Updated: Mar 6
By Mark's mother, Pauline
Mark Walsh loved spending time with his family and cared for his siblings like they were his own. Whenever he found the time, he worked on his cars and motorcycles. He went above and beyond for anyone who needed help, whether that meant getting them a meal or helping them find a place to stay for the night. One might say he was generous to a fault.
At any given time in his life, Mark was fighting for or against something. At an early age, he was in a house fire and was later deemed a hero for running back into the burning building to alert others to the exit. The incident left him so badly burned that he had to stay in Shriner's Hospital for several months. The physical scars from this event influenced how people treated him growing up when he got teased by kids who didn’t know better. Even though these interactions hurt him, he would never let you know it. Mark was private about his pain throughout his life.
Mark was the second oldest in a family of five. Raised in a single parent home, he tried taking on the role of a father figure when he hit his teen years. He wanted to give his siblings everything they didn't have and make their lives better. Academics weren't interesting to him so he dropped out of school and began selling pot, which got him into trouble with the law on occasion. His license was suspended but he never paid the fines or stopped driving. He was sent to jail several times for driving without a license.
Once he had a criminal record, finding a job was difficult. Fortunately, his extended family had a few businesses where he was able to get work but Mark couldn’t hold down a job for any extended period of time. Between stints in and out of jail, he dabbled in using prescription medication. In 2005 at the age of 22 and in-between relapses, Mark had a beautiful son named Travis. But he wasn't ready to be a father and our family watched as he began a downward spiral..
In 2007, Mark met and married his wife, Sarah. She had a son named Patrick who was the same age as Travis. Mark and Sarah were both in recovery and worked beautifully together. Their early years were some of his best; he went to work every day, supported his family, and made time to indulge in his passion for fixing cars and motorcycles. In 2008 they gave birth to a gorgeous daughter named Emma Grace.
Some blissful years later, a hand injury put Mark out of work. He underwent surgery, which came with a prescription for pain medication. The downward spiral began again. Mark checked into rehab various times and kept getting into trouble with the law. His drinking got out of control along with his drug use. He and Sarah moved to Cape Cod where her parents were living for some extra support, but that only lasted for so long. They weren't able to overcome their addictions there together. They separated and the years that followed were tumultuous ones filled with stints in rehab and attempts at recovery.
In January 2016, Mark went to a program in Malibu, California. He loved the month he spent there doing the hard work of dealing with all of the emotional baggage that comes with the disease of addiction. He was grateful to have a support system of friends and doctors who were there to walk him through the difficult process of recovery. Within days of coming back home, he felt himself slipping made a call to Malibu to arrange a return. The day before his flight, he overdosed at home alone.
His wife, Sarah, has been clean for two years now and is an amazing mom to her children. We only wish Mark was here beside us to watch them grow up. Our family struggles daily to come to terms with his absence.
We need reform so that those struggling with addiction have their needs met. If insurance had covered treatment for Mark closer to home, perhaps our son, brother, husband, father, uncle, would not have had to travel all the way to California in order to receive the services he so desperately needed. Maybe he would still be with us today.