped off at home and in a black out ended up on a hill that surrounded my apartment complex. I rolled to the bottom, flopping off a retaining wall and smashing my head on the pavement. I was rushed to the hospital and had a right frontal craniotomy. After the surgery I stayed in a comatose state for several weeks.
When I woke up from the coma and was able to eat again. I was placed in a nursing home to live out the rest of my days. I could not control my emotions and was angry all the time. I found it hard to accept what I did to myself and did not know how to express my feelings.
I discovered moving forward, being productive, and finding the positive in each day was the only way to make my circumstances better. With determination, hard work, and focus, I left the nursing home and my wheelchair for a walker and eventually a cane. After 3 years of therapy I was walking with no assistive device.
In the 16 years since my accident I have been able to walk, talk, and drive again. I went to college and earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling and Psychology. I retrained my brain to find positive in each day and keep moving forward.
I have dedicated my life to helping others who have experienced trauma, injury or addiction. I am a Behavior Therapist, Recovery Coach and Certified Professional Life Coach that specializes in helping individuals overcome addiction and move beyond injury and trauma. I now have over 16 years clean and sober! My date of becoming clean and sober is 8/26/1998.
If this drunk and junkie can turn things around, you can too! Thanks for reading!
Rick Von Linsowe, MS, CPC
To begin, my name is Kyle Short. I am a grateful believer who was freed from bondage six years ago (July 1, 2008). I still struggle with anger and feelings of inadequacy. The Lord has been merciful to me and sometimes I also struggle with the reason I am still here. Mainly, what is it? How can I help others, what can I do to reach people who are in the shoes I used to wear? Where do I fit in to God’s plan? I can ask questions for hours, but sometimes we are not supposed to know answers until a given time. Even so, there are things we may not find out until all is said and done. This is my story of redemption….
My old life, as many of you can relate, was a complete waste of time. I believe God will use my past as a stone or a shelter for others and He knew the steps that I would take away from what He wanted me to be, yet around eight years I struggled with substance abuse. My life was a constant lie, a complete farce. Everyone who knew me back then knew that I could not be trusted. I would steal from my best friends. I would take from my family members. The one’s who loved me unconditionally were also the one’s I would take advantage of. It was a never-ending feeling of living one dose to the next. Even after obtaining a large quantity of my drug of choice, I would be planning out what and where I was going to steal from next. The drugs always ran out quicker than expected.
My past triggers no longer control me. Along my recovery, God has taken them from me. Nevertheless, these same triggers are shared in a room full of people seeking help. My father was never there for me. Not one time did he ever try to reach out and find me. I thank God for my mother, grandmother and every other family member I was fortunate enough to be born to. Even though I had all the love in the world from them, I still had a lacking in my heart. Self-esteem seemed to elude me. I developed loathing for what appeared as a reflection in the mirror. I kept these thoughts to myself yet I knew, or I thought I knew, that even though unspoken, others around me shared my view of myself. Unwanted. Abandoned. Neglected. All words that never truly applied, yet I gave them a place in my mind. The enemy knows our weaknesses and will do everything he can to make us feel less than what we are in the eyes of God and the people who care for us. Sometimes I believe I chose to suffer instead of believing the truth about myself. I think I got used to feeling pain because it was the emotion I felt most powerful, and the emotion I felt most often. This pain ultimately aided in making my choices of intake. I was shy, I didn’t know how to speak logically, let alone stand up for myself or my beliefs. I got walked upon, chosen over and left aside. I thought I had every reason in the world to numb this pain. And it all began at a young age.
In 1997 I moved to a new school. I began my freshmen year at Carlisle High School and believed I was able to “reinvent” myself. I could be whatever it was I wanted to be. I could finally make a stand for my Christian beliefs and let people know who I was…. Everyone knew I believed in God, but I was ashamed to wear t-shirts that advertised my faith. I remember being afraid of who would see me at See You at the Pole and hiding my face when the students began arriving at school. The next year I got drunk for the first time, and that same night was the first time I smoked pot. The drinking was fun, but there was something about pot that really got to me. I loved it- everything about it. That is what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. A stoner I guess you could say. It was a way to escape my mind and feelings of inadequacy. It was short lived, but also only a few hits away to returning to that “peaceful place.” The small group of guys that I would hang out with a drink became a solo party because they wanted to be loud and social and I just wanted to smoke dope and play my guitar. This went on until graduation, increasing from weekend use to daily in a matter of a few weeks. I always worked enough in high school to have gas and weed. Everything else seemed trivial. I didn’t want to hang out or go to the movies with everyone. I didn’t want to go to the basketball games and even quit the team my senior year. Substance became number one. Before God and before me. It was shortly after graduating high school that I also graduated substances. I had tried the pills and hallucinogens, the uppers and the downers and most things you can put into a pipe, but there was one thing I really wanted to try and actually sought it out by myself. It was my final step. The most extreme thing I could do to get away from the pain and the voice that got louder throughout the year. The voice that screamed at me that I have no point of existence got more believable as time sped by. Life was more than a drag. It was a complete and total disappointment. I had an absolute lack of life. The more I smoked, the worse I felt when I would come down. The harder I partied the worse the hangover and feelings of regret. This final step would push me away farther than I ever thought I would go. It would cause me to do things that still hurt my mind. The peace I was seeking so eagerly was right in front of me all along, but I had to hit rock bottom before I would take a step in a new direction, and I was not there yet.
The first few times you shoot dope, an overwhelming feeling of nausea hits you hard. You may spend countless hours huddled over or curled up next to a toilet or trash can. As with all feelings, they fade over time and the intensity is the only feeling left. I had accepted my role as a failure. I had deemed myself undeserving of anything meaningful. I knew I would never progress in life. Any dream or aspiration had long since passed away and hope was lost forever. My ship was not only sinking, it had been cast upon the rocks. No lighthouse could be seen, no search party would be sent. I had never been more alone in my life. The track marks became more frequent, and quickly, I got the sickness. I do not know how many days of continual use it takes to become a full blown addict, but the necessary amount of days had passed for me and a new title had been given: “junkie.” Unwanted. Abandoned. Neglected. Junkie. Useless. Worthless. The list went on and on. A few weeks turned into a few months which turned into eight years. I had brief stints of improvement, but I would relapse because I had not yet replaced my void with what is necessary and HAS to be done for absolute fulfillment and complete recovery. I had not yet submitted my life to the Lord and asked Him to break my chains of bondage. It can be hard asking God for forgiveness when you know you have constantly done wrong.
I met my father when I was 22. I was in a band and we were playing at a bar in the middle of nowhere. The only things I knew about him were that I’m the spitting image and his name. I overheard a guy talking to another guy and he mentioned working for a roofing company owned by my father. It was the first time I ever heard someone say his name. I panicked. I pulled our singer over and told him what was going through my mind and I ended up talking with this guy, telling him how the guy he mentioned was my dad and asking him to give him our CD after I wrote my phone number on the sleeve of our album. A few days later I got a phone call and blah blah blah…. We met at a restaurant and instantly became great friends. The time had passed for any type of father son actual bonding time and we just hung out. And when I say hung out, I mean we smoked large amount of dope. It was the only bonding time I ever had and probably ever will have with him. I moved in with him. The first year was great. He was attempting to make up for lost time. Whatever I needed or asked for he gave me more than willingly. Although I never asked for anything particular, I only wanted to be around my dad. I began working with him and he came to almost every single concert we ever had. We got along amazingly. This was also one of my brief periods or sobriety from heroin. The first year we knew each other was my definition of perfect at the time. The first Christmas was amazing. He spent insane amounts of money on me, but personally, it truly is the thought that counts with me. I can’t take anything with me when I die, so what is the point of having a bunch of things that are not necessary? It was after Christmas that the secrets came out. He was also an addict. He struggled with uppers. I struggled with downers. The next Christmas he didn’t come home. It was a quick downhill from one year to the next. I moved out after a little over a year and a half living there and have only spoken to him a handful of times since then. He knows my phone number, but he doesn’t call. That feeling of inadequacy does nothing in comparison to what it used to do. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I am dust. I am a person just like anyone else. Titles, possessions, things… they come and go and will not matter in the end. Yet, at the time, it was every reason in the world to begin using again. And I did- harder than ever. I will not go into detail on the amount used on a daily basis. But it was substantial. I felt death nearer than it had ever been and he was closing in on me. I actually welcomed the thought of meeting death. The sickness was too much to bear. Even If I could last one day, I was much too weak to attempt a full blown suffering. I waited for my last breath. Yet, still I breathe.
I remember getting the phone call that my Aunt Louise died. I was at my friend’s house shooting up in the bathroom. She was one of the few that helped raise me. My family is practically one handful of people and this was the hardest time I ever faced. She meant the world to me. She would send me cards for no occasion asking when I was going to come back to church but also telling me how much she loved me. I still have many of them. Regrets. No sense in having them now, they will only bring you down. I cannot do one thing about where I was at the time or that she was in the hospital for one week and I did not see her one time. Out of the top three people in the world that I loved, one of them was no more, and I did nothing to see her before she left this world.
At her funeral I remember the stares I got. My cheeks were sunken, my frame had become of incredible frailty and I could barely even stand. It was mentioned that my funeral would be next. My mom used to call me and tell me she had dreams about planning my funeral and seeing me in a casket, cold and lifeless. Everyone seemed to be simply waiting for the inevitable. But God is mighty and willing to forgive if we simply call on Him and actually try. It is not enough that we ask for help, but we must actively seek out change. Friendships and habits must be broken before chains can be.
On June 30th of 2008, I once again came clean to my family (which was my mother and grandmother). I had gotten the number of a facility in Richmond, IN that was an outpatient clinic and called them and they said they could take me tomorrow and all I had to do was show up. I was tired of fighting to breathe; I was weary of struggling to avoid the sickness and decided that my life was not over. If the only two options are to suffer or to die, the choice is easy. I completed my two year program in nine months and thanks to my grandmother driving me to Richmond every literal day, I am still here. It has been a long and windy uphill continual climb. But the battles are long since dead. I have my good days and my bad days, but I do not think about drugs anymore. I honestly haven’t thought about them in many years. I have too much to be thankful for. All my hurts have been replaced with love. All my pain has been exchanged for joy. All my scars have been healed. Because I chose to believe. I chose to believe in God and his power, and I chose to believe in myself and my abilities. “We are weak and He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Throughout the whole “being clean process,” about a million things have been altered in my life and mind. Eight years of emotions came flooding in and I cried all the time. I had so much regret that it was weighing me down. When faced with a lifetime of disappointment, we must realize that nothing can be done to change the past. We must accept our current situation, understand that life could be worse, be grateful for what we are given and keep our head up. Persistence is what gives the underdog the courage and strength to succeed. Faith is what made David stand up to Goliath. Repentance is what gave Samson his strength back. Prayer and acceptance is what got Jonah out of the whale and back on track to where he was meant to be. Moving forward has to be done by ourselves; no one else can move us. This mentality is still being worked on in my mind, but it gets better every day. I went from not caring what a person does or doesn’t do, to being deeply impact by what a person does or doesn’t do. I care now more than I ever have before and that also grows daily. I do not believe in death. I do not believe in pain. They are a part of life, but I have no part of inflicting ill on any living creature, to the point of not touching animal meat or their products. I have been reborn and I will only give life, I will never take away life.
My relationship with God… dramatic improvement. I still feel I can make more time for Him. I know He moves me, but I want Him to throw me into the ocean. I mean, I want to just be completely submerged and never return to the surface. C. S. Lewis said all good things come from God- and I wholeheartedly agree. I have come to accept that I, Kyle Short, in human form am a total failure. I know that my flesh wants me to be rude and uncaring, unsympathetic, conniving and careless, giving in to the world and what is has to offer. But God has altered my thoughts. My concerns for this world are astronomical. The abused, the helpless, the hopeless, the innocent… My heart breaks for the addicts, those afflicted currently, the ones who have been hurt by us and the ones who will someday become us. 113 people overdose fatally every day. There has to be a stop to this. God is the only way out. The consumption of my choices created a void inside me that would only be filled with another greater than or equal to substance, until I asked God to take its place. God not only filled the void in my life, He filled the cracks in my heart and adjusted my mentality. He restored my soul. One of the most important steps to me is realizing that I am not God. When we stop trying to figure everything out for ourselves, a way is made. Hebrews 12:12-13 says “Take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” God knows our weaknesses and He may be asking for obedience before giving strength. I had to be diligent in order to regain my life back. I had to prove my sincerity. It was all or nothing. I wouldn’t have bet on me, but God did.
Working with this program I am now able to give hope to others. I want nothing out of life but to help others. I want to be able to pay my bills, have a car that won’t break down, grow our own food and help others. That’s it. Those are my only goals in life. Nothing fancy or elegant or lavish. Just simplicity. I have nothing more than words that I can give to someone, but I am able to at every single meeting. I am able to meet people who either are still using or have been clean for a few days, weeks or months. I enjoy the honesty I seem to receive from people. After all, I’m just some dude. There is nothing special about me outside of God. God gave me the perfect family and the perfect wife. Someday I hope and pray to have more to give, but as of right now, it is only a story. The moral of my story is that God’s love never fails and there will always be hope. The sun will always rise in the morning regardless of how cold and alone the night may be. Storms will always be in our path regardless of sobriety, but without the rain a flower cannot bloom.
My parting words are to have hope. If I am standing in front of you, or you are reading this from paper or another other means of these words entering your ears or minds, know that my battle has been won as long as I keep my head up and continue looking forward. The same will always be true for you. I had to suffer for a period of time for the sickness to go away and my mind to return to me. But in comparison, it was a much shorter time than the time I spent using. Life will continue to improve as long as we continue to try. I have every possible ounce of faith in every single person in this world that will stand up for themselves and make a change! It might be a seemingly impossible choice, but this time next week it will all be over and life can start returning to what is should be. Read the Word. Pray. Even if you don’t know what to say. Never feel you are in no position to pray or worthless to ask God for anything. We sent His son to die for us even when He knew what we would do with our lives. He already knew about the choices you and I would make, yet Jesus died for us anyway. He died for our sins, not our perfections.
He believes in us, and I believe in us. Hope will continue to live on, why not choose to live with hope?
My Story Has Power
June 28, 2014 as read to Ginghamsburg Next Step Service:
Hello, my name is Lori and I am a person living in long-term recovery. What that means to me is that I have not used any alcohol or drugs for over eight years. And because of that, my life is a whole lot better. I can’t wait to tell you how it is better, but first let me go back to the beginning.
I figure I had my first drunk when I was around 15 or 16. And I got drunk. A bunch of us girls had concocted a plan to get a ride to the zoo, bring in the little travel bottles filled with all kinds of alcohol, and have a day at the zoo, drinking and having fun. Somehow the ride didn’t pan out, so there was no zoo, no event. I found myself at home with a bunch of alcohol and nowhere to go with it. I remember opening my bedroom window, putting on some music, and drinking all those little bottles. And I got drunk.
Years later, here in Dayton, when I getting help through the Turning Point program, the one thing I remember them saying was that a good indicator of whether you are a good candidate for alcoholism, was that you got drunk the first time you drank. I figure I met those criteria.
My childhood was marked by two major events that I think would have had some kind of big impact on a kid. First, we moved in fourth grade and that meant a new school. A little Lutheran school, two grades to a classroom. As if that wasn’t enough, I became the only girl in my grade, which became a daily struggle of fending off rude comments and giving the boys cooties. That ended in 6th grade when 3 other girls started school there as well, but by then I was used to it and didn’t want anyone in my territory, worried that I would lose the attention I was getting.
The second event was my dad’s death due to a heart attack the summer before I was to start high school. I was only 13. Not something that an adolescent, let alone my mother, now a widow, left with four kids, could understand.
The winter of my freshman year, I smoked pot for the first time on a skiing vacation away from home. When school started up again, I eventually replaced all my straight-laced friends with the cool ones. By the end of high school I was smoking pot, cigarettes, drinking all kinds of hard liquor like mad dog 20/20, snorting angel dust, doing Quaaludes, speed and anything else my older brother told me to try. I even tried shooting up one time; they missed my vein, and I was relieved as much as I was terrified.
I hid it well, and did ok in high school. I went to SIU for college and stopped using angel dust abruptly, but got busy with school and college partying. I graduated with a near perfect GPA in 1982 as a graphic artist. So far so good, I thought.
Somewhere around 1990 I knew I had some kind of control problem with drugs and alcohol. I had quit the coke habit, but that left me drinking the same amount of alcohol, as when I was when I was snorting coke. Without the coke to pick me up, when I drank, I almost always got drunk.
This is the point where I called Alcoholics Anonymous and decided I should see what this was about. I went to my first meeting, and when they found out it my first time, I felt like the vultures of a cult had descended upon me. They told me of how I needed to go to meetings, meetings and meetings and change my WHOLE life. I didn’t have time to do all that, not to mention I thought they were all nuts and part of cult with all their God stuff. I ran fast and far.
I did stop drinking by 1992 when my son was born, and for the next several years I experienced motherhood and the family life. It wasn’t until I got divorced from my second husband, a recovering alcoholic himself, and moved to Ohio from Chicago, that I thought, “I can drink now.” By acting on that thought, I triggered an escalating drinking pattern that caused me to take a look at what I was doing.
The continued drinking, combined with regular cocaine use, had started to create the problems that we all know so well. Missed days at work, a DUI, suspect and judgment from the neighbors, cleaning up my social messes and disorderly conduct to name a few.
It was Good Friday, Easter weekend 2006. The drinking started right after work on Friday and after a weekend of excessive drinking and drugging, my boyfriend and I were wondering what to do, how to stop… we needed to do something. We had been up all weekend, but I suggested we go to church. We got more coke instead and, of coarse, I called off on Monday, and together we decided to get help.
For me, my bottom was about FEAR. The fear of not being able to be there for my kids if they got hurt; being too drunk to go to the hospital. Fear that I would get charged with negligence. Fear that I would hurt or kill someone driving drunk. The fear that I could arrested going and copping coke on the west side. I was thinking, “What mother does things like that?”. Fear and more fear.
I was full of fear, I knew I had a problem and needed help, but I wasn’t sure if I was in the alcoholic category. I had tried all kinds of ways to stop on my own. Some had worked for a while, but it was a struggle and never stuck.
I went to Turning Point outpatient. They wanted me to go to AA meetings and gave me a book. I told my counselor that I didn’t really like AA because they always went over the same stuff, read the same stuff, over and over. It was boring. I “graduated” and continued to go to meetings.
I went to this one meeting a few times and I really liked what this one woman was saying. After about 3 or 4 times of going there, I decided to ask her to be my sponsor. I really didn’t even want one, but everyone tells you to get one, so I figured I would ask her. I had to practically run after her in the parking lot, and I said to her. “I was gonna ask you to be my sponsor, but I am afraid of what you are gonna make me do.” She said, “Read to page 58 and give me a call.”
And from there, the real growth started. I did as she said. I learned that I did in fact have a problem. That it was a two-part problem. A mental obsession and a physical allergy; I underlined, I wrote in the margins, wow, this was explaining everything and I could relate! They called it powerlessness. A lack of power. I kept reading and discovered that there was a solution. That solution was power, also two parts. The Fellowship and the Vital Spiritual Experience.
I learned that the fellowship is the testimony that the program works, but the Vital Spiritual Experience only comes from working all the steps in order. Twelve simple, but not easy steps. I did steps one to nine, one after another, not wasting any time. Now it was time to practice what I had learned.
I was taught how to rely on a Power greater than myself , to give up running my own show. I practiced tapping into this new-found power. When I was fearful, like making a hard phone call to my mom, I would ask this power to take away my fear, to make the words come from my mouth, that You know what I need to say, and to do it for me. And when one second of peace would come over me, I would press “dial”. And He would take over. He would speak for me. I found that this worked! And once it worked, I kept trying it. Then when some bigger situations came my way, I tried it on that too. And it worked. And so I came to rely on this Power greater than myself. And once I used it solve bigger problems, instead of drinking, I knew that I never had to drink again, because I had gotten through tough times tapping into that Power.
I went to that meeting for three years straight. I learned so much. I sponsored other women, and this completed the whole process, coming full circle.
Fast forward to about summer 2012. I found out my daughter was shooting heroin. Even with all my knowledge about alcoholism and recovery, this was the devil’s roller coaster ride that I hard time navigating. I got to thinking that if this horror has taken me for such a ride, imagine what it is doing to those who do not know about us. I made a decision to start a support group for families of addicts. The name, FOA, the logo, the tag lines, all of it, just came to me, really easy. God at work. I started a Facebook page and designed a website, neither of which I had ever done. I started putting our story out publically. I did this, because I read over and over about parents that had lost their child to heroin addiction, and that their message was, “Tell them you love them, and parents, say something,” So I started to say something.
I had seen a quote that said, If you Want to Change, You Have to Willing to Be Uncomfortable. I believe this to be true. But I know that when I rely on God and tap into His power, I can be ok with uncomfortable. Trusting and relying on what His will is for me. And with this trust, I have been able to create FOA and become an advocate for change publically on how the people of Dayton perceive the addict and addiction. I think the biggest reason I can do this, is that I know my past is my greatest asset. Stigma and shame are not a part of who I am today, because of the AA way of life.
God is using my past as my greatest asset, and where I need help, I call on Him and He is there. I do the same thing now as I did in early sobriety. Asking Him to remove my fear, and to do it for me. And this works still, every time.
This trust and reliance has enabled me speak about heroin addiction in the same way Marty Mann spoke about alcohol years ago. To be a public voice to promote change.
I am doing things that without my sobriety, I could never do. FOA is hosting the Anonymous People movie on July 15th at the Neon. The goal of the movie is change the public conversation from addiction to the solution. 23 million Americans have the solution, but the stories that the public hears are not of success, but those of failure and tragedy. The movie is a huge motivator for people like me and you, people in long-term recovery, to step up publically where we can, to form a recovery community. A community that helps the suffering cope and get help, so that they stand half a chance while waiting for treatment, or just coming out of treatment. A community that offers all kinds of paths of recovery, so that one can find the person that has what they want, and gravitate toward it, without it seeming like looking for a needle in a haystack. Recovery is a way of life so why would we not want to create a successful environment for recovery. The Anonymous People is an awesome documentary that shows how this works and what the benefits are.
And to prove how great God is, after a chance meeting with a couple of guys marketing their rehab in Florida to people in Ohio, they gave my daughter a full scholarship to their facility including help with sober living after. They are going to help sponsor the First Annual FOA Rally 4 Recovery on September21st. Everything happens for a reason.
Trust in God and in the plan He has for you. Everything happens for a reason.