Daughter Strong: A Teenager Talks About The Personal Side Of Ohio's Opioid Epidemic

Mar 29, 2018

When there is drug overdose, the Center for Disease Control adds it to the statistics. And Ohio is at the top for drug deaths.  Dayton Youth Radio producer Carmen Tibbs, told our youth radio class that Dayton had the highest mortality rates from drug overdoses in the country. I remember wondering why would a 17-year old know such a grim and compelling statistic.

It was December 3, 2013, a Tuesday in the middle of my eighth grade year and had just turned fourteen. I walked in from school and noticed something was different. My mom wasn’t in her usual spot; she was down the hall in my room. As I stood in the doorway, she looked up. I could tell from the look in her eyes, something was terribly wrong. I felt my stomach drop - the feeling you get when you’re at the peak of a rollercoaster.

“Come sit”, she said patting the bed. Her voice was hoarse. So I sat and waited, for what seemed forever. Finally, she stuttered “Your dad...he passed away today.”

I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was suffocating. I thought I was going to throw up. I started to wail. To this day, I can still hear my cry, and it is the saddest sound I’ve ever heard. I started to sob uncontrollably. When I finally regained control, I asked "Was it an overdose?” 

I always knew that he had a problem. When I was young, he never hid anything from me. 

It seemed impossible, less than a week before, my dad, my cousins and me had been together. I could hear his voice singing and laughing in my head. We’d had a movie and board game night; we’d made popcorn and Kool-Aid with him and made fun of him as he did his infamous “Kool-Aid dance”. 

The last time I saw my dad, I thought he was high when really he was just very sick. I yelled at him and left without even saying 'I love you.'

When my dad passed, he had been clean for a year - that's what took me by surprise. He had been doing so well. 

The next few weeks were a blur. I remember helping to organize my dad’s funeral. I picked the flowers, pictures, music. Then there was the viewing. I was conflicted, I didn’t know if I wanted to see him like that. I wore his favorite sweater with my jeans.

I remember standing in the hallway leading into his room at the funeral home.  There was sign out front that read, "Brian A. Tibbs."  It was a big room; the carpet was brown, the walls were white, but I couldn't see my dad's body because it was too far away. My family walked up and I followed - my head told me to leave, but my legs kept moving forward. There he was, my dad, only 34 years old, and he was lifeless, a shell of the dad I knew. Pale and eerie.

I know my dad was a good man; he just made a terrible mistake, one that cost him his life.  His addiction or his death do not define who he was to me because he was so much greater than that. My dad was my favorite person on the planet.

When I went back to school, there were pitiful stares - everyone knew, but no one knew what to say. I withdrew. I carried around his ID and the last letter I found from him after he died.

It bothers me that he never got to see me perform in color guard. He doesn't get to see me go to prom. He hasn't been able to watch me grow up into the beautiful woman I've become today, which I know, sadly, is his loss, but it's also mine as well.

Carmen Tibbs is a student at Centerville High School. Special Thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website:  http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS

Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.