July 16, 2013
Angelique LaCour, OVN correspondent
Sipping tea at a local coffee shop, Darian O’Brien spoke softly about her struggle with grief since losing her son, Patrick, 15, to a heroin overdose on May 22, 2010. He would have graduated from Nordhoff High School this year.
“It’s been hard, really hard. Just talking about it is outside my comfort zone because these last three years I’ve been mainly coping to just to survive and help my family deal with the overwhelming grief,” O’Brien said. “My faith has sustained me.”
O’Brien is sharing her experience in the hope that other kids’ lives may be spared. She has joined with several other mothers who have lost children to the disease of addiction by overdose and suicide to create a Memory Wall that will be exhibited at Saturday’s Battle of the Bands for Drug Awareness at Libbey Park.
“We want families to come and bring a picture or memorabilia to honor their loved ones who have died. There is such a stigma attached to drug overdose deaths, and even more to suicide,” O’Brien said. “But it can happen to anybody across all social and economic groups, at the best private schools in Ojai as well as the public schools, and the community needs to take its head out of the sand and talk about it.”
When the O’Briens learned that Patrick was using marijuana, they sought help through family counseling at Genesis, an outpatient treatment program in Ventura. Patrick was randomly drug tested and even though no “hard drugs” ever showed up, the family saw their son declining, withdrawing from his friends, and showing signs of paranoia.
“This family did the right thing taking marijuana use seriously; most don’t,” said Terry Germack, an addiction counselor with the Ventura County Drug and Alcohol program. “I hear it over and over again — it’s just pot, a harmless herb — but studies have proven that marijuana can be addictive, and once kids are using marijuana they are more than likely to move on to other drugs.”
Germack strongly encourages families that suspect their child is using drugs to forego home drug tests. “Heroin users are skilled at manipulating those urine tests with products they can buy at head shops,” Germack explained. “Take your child to a hospital for a blood test.”
According to Germack, when it comes to heroin, a user can become addicted after using it the first or second time; Germack added that it’s been proven that outpatient treatment doesn’t work for heroin addiction 99 percent of the time.
“The real problem is that access to residential long term ‘inpatient’ treatment is not available in Ventura County for either adolescents or adults,” Germack said.
Kim Armstrong, whose 24-year old son, Beau Farrar, found his way to recovery through treatment at Recovery Ranch Santa Ynez after a long struggle with addiction, spearheaded the Battle of the Bands for Drug Awareness.
“We have lost so many lives here in the Ojai Valley through overdoses of drugs or alcohol, and so many families are still suffering from the death of a loved one from this disease,” Armstrong said.
At the Battle of the Bands event, Armstrong will be signing up members to start an Ojai Valley chapter of Not One More, an organization founded by two Simi Valley mothers who lost children to heroin addiction. Not One More educates families about the hazards of heroin and other drugs and provides resources for those who may be struggling with addiction to find help and recovery.
“Addiction is a family disease,” Germack said. “Families members need to seek help for themselves, too, through organizations like Not One More and Al Anon.” Al Anon is the companion 12-step program to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Several sponsoring organizations will be on hand Saturday to provide information about addiction treatment and recovery, such as Ventura County Interface Counseling Services, Ventura County Behavioral Health for Alcohol and Drugs Program, Teen Challenge, Broadway Treatment Center, Recovery Ranch of San Ynez, Phoenix House, Reins of H.O.P.E., Action Family Counseling, and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.
The Battle of the Bands will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be followed by headliner performances by Shawn Jones Roots Trio, Son To The Boy, Tommy Marsh & Bad Dog, and Alexandra & The Starlight Band from 5 to 9 p.m.
The bands competition includes three bands in the ages 12 and under division, four in the 13 to 18 division, and 10 in the adult division.
Guest speakers who have battled the disease of addiction and found recovery will be featured during the Battle of the Bands competition.
Tickets — available at www.brownpapertickets.com and Cardinali Brothers Music, 139 W. El Roblar Dr. — are $12 for kids age 17 and younger, and $22 for adults. The Ojai Valley Lions Club will be selling hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, non-alcoholic drinks, chips, snacks and candy.
Proceeds from the Battle of the Bands Festival will be used to provide scholarships for addiction recovery treatment programs through Not One More.
Visit www.ojaialano.wordpress.com for information about alcohol and drug 12-step programs in the Ojai area. Visit www.notonemore.net for details on the Simi Valley’s Not One more organization.