“Half your heart is gone and can never be whole again.”
So wrote one grieving mother, Sue Kruczek, about the loss of her beloved 20-year-old son, Nick, to a heroin overdose. By then, in early 2017, Nick had been gone for four years. “Losing a child to addiction means you didn’t get to say goodbye . . . you may smile and stand straight,” Mrs. Kruczek continued, “but you will feel crooked and work extra hard to be happy for the rest of your life.”
This is the collateral damage of the opioid epidemic: the emotional devastation of those left behind. There are simply too many painkiller pills flooding our neighborhoods and falling into the hands of children, and not enough access to addiction treatment when they get hooked.
Nick’s addiction to heroin began as a dependence on pain pills he developed as a freshman hockey star playing on the varsity team. A senior teammate had given Nick an opioid pill to calm his nerves and Nick later confessed that he “never played a game sober” thereafter.
The downward spiral Nick experienced was brutal, and the treatment options for his family proved insufficient. When no rehab beds were available near his home in Connecticut, Nick was sent to a residential rehab facility in Florida to detox. Relapse was an ever-present threat. Within five years of taking his first opioid pill, Nick Kruczek was dead. Sue Kruczek in 2017 again:
Parents are not supposed to outlive their child. The pain is too large. Every aspect of our life has a memory. Every room, car ride, hockey rink, a song. You find yourself secretly wishing all holidays would go away.
This year, Mrs. Kruczek joined a group of other grieving parents to forge a plan to use the occasion of Valentine’s Day to move the opioid crisis to the top of the national priority list. Last weekend, ABC News reported that Kruczek and company would send President Trump Valentine’s Day letters with their respective heartbreaking stories of loss. Their departed loved one’s picture would be printed on each envelope, to better put a human face to the tragedy of these preventable deaths.
A producer from Fox News saw this coverage of Mrs. Kruczek’s Valentine’s Day gambit and invited her on President Trump’s favorite show, Fox & Friends. She agreed, and when she did appear on the program, the president was watching the segment. Kruczek was careful to praise the emphasis the president placed on the opioid epidemic in the State of the Union address and in his budget proposal. Trump tweeted his support after Kruczek’s Monday appearance, asserting that “We are fighting this terrible epidemic hard – Nick will not have died in vain!”
Sue Kruczek achieved her stated goal of appealing to the presidential heart before her valentine to President Trump even arrived at the White House. “Mission Accomplished” . . . right?
As Yoda would say, “Difficult to see is the future.” Federal budgets are obviously very complex, and the “opioid scourge” is a problem of horrendous scope. As with any government policy, prioritization will be proved out by the amount of funds ultimately allocated to the issue by Congress (the Trump Administration’s “budget” is, after all, merely a proposal), and the quality of leadership responsible for applying those funds competently.
Whatever the outcome at the federal level, Sue Kruczek is doing a noble thing in turning her loss into a rallying cry for change. She is trying to prevent other parents from feeling the kind of sorrow she can never escape.
If you or someone you love is risking that fate, please call us. We can help.