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.

 

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What’s Wrong With My Children Calling Me Alexis?

Differences-Ma-Mum-Mom-Mam

I don’t know who to blame.

I could blame my oldest first cousin, Gloria, since she was the first one to call our grandparents “Momma” and “Daddy” and her parents Ann and Charles.

I could blame my grandparents for not relinquishing the titles “Momma” and “Daddy” when their grown children became parents.

And I could blame my mother and my uncles Charles and Archie for not insisting that we call them by their proper titles.

I could lay the blame on all of these folks, but until the family was all gathered outside under a tent watching boxing one Saturday night, I never knew there was anything to blame them for.

We were watching the Floyd Mayweather boxing match when my cousin Tonja’s daughter turned and asked, “Antmar, do you think there’s something wrong with my children calling me Alexis?”

Before I could answer, Alexis’ sister, Natasia, chimed in. “You couldn’t pay one of my children to call me by my name.”

TaSonia, their cousin, nodded in agreement.

“Well, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Alexis countered. “Even if they call me Alexis, they know I’m their mother.” Then she turned and tried to get Tonja’s attention by calling out, “Ma.”

Until that moment, I’d never noticed that all of my cousins’ children call them Momma or Daddy. None of them refer to their parents by name.

My cousin Sonja, Tasonia’s mother, eyed me as I pondered Alexis’ question. As usual, she was ready to pounce on my response if it wasn’t what she thought I should say. So I knew I had to choose my words carefully. Before I could figure out how to answer this question in a way that would please everyone, Alexis inquired, “Didn’t all of y’all call Grandma Doris ‘Momma’ and your mommas Ann and Lois?”

She had a point.

My brothers and I called our grandmother “Momma” and our mother “Lois.” My Uncle Charles’ children called our grandmother “Momma” and called their mother “Ann.” My Uncle Archie’s children did the same. They called our grandmother “Momma” and their mother “Boot.” And, to all us, “Daddy” was our grandfather.

So I agreed with Alexis.

I also agreed that even though we called our grandparents “Momma” and “Daddy,” we all knew who our parents were. Our parents gave up the title in My brothers and I lived with my mother and grandparents, but my cousins lived with their parents.

When we were growing up, a lot of my friends used to ask why I called my mother Lois. I knew what they meant, but I usually responded, “That’s her name.” I’m guessing the real reason we called our parents by their names and our grandparents “Momma” and “Daddy” was because we were copying our uncles who were still teens and our parents.

I thought this would answer Alexis’ question, but it didn’t.

“But is something wrong with children calling their parents by their name if the parent doesn’t mind?” she asked again.

I want to agree with Alexis because I’ve called my mother “Lois” and my father “Tyrone” my entire life, and I think I turned out okay. But judging by the response of my cousins, who also did this, I think I may have missed out on something by not being a parent like them.

So I’m turning this one over to you.

What do you think?

Mom Wasn’t An Old Lady Living In A Shoe

My mother was not an old lady living in a shoe.

old lady shoe tiny house kids fort playhouse

Unlike that old lady, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do, my mother only had three. And she knew just what to do with them – put them to work.

For the longest time, I thought my mother had me and my brothers for two reasons: she wanted children and she needed a workforce.

The day I began walking my mother, the taskmaster, told me to, “Put that bottle down and get to work.”

For the next few years, I thought the English language only consisted of the three-word sentences that my mother used. Go do that. Come do this. Hand me that. Pick that up. Put that down.

The tasks were never ending.

By the time my two brothers, Ken and Tony, came along a year and then two years later, I was ready to put in for my Social Security. Unfortunately, in those days, three-year-olds did not qualify for retirement.

I warned my brothers about the potential consequences of learning to walk, but they chose to ignore my warnings and walked their way into my mother’s workforce.

Two labor principles guided my mother’s workforce. The first principle was, if we could do it, she didn’t have to. The second principle was, do it right.

If we could cook, that meant she didn’t have to. So, although my grandmother constantly argued at my mother for not paying attention when she was trying to teach her to cook, my mother made sure my brothers and I knew how to cook.

If we could sweep and mop, then she didn’t have to. So she made sure we knew how to do both. Every Saturday morning, after cartoons went off, she sat and watched as we swept and mopped the living room, hallway, bathroom, kitchen, our bedroom, hers, and the front porch.

If we could wash our own clothes and then hang them outside on the clothesline, she didn’t have to. So, after we were done sweeping and mopping, we began sorting, washing, and then hanging up clothes. When the clothes were dry, we took them in, folded them, and then put them away.

My mother didn’t like ironing, so she taught us how to stand in a chair and iron.

She didn’t like doing the dishes, so we pulled that same chair up to the kitchen sink and washed dishes.

And she didn’t like looking at messy children’s bedrooms, so we made sure she didn’t see any messy children’s bedrooms.

Our mother wasn’t a perfect taskmaster. Her Achilles heel as a taskmaster was she didn’t like having to go behind us to straighten out a task we didn’t do right. So, because I was the oldest child and therefore labor supervisor, I always went behind my brothers to make sure our mother didn’t have to go behind us.

I was 11 when I discovered that there was no room for advancement in my mother’s workforce and that my mother had an Achilles heel. That’s when I stopped checking behind my brothers and I stopped trying to be her best unpaid employee. “We’re not doing all this work for free,” I informed my mother when she learned of the mutiny I was orchestrating.

“You don’t work for free,” she said. “You work because you live here. And you work because I buy you food and clothes.”

That ended the mutiny.

Like I said, my mother was not the old lady who lived in a shoe.

What Grandma Said About Your Deadbeat Dad

grandma picture  You better not call her son a deadbeat dad.

This is a true story.

Grandchild: “Grandma, I hate my daddy.”

Grandma: “What do you mean, you hate my son?”

Grandchild: “I hate him because he’s never done anything for me. He’s a deadbeat dad.”

Grandma: “Well, don’t I buy you clothes and give you money?”

Grandchild: “Yes.”

Grandma: “Don’t I buy you birthday presents and Christmas gifts?”

Grandchild: “Yes, mam.”

Grandma: “Don’t we spend weekends together? Don’t we go shopping? Don’t we laugh, talk, and play together?”

Grandchild: “Yes, mam. We have a lot of fun together.”

Grandma: “And when you’re sick or when you have a problem, doesn’t grandma try to fix it?”

Grandchild: “You always do.”

Grandma: “Now tell me why you think Grandma does all of those things.”

Grandchild: “Because I’m your grandchild.”

Grandma: “No. I do it because your daddy is my child. And everything Grandma buys, every hug I give you, every loving and kind word I lift your spirits with, is co-signed by my son – your daddy.”

Several years ago, I overheard this conversation between a grandmother and one of her grandchildren and I never forgot it.

My mom was a single parent. My dad was never around, and he never offered any support. However, I never saw him as a deadbeat dad because my mother made sure I spent time with his mother and his sisters and brothers. My Grandma Thelma and then my Aunt Helen’s houses were my second home. And my grandmother, my uncles, and my aunts showered me with love and made me feel like I was just as much their child as I was my dad’s.

My point: I am not saying it is okay to neglect your kids. It’s not. However, sometimes we need to look at the underlying issues that may be preventing a child’s father from being the supportive parent he would like to be. This does not excuse his negligence. It simply means making the effort to understand why he isn’t an active part of your child’s life then helping and showing him how to become a better parent. It’s not always easy, but in the end, you’ll be glad you helped build a relationship between your children and their father.

How Momma Raised Good Children

children quoteTell the truth and shame the devil.

I hear it all the time.

Children are worse than they used to be.

I hear it from relatives and friends who claim not to know where the children they’re raising come from. I hear it from uncles and aunts, from people whose jobs require them to work with children, and from neighbors who live behind high fences or in the company of bad dogs. And, after listening to them all complain about how bad children have become, they’re caught off guard when I beg to differ.

My initial response to these people who are deliberately trying to give children a bad rap is what they’re saying is an unproven fact. After explaining that an unproven fact is something you know to be true but only because your gut tells you it’s true, I usually lay out my journalism credentials. You see, the first and most important lesson they teach future journalists at the University of Florida is a fact error is an automatic failure. So, I learned to take issue with unproven facts.

However, most parents don’t seem to care what they taught me or what I learned at UF. Nothing short of divine intervention will convince them that their children are not worse than they were.

I’m not sure who’s to blame for starting this misconception about today’s children, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason children appear to be worse than we used to be is because nowadays you can’t tell children to “get lost.” Or as my grandmother, mother, and aunts would command, “Get out of my sight and don’t let me see you until I call for you.”

On weekends, during the summer, or any time school was out, we were literally thrown out the house. And some days, when they wanted us to be really good children, they didn’t allow us to hang out in the yard.

By the time one of them walked out on the porch and yelled across three neighborhood blocks, “Y’all better get here,” they would have spent the day watching “As the World Turns (without bad children)”, “Search for Tomorrow (without bad children)”, and “The Young and the Restless (about bad children)”. The house would be cleaned, dinner would be cooked, and the only thing left to do was feed, bathe, and put their “good” children to bed.

The encroachment of society’s seedy elements into neighborhoods has made it even more difficult for parents not to raise “bad” children. I’m sure no parent wants to put their children in harm’s way and they shouldn’t. But how can you raise “good” children if you can’t tell them to get lost? Getting lost when told to do so is what made us good children.

Technology is also to blame.

When was the last time you told someone to get lost? And they did? Or could?

Technology won’t allow people to get lost.

Back in the day, when you needed to talk to someone, your options were to call their house or yell across three neighborhood blocks. If they were home, good. If not, you yelled until you were hoarse or you called back every 10 minutes until their mother took the phone off the hook and you got a busy signal for the next hour.

Today if the person you need to speak with isn’t home, you can probably reach them on their cell phone even if they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be talking on the phone, like in church or class.  Most of today’s so-called bad children have cell phones, which presents yet another problem. Even if you could tell your children to get lost, you wouldn’t have a hard enough time finding them. Just call your bad children’s cell phones and yell, “Get here!”