My son Jesse's drug and alcohol use began at around age fourteen, starting with marijuana. By fifteen he was smoking almost everyday. He lost all motivation and school was at the bottom of his "to-do" list. Jesse's drug use continued and he went on to try just about anything he could get his hands on. He was fifteen when we tried to get him help by going into treatment. Things would seem to be better for a while and then he would go back to the drugs.

By age sixteen, Jesse was using crack cocaine and shortly after became addicted to heroin. Our lives became a living hell. There were several more attempts in treatment. Things would seem okay for a while but something would always knock him back down again. I felt very isolated during his addiction, not really knowing where to find help. Jesse began to do whatever he could to support his growing habit, mostly by stealing. His arrest record quickly grew. I was a mess. All I could do was watch while the drugs took the life out of my beautiful son.

As I said, Jesse's court cases were piling up and in the spring of 1998 Jesse and I stood before Judge Doyle. We were terrified that Jesse would be spending years in prison. Judge Doyle went another route and sentenced Jesse to the T.A.S.C. program instead. I am so grateful to Judge Doyle for giving Jesse that last chance to get his life together. Jesse spent about forty-five days in jail waiting for an opening at Brandon House. Where he would be in a ninety-day program.

Jesse was asked to leave Brandon House after eighty days for various reasons. He came home the end of August and quickly started some outpatient counseling with the fear of going back to jail or even worse, prison. He also started drinking a lot. I suspected possible drug use a couple of times.

Early in November, Jesse received a settlement from a car accident he had been in. We were so afraid of him having this money. He spent a few nights away from our house during the next two weeks. On November 18, 1998, I received the phone call that I had feared for years. It was the Melrose Park Police Department. Jesse had been found in a hotel room. My beautiful son was gone forever. I was devastated.

The funeral was November 23, 1998, the day before his nineteenth birthday. To this day, Jesse consumes my thoughts; I miss him terribly. I believe there is no greater loss than that of losing your child. We later learned the cause of death was a heroin and cocaine overdose.

It is almost four years since Jesse's death and a lot has happened in those four years. I have met some of the most caring people and many of their addicted children. We have a tremendous bond; we are there for each other, cry each other's tears, and feel their joy when progress is made.

I believe that we can make a difference in this battle with drug addiction, and I am ready to do my share. I will never give up hope!

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