Tonight, at 7pm EST, WBIR-TV in Knoxville, TN will premiere “Henry’s Story,” a 30 minute, commercial free special. The program tells the story of my son Henry’s life, struggle with addiction and his death from drugs on May 31, 2010. Henry was only 18 years old.
The WBIR special features interviews with many of the people who loved and knew Henry best, although obviously, it wasn’t possible to interview every single person who was important in Henry’s life. There are lots of people – grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, teachers, friends and counselors who don’t actually appear in the show, but who loved Henry a lot and who were loved a lot in return.
I have watched the special in advance of its premiere tonight, and I think it’s beautifully done. One point it manages to make very well is that for Henry, particularly by the last 18 months of his life (9 months of which were spent in inpatient addiction treatment), there was nothing “fun” or happy about his drug abuse. It was no longer a situation where a teenage boy was partying with his friends or just looking to have some fun in a dangerous way.
By the last year or two of his short life – after Henry became involved with the prescription drugs that eventually killed him – Henry was physically and mentally addicted. Every day for him became a painful, depressing, terrible struggle to find a way to procure enough of the chemicals that day that would keep him from becoming very sick with withdrawal. He told me that once he started using the pills, he woke up every morning determined not to use that day, but went to sleep every night feeling like a complete failure.
I hope that viewers come away from watching Henry’s Story tonight understanding that drug addiction – real drug addiction like that which tormented my teenage son – is not a “lifestyle choice” that ANYONE would make. No teenage boy with a loving family, a good education and all the opportunity in the world ahead of him is CHOOSING to hang around outside of homeless shelters in the afternoons, trying to score a fix from other homeless people because that’s a fun thing to do. That “lifestyle” is not some sort of careless teenage partying (which is where his addiction started).
No, in fact Henry’s life as a drug addict was – for him – depressing, dangerous, humiliating, painful and ultimately, fatal. My teenager’s addiction pulled him away from everything he had known – loving parents and siblings, a comfortable home, good schools, family travel, music and community – and launched him into a frightening underworld of dangerous, cruel people and places who were able to prey on my child because he was both naive and desperate. He was sick. That’s all there was to it; Henry was very, very sick.
Please watch Henrys Story with your family tonight. It will air both on TV (WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville) and also online (livestreamed at WBIR.com) starting TONIGHT at 7:00 pm EST. Because it’s going to be simulcast online at WBIR.com, that means you can watch it wherever you are in the world at the very same time those of us in the Knoxville area will be able to watch on TV.
I hope that Henry’s Story will inspire a new dialogue around the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and deaths in this community and across the country. The dialogue is the beginning; action comes next.
Thank you. Let me know in the comments below whether you plan to watch on TV or online, and PLEASE spread the word to everyone you know to join our family in viewing Henry’s Story tonight.