My son, Gray, passed on 2/16/2021 at the age of 25. Gray was a funny and loving young man with a kind smile, a great laugh, and a true passion for salt air, coastal waters, and fishing at his home on the Outer Banks of NC. Anyone that truly knew Gray knew that he was a genuine guy who cared for his friends and family. He always had a listening ear and would do anything to be there for people in need, even helping others to a fault at times. He was the confidant his teenage brother would go to, and the first to hoist his youngest brother up onto his shoulders. He could talk to anyone, even strangers on the beach, while he was fishing and hoping for his line to go tight with a catch.
Being a private person, many did not know that he also suffered on and off from substance abuse. He was a functioning addict and wanted to be free of this. He hated the double life he was living and it truly vexed his soul. There were only a few members in our family that even knew this. I never shared because I didn’t want him to be stigmatized and I didn't want his legacy to be "drug user". He did not want to be defined as that either; he needed help, not a label. I believed in him, even to the end. I called him out, I sent him to rehab, I tough and tender loved him, I encouraged him, I yelled at him, I begged him, I prayed for him, I cried for him and with him. This was a heart-wrenching struggle.
Gray had been to a treatment facility in 2020 and was thriving and happy while working the program, a program he was still holding on to and trying to work when he died instantly , in his home when he relapsed. Gray was unaware that he was given straight fentanyl, a lethal opiate that is devastating lives and families on all 4 corners of our country and everywhere in-between. For the time he was in the program and several months after, I had my son back. He prayed for others to recover, he started his own support group to help people who are in recovery, and his worst fear was relapsing and dying - these are Gray's written words. He helped so many others, even in his own struggles. As one friend explained to me, "Gray cared more about my sobriety than I did and he was there for me, fought for me, and I am sober today because of him,". Gray passed away with a "To Do" list and a goal list beside him. He wanted to live; He wanted to see his brothers grow up and to be free of the bondage of addiction. I pray that sharing his story with his friends, community, and those that never knew him will raise awareness that there are others that need help with substance abuse and that they are more than just a “drug user”. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, family, and community members, and they are loved and they matter. We have to talk about this disease and destigmatize it in order to make a change and save lives.
I will always wonder if he stayed longer in rehab, would he still be here. If I chose to share his struggles with more family members and include them in the fight, would he still be here? I cannot change anything now. What I can do is help others to get the help they need, whether that help is funding for rehabilitation and counseling, or funding for medication that helps addicts stay away from the substance abuse. I can help other families who are being impacted by this horrible disease through intervention and education and I can help to spread awareness. That's why I have set up the charity, "Tight Lines".
Tight Lines represents Gray's goal to always have a fish on the line. It's a phrase used to wish others "good luck" when they're headed out to fish. Tight Lines will cast for the lost and help to fight for them not get off that line until they are strong enough to be released. Your support to get the charity off the ground would mean the world to our family. If you were hoping to show us love through flowers or a card, please consider donating any amount you choose or can to Tight Lines instead. I promise to do good work and to help others who are suffering. All funds will be transferred to Bank of Charles Town, the holder of the account for our 501c-3 and all donations will be acknowledged.
Gray's legacy is how he helped others, even when he could not help himself. His legacy is Tight Lines.
President and Chair, Tight Lines Charity
Your contribution will enable us to support those suffering from addiction and to educate our community about addiction and resources to help. We are very grateful for your generosity.