My boyfriend’s family (and I) lost a wonderful man this past week to heroin. You can read this tragic overdose story here. Nicholas Specht was always smiling. He welcomed me into the family from the first time we met. As far as we knew, he had been clean for several months since rehab. Nicholas grew up in a good town, with a wonderful christian family who cared for and loved him. He attended one of the best schools in the state. He spent the last several weeks volunteering at church with a construction project. He attended meetings every single day. We thought he was doing great.
But the truth is, he wasn’t doing great. He was clean but still struggling. Nicholas had something tragic happen in his life a little over two years ago. His baby was still-born. This crushed Nicholas, as it would anyone. In a weak moment he turned to heroin. Heroin quickly changed his life. He found himself doing things he would have never done before to get this potent drug that eventually took his life.
I met him when he got out of rehab. We would chat a lot. I would tell him that he needed to stay away from his old friends, people and places where he could easily get the drug. I would tell him to call me if he felt the urge and focused on just saying no. But thanks to a comment on my post 72 Hours of Heroin that was made by a medical staff member who tried to save Nicholas last weekend, I realize I was focusing on the wrong things. I also realize that repeatedly telling my children to say no to drugs is not enough.
Think about it… I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind wakes up one day and says “I think this will be the day I try heroin. I think I’ll put some crazy drug in a needle and shoot it into my body.” Only someone not in their right mind would do this. Something drives people to make this decision. Something horrible in their lives, like losing a baby. It may be chronic depression, a relationship breaking up, losing a job, feeling like a failure or something else that they just can’t cope with.
So in addition to teaching our kids to say no to drugs, we have to teach them that it’s okay to come to us with their problems. It’s okay to seek counseling. That no problem is too big or too small. We have to teach them how to cope with their problems. That has to start at a young age. We can’t just baby our children and tell them things will be okay. We have to teach them how to make it okay. There are tons of articles and books on how to cope with life’s unexpected issues. We need to encourage our schools to focus on teaching kids how to cope when they preach say no to drugs.
I stood at Nicholas’ grave yesterday with my 14-year-old daughter wrapped in my arms. I cried and begged her to always tell me about stresses in her life. I told her that I will always be open and will never judge her. I will get her the help she needs to deal with anything and everything. I told her my love for her is stronger than any problem she might have. I made her promise me that she would never to turn to drugs to cope with her problems. I hope and pray she keeps that promise. My 11-year-old son and I will have the same conversation tonight.
Nicholas died just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. He turned to heroin in his late 20s. It can happen to anyone at any time. Heroin does not discriminate. It is cheap and easy to find. I am asking all of you to have this conversation with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and loved ones. Have this conversation no matter if they are 10 or 40.
Please share your thoughts and comments here as our family truly appreciates reading them. And please share this with your family and friends. Heroin is an epidemic an education is the only way to crush it.