On January 8th, 1986, Andy Hirst was born into the world. From the start, he was a quiet but easygoing and happy child. Growing up, he was a typical kid living in a rural community, riding tractors and spending a lot of time in the woods learning nature first hand. Everyone liked Andy. Our house always had an extra place setting for we knew Andy would be bringing someone home for dinner. He was involved in little league baseball, football, basketball, and track. He excelled in sports and enjoyed them.

Midway through high school Andy began to lose interest in sports. He also became withdrawn from the family. We brushed it off as typical teenage behavior, but looking back, we believe this is when his journey into the tragic world of substance abuse began.

After high school he decided to work at the family business as an apprentice electrician.  Many would say it was a great opportunity but it was not what he really wanted to do in life and his heart wasn’t into it. He became even more withdrawn from the family, and stopped hanging out with many of the friends he had grown up with. He started hanging out with a local resident who had a prescription for Oxycontin. This person began selling it to the kids in our community. The painful descent into opiate addiction had begun.  This addiction creates a world of depression, guilt, and loss of self-esteem. The addict believes the only escape they have is to use the drug to forget the misery their life has become.

Andy came to us for help and we immediately put him into a rehab facility. It was his first of three stays there. Each time he was unable to fight the mental and physical cravings of opiate. Each time he relapsed, losing a little more of his soul. Like most prescription opiate addicts, Andy eventually switched to heroin. It is much cheaper and easier to get. Within weeks, heroin had taken control as it always does in every one who uses it. Andy was no longer in charge of his own life, heroin was.

He started working with law enforcement to take dealers off the streets. He had not been in trouble with the legal system yet and was under no obligation to help them. He thought if the drug dealers were in jail and he couldn’t get his hands on the drugs, then he could save himself and his friends. He eventually got caught buying heroin at the very house he told the police to watch. By that time he had lost almost everything he had ever owned.

After a three month stay in jail he found new hope and a new attitude towards life. He really thought he was on his way to recovery. The day I picked him up he was smiling and said he would never be going back there. He had gained twenty pounds and seemed happy. For the first time in years we felt we had our son back. He came back to work and we drug tested him three times a week randomly. He always passed. After battling with his addiction for over three years, things finally seemed to be looking up.

On May 17th, just two months after he was released from jail, heroin reared its ugly head once again. We will never know what made Andy decide to turn to heroin that day. Your body loses the craving for it but your mind never does. That morning he called his dealer, who came to the jobsite he was working at. Andy handed over his last possession worth money and was given his fatal dose of heroin in return. Andy’s life came to a tragic end in a jobsite outhouse. Heroin had run its course as it always does. First it takes your money, then it takes your freedom, and in the end it takes your life.