His name is Nick. Well, maybe he has a different name in Heaven, but he is still our Nick.
Nick’s story is one of hope in the possibility of lasting recovery from the pain of addiction. As a family member of a loved one who suffered from this painful and chronic disease, I have witnessed recovery at its finest with support and ongoing care through the 12 Step-based program.
You know, when you are in the middle of your own story, you may not want to hear someone else’s. My hope is that our experience will offer insight that may be of help to you, at least to let you know you are not alone…
Nick was on the path to recovery, sometimes taking one step back to two forward, but on his journey with love, hope and support of his family at home and his family at Tallgrass Recovery.
Kind, funny, happy, uplifting – these were some of the words used in memory of Nick by friends and family following his death on July 18, 2015. We would add smart, intuitive, adventurous, frustrating, and amazing! Another recurring theme, “Nick always had your back”, so very true as we reflect on how he tried to protect us from his personal struggles in recovery.
We’re just a regular Sioux Falls family, no big deal. Family vacations, holidays and birthdays celebrated together, regular family dinners, mom and dad involved in religious education, sports via coaching and booster activities, room parents. Nick had positive role models in extended family, teachers, and coaches, and a brother and sister who think the World of Nick ~ To Infinity and Beyond!! Our parenting style, as I would describe it, is consequence when called for, praise, and always love. Oh, we have our share of stress and conflict in our family, to be sure, but are always there for one another, I feel.
So what happened? Why do these beautiful young souls move on from us so early?
Nick excelled in academics and athletics. Nick had many and varied friends. Nick was a bit of a risk taker.
Some marijuana in the early years of high school, a phase we thought, with no question that it was experimentation not to be tolerated. Then the football MCL/ACL injury - second play of the second game senior year. Then the prescribed Hydrocodone and Percocet – four months in total. Then the cessation of the prescription pain medication with alternative medications prescribed to help with the withdrawal. Then 30 days of residential treatment, still graduating with his class as a Regents Scholar, all while under the care of excellent physicians. All with the continued love and support of his family and the support of his high school’s principal, coaches and staff.
For the next three years Nick attended college classes and worked primarily in his field of interest, culinary.
Nick continued to struggle with his disease, protecting us, his family, as best he could from the fear of what could happen to him and the frustration at not being able to diminish the symptoms of addiction. Still good, kind, fun, and always giving us hope.
The symptoms of addiction can move a person in directions they do not want to go and often don’t comprehend. That happened to Nick as he found himself faced with charges stemming from his marijuana and related substance use in 2014. Nick knew what to do, to ask for help. We were blessed to have been able to support him through his work with Tallgrass Recovery in two 30 day stays between October 2014 and March 2015. Coming home in March was a young man renewed in his recovery, attending AA meetings, getting together with his sponsor, going to church, and spending time at Tallgrass where he was always welcome.
May 20, 2015, was Nick’s sentencing hearing and on June 3, 2015, Nick checked into the work release program with Minnehaha County for just under four months. July 18, 2015 8:30 p.m., a visit from the Sherriff’s Department at our home. Nick had died in his sleep, having returned to the facility (the Elks Club as many of us know it) after work at approximately 3:30 that afternoon, spending time with others in the program, and laying down for a nap. Nick died an accidental death. Reports indicated prescription medications in Nick’s system, all but one prescribed – Oxycodone, at an elevated but non-fatal level. Nick was 21.
I will say again, the symptoms of addiction can move a person in directions they do not want to go and often don’t comprehend. From what we can discern through conversations with friends and investigative findings, Nick likely relapsed due to the stress of his situation, with ongoing care through his 12 Step program, per court orders, to resume after his 118 days in the work release program. Scheduling as many work hours as he could, the prescription medications, we believe, were intended by Nick for use as a coping tool and to aid in sleep at the corrections facility. But as all too many parents, family members and friends across the nation are learning every day, for some people, opioids have their own intentions.
We can no longer experience the joy of Nick’s laughter, awesome hugs, and genuine goodness. What we can do is offer insight through our experience in hope that it will help anyone reading this article in their journey either with addictions personally or as a family member or friend of that special person suffering from this disease.
For You, Sons and Daughters and Loved Ones
- DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE IN YOUR RECOVERY AND YOUR FUTURE
- You Are Loved and Respected more than you know
- Do Not be ashamed of your illness, addiction is a chronic disease which has come to you, A GOOD PERSON, for many reasons beyond your control
- ASK FOR HELP Face it Together Sioux Falls is a great place to start
- STAY WITH YOUR PROGRAM – This is not a disease you can go alone
For You, Parents, Guardians, Siblings, Friends
- DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE IN YOUR LOVED ONE’S RECOVERY AND FUTURE
- Addiction is a chronic disease, recognized as such by the medical community
- Try not be ashamed of or blame your loved one or yourself, rather educate yourself on the disease
- Face it Together Sioux Falls is a great place to start
- ASK FOR HELP! Addiction is not an exclusive club. It does not discriminate, but invites the loved one who is suffering as well as family and friends to join in… only after you join does it become seemingly exclusive and isolating
- Encourage Your Loved One to Follow Their Program – Their Work, Your Support
I go to Woodlawn Cemetery every day. Some days I am overjoyed in Nick’s place with God and Jesus. Some days I weep for myself, my husband and our children, Nick’s brother and sister. Every day I know that Nick is with us. Heaven is not so very far away, I think.
Now, there is work to be done on behalf of Nick and all of the wonderful souls suffering from this disease.
Let us remove the stigma and shame placed by society and remove the barriers to recovery. Let us do this through education and awareness of addiction as a chronic disease. Let us use the resources available right here in our community to get help for our loved ones and ourselves. Finally, let us work with the South Dakota justice and corrections systems to promote understanding and rehabilitation of people suffering from addiction.