Addiction: The Killer Inside Our Homes

Davis Owen’s life ended way too soon. But, his story didn’t.

His story is still being told because of his mother’s story.

Her story is about a mother who lost a young son to drug addiction – a mother who turned her loss into a mission to save others.

It is a story of memories, of hindsight, and the unfathomable hurt and hopelessness of parents trying desperately to save their child.

It’s a story worth telling and retelling.

Davis Owen’s family describes him as a brilliant, beautiful, and compassionate child.

He was the oldest son of five children.

He was president of his senior class and an honor student at Kennesaw Mountain High School.

He entered Kennesaw State University upon graduation and made the Dean’s List his first semester.

Davis was the ideal son, but he was living a secret life after becoming addicted to opioid painkillers in his family’s medicine cabinet.

When Michael and Missy Owen found out ab out their son’s addiction, they did what most parents do. They tried to help him.

The Owens first realized the seriousness of the situation on Thanksgiving morning 2013.

“We were going to the family farm and Michael wanted to take the shotguns and teach the kids to shoot,” Missy Owen recalls. “My dad had left each of the grandsons a shotgun when he died and Michael was packing them up. When he opened the first case to check the gun, he found a BB gun instead and we knew immediately what had happened. Davis had pawned two of the three shotguns for money to buy drugs. He loved his “Papah” and would have never done that in a right state of mind. We eventually got the guns back, but we knew Davis had a real and severe problem. We all cried that day as he stood in the bedroom and asked us to help him.”

Davis Owen entered a drug rehabilitation program.

That didn’t help.

With no job and no access to the prescription pain medications, Davis turned to a more readily available opioid – heroin.

Davis was living with his parents when on the evening of March 4, 2014, the doorbell rang. The Owens opened the door and a detective told them something that would change their lives forever.

Their 20-year-old son had been found dead in his car with a needle and heroin beside him.

After Davis’ death, his mother did something she had not been able to do while he was alive.

“When you’re living with a child who has an addiction, you’re so worried, always trying to chase that child that you don’t have time to research and learn how to help your child,” Missy Owen says. “What I did was write a book, “Heroin is Killing Our Children,” and put in that book 365 days of things that I learned about heroin, opioids, and drug addiction. I researched every day for a year. And I put in there everything that I thought would help somebody save their child.”

Topping the list of things she learned was “clean out your medicine cabinets” to prevent access to prescription medications that can begin the path to addiction and death.

Today, Missy Owen heads a foundation she started in honor of Davis, the Davis Direction Foundation, a community and national resource for opioid and heroin addiction and recovery.

I never met Davis, but his mother has made sure I’ll never forget his story.

 

Advertisements

The Long Journey of “The Long Goodbye”

Vanessa Bell Calloway - National Black Theatre Festival       

            It was a long time coming.
            From the day I first came up with the idea for a new stage play back in 1985, the play’s title, story, and format have undergone a series of changes.
            The initial spark for the stage play was my love for Hollywood legend Bette Davis. I wanted to write a play about an older lady who was fascinated by her resemblance to Bette Davis. But then, my Aunt Ann passed suddenly and unexpectedly early Christmas morning in 1985, and her death sparked another idea – a play about a mother dealing with the loss of her daughter one Christmas morning. I made the original Bette Davis character a friend of the new lead, Mrs. Pet.
            However, when I started writing the stage play, a voice in my head kept saying, “This should be a screenplay.”
            So, I changed the format from a stage play to a screenplay.
            Then there was the title.
            Keeping the Faith was the title I chose when I began writing the screenplay.
            A few life events – a move to Tampa and then Detroit – and switching gears to write another script and a novella, slowed the screenplay’s progress.
            By the time, I finished the screenplay in 1991, I had changed the name to This Far by Faith.
            I began developing the screenplay into a film project with a producer/director partner, Carlesa Williams, of Jam Session Films in Detroit. Things were moving slow on this, so I eventually put the project on the shelf and returned to the Sunshine State and the University of Florida to get a degree in journalism.
            After a brief stay in New York City for a reporting internship with CBS News, and after earning my journalism degree and enrolling in graduate school at UF, I was pulled home to care for my mother, who had become disabled.
            Over the next several years, I wrote and self-published two novels and wrote a couple of screenplays. One day, I decided to pull This Far By Faith off the shelf and dust it off because the story – a dramatic comedy about a mother living in denial after the loss of her daughter – was still one of my favorites.
            That’s when the screenplay became The Long Goodbye.
            When I was done rewriting the screenplay, I sent it over to my agent/manager for his review. That was in 2015.
            He loved the screenplay and begin pitching it to a few producers and executives. It seemed they all loved the screenplay, but wasn’t sure how it would go over because “it wasn’t your typical ‘Black’ story.”
            Frustrated with this, and because I really wanted this story to be told, I decided to turn the screenplay into a stage play that I could produce myself.
            I completed this task last year after my first full-length stage play, Calming the Man, was starting to receive some attention and recognition.
            In April, I submitted the stage play The Long Goodbye, which no one else had read, to the National Black Theatre Festival Readers Theatre of New Works. I didn’t expect much, so I was surprised when the play was accepted to the “A List,” which is the best of the best new plays.
            A few weeks later, I asked one of my favorite actresses, Vanessa Bell Calloway, who starred in What’s Love Got to Do With ItComing to America, and a host of other films, if she would read the lead role of Mrs. Pet at the festival. To my surprise, she said yes.
            Last week, the story that began as a tribute to Bette Davis then became a tribute to my Aunt Ann, was finally performed before an audience with Vanessa Bell Calloway, and two of my hometown talents, Hope Demps and Tony Lang, at the National Black Theatre Festival.
            As I watched the performance, I couldn’t help thinking about the play’s long, long journey.
            It was a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.
Note: Calming the Man, will be read with actor Lance Reddick in the lead, at the 4th Annual Leimert Park Theatre Festival in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 3, 5:00 pm at the Barbara Mason Performing Arts Center. For more information, contact Anthony Lamarr at anthonylamarwhite@yahoo.com.

Fruitcakes and Silver Icicles

silver-iciclesSilver icicles.

            The first time I broke away from my grandmother’s Christmas traditions was the year I got rid of the silver icicles on our Christmas tree.
            My grandmother believed that traditions help make holidays special. This was most apparent when it came to her Christmas traditions.
            She had to have a Christmas fruitcake that had to be made before the first of December so it could age properly.
            Even though the same items could be found in local stores, she had to order at least one thing from the Sears Christmas catalog.
            And she had to have a Christmas tree covered in silver icicles.
            As long as these three traditions weren’t broken, we had a merry Christmas.
            When I was old enough to stand in a chair, I watched her make her fruitcake, wrap it and place it in a holiday-themed cake tin, then open the tin every few days and sprinkle the cake with brandy.
            By the time I was ten, she had taught me how to fill out catalog forms and call customer service numbers to place her Christmas orders.
            And as far back as I can remember, I decorated our Christmas tree as she sat in a chair directing.
            When my grandmother moved into a new house in 1988, she started a new tradition. Instead of directing me how to put up the Christmas tree, she told me the task was all mine. I was excited for about fifteen seconds.
            “You can decorate the tree by yourself this year,” she informed me.
            “Really?” I asked, trying not to let my excitement show.
            “It’s all yours,” she replied. “But, you’re going to have to get a new tree, new lights, bulbs, a star, and icicles.”
            I knew what that meant. The task was all mine, but she still wanted her tree done her way.
            I was moseying through a store gathering the items for my grandmother’s Christmas tree when I suddenly felt the urge to rebel, to break with tradition. I asked myself what she would do if I changed things up a little. Throw the tree out on the trash pile? And me with it?
           “She might,” my good sense answered.
            But I didn’t listen.
            That evening, my grandmother sat in her chair and watched as I put up the tree. She nodded pleasingly as I draped the lights around the tree. She said how pretty the bulbs were as they dangled perfectly from the branches. When I took the red bows out of the bag, she asked, “What are you going to do with those?”
            “Hang them on the tree,” I answered.
            “I don’t think those will look good with icicles,” she said.
            “I didn’t think so either,” I responded. “That’s why I didn’t get any icicles.”
            My grandmother tried to hide her frown, but it was hard to hide a frown that covered her entire body.
            When I was done placing the bows over the tree and placing the star on top, my grandmother’s frown turned upside into a smile.
            And we all had a merry Christmas.
            Last year, I broke the Christmas tree tradition again.
            Out went yesteryears glistening ornaments and colorful ribbons and bows. In came fall foliage and white doves.
            As I put up the tree, I couldn’t help glancing over my shoulder to see if my grandmother was sitting in the chair watching.
            If she had been, I’m sure she looked over the rims of her glasses and wondered when they started making pre-lit tree. I thought I heard her say how pretty the bulbs were as they dangled perfectly from the branches. And when I reached in the box and took out the brown, yellow, orange, red, silver, and gold leaves and then the white doves, I know she frowned and asked, “What are you going to do with those?”
           When I was done placing the foliage and doves over the tree and placing the star on top, her  frown couldn’t help turning upside into a smile.
            And it turned out to be a merry Christmas.

The Braves were “Absolute Viewing”

braves-goalball

                Atlanta Braves infielder Gordon Beckham plays goalball with blinders on. 

            Back in the days when local televisions only showed thirteen channels.
            When most houses only had one television and it wasn’t a flat screen that covered an entire wall.
            When fights over who was going to watch what on television ended with my grandmother turning off the television so no one got to watch anything.
             Back  in those days, it seems the only time we weren’t fighting over the television was when one of the handful of television shows considered “absolute viewing” was on.
            Saturday morning cartoons, William Conrad’s television series “Cannon,” any John Wayne movie, Saturday afternoon wrestling, and the Atlanta Braves’ baseball games were the only shows considered “absolute viewing” in our house. There were reasons the television was always on whenever these shows came on.
            The television belonged to the kids in the house on Saturday morning.
            My grandfather was a huge fan of the detective show “Cannon” and John Wayne movies.
            Everyone in the house liked Saturday afternoon wrestling.
            And, my Uncle Walter, who didn’t live with us but visited each and every day, was the Braves number one fan.
           Before the Atlanta Braves became America’s baseball team, they were my Uncle Walter’s team. And it seems like his favorite place to watch the Braves play was at the home of his younger brother – my grandfather.
           It didn’t matter what was on television, the channel was changed when Uncle Walter drove up and announced with a question, “Y’all got the TV on the Braves games, don’t you?”
           Even if my grandfather was watching “Cannon” or a John Wayne movie, he would readily change the channel to the Braves game. My grandfather loved the Braves, but he wasn’t as big of a fan as his big brother.
            Because the television only belonged unquestionably to us on Saturday mornings, we pouted and turned the channel from whatever we were watching when we saw Uncle Walter drive up.
            “I’m tired of watching the Braves,” we mumbled under our breaths as we prepared to watch the game.
            Watching the Braves wasn’t always a bad thing. There were some bright moments, like watching the game when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record.
            My grandfather passed July 3, 1976, but the Braves continued to be absolute viewing because Uncle Walter continued to visit each and every day. And, during baseball season, his visits lasted until the Braves’ games ended.
            In hindsight, perhaps the best part of being forced to watch the Braves play was the sense of family I felt watching the games with my grandfather, Uncle Walter, and the rest of the family.  
            Last month, I had the privilege of spending the day with some members of the Atlanta Braves as they celebrated Community Heroes Week and honored Hal Simpson, founder of the Georgia Blind Sports Association, and Hal’s son, Matt, who is part of the U.S. Paralympics goalball team that won a Silver Medal in Rio this month.
          The Simpson’s presented a short lesson on how to play goalball and then the Braves’ players put on blinders and took to the court. Goalball is played on an indoor court. During the game, two teams face each other and try to prevent the other team from getting a ball pass them into their goal. All players must wear black-out goggles to even the playing field between those who are blind and visually impaired.
          I didn’t play, but as I watched Matt and Braves players scramble around on the floor, I couldn’t help thinking about my Uncle Walter. The Atlanta Braves playing goalball would be “absolute viewing” for him.