An Overdose of Reality

shep pointingLast Monday night, family and friends celebrated as my son and 255 of his classmates received their high school diplomas

A week later, one of those students died.

My daughter was told about the death at school. My son found out via social media. My husband learned of it from my son. And I received  a text message telling me the Spring Mills High School class of 2016 had already lost a member.

Within a few hours, the rumors were swirling through the neighborhood and on the internet. But there was element that never changed: the culprit was heroin

And while many are simply shocked that a kid with so much potential died from a drug overdose, I’m dealing with a range of emotions.

I’m saddened, and my heart breaks for my son’s classmates who are struggling to understand what happened. I’m overwhelmed with how this drug continues to gain strength in my community. And I’m frustrated with the  political posturing that’s preventing real solutions to this horrible epidemic.

But, most of all, I’m angry.

I’m angry that so many people are expressing surprise that an athlete with decent grades could die from an overdose. This has been happening for years across the country, and pretending it couldn’t happen at our school was ridiculous.

I’m angry that my community has experienced dozens of overdose deaths since the beginning of 2016 and yet so many people want to blame the victims and their families instead of work toward a solution.

And most of all, I’m angry that drug dealing is yet another example of how money has become more important than human lives.

Nobody in the Class of 2016 can rewind the clock a week and get a do-over, and there is still plenty more heartache to come for everyone involved in this situation.

I can only hope that the members of my son’s graduating class, as well as the underclassmen who will follow in their footsteps, recognize that some of life’s most important lessons don’t happen in the classroom. Even more importantly, I hope they understand that those lessons mean nothing if they don’t use that knowledge in a meaningful way.

In a situation like this, turning those lessons into action is a matter of life and death.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on June 1, 2016, in education, Family, My life, News, people, perspective and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. yes, this is both sad and maddening. your last line speaks volumes

  2. This is a meaningful post. I’m a member of the community and struggling with many of the same questions. A few weeks ago, I volunteered in the Spring Mills High School cafeteria as part of a Youth Leadership Association sign-up event. Mentoring these High School Students are a part of everyone’s job, not simply the adults with the title of “teacher” or “coach.”

  3. Rachel Deavers

    I’m a youth pastor in the area…many of my youth kids knew this young man. It is truly tragic! My husband and I are praying for this situation for all of the young people in our community. We are also praying about opening up “hope homes” for those who want to get off of drugs, but the reality is that it’s going to take ALL of us to come up with a solution to the drug epidemic in our community.

  4. kastaley2004

    Nice writing style!

    You are so correct, Drugs nor the people whom sell or buy – discriminate.

    #NeverTrustADealer they are only hustling for money, more money. They don’t care about anything except money.

    Sad situation for Spring Mills High School, yet perhaps a wakeup or lesson for the rest of the classmates.

    Trusting it would be Cocaine, yet still a bad decisions, just as easy to get hooked and just as hard to break.

  5. Sheila Ditto

    I am a retired teacher. I am stunned, saddened, and angry also. I am stunned because of the lure that these drugs and the dealers possess, how cheap these drugs are, how accessible they are, and how easily they have taken over this county. I am saddened for the loss of the life of a young person whose potential had yet to be met, the parents and family of this young man and having to deal with the drug’s aftermath. I am angry about all those things that I am stunned and saddened about. It seems like everyone knows it’s happening, but yet it is hushed up. I know that the courts and police are overwhelmed with this epidemic. We, the citizens, need to speak up. We need to get involved and not be fearful about doing so. If you see it or hear about it, report it. It could save one more life if you do. Drugs have always been around in one form or another. When I was younger marijuana was the drug of choice. Cocaine was just about to be the big hit on the scene. We keep progressing to harder and harder drugs. My fondest wish is for people of all ages to wake up and recognize the dangers, not the thrills, that heroin and other drugs hold. A perfect example is University of Maryland basketball player, Len Bias. Never heard of him? He was the absolute best the ACC had to offer. He was drafted in the first round by the Boston Celtics. The very night of the draft he was offered crack for the first time. He died of an overdose. His last words? “Nothing can touch me! I am like Superman!” That was in the mid 80s.

    • I think every generation has their sense of being invisible and the tragedy of watching peers die young. Maybe I’m getting old, but this just seems so much more insidious than anything I remember… and yes, I very much remember Len Bias. I was in college at the time.

  6. I saw drugs in high school in the 70s and what they did. We continue to persist with the attitude that keeping them illegal, locking kids up for having them, filling up jails and literally creating an industrialized penal society – Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of an industrialized military complex… this is much the same. We have to legalize all drugs put them in a controlled environment. This takes the pushers, criminals off the streets out of the schools and parks and puts them out of business…..

    • I agree we need to rethink how we are addressing this epidemic. With that said, I’ve been absolutely enraged that the roots of this latest epidemic are with the pharmaceutical companies who literally developed a whole, insane marketing strategy to push painkillers that have basically the same chemical composition and heroin.

  7. Do you have CHILDREN or Grandchildren??? Then take 1 minute to read this and maybe help SAVE THEIR LIFE. TODAY Substance Use Disorder is Killing more people between the ages 15-30 Yrs than motor vehicle accidents and NO ONE CARES. Every day 129 Die and WE MUST get the general public to JOIN US to educate everyone that this is a Disease. In order to implement the changes in treatment we NEED we must increase our membership. As a national grassroots Advocacy Group WE are always responsible for spreading our message across the U.S. and expanding our VOICE. So Today please get at least 2 of your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues or any other group you belong to, to join our Group for Change!! Our Group is comprised of People that want a VOICE in how to change the way this Epidemic is being handled. We’ve either lost loved ones, seek to help loved ones with Substance Use Disorder and/or as concerned citizens wish to Stop the Stigma, Promote Awareness, Education, Early Intervention, Prevention and Access to Treatment for ALL with this Disease.
    This is not a Support Group, and as such it is an OPEN group. In order to affect change, Substance Use Disorder needs to be spoken about in the OPEN! Help us to shine a light on this Disease. God bless and thank you. Please use any posts or links on this or my timeline to help spread our message.
    Our link is: HOPES: Unified Voices For Change
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/HOPESVoices4Change/

  8. I’m so sorry, Trina. What a terrible lesson to learn so young. My kids have all lost friends to this scourge. We have had family members affected.
    My middle child had surgery to repair a broken ankle last week. Screws, bolts, plates were put in and he was in agony. He took his percocet, but very sparingly. At 25 years old, he’s terrified of how easily hooked we can become on this medications.

    • when I shattered my wrist a couple of years ago, I was shocked when I was asked if I needed more drugs. When I told the nurse that I didn’t want to get hooked, she said, “oh, you don’t need to worry about that.” Then I read about how the pharmaceutical companies manipulated the medical community to push pain killers, and it all made sense.

  9. Jennifer Johnston Crow

    What a lovely call to action. Perhaps your community (and many others) need the strong presence of someone (like you?) to bring it together to seek solutions, or at least options for raising awareness. I wish you (and all of us) godspeed in this effort.

    • There are many, many good people in this community. We just need to figure out how good can conquer evil – I know that sounds melodramatic, but it is really true in this case.

  10. You are absolutely correct, I live in Nevada and my Great Niece not only graduated with the young man who died but was a close personal friend. Drug overdoses are rampant nation wide on a daily basis including the greater Las Vegas Valley. Kids always think it won’t happen to them, they think they know how to handle drugs…. Guess what they don’t and the saddest part is they just don’t listen or believe what we as adults tell them. I am so sad. Thank you for allowing me to speak my mind. My thoughts and prayers are with the families going through this difficult time.

    • I’ve been paying attention to how differently parents have approached the conversation with their kids over the past couple of days. But at least these conversations are happening now – even though the circumstances are so unfortunate

  11. Marsha Finnegan

    This is a national problem, and it seems to finally be getting national attention. The solutions we need cannot come too soon. My 24-year-old niece died two years ago from a heroin overdose, leaving a two-year-old son and a heartbroken family.

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