By Nick's mother, Stacy
Crown Point, Indiana
People want to know what happens: I'm openly sharing my tragedy in order to bring light to this epidemic. It's unfortunate that people are ashamed to tell the stories of their loved ones who are battling drug addiction. They worry that society will see those struggling as second class, low-life people. As an emergency nurse, it is my job to help anyone who enters the ER. Once upon a time, I was judgmental about drug addicts or “junkies” as some call them--until it happened to my boy.
If it can happen to my son, it can happen to anyone. Addiction impacts people who are educated, smart, charismatic and have the world in the palm of their hand. My son, Nick Antich, was a top student who didn’t get into trouble at school and never caused his father and I much grief beyond the typical teenage issues. He was raised in a normal family, played baseball as a child and wrestled in middle school. He loved animals and was known as the “animal whisperer” because on several different occasions he saved kittens from the side of busy highways where they had been dumped.
When he was accepted into an engineering program for college he moved to Indianapolis. During his sophomore year, he started dabbling in drugs. Nothing I would consider hardcore, but never-the-less, drugs. He was honest to a fault with me and I told him not to screw with “that stuff.” As you well know, at some point kids will do what they want. My boy was smart and knew the risks involved with drug use, so I never imagined that anything serious was happening. I certainly never prepared myself for the journey we were about to embark upon.
One day my son called to say he had been sick in bed for three days. I knew in my gut that something was not right. He had been sick a bunch of times since going away to college, which is normally no big deal--take some Tylenol and get rest--but this time felt different. I called an ambulance and sent them to his address. I told my boss that something was very wrong, jumped in my car and two hours later I arrived at the hospital where I found my son curled up in a ball on a cot--nothing had been done. Why? They knew he was going through heroin withdrawal but because of HIPAA they couldn’t tell me what was happening. When Nick saw me he held up his arms: “Mom, it’s bad.” I dropped to my knees and my hell as a parent began. Within 24 hours he was on a plane to Arizona where he was admitted into rehab for the next two months.
He moved back home after treatment and within three months I saw suspicious signs and kicked him out. In September of 2014 he came and told me, “Mom, I'm using again.” And again, within 24 hours he was back on a plane to Arizona for a second stint in rehab. This time he was there for four months. He came home for Christmas of 2014 clean from Xanax and heroin since September. He got a job working for the state of Indiana and was quickly promoted. But my boy felt miserable inside and nothing I did as a mother could fix his loneliness. When he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder he faithfully took his meds and followed up monthly with his doctor. He did not want to be unhappy; he exercised, attempted a vegan diet and quit smoking three months before he died.
The week before he relapsed, he had to work long shifts plowing during a snowstorm and was stressed and tired. Sitting by himself plowing snow for 16 hours did something to him; he got Xanax from a friend. When I found out, he said, “Mom, I just wanted to take something to make my miserable job tolerable...I would never use heroin again.” Xanax was all it took to wake up the devil within him that had been dormant for 18 months. I was petrified that whole week, thinking here we go again. On Friday, March 4th, Nick went to see friends in Indianapolis for the weekend and had plans to stay with his sister in Bloomington for the rest of that week. My husband and I flew out on Saturday for a week’s vacation in Arizona. On Sunday afternoon, March 6, 2016, my son never woke up.
Did Nick’s depression lead him to use drugs to feel better? Or did the drugs mess up his brain chemistry and make him depressed? These questions will haunt me forever. I hate drugs. They robbed my son of his life, they robbed my daughter of her only sibling and they robbed his father and I of our only son. Over 450 people attended his wake, which was a testament to how loved he was: friends, family, and teachers from elementary through high school came to share that day with us. He didn’t realize how much love there was for him in this life.
I'm an emergency room nurse who has access to the resources I needed to help my son. Despite this, I could not save him. This is something I must learn to live with forever.
I will be taking some time off work to grieve the loss of my first-born, Nick, who showed me what it was to be a mother and to feel the love that only a mother can. With all my strength I will try to continue in my endeavors as a Nurse practitioner and most importantly, I will do my best to be good to my family--the reason I get up in the morning.
Please don't hide these stories anymore. Out of the 450 people who attended Nick’s service, at least a dozen said it happened to them too.