Fighting Opioid Addiction

After a third successful year with Brian’s Christmas Songbook in Ocean City, Maryland; we plan to take the show to the inner city of Washington, D.C. & Baltimore, Maryland. This will help all children who are at risk of Opioid Addiction. This ambitious expansion is due to the overwhelming success of the just completed Children’s Concert in Ocean City, Maryland. Our top goal in 2020 is to reach each child in these cities.  This will allow us to create a positive memory in the mind of every child and reinforce them not to do drugs.  Therefore will require more donations to ensure we are getting an early start!  Thank you in advance for your help to save the children.  

Brian's Christmas Songbook is a live performance for children and their parents of the Christmas CD we put out in 2016.  The money raised will pay for children to see the show for free.  The purpose of the concert is to end the heroin epidemic by leading children to NEVER, EVER DO HEROIN!

The concert is uniquely original and subliminal.  By helping children to focus on family closeness and the goodness of Christmas, we hope to help overcome isolation and separation that invite the tragedy of heroin use.  We want to appeal to kids’ hearts rather than their comprehension of drug statistics.  In a world where all efforts by our politicians are failing to stop the tide of increasing heroin deaths, can we afford not to try something new?

We need your help to pay for the show, which will be performed by the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Lauren Glick at the Performing Arts Center in Ocean City, Maryland, on December 13th at 10 am.  Admission is free.

 Heroin/opioid deaths are becoming pandemic, severely impacting 18-to-25 year olds--folks in the prime of their lives.  From 2015 to 2016, overdose deaths were up 37% in Virginia, 38% in Pennsylvania, 101% in Maryland, 52% in New York City, 36.7% in New Jersey, 33% in Ohio, 26% in Connecticut, and 40% in Maine. Early results in 2017 show no change in this upward trend.

All the well-intended government programs are failing!


Brian died of a heroin overdose.  So that, hopefully, you never have to deal with the loss of your child by heroin use, please join us in fighting this scourge that's ravaging our country.

What follows is a plea by my wife, Lee Ann, that will, we trust, help people fight against heroin addiction:

I talk about Brian not to keep his memory alive, because his memory is in my heart forever and right behind almost every thought I have.  So it is not to keep Brian's memory alive that I write this, but to share information to help keep your children alive.

Our experience with addiction started in Feb 2004 when our 21 year old son Brian called his dad from college and told him he was addicted to heroin, and asked for help.  We later found out that four months before, in late Oct. 2003, he had started snorting heroin & had used it IV since January.

In September he came home because he had withdrawn from his first semester of his 4th year at UVA.  He had broken up with his girlfriend that summer and he needed a break from the intense studies.  He seemed down and we asked if he would see a counselor, but he refused and went on to return to school for the second semester.  For the 3 1/2 years prior to his withdrawal, while he was at college and home during the summers, we didn't see typical signs of drug use—his grades were good in Electrical Engineering, he ran a business part time called University Painters, had many friends, communicated with us, usually calling on Sunday nights while at school.

There is no one-size-fits-all as to who will succumb to addiction.  We only had ten months dealing with his addiction.  He died at home sitting at his computer of an accidental heroin overdose on Dec. 15, 2004.

We were not naive to think he had not drunk beer or tried pot, but had no reason to believe it was more than trying it out.  He even stated he didn't like pot, and that gave me a false sense of relief.

We would find out two years after he died, when we obtained records from UVA’s student clinic, that he had an incident where they found pot and alcohol that led to a counselor visit.  At the visit, we saw in the notes, he admitted to heavy drinking and the ability to "hold" his alcohol, getting a buzz after 6–8 beers where someone else would be reeling.  This was a big red flag to us of someone prone to addiction.  The school did not inform us and neither did Brian.

He was assigned mandatory counseling, which the records show he never attended, and there was no follow up.  We were not notified, even though the infraction took place two hours after he turned 18, two weeks after he arrived at school.  We would have had the chance to intervene had we been told.  He didn't tell us either.  The other notes in his record were for things like sore throats, a nicotine patch, and then, 4 years later, the final note said "Heroin Addict".  They referred him to University Hospital because of an abscess on his arm from shooting up.  Still no call from the University, but Brian at this point did call us.

We were numb when he arrived at the house.  I hadn't said the word “heroin” more than 3 times in my life probably.  Brian had a plan to go back to school and start a 4 day-a-week outpatient clinic with counseling.  We advised against it but had no authority because of his age.  He agreed to go to a local hospital for evaluation for their treatment program first, but that didn't work out.  A psychiatrist who was a family friend said to go with his plan.  We very reluctantly went with him to Charlottesville to sign him up at the Pantops Clinic.

We left with his car and an overwhelming sense of doom.  His plan didn't work out.  He was in a stupor after getting methadone, we discovered when we sent his uncle down to UVA to check on him because he wasn't answering his phone.  We thought he could be persuasive with Brian.  He agreed to come back to Northern Virginia and, after many calls to many people, my husband Tony's friend from college, now a counselor, told us to take him to Hazelden in Minnesota—whatever we had to do to afford it.  They had a bed and he agreed.  I drove with a friend to UVA to retrieve his ID and other papers he needed for admission, and in doing so found an article on his printer saying, "How to Get Off Heroin by Yourself".  At that age they think they can handle everything by themselves.

So dads want to kill the addiction and moms want to fix it.  You can't do either.  The counselor when we attended the Family Week at Hazelden with our youngest daughter who was 15, said to the parents, "Parents it is not your fault.  You are a piece of the pie in their lives.  There are many outside influences with great pull".

This battle needs to be fought with reinforcements: help for the addict, and help for the parents or loved ones.  We had an intense week of 9–5 therapy sessions with other family members and also with the addicts.  We left with hope, but with all of us in a kind of fog about what to do next.  We quickly mobilized once back home.  They advised Brian that 30 days and even the two extra weeks he did on his own there, were not enough to rid his body and mind of the drug.  It imbeds in the cells and creates a memory.  Heroin, as they said, is a crow on your shoulder pecking constantly to get your attention.

We went into hyper drive while he was still at the facility to find a place for him to go after he finished the program.  I drove on a snowy March day up to Patterson, NJ, to a place called Straight and Narrow.  Tony's older friend had a son, then in his 50’s, who had gone there for a heroin addiction when he was in his early 20's.  He stayed for two years and came out clean and sober and able to make it in the world.  The place was right in the middle of the city where the residents could walk out the door and score drugs in a minute, but what was offered inside the blue concrete building evidently helped them not to.  Brian was not interested.  At 22 he had a lot of pride.  His plan was to work as an electrician’s apprentice and go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  The man who had gone to Straight and Narrow became his NA sponsor.

He lived with his grandmother for a while but moved back in with us.  We knew this was not the best thing for him.  Our hands were tied because of his age.  We could have kicked him out but he was compliant.  He took the home drug tests we had and he walked around barefoot, with shorts and short sleeves so we could see needle marks.

He stopped the NA, though, because it was cult like he said.  His friends said they watched out for Brian not to drink beer when they were out, as it would lead right back to his drug of choice.  Actually soda has the same effect, I read recently.  His friends were not sponsors and able to hold him to anything, however, and about friends, we were advised by a member of Tony’s pool team from Uzbekistan, where 30% of the youth are heroin addicted, to "kill" all his friends—meaning of course, stay away from triggers, or those who enable.

There was a priest who spoke for four hours with Brian.  His drug addiction and his life of crime had come to an end in a miraculous way and he eventually became a Catholic Priest.  We had been given his story on tape to listen to.  After listening to it I told Tony immediately, we need to ask him to talk with Brian.  He agreed to come speak to us and Brian.  One thing he said was that the trigger to use can be as simple as looking at a certain photograph, and the urge only lasts about a minute.  If you can get through that minute, you can make it past without a relapse.  When you have emptied yourself of the drug you have to fill it up with other healthy, positive behaviors and strategies.  Addict have holes in their souls and try to fill it with their drug of choice.  I believe this helped Brian’s soul, even though his body succumbed to the addiction.  He gave him hope.

It’s important to seek out someone who has made it, and seeing what they did to get through and stay clean is beneficial.  They have the experience the addict can relate to, and the hope they so badly need.  Detox treatment, counseling, and positive role models can help build skills to overcome and persevere.

After he quit NA, we told Brian that to live with us he had to continue working on getting clean and sober.  He found a Christian Counselor in September of 2004, and part of that therapy was to see a psychiatrist who put him on Zoloft for the depression that can accompany addiction.  Zoloft has issues as well.

In recovery, Brian was attending GMU, with plans to continue his 4th year at UVA in the winter.  He was taking two electrical engineering courses.  He had lost his license for a year the December before, so I drove him to class.  One of the hardest things for me was seeing that he was well aware of the dangerous path he had chosen and how it weighed heavily on him, but that admission was also the first step to recovery.  He felt shame, it was obvious.  He couldn't really open up to us much about his experiences or his feelings.

Every once and awhile he would open up on a car trip to his classes.  He said he thought he had ADHD.  We had never considered that about him.  He said his mind raced all the time and the heroin slowed it down to feel normal.  He self-medicated.

We didn't shame him more.  At Hazelden they had us all write a letter to Brian about our lost dreams for him.  We said we were sorry things weren't going the way we thought for him, but as long as he was clean and sober and healthy, whatever he decided to do with his life we would support, and our love for him was always there.

Another thing he told me a week before he died was about his sister’s upcoming wisdom teeth extraction.  He stressed not to let them give her Oxycontin, that Oxycontin had been his first taste of heroin.  When he got his wisdom teeth out at age 19, the doctor handed him the prescription for Oxycontin.  It was a new drug back then.  I questioned why he needed a narcotic and why the doctor was handing him the prescription.  The Dr replied, "He's an adult."  Parents beware.

Brian also told me he prayed but wasn't sure if God heard him.  We don't know why some make it and some don't.  My belief says that God does not cause harm and destruction, but allows us free will and things to transpire according to our choices.  We can't fully understand, at least not in our present state of being.

I have no doubt though that God heard my screams that morning in December, as they flew from earth to Heaven.  In Him, I have the ultimate Hope and Promise that I will see Brian again.

I have been led to many experiences, where I felt compelled to tell Brian's story, and have encountered, on so many of those times, someone who has a child who is addicted, or has just lost a child.  To the first I try to guide them to help, and to the second give comfort where God has comforted me.

Brian was bright, funny, witty, and curious and loved by all.  He lit up a room.  He was the “Golden Child”.  Did all the attention and praise lead him to have a false sense of what he could accomplish on his own?  That he was invincible?  These are things you think of, but they are wrought with false guilt.  True guilt would be to have handed him the heroin.

I wish, in retrospect, we had pushed & worked more to get Brian a longer time in recovery.  Know that for those of you with kids under 18, your leverage is that they are not yet considered adults and you can intervene more easily.  It is still up to the addict to do the work, however.  I wish we had given him stronger boundaries while living at home, that we had continued seeking counsel ourselves past the family-week therapy and the few Al-anon meetings attended.  I wish we had talked with him very specifically at a young age about the many dangerous drugs out there and not just about drinking and marijuana.

One thing we did tell him was to always come to us if he was in trouble.  He didn't perceive he was in trouble when, before the heroin, he was trying different drugs to fit in or to self-medicate.  We read his record from Hazelden after he died where he admitted to trying an array of things before he landed on the heroin, his drug of choice.

We are blessed that he did come to us.  We saw him working and battling the addiction and we were able to be there for him, with love and tough love.

We both felt Brian needed something drastic, such as the Straight and Narrow approach or something almost monastic where he would've left belongings and people and goals behind for a good while, to start again with a simplistic approach to life, build up his strength physically with manual work, and heal mentally and spiritually.  He was very contemplative, even as a child, and we thought this approach would've been helpful.  We don't know.  You do your best with the knowledge you have.  There is a lot more information out there today for you all.  If you are addicted or have a child who is, you are doing the right thing in seeking out help and talking with trusted others to find your answers.

Find the help you need to streamline your life, to manage the task you have before you.  Dealing with addiction takes all your energy, and you may have other children, spouses, jobs, and daily activities of living that need your attention as well.  Take time for quiet, prayer, deep breaths, exercise to release the anxiety.  Take care of yourself to be of help.

Always, though, you have to stay vigilant and persevere.  Don't ever give up, even if you aren't in contact with your loved one who is an addict or are away from your family if you are an addict.  Faith in God is an action.  Act in all the ways you can, and know that you can't fix it, but you can be a part of finding help and support, in even the smallest way, for the loved one or yourself who is in this life-threatening situation.

A quote: "Even though you can't see the hand of God, you can feel the Hope of God."

God bless you and keep you,

Lee Ann, Brian’s mom
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Tony Christ 
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West Falls Church, VA
Phil Barila 
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