Submitted by: Karen Zaorski
My Tribute: Our beautiful first born child, Raymond, was smart, cheerful, funny, artistic, kind and loving. He was a delightful, curious child growing up. He always had a smile on his face. He enjoyed playing with his younger brother and time spent with his grandparents. He loved drawing and all things creative. Ray was a talented soccer player and also played basketball and lacrosse, skied, roller bladed and skate boarded. He played the trumpet in elementary and middle school. In high school, he learned to play the guitar. He was a big fan of all kinds of music, and had some really fun dance moves. Ray relished time spent with friends. He was an avid outdoorsman and concerned about preserving the environment. He experienced nature through hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and sailing. He was a member of Outdoor Leadership in high school and part of a boat building team. There he was able to learn new skills and flourish. As a young adult, he spent many weekends with friends hiking area trails. He was fortunate to have had the love of a beautiful girlfriend and fiancee whom he planned to spend the rest of his life with.
Ray grew up with some challenging learning disabilities and ADD. Learning came, but with much struggle. He expressed that he was different from others, even when he was in a specialized school environment which focused on his strengths. Like many of his peers, he experimented with alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana in his teens. Unlike many of his peers, he became addicted to substances. "Mom, don't worry", he'd say. "I know what I'm doing." He thought he had control over his drinking and drug use, but of course he didn't and it only got worse over time. He did the outpatient counseling route but never embraced that he was in trouble with substances...even when using substances caused problems for him. When we were unable to get adolescent treatment for him in CT, he went to Utah for 73 days for an outdoor wilderness therapy program, then to a 12 month transition program for young adults in New Mexico. Upon returning home, he had some successes, relapse, some struggles, and then more successes. When we received the phone call that no parent wants to get, we did not know that he was using drugs again. Our first born child was found dead from an accidental cocaine overdose by his fiancee. Our lives would forever be changed without our beloved Raymond.
This nightmare is one that is sadly being experienced by far too many families around this country. There is easy access to dangerous substances of every kind imaginable in every community in our cities, suburbs and rural areas. The immense infiltration of drugs in our society puts every young person at risk. It is time to stop talking about what we know is a problem out of control and start taking action if we are going to put a stop to the destruction of this generation of youth who would otherwise have promising futures. How many more families must be destroyed?
Today, my husband and I attend a monthly GRASP support group which helps with our healing. I volunteer for a grassroots organization called Wolcott Crossroads which was established as a result of too many deaths of young people in our town. I also am involved with a state-wide grassroots group called CT Turning to Youth and Families which focuses on initiating change so youth and young adults can access necessary treatment and recovery supports. It isn't an easy thing for a parent whose lost a child to overdose to be out there with our story, but if it helps one young person or one family then it's well worth the pain and effort. It's important for those who can to bring awareness to the epidemic of drug use and the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and this nation-wide pediatric health crisis. Eyes must be opened to the fact the addiction doesn't discriminate and it's ending the lives of promising young people daily all across this nation.