Zachary was such a bright, fun child. He was very adventurous and played baseball and was also a skateboarder. He also spent a lot of his childhood in Scouts. He really liked camping. Sometimes he had trouble in school — was diagnosed with ADHD and was put on Ritalin when he was 11 years old.
Unfortunately, he started smoking when he was 12 or 13. He quit scouts and baseball and started getting into trouble. It was about this time in his life that I remarried and had another child. Zachary loved his little brother, Nick. He always played well with him and wanted to be a good example. Then something would always happen and Zach was in trouble again.
Through his teen years he tried marijuana, acid, mushrooms, prescription pills, ecstasy and cocaine. My parents and I sent him to a program for kids with behavior issues. He was there for a year and a half, 1,000 miles away. We exchanged hundreds of letters. He was getting better, then had a setback. He ended up coming home and had a new lease on life. Zach was ready to be a good student, a good friend and a good son.
I always let him know how much I loved him, but counselors always told me I needed to be tougher on him. There was a time that he stole from my parents for drugs. They pressed charges and he spent a year in juvenile prison. He did graduate while he was locked up. The whole time that he was locked up he read the Bible a lot and drew amazing pictures. Guys used to pay him for pictures.
When Zach came home he was now an adult. I thought it was a good idea for him to attend college. In 2000 Zach was accepted into the Pittsburgh Art Institute. He was so excited. I helped move him into his dorm and he was meeting a lot of new friends. I suspected he was getting into drugs again, but it was hard to tell because I didn’t see him everyday.
In 2001, Zach was in a terrible auto accident. Zach was a passenger and was brought to Presbyterian Hospital. The doctors had to resucitate him and Zach spent 2 weeks in intensive care. Zach had a broken pelvis, cracked 2 vertibrae, had a collapsed lung and a punctured liver. The doctors gave him OxyContin to deal with the pain. He rehabilitated at home in a wheelchair. After 2 months he insisted he wanted to go back to Pittsburgh. This is when I think he started using heroin. Heroin is easily accessible on any street corner. One day he called me, crying, begging me to help him. I rushed over to Pittsburgh and found out he was withdrawing from heroin. He wanted to get off of it. I took him to every E.R. and nobody would take him. He was in pain, sweating, cold and scared.
After this, Zach moved back to Ohio. He worked at our family business and he was an awesome salesman. He loved it and made a lot of friends. Unfortunately, drugs found him again. In the next couple of years he was in four rehabs from California, Michigan, Tennessee to Florida. After Florida he was clean and found a girlfriend. She is pretty, sweet, fun and loved Zachary. Lindsey was with him when he was clean and tried to help him when he started using again. She was tough and still cared.
The morning of Nov. 13, 2005 she found him at their cabin. They had an argument the night before and she left. Zachary had overdosed and died there on the porch. She called and said, “He didn’t look right.” She didn’t know and didn’t want to believe that he had died.
It’s been almost 6 years and I grieve daily for my oldest son. My other two sons are 20 and 16. They know about drugs. Lindsey and I are doing drug prevention talks in schools throughout the county. My father put a billboard on I-77 saying “Stand Strong! Have Conviction! Stop Heroin!” This is a small rural community and heroin is a big problem. I pray that through Zachary’s death others will think twice and never try drugs once.