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A life lost to heroin, a family left to ask why

When someone loses a member of the family, it is heartbreaking. When you lose a daughter, a sister, a mother and a friend who is only 23 years old – you feel devastated. Christin Tibbetts was only 23 when she died from heroin overdose on Feb. 27 in her father’s house in Falconer.

The funeral home in Fredonia gathered many people of all generations for the farewell service, including a 5-year-old daughter Londyn who is never going to see her mommy again. She looked at the crowd with her big blue eyes and could not comprehend why relatives and her mom’s friends were sobbing uncontrollably; she is too young to understand that, and she really should have never gone through this kind of situation.

Among the questions Christin’s parents were asking those days were: Why her? Why so young? Did we do everything we could to save her?

Christin Tibbetts grew up as a very active, kind-hearted girl with a natural sense of humor and enthusiasm for life adventures. She entered Jamestown Community College after graduating from Fredonia High School in 2009. Then she went to Fredonia State College pursuing a degree in psychology. Life was good. She had her daughter when she was 18, and Londyn became the center of her life. She wanted so much for her. And then something happened: Christin was introduced to the “wrong” crowd and that first step in the “wrong” direction was made.

Why she made that step, none of us knows; perhaps even she did not know. But it can happen to anyone. To a person from a good, loving family, and to a person from the streets; to someone with high goals and values, and to the one who has none. And after that step is taken, it all goes downhill in a blink of an eye.

Christin had to leave college, she had no place to live, she could not take care of her child, she went to jail for drug possession, and other charges were pressed against her. And then one morning when Kevin Tibbetts, Christin’s father, entered the room where she was staying overnight, he saw the scene no parent would ever want to see: his child, his baby, was on the floor with her jaw clenched – cold.

The reality of life is brutal and the only way to deal with it is to face it. And that is what our society needs to do. The number of young adults dying from heroin is shocking. According to an article in the Washington Post, “100 Americans die from drug overdose every day. Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides.” Heroin became an affordable and easy-to-get drug that helps people cope with life and the stress that comes with it. Nobody promised us an easy life, but people deal with difficulties differently. That is where drug dealers come into place, using the vulnerable state of the growing mind.

When it comes to getting medical help for an addict, there are a lot of flaws in the system. Granted, it is very difficult to get clean for life once you develop an addiction of any kind. People go through relapses and have to fight with their cravings every day of their lives. But the system in place does not make it easier. Many places deny addicts, many insurance companies do not want to pay for treatment.

Kevin Tibbetts knows it all. He called every place he knew trying to help Christin to be treated for her heroin addiction, and met many obstacles. At some point he felt helpless. A lot of places would accept Christin only after she went through heroin withdrawal. But how can you, as a parent without medical knowledge, assist that? They say people do not die from withdrawal, but to see your child “going through hell” is not a pleasant sight and could be medically threatening as well.

If we want to help our young generation, the generation we are handing our future, we need to face the problem, fix the system and place the options for them to get help when they need it. It is important to do now because in reality the latitude of the problem is much greater than we think.