I, unfortunately, am the founder of Thomas’ Hope for on March 14, 2012, I lost my 21 year old son to the disease of addiction, specifically a heroin overdose.
I belong to a club that no parent should ever belong to.
Thomas was the middle child of my three children. Tom was a great son, brother, nephew, grandson, uncle and friend. And Thomas’ life became consumed and ultimately claimed by the disease of addiction.
We as a family watched as this healthy, vibrant young man became broken and bound by an insidious disease that robbed us of Thomas and left an empty shell.
Addiction took over his mind, body and soul and left a host who would do anything to get his next fix.
Thomas did his very best to lose Heroin, but his disease found him again and took over. Our family’s life was turned upside down and sideways.
This disease shattered my heart and my family more times than I care to remember and unfortunately, strikes too many families.
The disease of addiction does not discriminate - any family, any time, any place.
It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor.
My Thomas returned home from treatment on March 13, 2012. We had a great night and it was wonderful to have had that time with him. His great hugs and “I love you Ma” are forever etched on my heart.
My 18 year old younger son found his brother at 7:15am the following morning. I was on an express train to NYC when I received his phone call and I will never forget the pitch of Andrew’s voice and the uncontrollable sobbing. The Long Island Rail Road left me off in Cold Spring Harbor and an angel of a woman drove me home, which was now a crime scene.
My family and friends gathered on the front porch in shock while I unknowingly gave dialogue to the movie of Thomas’ life playing in my head, from toddler to young adult. You see, Thomas did not wake up one day and decide to be a heroin addict.
As a boy, Thomas loved to be outside, fish, ride his bike and build forts with the neighborhood boys. He was an outstanding athlete with his passion being lacrosse. He was an amazing lacrosse goalie and was MVP of his team as a freshman. Thomas loved to tease his sister and tricked her into eating worms on more than one occasion. Tom loved to have his baby brother follow him around and teach him the important things in life, like peeing on the back fence.
My mother’s heart misses my son every second of every day, but I do not miss Thomas the addict. What a stark comparison!
I am now a strong advocate in Albany to create change in legislation against the discrimination and stigma for the disease of addiction. Thomas’ ashes were shown to many politicians and there is not much for them to say after the reality of the progress of a fatal progressive disease goes untreated with lack of insurance coverage. You see we were told that Thomas was not high enough for treatment or had to fail at outpatient.
I am proud to say I was one of the many instrumental people to get the bills, eleven bills, passed by the New York State Senate, The New York State Assembly and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in June 2014.
I am honored to be a part of the New York State Combat Heroin public service announcement campaign and website, it was featured in a nationwide commercial. I am on the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) work group to further develop educational tool kits for schools and community groups. I am on the leadership council for Long Island Council for Alcohol and Drug Dependency and the Nassau County Heroin Task Force. I am on the Board of Directors for St. Joseph’s Treatment Facility in Saranac Lake, NY and honored to be on the Board of Directors for Families in Support of Treatment (F.I.S.T).
I am proud to be the host of Long Island in Crisis which premiered May 5, 2015. The purpose of this show is to shed light on this disease and to provide hope, guidance, and education for the family.
My greatest asset is my passion and determination to stand in the gap for any person struggling with this insidious disease and to emotionally support family members whose voices often go unheard.
My prayers and the prayers of many for a strong, peaceful Thomas were answered, certainly not in the way I envisioned, but I stand in the place that my higher power, whom I call God, made the right decision for Thomas.
Thomas’ journey changed me into a warrior and I volunteer and speak to people in treatment and families struggling with a loved one’s addiction all over the state. My experience has empowered me to comfort parents and other family members dealing with grief and or assist them with dealing with their loved one’s addiction.
Life is still good and I would not change one minute of any one day to escape the pain of losing my Thomas. Thomas’ life was so much greater than his disease and his life was one of my three greatest gifts.
If I change but one life during this journey, I have done a great job!
I am so blessed with the knowledge of people struggling with this disease to have them say, “you forever changed my life!”
As a mom I had high hopes for my son, and it is now the goal of Thomas’ Hope to have a sober living house to support people in recovery. Recovery is Possible. The foundation also wants a Family Center for the family to concurrently get support and education on the disease their loved one struggles with.
My son forever changed my life, Thomas fuels my soul, and God grants me the grace and strength to share our story. Our journey impacts many other lives.
They say a child holds their mother’s hand for a while their hearts forever. Thomas walks beside me and holds both.