My Son Survived a Rape, But Not an Overdose.

It has been 3 years and 5 months (1269 days) since my son Erik died of an accidental heroin overdose. He was 29 years old and an extremely gifted and creative guy whose keen wit and empathetic heart is missed greatly every day. He came into this world via emergency C-section due to a prolapsed cord birth. He left this world after being clean 6 months. The relapse followed a mental health crisis and trauma that was triggered from a rape. The last thing we thought would happen that night was an accidental heroin overdose.

Erik felt everything deeply from the beginning. He was a tender and sensitive boy. His childhood was full of medical issues. At six weeks old, he had to have a minor corrective surgery. As early as 3 months old he had chronic yet severe ear infections. In middle school his tonsils were removed. His grandmother died when he was in 2nd grade. I am pretty sure his heart broke that day and stayed broken. I often wonder if there was ever a day that he was without physical and emotional pain.

It was in 7th Grade that Erik began to abuse substances. His sister Chloe can remember the day he was bullied. That day he made a conscious decision to be tougher than anyone else. His tender heart had begun to believe it was best not feel and never cry. He was intelligent, frustrated, and bored. His teachers thought maybe he would benefit from being challenged in a gifted class. It did seem to help. But there was a place that we just could not reach. He started with marijuana and moved quickly to Xanax and Lortabs. It was much easier to get pills from kids on the bus. They just took it from the parents and grandparents bedside table. The depression and anxiety disorder kept him out of balance. Self-medicating started very early. In his Senior year (March of 2003) he was arrested in school for public intoxication. He went to jail and then directly to rehab. He would be on probation for a year. The summer after rehab Erik and his sister worked at a kid’s camp. We had a summer to remember. We had our son back.

That fall he started his freshman year at Middle TN State University. His majored in graphic design and print making. It was in college that he found a place excel. Erik was made for learning in a college setting. He did extremely well in his classes and loved his professors. His sophomore year one of his favorite professors unexpectedly died. The grief triggered so much unresolved pain. He was seeing a psychiatrist who was treating him for Bipolar II. But his despair, agitation, and anxiety was not being managed. He went back to self-medicating with weed. He told himself that the only thing that worked for him was to use weed to function and control the mood disorder. From the coloring contests, he entered as a child to the mastery of print making, he was driven to share his life through art. This was the way he pushed back. This is how he fought the daily battle often from deep painful places. Each time he created a piece he won for that day. In December of 2009 he graduated with a degree in graphic design and minors in print making, illustration, sculpting, and web design.

5 months after he graduated he had to move back home. A long-term relationship had ended. He was broken and financially broke. It was a very difficult season. He started working in our family business. He was an amazing artist whose dad was willing to teach him to become a luthier (stringed instrument artisan). He was grateful and at the same time very hopeless.

One week before his 26th birthday he used heroin for the first time. Erik went to meet a guy owed him $80. The guy told him the only thing he had was what was on the table. As Erik tells it he didn’t want to live so he chose heroin. There were several people at that house. After the shot him up, they spent 45 minutes giving him CPR. He survived. He said for the first time in as long as he could remember he felt no pain. He chased that feeling for 3 years and NEVER found it again. Only found an addiction that brought him to homelessness, working as a confidential informant, put him in jail where he was raped by four guard. It caused him to lose friends and at times his family, brought unthinkable trauma, and ultimately death.

On April 30, 2014 Erik had been clean and sober for 6 months and it was also the worst day of our life. His mood disorder, rape trauma, PTSD was out of control. That day he fought with everyone in the family. We called the police for a well check. It was our hope to try to get him admitted to the hospital to get him stabilized. He had no health insurance and presented stabile enough so they released him. He knew his rights and came back to his cabin at our home. Things got even crazier. So, the police were called again. He agreed to go to a friend’s home. He pressured the friend to bring him to his dealer. His friend knew Erik would go on his own and then he wouldn’t know where ended up using. So, he took him to the dealer. Erik shot up in the car and then shot up again in his bathroom. The detective called my daughter Chloe at 2:22 a.m. We were told to get to the ER asap. He was in very serious condition. When we arrived we were told that he died at 2:00 a.m. That was Thursday, May 1, 2014. A day that forever changed our lives.