By Anthony's parents, Valerie and Cris
Anthony was a true and loyal friend. After he passed away, a few young men told me stories about how they were once shy or kept to themselves, but Anthony had reached out to them and became their friend. Growing up, Anthony tried to fit in with the “good kids,” but was shunned on many occasions. He then began to change to fit into a group that would accept him. This group of friends started smoking pot in 8th grade, and transitioned to Oxycontin by 12th grade. Anthony always wanted to have friends and was very loyal to them.
Anthony was very intelligent - he never had to study but always had above a 3.5 GPA. He enjoyed making people laugh, and would joked around a lot. He got accepted into Penn State’s Main Campus in State College, PA, based on his SAT scores and his GPA. In his sophomore year he joined the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
During Christmas break in 2009, Anthony told us he was addicted to Oxycontin. He said he could detox at home, and would take sometime off before returning to college. This was the first time my husband and I heard anything about this. Anthony promised us he wouldn’t use anymore. Looking back, we were very naïve and did not understand the disease of addiction.
In January 2010, Anthony returned to school and started using again. When he came home at the end of the semester, we sent him to a relative’s house for the summer -- far away from anything that we thought could trigger his addition. The entire summer we kept in touch; Anthony was passing drug tests, and everything seemed to be going well. Anthony wanted to go back and finish college, so we let him return in that fall. Once again, we did not fully understand the disease of addiction, and the grip it has over people.
It was not until early 2011 that we found out he was using again. We pulled Anthony out of school on medical leave, and this time he went to a 28 day inpatient treatment center in Florida.
When he returned, everything seemed fine. Anthony had a friend pick him up to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and he would show us the various chips he received for being clean for a certain amount of time. It appeared that he was clean and we allowed him to return to Penn State again in 2012.
At some point, Anthony switched to heroin because it was significantly cheaper. Two of his best friends came to our house and told us he was injecting heroin. Because of their courage, we had more time with Anthony. We immediately picked him up and left all his belongings behind - we had to get him home.
We were then referred to an inpatient rehab facility in Pennsylvania. At the time we didn’t have insurance, so they only kept him for about five days; just long enough to detox. While there, Anthony was diagnosed with depression but we were never informed of this diagnosis. That summer he stayed home, worked, and seemed to be doing fine. We refused to let him go back to Penn State’s main campus; so Anthony enrolled at the Abington campus, which was about 30 minutes from our home. My husband drove Anthony to school in the mornings and he hitched a ride home with classmates or take the bus.
What we didn’t know was that he had made a copy of his dad’s car key and was sneaking out in the middle of the night to go to Kensington to get heroin. At some point he and his “friends” added cocaine to the mix. On May 23, 2013, Anthony overdosed in our basement. One of the boys he was with came and got me, and I called 911. He was given Naloxone, which saved his life.
In the emergency room the nurses tried to give him another Naloxone shot, but Anthony wouldn’t allow it -- he wanted to enjoy what was left of his high. This shows how powerful of a hold heroin has on its victims; less than an hour earlier Anthony had almost died but he still wanted the drug. Because his heroin usage depressed his breathing so much, fluid built up in his lungs, and Anthony developed pneumonia.
We then tried Vivitrol, another relapse prevention medication; this was given as a shot every 28 days by a doctor. When Anthony started receiving his shots, it worked. Then one day, he told us he wasn’t going to get the shot anymore. We did everything we could to convince him and in the end we told him Anthony could no longer live with us if he wasn’t going to get the shot. We were all crying, this was the hardest thing we, as parents, have ever had to do.
At some point Anthony had gotten another car, which he packed with his belongings and left. He was out of the house for nine days, living in his car and shooting heroin. We worried about him every day. When he finally agreed to get the Vivitrol shots again, I told him I would meet him at the doctor’s and only after getting the shot could he come home.
In the summer of 2013, Anthony and some other boys robbed a drug dealer, thinking that a drug dealer wouldn’t go to the police. A warrant was issued. Months later, Anthony was stopped in Kensington for possession of heroin, and when police found out about the warrant for the robbery, he was sent to prison. We refused to bail him out, despite Anthony’s constant pleas. We felt, at the time, prison was where he needed to be; at least we knew he would be safe and clean.
After about a month in prison, we hired a private criminal defense attorney; who was able to arrange Anthony’s release on his own recognizance, on the condition that he immediately enter an inpatient rehab facility. By this time, we had insurance but the program only guaranteed 21 days. I begged them to keep him longer, but they said that’s all our insurance would cover.
When Anthony was released, he was sent to a sober living house. Anthony was told to go out for eight hours a day and look for work. On the first day he called me, saying he was passing corners where dealers were, and where he used to buy drugs. We picked him up right away and brought him home.
This time he told us he truly wanted to stay clean. He started cooking dinner for the family and hanging out with his younger brother, Nick, which he never did before. It was great to see my two boys together. They went to movies, to the gym, and did various things brothers do together. I finally had my Anthony back and we felt like he had won. He looked good, acted fine, and was not argumentative and agitated as he was when using. He got a job and even bought a purebred Boxer that he named Caesar. Anthony was doing well and saving to move out on his own.
While Anthony was living with us, we told him none of the boys he previously hung around with could come over again and he should find new friends. This lasted about four or five months, and one day he told us one of his old friends was coming over. Anthony said he was the only other person he knew who was also clean; but in reality, this friend was not clean and was still using. This friend was with Anthony the entire night and morning when he died. He said he didn’t have any idea what happened, however, he did find time to steal Anthony’s debit/credit card from his body, and proceed to spend $2,500.00.
I found my son’s body. What an awful thing for a mother to go through. We are broken.
Anthony is not defined by his addiction. He was a loving and caring son, brother, grandson, nephew, and cousin. He was very intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and funny. He was a hard-working young man with a bright future.
There is no greater pain than for a parent to bury a child.
When my child died, I lost someone I would die for.
We love you always and forever Anthony.