Mother's tragic loss underscores grip of addiction

Sep 8, 2015

Heroin and other opiates have become a growing problem across Western New York, with an ever-increasing number of deaths being attributed to overdoses.  In the first of a three-part series on addiction, WBFO's Cheryl Hagen shares one mother's tragic story.

“He was my clown. Matt was very funny. He had a great sense of Humor.”

Deanna’s son Matt died from an opiate overdose. He was just 17-years-old.

“He was very good with figuring things out, like any type of computer issues, things like that. He would have been a great IT person. He would have been a really good gamer cause he loved to play video games all the time. He was very happy go lucky.”

Matt seemed like a typical suburban kid, but Deanna says he was facing a harsh reality, addiction does not discriminate.

“Matt started to experiment through drinking and marijuana, the kind of things you would think, that’s normal teenage experimentation. But unfortunately, now we have all these pills out there where these kids are experimenting with the Lortabs and things like that, and that’s what he started to do, and it continued and led to heroin.”

Matt’s behavior changed. He started hanging out with a different group of kids, his grades dropped, and he began lying, stealing and denying any doing anything wrong.

“He would make up stories that his TV, he was bringing over to his friends, and the TV fell and he just threw it in the dumpster. I went to the friend’s house and spoke to the mother, and then I went to another friend’s house to get another story. Basically, it was a lie to cover up that he sold the TV to get money.”

“Then I would go out and buy drug tests and he would deny that he was doing anything. It got to a point where, I wouldn’t let him leave the house. I told him you’re not going anywhere until you do this drug test. I sat in the kitchen with him for probably two hours.”

Deanna says she tried everything including calling the police on her own son.

“I was afraid that if he went to bed that night, he wasn’t going to wake up.  He was just very lethargic and totally out of it. The police just came to the house and told him to get in the car with me and I had to take him to ECMC.”

Ultimately, Matt’s behavior landed him in trouble with the law. A judge gave him the choice of jail or rehab. Matt chose rehab, giving Deanna a glimmer of hope, but it was short-lived. Matt left after only three months.

“It’s a horrible feeling as a parent. You feel so helpless. They say they have to hit rock bottom in order for them to realize how serious it is and want to get treatment. He just wasn’t there yet. I really do feel that they feel that their invincible, nothing bad is going to happen. They’re just experimenting. They’re going to do this for however long they want to and then they’re going to stop, but it isn’t like that.”

Matt died just a few months later. He had told a friend he was going to get through the holidays and then head back to rehab but he didn’t make it.  

“It’s unfortunate because you try so hard using the tough love method to let them kind of think maybe what I’m doing isn’t worth it, my family is more important. I honestly don’t even think that they’re thinking clearly. I think all they think about is that drug. He left here in August and it was December 2nd that he passed away… He had just turned 17 in November so it was not long after his 17th birthday.”

Matt’s high school principal recently sent Deanna a letter he wrote while he was still in school.

“I want to say last year, she contacted me and she had a letter that he had written because he got into trouble. He wrote her this letter. Just reading the letter after she sent it to me was almost like I could hear him saying the words off the paper. It was just like comical. It brought back good memories.”

You can hear Part 2 of the series on WBFO's Morning Edition on Tuesday, September 15th.