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I Never Dreamed That I Would Lose My Child.

'I Never Dreamed That I Would Lose My Child.'

Zoe's Story

By Robin Kellner

(This essay is excerpted from remarks I recently delivered at a dinner hosted by The Freedom Institute in New York City.)

I would like to tell you about my daughter Zoe Kellner

Zoe grew up and attended private school in NYC, and then went off to college in Florida.

However, her second year at college began a journey that I was completely unprepared for.  And, as I've learned recently, Zoe's and my journey is an all-too-common one -- and is the journey that too many parents and youngsters are all-too-unprepared for.

One weekend in the fall of her second year, I had gone down to visit her at school and was waiting for her to meet me for lunch.

But she never showed up.

Finally, I received a call from an emergency room.  Zoe, my beautiful, intelligent daughter, who was loved and adored, had overdosed. I immediately went to be with her.

At the time, I actually had no idea that this was the beginning - - of a  serious illness.

I honestly thought that she had just made a mistake.  Kids do that, especially teenagers, and teenagers who are away from home.

Well, it wasn’t just a mistake, that’s not what happened.

In the emergency room, Zoe was evaluated, treated and eventually released -- after about 36 hours. 

Once she was released, we spent three days in my hotel room talking.

I was trying to understand -- as was she -- how my beautiful, intelligent daughter, who did know better, had found herself passed out on a college campus, then in an ER, being charcoaled.

She was terrified.  And she promised me that she really got the seriousness of her actions. I wanted to believe her.  I so wanted to believe my child was okay.

So after a few days with her, I left Zoe at school and went back home to New York, thinking that she had learned a really tough lesson, and now, she’d be back on track.  We would talk every day.

I called her the next day.  But when I heard her voice, I heard she was high again.

It was almost impossible for me to believe that, after what she had just been through.

I got right back on a plane and flew to her. I knew that she had to come home. Something was very wrong with my child.

I was now in a completely new world.  It was a world that I knew nearly nothing about, one that I had never thought to research -- as I did most other things in our lives.

So, she came home with me, and for a while, things did get better.

Zoe was in treatment, she was happy, and I was relieved.

I thought we might have dodged a bullet.

But you see, that was really just a lull in the storm. 

One day about a year later, I returned home from work, and Zoe was high again. My daughter needed help and care.  The treatment that she was in  -- just wasn't helping her.

But getting her better care became more of a challenge than I could have ever imagined. 

Zoe didn’t think she had a problem, and she didn’t want treatment or help or my interference.

Over the next few months, I watched my daughter spiral out of control.  Zoe was losing herself.  I was losing my only child.

But then, something gave way.  I had decided to try and leverage her love for me, to help her. You see Zoe and I loved each other very much. I was, in fact, able to use that.  My daughter hated the distance that drugs were putting between us.

She wouldn't go into rehab, but she did agree to visit a doctor with me, a doctor who specialized in drug misuse and addiction.

So we made an appointment for about a week off. The doctor was unavailable to see us immediately.  He was away.  But at least we had that appointment.

But, drugs don’t wait for your appointments, and Zoe didn’t stop her drug use in anticipation of an appointment.

In April 2007, after Zoe had been out all weekend, she finally arrived home early Sunday evening.

She looked so thin, so tired, she looked like she had had enough. 

I asked her if she wanted me to make her some dinner, but she said, “Mom, I think I’ll just make myself some tea and go to bed”.  And she did.

The next day, before I went off to work, I checked on her first.

She looked to be sleeping, her room was dark. That was our new norm.

When I returned home early evening, I checked on her, and she still seemed to be sleeping.

My husband suggested I check her again.

I went back to her room and turned on her light.

She was in her bed, on her side, blue, and purple, and - - stiff.

You see Zoe had gone into her room Sunday night, and whatever she took was enough to stop her heart. 

The emergency workers told us that Zoe had died Sunday night, not long after she went into her bedroom. 

I never dreamed that I would lose my child, my 22 year old daughter.

And certainly not to a disease, that’s so misunderstood, so stigmatized, and so whispered about, as this disease is.

Drug misuse, abuse, and addiction:  They are dark and too often hidden and too infrequently talked about honestly and openly.

We must find better ways to prevent and treat this disease -- and to end the stigma.

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Categories: Family, Daughter, Mother, Loss, Overdose, Recovery, Treatment


September 15, 2013 | Amy

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

September 09, 2013 | Jane

so sorry for the loss of your child. This is a moving tribute, and will certainly let other parents know that they are not alone in their struggle.

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