Addiction has many different faces. The faces can be any color or any social class. The faces can be short, long, fat or skinny. It can be anybody. Whether those faces belong to people who are struggling personally or it's their family and friends, they are different.
No story is the same. Situations may be similar but those lives are unique. Those stories are their own, including that of Parker Patterson from Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
“Parker was the life of the party. Whenever Parker was around you knew it wasn't going to be a boring time,” said Parker’s mother, Andrea Patterson. Parker was a big brother, who his mother said was protective of his sisters and always looked after them.
“He was funny. He loved to make people laugh. And he never walked out the door without giving you a hug and saying I love you mom,” she told us.
Andrea was very close with her son. He would tell her a lot of things that she didn’t necessarily want to know, including that he started smoking marijuana at the age of 14.
“I don't believe he did much more than that. Until at least a couple of years later,” she said. Andrea believed the drugs started as an escape for Parker, from his ADHD, anxiety. “I think that had a lot to do with why he used.”
In March of 2015, Andrea became fed up with Parker’s drug use and didn’t want her other children to be impacted by his choices, so she kicked him out of the house. But Andrea said their relationship didn’t change.
“He wasn't angry," she said. "He still came around. We still talked every day.”
But that didn't deter Parker from using drugs. That summer is when Andrea said she knew for sure that Parker started doing other dangerous drugs.
Just months later, on October 12, 2015, there was a knock at the door of the Patterson home. The police had come to tell them that Parker overdosed on methadone and was rushed to the hospital where he died two days later.
Parker Clay Patterson was just 18 years old.
No words could properly explain the way the Patterson family felt after his death. The only thing that could come close to describing is that it was a "nightmare."
“It still doesn’t seem real," Andrea said. "Even though I have relived it over and over.”
Andrea said there is just a peace you have knowing all of your children are at home and that they are safe. “When Parker passed away I kept thinking I am never going to feel that way again. It’s never going to be the same. And it’s not.”
Losing someone to drug addiction is a pain that many could never imagine happening. For the family of Jake Agar, the heartbreak still affects them to this day.
As his family would put it, Jake was the kind of guy that all the girls wanted to date and all the guys wanted to be. He was a kind and passionate person who cared about everyone.
“If there was somebody, a classmate or teammate that felt like they weren't in a group of something, all Jake had to do was put his arm around that friend or student and say this guy is with me and he was immediately accepted,” said his father, Andy Agar.
Jake loved sports and was a great football player. He was even co-captain of the football team at Episcopal Collegiate during his junior and senior year of high school.
“He was a special kid,” his dad said.
Mr. Agar said the first sign they knew something was going on was when Jake and a couple of his friends were arrested in Allsopp Park in Little Rock for purchasing painkillers. It was Jake’s car so he went down to the police station.
“It just started going downhill from there. For the first time in my life and Jake’s, I saw that he was losing control,” his father added.
It was then during Jake’s junior year at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville that his parents sent him to a 28-day treatment facility in Nashville. But Jake got out and relapsed. He then entered a second treatment center but was sent home for purchasing drugs.
Addiction had a grip on Jake no matter how much his family tried to help him.
“His behavior was worse than it had ever been," Andy said. "He was totally out of his body. He was angry. He was visibly impaired. More so than I have ever seen him. He was belligerent. And these were characteristics of Jake that weren't ever there."
After a lot of resistance, Jake agreed to enter rehab for the third time. His father planned to pick him up from school in Fayetteville the next day. But on the night of December 4, 2013, Andy got a call that his son had died of a fentanyl overdose.
Jake Andrew Agar was just 21 years old.
“I was 12 hours too late," Andy said. "It was just dreadful. You’ll never forget that time. You'll never forget where you were. It’s one of those events that is branded into your mind. Your world goes pretty dark after that.”
Don’t be discouraged. There are people who are suffering from an addiction that turn their lives around, which brings us to our next “face.” The woman in this interview asked to remain anonymous. She began her story by telling us that her mother always made fun of her because she wanted to be a ballerina.
“I took a lot of dance classes and I danced until my senior year of high school,” she said. Her life was normal.
She had no idea where she wanted to go to college. But after a while, a lot of her friends were going to the University of Arkansas. So, she decided that’s where she wanted to go too.
“I got into a sorority. I moved into a dorm. Made a lot of friends,” she said. “I started drinking a lot and it started attracting the wrong types of people.”
She quickly found the wrong kind of friends and started trying new things. She found out she could sell her prescription pills and that attracted people who wanted to take advantage of that.
“Those people who were picking up the medication started to become my friends and they weren't very good people,” she added.
After going to college and then moving back home she started getting involved with harder drugs.
“I felt like I wasn't good enough. I felt like I couldn't make it. I couldn't even get a job. This isn't worth it. And so I started doing heroin,” she said.
She first tried smoking it off of some foil, but she didn’t like it.
“It tasted bad so somebody had suggested that I shoot it with a needle and I thought that was extremely disgusting.” But a lot of people suggested that it was the best high that you can get so she tried it. “And that is when I got addicted,” she said.
She began to chase the euphoric yet dangerous feeling of a heroin high. That chase eventually led her to an overdose.
Paramedics thought she was dead. They attempted to get ready to put her in a body bag, but she woke up.
“And they said the person who was on this stretcher yesterday had died from a heroin overdose. And they assumed that is what I had been doing and they thought it was too late,” she added.
This young woman didn’t really know what was going on, but when she got to the hospital and started feeling better, that’s when she knew she wanted to stop.
“This is embarrassing," she said. "All these people now know that I am doing this. And I don't want to do this anymore.”
She didn’t stay sober the first two times she tried, but she kept doing the work. “This person told me to call her every single day and I did. Even though I was getting messed up it was like giving me that responsibility of knowing that, ‘Hey, I hope you realize you’re getting messed up again. You’re doing this again,’” she said.
This young woman has now been sober since September 18, 2015. She can only worry about it one day at a time. “I can’t think about how I might want to relapse next week. I just think about today.”