NEW LENOX – When Tom Moore’s 17-year-old son died from drug-induced heart arrhythmia in March 2014, one of the first things the New Lenox father did was visit his daughter’s Will County jail cell – where she faced possession charges – to give her the news.
“My daughter has been in recovery ever since,” Moore told a crowd of about 75 people attending the Heroin Symposium Tuesday night at Lincoln-Way West High School in New Lenox. “I stand here and tell you that there is hope. People can and do recover.”
In the audience in the second and third rows of the auditorium sat four generations of Moore’s family – his support system, he said – including his 19-year-old daughter, Aly Moore, who is approaching 19 months sober.
Tuesday’s event marked a milestone for Moore, who said it was his first time speaking to a large crowd about his son’s death and his daughter’s ongoing recovery. He asked parents, family members and friends in the audience to “open up the conversation” about heroin and drug abuse.
It’s the only way to bring the issue out of the darkness and into the light, he said.
The symposium event – hosted by law enforcement officials from New Lenox, Frankfort and Mokena – concentrated on the dangers of heroin addiction and other drug abuse issues. The Lincoln-Way West symposium comes on the heels of several similar events held during the past year or so in response to the growing heroin epidemic in Will County.
Heroin overdoses were rare in Will County before 1999, but the Will County Coroner’s Office soon began reporting an increase in heroin overdose deaths year after year, from 17 cases in 2008 to 29 in 2009. In 2012, the number of cases were at 53.
At last count, there have been 35 heroin overdose deaths so far in 2015, which already is tied with last year’s 35 heroin deaths, according to the coroner’s office.
Moore was invited to speak by Tim Ryan of Naperville a recovering heroin addict who lost his 20-year-old son, Nick Ryan, in August 2014 to his own battle with heroin.
On the day his son died, his father marked 21 months sobriety.
“What was my first thought [when he died]?” he asked the audience. “Most people would say ‘I want to use, I want to get high,’ ” … but that never crossed my mind. My first thought was go to a 12-step meeting that night. And that’s what I did.”
Ryan now dedicates his life to educating parents and families about the dangers of drug addiction in hopes of preventing what happened to his family from happening to others.
Ryan and others who spoke urged parents, family members and friends to keep an open line of communication with children, recognize behavioral changes and addictive behaviors and better understand the challenges your loved one will face overcoming their addiction.