I received some heartbreaking news this week. A young man who was a childhood friend with my son Ben has died of a heroin overdose. For purposes of this blog, I will call the young man Tommy.
Tommy was five years old when we met. He was a quiet kid—one you might not notice in a room full of noisy kindergarteners. Just before the start of the school year, Tommy’s dad moved in with his father who lived next door to us. I clearly remember wishing that Tommy’s dad would pay more attention to Tommy and his brother and less attention to the steady stream of women that seemed to form a line on the front stoop. Slamming doors and raised voices were a regular part of the activity over the fence, and it wasn’t long before Tommy’s dad disappeared in his beat-up old Chevy leaving the kids at the house with their grandfather.
When I moved several years later, Tommy became a regular visitor at our new place. He seemed sweet and quiet so, I was surprised when he was implicated in some trouble in the neighborhood. Ben insisted Tommy was not responsible. Ben was with him when the alleged incident took place, and he attested to Tommy’s innocence, a fact later confirmed by an investigation. The boys maintained their friendship for two more years with no further trouble, but at some point, Tommy stopped coming around.
The Rest of the Story
This week, I learned the sad truth. Ben summed it up by saying that Tommy was a kind soul who was always surrounded by the wrong people. He admits that at fourteen years old he was forced to make the difficult decision to end his friendship with Tommy. As I write this today, my heart is bleeding at Tommy’s memory. It feels as though this is one more example of a life ended too soon due at least in part to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). You might be thinking that this is just my opinion, and as I struggled through my initial emotions, it was. However, I did my research and found article after article on the topic.
From the basics you already know about ACEs, it’s clear that Tommy faced two immense challenges as a child:
- Abandoned by his mother when his parents divorced, and then
- Abandoned by his dad and left with his seventy-year-old grandfather.
Continued research points to the fact that ACEs play a significant role in the opioid crisis that is currently sweeping the country. The crisis has reached alarming levels that suggest that upwards of one hundred thirty people a day are dying of overdoses usually due to the fentanyl poisoning of the street supply. I wondered what the largest age group of people overdosed and found some troubling information. Research is indicating that persons affected by ACEs are more likely to use opioids. According to a report I found at www.kkf.org, the age group most affected is 25-45. In other words, persons of childbearing years. And so, the cycle continues. Where does it stop?
It can stop with you. You can be an example. Start by taking a look at the ACE Test. Maybe you weren’t affected but is it possible that someone you know could benefit from this information? Either way, on the front page of my website you will find a download that contains some questions to ask yourself. Each one of us has the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life be it a young person or someone open to making a change. Awareness is key. Once we become aware that there is the possibility of something in our past causing a repeating pattern in our life (and possibly in the family), each of us is empowered to change it.
If you haven’t read my book, Let My Legacy Be Love, A Story of Discovery and Transformation: Tracing Adult Issues to Childhood Hurts, please give it a read. It sells for $16 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, but I have it for a special price of $12 plus shipping on my website until May 30th. In the book, I share my story of uncovering and healing the effects of ACEs as an example of what is possible when you look at your past from a place of curiosity and a willingness to identify and release patterns that may have been festering in your family for generations.
Love truly is our greatest teacher and our most precious legacy.
#trauma #ACEs #mentalhealth #behavior