Updated: Jul 10, 2020
By Andrew's mom, Margie
Las Vegas, Nevada
My world was forever changed on October 5, 2014, when my husband uttered those words: "I just received an email---Andrew is addicted to heroin."
The news hit like a baseball bat between my eyes. Suddenly, all of the questions I’d been struggling with regarding my son were answered: Why so many car accidents? Why is he so distant? Why does he get mad and refuse to talk? Why doesn't he have any money? As I cried and cried that day--that week, I knew this would be terminal for Andrew. I knew it in my gut.
Still I tried--I tried everything I could possibly think to do in such a desperate situation. I begged, sobbed, hugged, listened, scolded, yelled, pleaded--I mothered. I bargained with Andrew and with God.
But he was just visiting for the weekend and soon he had to get back to his job. Within two weeks, he was in the hospital with his first DUI and another wrecked car. He had overdosed on the streets of Las Vegas while driving. Thank god no one was hurt. He died just 21 days later, after spending a short stint in rehab.
When remembering Andrew, the first thing people talk about is his intellect. He was extremely bright; he thrived in accelerated programs and graduated from college in three short years. Many of his friends have said, "He was the smartest guy I’ve ever met." Then we remember his razor-sharp, witty, often self-effacing sense of humor. Andrew was also inquisitive, a good listener and a loyal friend. He was polite and people took to liking him immediately.
He was driven and it seemed as though he had the world at his fingertips. Andrew was confident about his opinions, view of the world and goals in life. He inspired many people during his short life. He was well loved by co-workers and a role-model for new employees at his new position in Las Vegas. His employer said they had so many plans for Andrew's future. She told me he always volunteered for extra projects, never complained and would have given the shirt off his back to someone in need.
Andrew began experimenting with drugs in high school, but his addiction to Oxycontin developed in 2009 while he was attending college in Florida during the Pill Mills--Oxy was cheap and readily available. Andrew often expressed his frustration with trying to find people on his intellectual level; Oxy made him feel more like everyone else. Oxy made people, life and college feel tolerable. Throughout the trajectory of his use, he thought he was in control. Even when he was forced to switch to heroin in 2014, he told a friend, "Heroin is not so bad, it's just like Oxy." In August 2014, he took a job promotion in Las Vegas and thought he could leave heroin behind: "Mom, I never planned to do heroin here,” he said. “I planned to quit, but I realized I was an addict when I got to Las Vegas and still had to have it." Even at the very end, when his life really began to unravel, he still thought he had the upper hand on this drug. He refused long-term treatment and thought he could return to work after detox. I spend the last 6 days of his life with him, he was clean for 19 days before he overdosed. During that time, he told me what I wanted to hear, "I don't want to do heroin again, Mom." But he struggled; he was deeply sad and ashamed of what his life had become. On the surface, he was a successful corporate executive who appeared to have everything in check. He had great credit and a 401k. But in reality, he was a struggling addict who lived for Oxycontin and ultimately heroin - he was desperate to keep it a secret.
On a Monday afternoon, on November 10, 2014, Andrew handed me two red roses and said he wanted to go to an AA meeting. I was so excited that he was finally making progress and dropped him off at a meeting soon after. An hour later when he didn’t respond to my texts or phone calls, I knew in my heart what had happened. The hospital called 45 minutes later. He was found in the bathroom of a Petsmart just down the street. It was too late to save him. He died alone.
I simply miss my son--he was my only boy and my youngest. Even though we lived in different cities, he was always present in my life except for the few times that he distanced himself due to his drug use. Even then, I knew I’d eventually get a phone call and a visit. I had hopes of grandchildren because he talked about becoming a father someday. He wanted to meet someone educated, maybe a doctor.
What I miss most is what could have been. He talked about wanting to move to the Pacific Northwest eventually, close to Portland, OR where I live. I always thought he would join us. I miss his open-mindedness and intellect. His willingness to try new foods, adventures, places, his sense of humor. I miss our playful banter. I miss every phone call that ended in, "I Love You". Now there is just an enormous void in my life where he used to be. Sadness and tears are now a part of my everyday.