Opiate addiction rages in Orange County,California, which otherwise seems like a nice, relatively affluent place. This is Joey's tragic story, told in several parts. Joey's story is similar to stories all over the country, and this problem of opiate addiction among young people is staggering. Many of them begin using prescription painkillers, often graduating to heroin. The effects of this epidemic are devastating.
James and Teri Kennedy recall the day they got a thunderous knock on their door, the knock that so many parents dread. OC Register, the local newspaper in Orange County, begun a sad and yet intriguing story about a local family battling an opiate addiction. This family, like so many others across America, have been devastated by that knock on the door.
James Kennedy remembers opening the door that day to two men in white shirts, as he mentally ticked of the possibilities as to the reason for their presence. Given his son's history of prescription opiate abuse that escalated into a heroin addiction, perhaps a "cop" should have been one of the first thoughts to his mind. But that's not the way a parent's hope works.
"For moms and dads, the fuel that nurtures hope is one of the most powerful forces in the universe-love for their children." Some argue that this unconditional love often leads to enabling and perpetuates the addiction, but this story reveals that this situation is often far too complicated for such a simple answer.
Joey Kennedy was born on August 26, 1981. As a toddler, he lived near the Jersey Shore. After moving to California, Joey became a talented athlete. He was fast and strong, playing both varsity baseball and football. After high school, he moved out of his mom's house and in with his father. He enrolled in Orange Coast College, and the teen began talking to the football coach. James Kennedy had hopes that his son would one day be able to transfer to a Division One school with a football scholarship.
Joey began spending less time at school and more time at the beach, where he would surf, smoke weed, and drink beer. Joey was a typical Orange County teen, who had his own car and partied on the beach. At home, though, there was not even any beer. James Kennedy is a recovering alcoholic, who has been sober for decades. Joey's parents are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The two men on James Kennedy's porch identified themselves as homicide investigators from the Orange County Sheriff's Department. James recalls his head spinning with the word "homicide." "Did my son kill somebody?" he asked. "Did somebody kill Joey?" The men at the door ushered James inside, and pulled out a photo from his son's driver's license. James confirmed that was, in fact, his baby boy, his light, his hope.
Joey's body had been found that morning on the side of the road, in a bed of dirt and gravel. It seemed he had been dumped there. James head reeled with the words, and he thought of how he had just texted his son an hour earlier. Just then, James received a text from his ex-wife that his son had spent the night after being released from jail in a motel with two other guys. He demanded to know who had killed his son.
In his late teens, Joey began to slip up. He was working at Blockbuster, and one day his father returned to a voice message, wondering why Joey had not gone into work. Joey finally showed up drunk at 5am. Months later, he totaled his car. He moved out shortly after, and although his parents worried, they were also relieved.
Several months later, Joey asked his father for help. James drove his son to a detox center. Joey's sobriety didn't last, and later in 2003, he did another 30 days in a sober living home. For the first time in years, james felt like his sone would be okay.
Tomorrow, Part 2 of Joey's Story
Image courtesy of David Whiting and OC Register.