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John B.

By John's mom, Terry

John Botkins

Clermont, Florida

From the day he was born, John brought joy to our lives. No matter how hard I tried to stay mad at him over the mischief he got himself into, he always managed to make me laugh. John was a very inquisitive person, never believing that anything would hurt him and always willing to try things. Before he was able to walk, he managed to find a June bug and plop it into his mouth. He was chomping away before I realized what he had done. As a toddler, he climbed up the stairs in our old farm house, found the hidden rat poisoning and smeared it all over his mouth. He came to us with a big grin and scared us half to death. Thankfully he didn’t ingest any.

As a preschooler, John would escape from Sunday school and venture out into our old church. One Sunday during the service, we looked up and saw him walking into the choir loft. His teachers reported that he tried to teach the lesson each week. Everyone at church knew “Johnny B.”

Needless to say, life with John was never dull. He was independent and strong-willed but always cheerful, even when he was fighting his demons. He was nine when his dad and I separated, which was a blow to both he and his sister. The three of us stuck close together and tried our best to pick up the pieces of a broken family. About two years later, I remarried and John’s step-father became an incredible part of his life, affording him and his sister opportunities that they would never have received otherwise. We travelled across the country. John and his step-father took a boy’s-only fishing trip to Canada.

During middle school John was diagnosed with ADD and put on medication to help him focus. This was the beginning of his downfall. Following his diagnosis, John was in and out of high school and barely managed to graduate. He attended one year of college before flunking out. When he returned home, his step-father and I paid for him to train to climb cell towers. He excelled and began working for my husband’s company. He became one of the best climbers in the industry.

Unfortunately, John’s alcohol and drug habits progressed throughout the years, which changed his personality and lifestyle drastically. As his mother, I never wanted to believe he had a problem. I was fearful that if I made him angry I wouldn’t see enough of him.

Little did I know how wrong I was! And little did I know that one day I would, in fact, never see him again.

After an almost fatal overdose, we learned that John had been using drugs for 15 years. He was 30 years old at the time and had two little girls--ages 2 and 4.

We encouraged him to enter a rehab program but he declined, saying he had to go back to work to help support his daughters. We agreed to support John as long as he stayed clean. He did pretty well for a couple of months, but then we began to see some familiar signs that he was using again. Finally, on Memorial Day in 2012, I received the phone call that every mother of an addict dreads.

My granddaughters got up that morning and found their father lying dead on the living room floor. Their lives were changed forever that day. Our lives were too.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my happy baby boy and his caring heart. I know, without a doubt, that he would never have intentionally put his family through this grief and heartache. He had such a sensitive spirit and a generosity for those in trouble. These demons called heroin and cocaine consumed and ultimately took him from us.

If John were still alive and healthy, I know he would be joining me in trying to help keep others from this outcome. If I can help just one parent understand that tough-love is OK, if I can save just one child’s life--this is what I will do. This is what will give my son’s death a purpose.


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