The drug overdose rate in America alone has increased 4 fold since 2001, with teenagers and kids in their early twenties being the major proportion of this heart-wrenching number. For kids in their developmental stages, access to harmful substances these days couldn’t get any easier, with some purchasing lethal drugs over a counter and other getting it delivered to their door step after making an online transaction. The same was in the case of 22-year-old, Clay Shepard. Clay was introduced into the dark world of substance abuse when he was just in high school and his struggle to battle it continued till his last breath, just 7 years later. Over his deceased body, his mother penned an emotional obituary stating the blunt facts of dealing with a child suffering from this vice. The letter wasn’t worded with vengeance at all, instead becoming an eye opener for parents who suffer from the same misfortune. In her case, the surface was calm, but the water beneath it was turbulent. Despite the love they showered on their child, identifying the root of his problem was a wall they never could penetrate.
“Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family. We loved Clay with all of our hearts, but we now know that was not enough to shield him from the world. This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death. It’s not to vent our anger and frustration at a world where drugs can be ordered and delivered through the internet. We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time. Clay was a solid student, decent athlete, and a very likeable kid. With his seemingly endless positive traits, he had the potential to be anything from a captivating politician to a brilliant engineer, but drugs began to creep into Clay’s life while he was in high school. As trouble hit, his father stepped in and forged an incredible bond with Clay. Although Clay could never be completely honest about the trouble he was in, his love and respect for his father became a lifeline over the last few years. He successfully completed drug rehab several times, but the craving that comes from true addiction was more than he could overcome.
While we always felt we had some grip on Clay’s issues, his ability to hide and disguise his addiction proved superior to our parental (and sibling) sixth sense. The worry that we have felt watching Clay struggle, has been replaced by a deep feeling of loss that now exists knowing we will never see his smiling face again. Despite these troubles, we can smile knowing that the last communication we had with Clay was a text and answer between mother and son to say “I love you”, just as it should be.
To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath. Clay’s struggles have ended. He is finally at peace. We will miss his keen sense of humor, impersonations, cooking, plant advice and rhythm on the dance floor.”