The Empty Chair

Dave Humes

There's an empty chair at my Thanksgiving table today.

When my son Greg was young, he always loved a holiday like this one. He loved to laugh and joke with his brother and cousins, and he was always the first one on the field for family football games.

But like a lot of kids, Greg experimented with marijuana and alcohol when he was in middle school, and before long he began struggling with deeper addictions.

He kept trying to stop, to get his life back on track and return to college, but the disease kept pulling him back no matter what we tried.

Last May—after 17 months in recovery—my son met up with some old acquaintances, who convinced him to "scratch the itch" just one last time.

Greg overdosed that night. He was carried to his car and left, alone and unconscious, in a cold hospital parking lot. By the time anyone found him, it was too late. My son will never again join us for another Thanksgiving.

The most painful fact of all? This never had to happen.

If there were Good Samaritan laws in place, my Greg might have made it to the emergency room, instead of being left to die outside.

If there were reliable information to guide families through the recovery process, we might have been able to get him treatment sooner.

If our schools followed better screening and education programs, Greg's early experimentation might have been prevented.

People always say it won't be their child—they think this sort of thing doesn't happen to good families or in nice neighborhoods. But addiction is a disease, it strikes everywhere, and too many of us don't learn that lesson until it's too late.

It's up to each of us—parents, family, friends, and community members—to learn about this disease and invest everything we can in stopping it. It's up to each of us to support Shatterproof's mission, erase the stigma of addiction, and stand up for those who are suffering from it.

We owe it to those we have lost, and we owe it to our children. Together, we can make all the difference.

Dave is a Shatterproof Ambassador. Learn more about Shatterproof's advocacy for 911 Good Samaritan Laws.