The Truth Would Have Kept Her Son Alive

How one mother who lost her only child to heroin is fighting back with the Truth About Drugs.

Gretchen Addison hands The Truth About Drugs booklet to a Westerville high school student, who is one of thousands Addison has reached with her heart-wrenching story and straight facts about drugs.

Three months before her son died of an overdose in 2014, Gretchen Addison asked him: “Tyler, what in your life is so bad that you had to go to heroin?”

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” he replied.

Addison says those words haunted her.

Tyler’s closest friend, Cody, who dealt Tyler the drugs that killed him, had the same thing to say: he had no idea.

“Just the first two people I asked said they didn’t know,” says Addison. “That got me thinking: I bet nobody else does either.”

After recovering from the loss of her only child to overdose, Addison began searching out how to handle that vacuum of knowledge. That’s when she found Foundation for a Drug-Free World online.

“The first time I saw it I couldn’t believe it. It was everything that I wanted these kids to know,” she says. “I don’t want the frills, I just need the cold, hard facts and that’s what you offer.”

Addison’s childhood friend, now a teacher in their hometown, contacted Addison and asked her to share her story. She did so, and then presented The Truth About Drugs to the students she was speaking to.

It wasn’t long before other teachers began contacting Addison, who was soon going from school to school, telling her son’s story, screening The Truth About Drugs documentary and distributing booklets to hundreds.

“They ate those booklets up. They were amazed. And I was shocked because they were in such a rough area, I thought they already knew all this stuff. They didn’t—they didn’t know anything.”

“For every school that I’ve gone to—and I’ve passed out about 1,500 booklets so far—the students actually sit and read them as I’m passing them out,” Addison says. “It catches their attention, it’s captivating and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In a troubled neighborhood in Ohio, Addison says, “They ate those booklets up. They were amazed. And I was shocked because they were in such a rough area, I thought they already knew all this stuff. They didn’t—they didn’t know anything.”

One young woman abusing Percocet approached Addison and said: “After your story, I’m stopping drugs.” She has been clean for several months now. Addison found out recently that the woman’s mother had since died of an overdose. In a later conversation the young woman told Addison, “If it hadn’t been for your presentation, I’d be gone.” These kinds of stories are not unusual and this is why she wants to reach as many people as possible.

Addison tells of one tough-looking young kid with an ankle monitor (indicating he was on parole), who came over to her in tears at the end of her seminar. “I will never touch this stuff ever,” he told her. She didn’t even think he was listening but she has found that most who hear her story do listen. Over the course of a single weekend this past May, Addison presented The Truth About Drugs to 1,700 students in three districts of Ashtabula, the largest county in Ohio. Asked what would have happened had Tyler gotten the truth about drugs before heroin, Addison says: “My son would be alive. I know that.”

That’s why she wants the program mandatory in every school in Ohio and every state in the US. “I hope it spreads like wildfire,” she says. “We have got to get to these kids. If we can get them the right information—the facts—and get it through their heads, in a few years then maybe all of this will die down,” she says, referring to the heroin epidemic in Ohio.

“I take it as my responsibility. I am going to do everything I can and fight this every step of the way.”


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