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Tell us about your loved one.
Charlie was 24 when he died. A smart, talented, funny, good-looking young man, he was working as a mentor in an internship program for young adults. This was the second time he had begun to be successful in a similar position. He was just starting to think about going back to school to get a degree in psychology or social work or perhaps a certificate in addictions counseling.
He always got great deal of satisfaction from helping others. In spite of being in a new school at the beginning of eighth grade, he organized an ice cream sundae sale to raise money for children of first responders in New York City whose parents lost their lives on 9/11.
Writing and performing his own music was Charlie's passion. He often said that in his struggle with alcoholism, it was his music that held him together. A self-taught guitarist, he recorded his first album, ""This Morningâ€™s Evening"" when he was 16.
Tell us about Charles' struggle with addiction
"Our sweet, tender, easily hurt boy, often so concerned for others that he had nothing left for himself, had an underlying mood disorder which he stopped treating with proper medication at 18. An adopted child with the genetic pre-disposition for addiction, at first the alcohol soothedâ€¦but then quickly overwhelmed him. He'd been in treatment for alcoholism many times - ten to be exact - in Minnesota, Colorado and Utah - and that after wilderness at age 14 followed by three years of therapeutic boarding school - dealing with his pot use.
In December 2011, he went up to Boise, ID where he took a position as a mentor in a young adult internship program. From the get-go it was up and downâ€¦in part because that mood disorder mentioned earlier was ever-present. He tried and tried to connect with a psychiatrist in Boiseâ€¦I think he was ready to try medication againâ€¦but it never happened. He finally saw a nurse practitioner who treated him for anxietyâ€¦but there was more to it. And, we suspected that heâ€™d started drinking againâ€¦.but he denied it.
He was supposed to come to visit his dad and me in Milwaukee in April to see the psychiatrist here who had known him since he was in 3rd grade but missed the plane because he was loaded in the airport lounge. It was clear he was seriously binge drinking again...and his father and I feared the worst.
A few days later, Charlie impulsively quit his job. With all of the structure gone and feeling oh-so-lonely, the drinking escalated. Realizing he was quickly spinning out of control...and believing the demon would always winâ€¦that he couldn't stay sober...and that he couldn't stand disappointing us -- or himself -- one more time...he took his life. Charlie died on 5/28/12 of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound. We'll never know if he pulled the trigger intentionally or whether it was an accident.
What made Charles smile?
"Musicâ€¦musicâ€¦musicâ€¦and animalsâ€¦especially his Blue Heeler/Australian Shepard mix dog, Snoop. He also wrote poetry and kept journals.
As a little boy, he had all kinds of exotic crittersâ€¦salamanders, snakes, a bearded dragon and more than one cockatiel. There were some common critters as wellâ€¦kittens, turtles and fish.
Speaking of fishâ€¦he loved to fish his whole life. Sitting quietly on or near water always calmed him.
He wrote music all the time. In 2010, he and a friend began putting tracks together for a second album. His good buddy put it all together and released ""White Balloon"" last fall. Both albums are available through I-Tunes and CD Babyâ€¦and the checks he got always made him smileâ€¦and they help me smile now, too.
What do you miss most about Charles?
"His dad and I know that Charlie knew we loved himâ€¦and we also know that he loved us. But the love just wasn't enough. A cousin wrote ""Charlie was a beautiful, bright boyâ€¦and it's sad that the beautiful, bright life he deserved was so elusive.""
I miss that life, unfulfilled.
Every day, I miss the little thingsâ€¦the way he started phone calls with me by saying ""Hi, beautiful woman."" I miss the hugs when we were togetherâ€¦and those incredible blue eyes.
His dad misses the fishing.
Now, at least, he is at rest and experiencing peace in a way he had not for many, many years in this life.