My name is Omar Abubaker. I am an oral surgeon, professor, and chair of the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, at Virginia Commonwealth University and Hospitals. I lost Adam to heroin laced with benzo, over four and a half years ago.
Adam is (was) my youngest son of three children. Sarah is the oldest and Joe in the middle. Joe and Adam were living together when Joe found out that Adam was using heroin. Adam was too embarrassed to come and ask me for help so he asked Sarah and Joe to come with him so I would not be mad at him. When they came to me my first question is what should we do, where do we go for treatment? His sister said my friend is having treatment at a local place. The next day I drove him there. That was at the beginning of December 2013. He started to detox and three weeks later they told me he has a positive urine test for heroin. I got mad at him and we talked about it and he was very apologetic. Looking back at that now I feel awful and ashamed I felt that way.
From that point, he went through a course of 9-month recovery, during which he moved out, started a full-time job, and started going to school at night. On Friday, September 26, 2014, at 1:00 he was close by at the MCV hospital/school where I work, having a doctor appointment so he called me and asked me if he could stop by. I said yes. We talked for about an hour and I suggested we go away just the two of us on his one-year anniversary in recovery. He said: "One day at a time, dad". After we were done, we walked to the bookstore and bought him books and stethoscope for his class (he was studying to be an EMT). Then we stood by the traffic light across the street from my office. We hugged and he said, "I love you dad" like every time we ever part ways. I stop by this traffic light every day on my way to work. I never knew at that moment that it would be the last time because the next day, I got a call 8:00 to be told that he was found overdosed, no pulse, and not breathing. He died four days later. I never walked into his room in the hospital ICU. I wanted my last memory of him to be the hug, and the words "I love you dad".
Since his death, my life has never been the same. Initially, I wanted to die so I can be with him, followed by being afraid to die because I wanted to live so I can revenge his death. I went to graduate school for a year on addiction studies so I learned the science of addiction. I wished I knew what I know now before I lost my son because I often think I may have been able to do a better job to understand him and maybe could have helped before or after he was afflicted with the disease. Because I had no second chance at saving my son, I wanted to do something to save others sons and daughters. Over the past two years, I have been traveling across the country (over 75 times) speaking to dentists and physicians to prescribe responsibly. Adam got addicted to prescription medications after shoulder surgery and within months he became addicted to heroin. I have spoken over 100 times locally in my city (Richmond), all over the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nationally at dental meetings, to nurses and medical students, dental students, 3 churches, a synagogue, 2 public libraries and anybody who wants to listen. I have appeared in the media (TV, newspapers) and I testified at the US Senate HELP Committee in Washington, DC.
Everywhere I talked I brought up Adam's story, and similar stories of other families, to make the point that addiction is a disease and to destigmatize the disease. I use the quote from Shatterproof, that Brian said "It took 300 years for the women in Salem to be vindicated." In my presentations, I always say, with my efforts and speaking up to prove using science that addiction is a disease and not a moral failing, I also say that I hope that it will not take that many years for my son, Adam, Brian, and many other Adams and Brians to be vindicated. They did not want to be addicted and wanted to be well. If all my efforts will result in one day sooner for society to accept the true nature of addiction then I am still at peace. As many parents who endured the agony of losing a son or a daughter, I cannot imagine that death will be more painful than my loss so I have not been afraid of dying since his death. The only thing I am afraid of nowadays is dying before I do enough on this issue.
Adam was a generous young man and what I miss the most about him is his unique laugh, his characteristic tight hug, and his signature goodbye. "Love you dad". I never remember an instance when we said goodbye in person or over the phone without closing by this signature. Since his death, I have not had any of these pieces of warmth. In his death, he is generous too. He is an organ donor and four people who benefited from his two kidneys, his liver, and his heart are still alive and doing well 4 1/2 years later.
I wear his high school graduation ring every time I am invited to speak so I feel he is still with me in spirit and that it is him speaking (because I am not sure I would have done that if it was not for him). I also feel that since parts of him are still around, he is now quadrupled the presence he was when he was alive. I am his legacy instead of it being the other way around (as it supposed to be) and that is the irony of this universe. Thank you for giving me the chance to post this.