I guess I should start off by letting you know that this will be long, personal and very important to me. As some of you may have noticed I have been M.I.A. quite a bit lately. I have found myself neglecting really anyone and anything that is not my family. Why you ask? Because my heart hurts at the loss of someone very dear to me. And when I say hurts I mean my stomach churns, my chest feels tight and I can’t breathe when I think about it. Never mind the boxes of kleenex I’ve been through. The emotions are overwhelming and I’ve been thinking that I wanted to share Zach’s story……not for me but for all the teenagers I encounter daily.
Zach entered our lives around 5 years ago when my baby sister started crushing on him in high school. He was adorable, the best smile, perfect manners, loveable, had a huge heart, athletic, fun, gave amazing hugs and man did he love my sister. They were inseparable. If I saw my sister, I saw Zach too. He was at every holiday function, family event, get together and soon became just another part of our family. He even made it into the family pictures. He was one of us. He was my little brother. Zach loved to be around people and surrounded himself with lots of friends. Turns out a lot of these friends liked to party (don’t we all at that age?) however, their party involved prescription pills such as Xanex and being “barred out”. I have to admit I didn’t know what this was and have since learned just how common it has become. Prescription pills have become as common as alcohol and weed.
A year ago Zach lost his sweet father to brain cancer. Struggling with his feelings and emotions, Zach became more wreckless with alcohol and pills and with worry we all got together to help support him with a 30 day trip to rehab to get better. Unfortunately this was also at the time of his 21st birthday and when he got out he quickly fell straight back into the partying and joined in on the drinking and trips to bars with friends. He struggled to break himself free from them in order to better himself. The party lifestyle ended up taking over and slowly we were losing our Zach. Little did we know that we would lose him forever. Like so many times before he went to a party with friends, drank and took prescription pain pills……only this time he didn’t wake up. He was gone. And our hearts haven’t stopped hurting since. Never will we see that infectious smile, never will we feel the embrace of his hugs and all of this because of one night. I have watched the pain in my sister daily, I have heard his mother ask why, I have felt the sadness in his siblings hugs, and I have wept over and over again. No one should ever have to go through such pain.
I work and connect with some of the most amazing teenagers that are just starting their lives as they venture off to college where all of the partying begins. I write all of this and share Zach’s story because I want you to know that you don’t have to take pills or drink alcohol to have people to hang out with….you don’t even have to party at all. You can be the person that’s able to talk, walk and still feel amazing when everyone else won’t even remember the evening. You can always drop your friends that are having a negative impact in your life and find new ones. You have the whole world ahead of you……don’t lose it for one little high. Cause guess what? It’s not cool to say you went to jail for drugs or are being sent to rehab. You may think you’re hard core but you’re not….you’re sad and you need help. At an age where you think you’re invincible….you’re aren’t. You never will be. If you’re dealing with depression or emotions you tend to try and bury with drugs and/or alcohol….take the steps to get better. Don’t let it be your ending. And if you feel alone….find that one person….there’s always at least one that you know truly loves you for you and reach out to them for support. It’s okay to admit you need help. It means you’re strong. And if you are a friend….a true friend…..don’t be the one that gets them drunk or gives them drugs to help “heal” their pain. You could be the person that causes them to die.
In honor of someone truly beautiful and special please be drug free and if you see me, stop me and ask for a bracelet to spread the cause. You are gone but you will never be forgotten. Love you Zach!
For more information about the signs of addiction and how to help check out Project Know.