Zoe Kellner aged 21Last week at an open and lush Midtown East coffee shop, I met a stranger, a chance Twitter connection. This well-dressed, petite, dark-haired woman somehow recognized me when I was still half a block away, her clasped hands in front of her glimpsing into a wave. “I knew it was you,” she began warmly. Then, over black iced coffee, she told me everything. Alone in the cafe, this unexpected newfound friend, Robin, told me about drugs and her daughter.
Four years ago she lost her only child, Zoe, to drug overdose. Zoe, a vibrant, beautiful 22-year-old college student, born and raised in New York who preferred West side to East. A young woman who fatally overdosed before entering treatment.
Read Zoe’s story, narrated by her mom. It took everything I had not to cry as her brave mother described the most tragic event of her life.
Today, August 31, is Overdose Awareness Day. And as much as we would like to think otherwise, to think it’s some other person or family, substance abuse and addiction hit us all. Similar to a plane accident, the conventional wisdom goes, “well, that won’t happen.” Well, yes, it could. It could happen to any of us. Zoe’s mom learned that:
I want to start the story when my daughter Zoe was in the 9th grade at a wonderful school in New York City. It is a lovely, nurturing, very sweet school, small, like a family, a community. She started in the first grade and went all the way through high school and graduated from there.
But in the 9th grade something happened that I can’t help thinking back to now.
One of Zoe’s classmates was very suddenly removed from school and sent out west to rehab. The next day, the school called a parent breakfast, because the kids were buzzing about what happened, and the parents didn’t really understand.
As I sat at this breakfast, and they explained what had happened to this young man, who was a good friend of Zoe’s, I thought to myself, “What am I doing here? This has nothing to do with me, because it’s so not Zoe.”
Fast forward. This young boy – now a young man — lives out in California, has a band, owns part of a restaurant, is smart and handsome and successful and thriving. Zoe is gone.
As parents, we don’t want to think our kids could get off track. In a million years, I never thought that I would be the parent who would lose a child to drugs. I never, ever, ever thought that could happen...
Cassie Rodenberg @'Scientific American'