MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- March 12, 2014 ... it's a day Bill and Susan Phillips will never forget. It's the day their son Ryan used heroin for the last time.
"The worst that we could ever have possibly imagined happened. He was gone," said Bill.
The Phillips say their son was a happy child. He played baseball and loved all sports and being outside. Ryan was born with a cleft palette and during the course of his lifetime he had more than 12 surgeries to correct it. The Phillips believe Ryan first became addicted to pain killers to help deal with post-surgical pain.
"We didn't know her was on the pain meds but he was taking them I guess heavily and the cost for that was just outrageous and that's when heroin came into play," said Bill.
Heroin was the cheaper alternative. As the problem progressed, Bill and Susan began to notice money and items missing from around the house. They suspected Ryan had a problem.
"We confronted him and he finally broke down and said I have a problem and I can't, I can't stop," said Bill.
The Phillips looked for help. Ryan went to rehab in Florida and in total was in an out four times. He would always go back to drugs.
In March of 2014 Ryan had what should have been his last corrective surgery. Because he was an addict, doctors would not prescribe pain medications.
"For a few days he was uncomfortable. He was very agitated and he went and did what most addicts do. He went to get the thing that would help him," said Bill.
Bill found his son lying on his bedroom floor. He had died from a heroin overdose. Two years later, Bill and Susan say they should have been able to prevent his death.
"Parents try to fix things on their own like they did the cold, the broken arm, the problem in school. This doesn't work like that. Drug addiction is totally different," said Bill.
After Ryan's death, Bill and Susan joined a support group for parents who have lost children to drugs, have a child currently addicted, or a child in recovery. The group is run by Kevin Morse, a former addict turned interventionist.
Morse says often parents are enablers, and says 9 out of 10 times an addict needs to be in rehab and not at home. He says admitting they need help can be challenging for even the best of parents.
"Just like it's hard for your son to walk into a recovery meeting and say, you know, I have a problem, it's just as hard for the parent to walk into a support meeting with a bunch of parents to say I need help, I don't know what I'm doing," said Morse.
Morse's personal battle with drugs started in fourth grade. He says over the years he tried just about everything and realized it was time to quit while serving time in jail for stealing. He's been clean for 7 years and is now devoting his life to helping others get clean.
"Not only can I kinda guide them, but they can hear other suggestions. We, this is what we did, you know. This is what happened when we did that," said Morse.
Morse says the support group meets in Stratford every week. Sometimes as many as 25 parents show up to share and learn.
As the heroin epidemic continues to take lives, Bill and Susan hope their story, and Ryan's, will encourage other parents to reach out.
"I just don't wanna see these kids end up where my son is. It's such a waste. There's such a, they're so young. They have so much to live for," said Bill.
Kevin Morse's company is LIFTT Confidential ... Leading Individuals and Families Through Transformations.
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