One father is sharing his family’s heartbreaking experience with drug addiction in an emotional open letter.
Sean O’Leary is the father of a 16-year-old daughter, Paige, who has struggled with opioid abuse for the past 20 months. O’Leary, a Kanata, Ottawa native, was inspired to post the letter on Facebook following the fatal overdose of a 14-year-old girl in his community.
The O’Leary family’s story is every parent’s worst nightmare. “My first thought every morning is to check that Paige is alive,” he wrote. “It is a nightmare of a way to live life especially when you have other children and have to try to make their lives as normal as possible.” Since Paige became addicted to substances, the family has spent “thousands upon thousands of dollars” on psychologists and treatment, none of which has worked.
“I have locked her at home, chased her around, grabbed her off the streets, walked in to people’s homes uninvited to take my daughter out of there,” O’Leary admitted. “We have had paramedics and police to our home numerous times.”
O’Leary ended his letter by scheduling an open meeting to discuss substance abuse and addiction in his Kanata community, to which over 200 concerned parents showed up. During the meeting, O’Leary said that he has met with local politicians and is working to open a youth detox center in the area.
You can read Sean O’Leary’s open letter in full below.
To All Whom Are Concerned,
As many if not all of you are aware from news reports a beautiful fourteen year old Kanata girl passed away this week as a result of a drug overdose. What hasn’t been reported as of yet is that Chloe Kotval was the third Kanata teenager to die of a drug overdose in the last eight weeks. Many of you that are receiving this initial email are aware of this.
The two other children that have died were a 17 year old girl and a 16 year old boy. At this time the families of these two other children do not want the publicity of having their children’s names and causes of death known and unless I am told otherwise I will respect their wishes. If I know of three in Kanata you can be assured there are many more.
My sixteen year old daughter Paige is also a drug addict/abuser. I feel so sad for the parents of the children that have died. But even worse than the sadness I have for them is the fear I/we and many others live with every day that is so real. My first thought every morning is to check that Paige is alive. It is a nightmare of a way to live life especially when you have other children and have to try to make their lives as normal as possible. Paige has been an addict/abuser for about 20 months.
Our family dealt with it the best we could with the limited resources that are available to families in situations like ours. The nightmare that we have lived for 18 months was nothing compared to the nightmare our lives turned into starting on December 31 at 1030PM. At that moment I arrived home to find a 17 year old boy dead in my garage. Thankfully I arrived when I did and that one kid was not high and she had called 911, we performed CPR, eventually got his heart going and then the paramedics arrived. I put a post on ‘Bell’s Let Talk’. Since then I can’t even to begin to explain what we have been through. I personally know the names of eight Kanata teens whom have overdosed in the last two months
Sadly the deaths that have occurred are only the beginning. If you look at statistics from any other communities where the kids started getting hooked on counterfeit opioids the prognosis for our community and our children does not look promising.
The point of this letter is not to discuss my families problems and/or the problem in general. Most of us know there is a problem. We have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on psychologists, counsellors etc. etc. Our daughter has spent 10 weeks at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre. I have locked her at home, chased her around, grabbed her off the streets, walked in to people’s homes uninvited to take my daughter out of there, we have had paramedics and police to our home numerous times.
But here we sit not knowing day to day whether our beautiful little girl will be alive tomorrow. I have talked to a few parents of other addict/abusers in Kanata and their stories are all the same. I do not know the answer nor am I any closer to finding the answer than when I first started seeking it.
I do know that when any of us have questions or need help having 2 families asking is better than one. Having 10 families is better than 2 and so on. The only people that really know what is going on are the kids and they need help. My goal is not to try and solve the drug problem. It has been going on for many decades but never before right now have the drugs been indiscriminately taking our children’s lives. I do not know how many families are suffering the same fate as us right now but I know there are many.
The first thing I would like to do is have a meeting with as many parents of addicts/abusers as I can find. We have all experienced the futility of dealing with this scourge on our own. We the parents of these kids and future kids need to unite for ourselves and for our kids. Please forward this to as many people you know whom have teenage kids. I will keep all reply’s confidential unless permission is granted otherwise. If they want to come to the meeting great or I can send them notes after our discussion.
Primary focus will be making sure everyone is aware of what resources are available, what treatments are available, use of Soboxone and if it is working. Ottawa Health will give us full support and supply Naloxone Kits, Training etc.. Then we can have an open discussion of ideas, questions to be asked etc…
The days of the saying ‘They need to hit rock bottom before getting better.’ are over. Sadly in most cases today rock bottom is a slab at the morgue.