On Sept. 10, 1996, I lost my 20-year-old son, Ian, to a drug overdose the night before he was going into a rehabilitation program. Ian had used tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs in high school. At one point, he was picked up by an officer at a park in Norwalk. He was scolded and told to go home. The officer said, "If I ever find you in this town again with any drugs, I will arrest you, now go home." I insisted that Ian go into counseling at that point. I had such high hopes for Ian; I thought we had caught a possible addiction early. I thought it all went away, until I received the phone call from his biological Dad stating he was snorting heroin in college. My breath was taken away. My life changed. My friends knew there was something different about me.
At first, I was ashamed of his problem. I didn't want to tell anyone about it when he came home from college. He was going to a day treatment program, and we thought his problem was being fixed. He didn't want me to tell his friends. The ugly truth is, the problem wasn't fixed. I found him in the morning just before I was going to meet my friend at 6 a.m. for our morning run.
Ian died in his sleep. Neighbors told me my cries for help to 911 that morning were heard two blocks away.
Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what race you are, how financially sound you are, if you're homeless or if you have a family who loves you dearly. It can happen to anyone. Drug addiction not only destroys the person who is using; it also destroys the family. Addiction robs you of your money, it robs you of your spirit, and finally, when you have nothing else left to give, it robs you of your soul. My son Ian was a good, kind person who suffered from a terrible disease, and we miss him every day.
My husband and I founded Courage to Speak Foundation Inc ., a nonprofit 501-(c)(3) organization in the months after Ian died. My community as well as others wanted me to speak out. The organization was formed to help reduce drug use among young people and to encourage parents to learn everything our children are exposed to. Even if you think your child will never do drugs, you must find out what they will we exposed to. My husband and I have given more than 1,000 presentations nationally, sharing our message with students in elementary school, middle school, high school, colleges and parents, as well as other forums to prevent this tragedy from happening to another family.
We also developed a new program for parents called Courage to Speak Courageous Parenting 101®. The program is a free four-session (once a week) substance abuse education and prevention program for parents wishing to arm themselves with knowledge of how to keep their children safe.
I will be presenting Tuesday at the Courage to Speak Empowering Youth to be Drug Free Family Night. A free dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. I encourage you to bring your children, and I promise an evening you will not forget.
Ginger KatzFounder & CEO of The Courage to Speak Foundation and
Author of Sunny's Story
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