I am a mom of a forever 25 year old Angel Boy, who lost his wings on May 17, 2015. I miss my son and I will miss him forever. There is no glue for my broken heart, no elixir for my pain, no going back in time. For as long as I breathe, I will grieve and ache and love my son with all my heart and soul. Being his mom is the best gift I’ve ever been given. Even death can’t take that away.
Theo was a fun loving, free spirited beautiful son with a heart of gold and a contagious smile. Theo always had a way to make you smile and laugh. He always had a wonderful sense of humor. He was charismatic and wherever he went he never knew strangers and always made you feel welcome. A gifted storyteller and always an entertainer. He loved his little brothers with all his heart. A loyal friend to many.
Just One Life
If there is anything worse than losing a child, it is losing a child to a drug overdose, because grief is accompanied by stigma and blame. It’s the most gut-wrenching thing to watch your child suffer at their own hand, from their own decisions.
What is different about losing a child to overdose? Losing a child to addiction means you didn’t get to say goodbye, and you have to deal every day with the stigma of being a parent whose child died from drug use (if you are brave enough to be truthful about the cause of death). You question your every decision. You look for what you did wrong, what you didn’t say, why you didn’t have a second sense that something was wrong. You look back over the years, dissecting each part of their life – looking for clues. And you look at yourself and ask all of the what-ifs. You look for blame but mostly you blame yourself. You find an online group of mothers just like you, where there is no stigma and everyone has the same questions and feels the same pain with no judgment. You force yourself to read the coroner’s and toxicology report hoping there is an answer there. And you cry — a lot.
I lost my son, Theo, when he was 25 years old to a fatal combination of heroin and Fentanyl.
I remember him as warm, open, loving, bright, intelligent, and a very handsome man. He had a huge laugh and a fabulous smile.
He was an outstanding athlete, with many trophies and awards. He played football and was a linebacker and this was the brightest shining star in his life. He was also very gifted intellectually being a honor roll student during his years in high school, but dropping college after first year.
Theo was a fun-loving, free-spirited, beautiful son with a heart of gold and a contagious smile. He had a tattoo on his wrist that read “Just One Life ". He lived his life with wild ambition, no regrets.
Theo always had a way to make you smile and laugh as he had a wonderful sense of humor. He was charismatic and wherever he went, he never knew strangers. He always made you feel welcome. He was a gifted storyteller and always an entertainer. He loved his little brothers with all his heart. He was a loyal friend to many.
He always said “I love you Mom, I am sorry Mom…”
We were very, very close. Even during his years of drug use, he and I never became distant from each other. It was torturous at times, but the one thing that was always, always apparent was that he loved his family and his family loved him - no matter what.
Theo started smoking pot in the last years of high school. His drug use progressed into pills and then cocaine. We believe his addiction started about seven years ago, but it’s hard to say for certain because this disease of the Devil entered our home slowly and quietly. Over the next seven years, he experimented with a variety of drugs, including his final drug of choice, opiates. During those years, Theo tried so, so hard to stop. He felt broken and guilty for the hurt he inflicted on me and his little brothers. He once wrote about his “fairytale life” that he had screwed up so badly, and his self-esteem was completely eroded towards the end. But he always took total responsibility for what he did.
Theo was such a fun-loving individual, but had his own inner struggles. The difference between Theo and most other kids when they were in the process of getting help, was that Theo reached out for help entirely on his own. He loved his friends and family so much, that when his behavior started to hurt the ones he loved the most, he decided it was time to do something about it. He asked for help and entered a rehab. He was clean for about seven months when he relapsed..
September 30, 2014 was the first time my son called me crying and ask me for help. Was the first time when he was admitted he is a drug addict.
In my shock and heartbreak, I didn't criticize him for it because I knew he felt so bad. I knew he felt he had let us down. He didn't want to be an addict. He told me he hated that life and he doesn't want to live that life anymore. "Mom, please help me!!!" I will do anything to get out from this hole ..."
He shared why he decided to go down such a dark path. How alone he felt although he had so much love from me and so many people growing up. How it all started with just having a little fun at seventeen - eighteen with his friends with pot and escalated to prescription pills and cocaine.
The hardest part to be a parent is watching your child go through something really tough and not being able to fix it for them.
I reached out to Jack Koensigdorf foundation and Kathie Koensigdorf told me about Matty Prawicka from AIR. I called him right away and asked for guidance and how we could best support Theo during rehab.
Matty told me "Theo was the most motivated person I have ever worked with. His desire to improve his life and his appreciation for the littlest things stood out the most. I remember after I dropped him off at rehab, I was thinking that if every person I tried to help had 10% of his motivation, a lot of families would sleep better at night".
Although his motivation and passion were magnetic, the system set in place failed him. His lack of insurance prevented him from any dual diagnostic programs, especially ones out of state and away from his surroundings and limited his options. The best available programs were not able to scratch the surface of his lack of confidence and ongoing feelings of letting people down. He needed more intensive treatment, and needed to be properly evaluated and medicated for any mental health issues. He was limited to one thirty day inpatient program and then bounced around to several sober living homes.
Thirty days to detox from something that he had been doing for eight years? It's designed to fail. There really needs to be a program that keeps them longer for four to six months at least, so they can treat them properly. My son was in a detox program for thirty days, after we sent him to a " treatment center " and after four months - he was kicked out for using Facebook. We sent him right away into a halfway house thinking he was ready. After three months there, he relapsed.
They kicked him out in the middle of the night with nowhere to go. Throwing people out of rehab or sober living for displaying the very symptom of their disease (for their own good) is nonsense. It’s dangerous as well, by putting people on the street with no money, resources, often with only a heavy bag of their life’s possessions. It was the perfect storm.
I am relating this story to all drug addicts, who receive the most devastating consequences, all for the one simple act of relapse. He was in Florida, and we live in New York. After two days of being homeless, we found help and sent him to a treatment center in South Carolina. I didn't know these treatment centers accept inside drug dealers who are forced by law to be there as part of their probation. Instead of going to jail, they give them the option of rehab. These kind of people are not going there to get better. One such drug dealer was there and he gave my son and two others drugs for free. Of course, they had been kicked out and after one week - my son was found dead from the same drug dealer. He died in a shady motel room. The drug dealer is free on the streets.
The system in this country is broken and people are not aware. Kids are still dying.
FBI and DEA research shows that about 46,000 people die from drug abuse annually in the U.S. That is more than the number of Americans who are killed in car accidents and gun violence combined. Half of those drug-related deaths are from opiate drug abuse.
The numbers are appalling and shocking — tens of thousands of Americans will die this year from drug-related deaths and more than half of these deaths are from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. Opioid abusers have traveled a remarkably dangerous and self-destructive path. I hope this will be a wakeup call for folks. Please pay close attention to this horrific epidemic. Help reverse it. Save a life. Save a friend. Save a loved one.
This epidemic does not discriminate. Addiction can happen to anyone. All across this country, it is taking good people from good homes and leading them down a trail that often ends in pain and sadness.
I have to say there has been lots of talk, some media attenton, but little action to fight the epidemic.
What small actions have occurred (Narcan distribution and training, Good Samaritan Laws) is much appreciated but, overall, this is an epidemic taking over society. It’s proving to be age/gender/race neutral and not showing any signs of abating. Legislation languishes, insurance companies still do not provide the coverage necessary, and the shame and stigma of addiction continues.
We and the countless others who’s loved ones suffer from the consequences of heroin and opioid addiction are frustrated with the lack of strong, positive action.
Maybe Narcan is the wrong approach. Maybe those who o.d. really want to solve their problem once and for all. I know this sounds horribly hard hearted, but more education from ex addicts in middle schools and high schools might give kids the idea that starting with drugs leads to a sordid life. Films and books should expose students to an addict's life. If they are not learning to say no at home, then sometimes they are learning to say yes from friends at school.
The bottom line is there is a lot of talk, a lot of sympathy, and very little action to stop the epidemic and treat those with the disease of addiction.
For me, the pressure and fear of watching my child battle addiction was like a roller coaster with good periods and crashes. You learn to be hyper-vigilant, living always with fear. You have hope as well. As long as they are alive, you have hope. But the sound of the phone ringing at night or not hearing from them in a normal way, always makes your heart sink. It’s always in the back of your mind that your child could die in some way as a result of their addiction. I never imagined my son. He sought treatment on his own. He cared about his family. He tried to make the right choices. I heard about so many kids dying, but I always said to myself “no, not my son. He will be ok. He will recover. He will come home after recovery and the life will be beautiful for my family, again."
The fateful day arrived on May 17, 2015. There will never come a day, hour, minute or second that I stop loving or thinking about my son. Child loss is a loss like no other.
Theo was an incredibly loved young man. Friends flew across the country to be at his funeral, and the incredible sadness about how his death could have been prevented just permeated the air. Because of the embarrassment he felt, he never asked his friends for help.
All I have of Theo are memories, and of course his clothes and a few other things. But at the cemetery you cannot hold a grave marker. What I miss most about my son is his affectionate nature, his great sense of humor, and even the small things like hearing his feet bouncing up and down the stairs, the smell of his cologne—just everything about him. It hurts so deeply to think about him never again being here on earth to say "I love you Mom!" or for me to hug his sweet little neck and kiss his warm cheek.
For parents, this is their greatest fear come true, because the grieving never stops when it is your child that has been lost too soon. Children are supposed to bury their parents. Parents are NOT supposed to bury their children.
When you lose a child, nothing is ever the same again. Every facet of your life has a memory of your child. Every room in the house, every trip in the car, a song, a picture, a book, a walk in the park. There is a hole in your heart that will never be filled. You search and search for answers that just aren’t there. Holidays, birthdays are never the same.
To the kids reading this story, you are loved and have so much to give to the world. The temptation to abuse any kinds of drugs is very real, but the courage to resist that temptation is also very real.
If my son's story saves even one life, then his life and death were not in vain.
My advice to parents is to read and get more informed as much as they possibly can about addictive illness and drug use from responsible sources early on. Talk honestly about the risk factors of becoming addicted by ‘experimenting,’ talk about family history of alcohol or substance abuse. I believe that to resolve the overdose crisis, people whose lives have been touched by this issue need to speak up. We must get loud about overdose, the stigma, and shame must to end.
With overdose, we must address both these elements. We must research addiction and find better treatments and a cure. It can be done. We just have to care enough to do it.
Death is not a time for blame. It is a time for reflection. And then, it is a time to speak. It's time to stop pretending that substance use disorder is mostly a choice, and it's time to stop shaming people who struggle with it. Addiction is a thinking problem, \this is a thinking epidemic. If the mind can’t wrap it’s head around something, then it will consider it impossible. If a new life of feeling pain without anesthesia doesn’t seem survivable then it’s inconceivable.
Addicts don’t doubt they are powerless over the drug necessarily.
Addiction is a disease that starts in the brain, just as everyone has some type of addiction like food, sweets, cigarettes, and so on. And because it is a disease it has to "fixed" or "healed" from the inside out. These 30, 60, or 90 day rehab's do not work. What does work is that once the person is ready to get clean they need a rehab that is long term in order to heal one step at a time. They need a lot more than "detox" and abstinence to get well, if you do not treat the mental state (whole person) and get to the "Whys" and then work on fixing those "Whys" if they don't their success decreases dramatically. We all know that these places can be expensive but their is help out there with the financial aspect as well. Recovery exists, recovery it's possible, you just have to believe it and help them as much as you can. They need your support and love. Show them you love them no matter what. It's a long road, it's a hard and exhausted road but it's possible.
“I hope in the next 10 years, we take ‘hitting bottom’ out of the lexicon,” said Dr. Carrie Wilkens, coauthor, along with psychologist Jeff Foote, of “Beyond Addiction.” “I want to eradicate it. It doesn’t need to happen, ever.”
Foote and Wilkens run a substance abuse and mental health treatment center based in the Berkshires and New York City, the Center for Motivation and Change. They tell family members that they are a crucial part of their loved one’s recovery.
“You can both take care of yourself and take care of them at the same time, you don’t have to detach,” said Foote. “Family is a very powerful force. It can be incredibly constructive.”
Tough love doesn't have to exist. Like any other human beings , people with addiction must be treated with dignity, care, and respect.
I wish with everything within in me to have that chance "to take my son home " ......I will live with this regret for the rest of my life . I did not have that chance because he didn't call me and asked for that, he called the night" before" but he never said he wanted to come home...but I could have asked him that and I didn't. I didn't because I was taught by professionals in this field it's better for him to stay away from home and let him ask again for help. But deep inside me I would take him home and I didn't listen to my heart and now I have to live with the biggest regret of my life " IF ????? "........ Go with your heart ...
The last day when I saw my son alive (October 31, 2014) the day when he was going to a long term recovery center in my head was: this will be the day when I put my son on the right path, he will go there to get better and after 6 months to a year, I will take back my old Theo, my son, who was here before his demons took him away from us. I built castles in the air and I was full of expectations as to how he might recover .
Ohhhhh God, I was so wrong ..... nobody was telling me he will could relapse, he will be kicked out in the middle of the night, on the streets, miles aways from home.
As I create imaginary expectations, I expose myself to the risk of having sorrow, frustration, anger and guilt.
When my son relapsed for the first time I was shocked. I felt so scared and disappointed. What should I do now?
After running and crying on the streets and asking God to help me , I said to my self, this is my son, he is a human being, the same as I am, who also has strength and weakness. I have to eliminate my expectations and help him again.
I knew he was smoking pot ... but in no way did I think it would escalate to cocaine and ultimately heroine . Many legitimate prescriptions cost a lot more than heroin you can get off the street. It has a decent price point, and it’s pure — if you are afraid of needles, you can snort it, like my son.
I should have intervened sooner when I first learned my son was smoking marijuana. On that time complaining to some people about my son's addiction, their answers were: it's ok, everybody's smoking marijuana. " I warn people to examine their behavior if they find themselves smoking marijuana at least once a day.
When you’re smoking on a daily basis, there’s a problem. Especially if you’re talking about a teenager ... as parents, we can’t just say it’s a stage and they’ll grow out it. We’re creating a world of young people who can’t function at their best. And some of them they will not stop here......like my son .....after few years when I said to myself it's not just marijuana I approached him, talked to him, asked him questions, and he completely denied, "No, mom, I swear, I just smoked pot sometimes."
We don’t know who is going to develop an addicted personality. It could be any one of us.
Theo was bright, funny, and so very intelligent. He wasn’t at all what you might think of when you hear the word addict.
You would never have thought that this bright, sweet young man was an addict to talk to him, or that he would die....
I would like to advise the parents to start talking about drugs abuse and his consequence with their kids from an early age...
My son’s life was cut irreversibly short, but his love lives on forever. There will never come a time where I won’t think about who my son would be, what he would look like, weddings that will never be; grandchildren that should have been but will never be born– the bleeding never stops.
There will always be an empty chair, empty room, empty space in every family picture. Empty. Vacant. Empty spaces that should be full, everywhere we go, forever gone for this lifetime. There is, and will always be, a missing space in our lives, our families, a forever-hole-in-our-hearts. Time does not make the space less empty. No matter how you look at it, empty is still empty. Missing is still missing. Gone is still gone. The problem is nothing can fill it. Minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after heart-breaking year - the empty space remains.
The empty space of my missing son lasts a lifetime. And I will miss him forever. There is no glue for my broken heart, no elixir for my pain, no going back in time. For as long as I breathe, I will grieve and ache and love my son with all my heart and soul. Being his mom is the best gift I’ve ever been given.
Even death can’t take that away.
.... the message is everywhere ....be happy, don't take anything for granted,seize the moment,live life to it's fullest....Just One Life.
Violeta Astilean lives in East Hampton, New York with her husband and 2 sons, Alex and Max. She plans to start the Theo Marinescu Foundation - Just One Life - for education, awareness and rehabilitation scholarships to help people suffering from drug addiction. Working closely with schools to develop training & education,inspiring knowledge and informed change. Educate and advocate to prevent and reduce deaths and tragedies.
She can be reached via email at: email@example.com Theo Marinescu , 10/7/1989 - 5/17/2015
I miss you Theo! I was so blessed to have you as my son! I love you so much!!!!!