By Victor's parents, Kathy and Vic
Victor Benjamin Surma
Victor Benjamin Surma was born July 20, 1983. He died on January 26, 2014 from a heroin overdose.
Victor was an excellent athlete. At the age of 15 he fractured his spine playing football. The orthopedic surgeon prescribed oxycodone. Prior to the prescribed narcotic, Victor did not drink or use drugs. Victor was a fly fisherman, outdoorsman, excellent mogul skier. A good student and he had a bright future. He played football at a Division 1 college. His third year he quit the team.
He struggled with substance abuse. As parents, we were unaware prescription drugs would be highly addictive because of the history of drug and alcohol abuse in both of our families. Education and prevention, especially for families with genetic predisposition to abuse is essential knowledge, beginning at the earliest age for children.
Victor had a dual major in college in business and communications. He was a successful campaign model during and after college, and an orthopedic sales representative for Smith and Nephew. Victor was awarded 'Rookie' of the year in sales nationwide. To maintain his ability to work he would drive an hour after a 10 hour day of working in the hospital to find a doctor who would give him suboxone. The effort to obtain suboxone daily exhausted Victor physically and mentally. He could only work with the daily dose of suboxone, but could not function without having a doctor closer to his home. No one could.
Victor could not stop using prescription drugs. He fought like a soldier to stop the urges to use drugs. He also was uninformed in thinking he was weak and was shamed because of his drug habit.
He went to Caron Rehab, Gateway Rehab, Wonderland Rehab, two rehab facilities in Florida, Mountainside Rehab, and the last Rehab was associated with Harvard Medical Center. Admittance to emergency room care when he voluntarily required life saving intervention was denied. I accompanied Victor to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa. The blood test indicated so many drugs in his system he qualified for admittance. However, there were not enough beds. We left not knowing what to do and he continued using.
He got two DUI's and lost his license for two years within a week of being denied admittance to Mercy Hospital. He lost his lucrative job, all his accumulated money in bank accounts, his two cars, and became so desperate and ashamed he went into a downward spiral. Isolation from friends, family, and society was heart-wrenching.
Once his source of income was depleted, he started using heroin.
At this point he qualified for methadone. I would drive him to the methadone clinic, and it was at the clinic where he made the acquaintance of a drug dealer. Victor was aware of the seriousness of drug dealing and would not participate, but he had fallen so low that his father and I paid a huge amount of money for him to go to a Harvard affiliated drug program.
Victor was clean for 6 months prior to his overdose. He humbled himself to work in retail, walk to work, and as his mother I was his only social life. At the Harvard affiliated rehab he obtained a sponsor. The doctor advised me to support his move to New York City and an apartment.
When he died, he was alone. The autopsy indicated a small amount of heroin and cocaine, but because he had not been using for 6 months it hit him like a freight train. The NYPD discovered his sponsor was a drug dealer from Long Island, NY. The phone records indicate the sponsor called Victor at 3am the morning of his overdose.
After his death, the community did not know what to say to his father, sister and myself. It was horrible not to have support even in death. Addiction was perceived as a weakness, poor parenting, not as a disease.