By Ronni's dad, Matt
We were once a regular family - before we lost a child.
Our daughter, Ronni, was raised in a loving and stable environment where she and her sister’s needs were met. As a family, we did many things together; we played outside, went camping and fishing, and always had fun. We lived in the same house throughout the girl's early childhoods. When they were a little older, we built our own log home in a nearby small town that was within the same school district, so the girls never had to leave their friends and classmates.
We had good relationships with both of our daughters and supported them in pursuing their interests. Ronni loved trying new things. She joined the 4-H youth organization at the age of ten and got her first horse when she was 12. She was also a Girl Scout and participated in Odyssey of the Mind creative challenges. Ronni was an avid reader and loved trivia. She had a fondness for animals and had a way with them. At 16, Ronni thought it would be fun to enter a Miss Teen USA contest, so she did. In high school, she was on the wrestling team.
Ronni had strong political views and feelings about equality - she often stuck up for the underdog. As a young child, she spent a lot of time with her great-grandparents and developed an affection for the elderly. After becoming a certified nurse’s aide, she started working in a local nursing home - a place where she connected with and felt protective of the residents.
School came easy to Ronni and she never really had to work that hard at it. Socially, she was bubbly, easy-going, and funny. She had lots of friends. So why did Ronni, of all kids, start using drugs? Why did she - of all people - die of a drug overdose in the dawn of her life?
We think it started innocently enough, with kids experimenting with alcohol and/or maybe marijuana; just like many do at least once in their teenage lives. But opiates changed the rules of the game. These pills are now shared the way other substances were in the past. With these powerful drugs, kids can’t always move on from their experimentation phase and grow up. They think they are just having fun and are invincible, but no one is invincible when it comes to opioid addiction, let alone a young adult.
Add to this experimentation, the fact that when Ronni was in her late teens she started experiencing some back and leg pain related to the demands of wrestling. Afterward, Ronni was in a car accident and received prescription opioids for her pain. Around the same time, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder; which had not been previously identified as an issue due to her academic ability and achievements. People told us more than once not to worry about her and that “gifted” learners often appear distracted or shift from one project to another quite frequently. We now know that kids with ADD are more susceptible to substance use disorder than others.
As parents, we thought that if we did mostly everything right, then our children would be okay. We were wrong. We thought that by living out in the sticks we were insulated from some of the big-city problems that affect many young individuals. Again, we were wrong. Opioids are everywhere and opioid addiction lays in wait for everyone. Opioids patiently wait for an opportunity to take advantage of an injury, teenage experimentation, or simply a bad choice. It doesn’t care how smart you are, how talented or beautiful you are, or how much you are loved - all you have to be is human. Once it finds its way in, like the parasite it is, it will take over your life; you may die quickly, like our child; or slowly, losing everything along the way. There is no doubt about it, opioid addiction kills.