Missy Owen on why she and her husband started the Davis Direction Foundation~
“This shouldn’t happen in families. And, we were bound and determined that we were going to find out how to prevent it from happening to others because people shouldn’t have to go through that.”
Announcer: This is Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. Here’s Brian Wilson.
Brian Wilson: The story of Missy Owen and her son, Davis, though tragic is far too common in a country that finds itself in the grip of an opioid epidemic. I spoke with Missy co-Founder and CEO of the Davis Direction Foundation about her son and discovered a unique perspective on our society’s shared challenge on this issue.
Brian Wilson: Tell me about your oldest son, Davis. What kind of kid was Davis?
Missy Owen: Davis was an amazing kid. He was a boy, boy. He was a baseball player. He was smart beyond his years. He was a gifted child all through elementary school, middle school, and high school. Everybody loved him. He was very involved in the school system. He was, as a student government person, he was a volunteer during his freshman year, a sophomore senator, a junior class president, and as the senior class president, he gave the graduation commencement speech to over 3000 people in attendance that day.
Davis Owen: Dr. Daniel, amazing faculty and staff, proud parents, and fellow classmates: Congratulations to the Senior Class of 2011. We made it.
Brian Wilson: This was a young man who was on a good trajectory at this point.
Missy Owen: Oh, absolutely. He was hall of fame, editor of the yearbook. He had National Honor Society. He had everything in the world going for him.
Brian Wilson: Well, then there came a time, however, when apparently he got into some of the drugs that were in the medicine cabinet. Can you tell me about that?
Addiction Started in the Medicine Cabinet
Missy Owen: Well, between high school and college, he got into a really stressful situation. It’s stressful enough going from high school into college, but he just had a lot of anxiety that summer and got very stressed out, and he went to the medicine cabinet because he couldn’t sleep. So, he was probably looking for something like Advil PM or Tylenol PM, and instead, because we didn’t have those, instead he found an old bottle of Vicodin that said “May cause drowsiness.”
Because we didn’t have any education really back then, back in 2012, about opioids and the devastating effects and all, he thought it was part of our medicine cabinet, it was a legally prescribed pill from the doctor, and he took it thinking that he would sleep. He did. He slept and he slept well, and he took it again the next night and the night after that, and before you know it, he became dependent on those pills.
Brian Wilson: So what happened then?
Struggles With Addiction
Missy Owen: Well, after taking the pills for quite some time, he started buying them from the street, or taking them from other people’s homes when he would be there, or sharing them with others that had some to share. One thing led to another, and after he had pawned pretty much everything that he had to pawn, he turned to heroin because it was much cheaper and much more readily available.
Brian Wilson: Now, we hear this story a lot, that it starts out with “Okay, I see a pill here. It solves my short-term need,” but then they become addicted to the pill, and it gets very expensive to buy more opioids on the street in pill form. Then, they turn to heroin. When did you start to detect that there was a problem?
Missy Owen: Well, one morning we were headed to my hometown on Thanksgiving, and my husband went to get the shotguns because we go and shoot out there, as people in the Georgia do, and there was a BB gun in place of the shotgun that should’ve been there. It came to light that the shotgun had been pawned.
Brian Wilson: Then what happened?
Missy Owen: After that, we talked with him. He wanted help. We started with an individual counselor for him, and he was going to individual counseling sessions. We thought things were going much better, and then found out that they were not. Things started missing again, and we were finding pawn tickets. Then, it came to a head one January, and he finally agreed to go to rehab. He stayed in rehab for 21 days. They said they had done everything that they could do for him, and he was released, and within six weeks he was dead.
Brian Wilson: How did it end?
Missy Owen: Alone, in his car, in a parking lot, in a strip mall with a needle laid beside him. Yeah, that’s how it ended.
Brian Wilson: How did you learn of this?
How Davis Lost His Struggle with Opioids Addiction
Missy Owen: Well, he didn’t return home on a Monday night when he was looking for a meeting to go to, and he had reached out to several of his friends and nobody could go with him, so he left and he was searching meetings on his phone actually. I guess he got a call from the dealer, or he called the dealer, I don’t know which one, and they ended up meeting up. When he didn’t come home that night, we put an APB out on him, and they discovered him in the parking lot the next evening around 5:30. There’d been about 22 hours that he had been sitting in his car in the parking lot.
Brian Wilson: The police called and informed you of this, I assume, at some point.
Missy Owen: They came by. The doorbell rang, and they came in and told us.
Brian Wilson: What was going through your mind at that time?
Missy Owen: Well, I guess the same thing that goes through every mother’s mind is, “What happened to my child?” It wasn’t long afterwards, probably within three weeks, that we’d started our foundation because this shouldn’t happen in families. We were bound and determined that we were going to find out how to prevent it from happening to others because people shouldn’t have to go through that.
Davis Owen’s Sister: Davis was the type of person who could make you smile just from walking in the room. He was hard not to love. He was a brother, a son, a friend, a senior class president, and a Dean’s list college student. Like so many other people in this world, my brother struggled with the disease of addiction. It all started when my brother couldn’t sleep at night, so he went to the family medicine cabinet and found leftover prescription opioids. Opioid overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death in the US. On March 4, 2014 my brother died of a fatal heroin overdose. On March 6 I brought my brother home in this green urn that match the color of his eyes. I can talk to him but he doesn’t respond, I can hold him but it doesn’t hold me back.
Brian Wilson: So what is your message to other parents as they hear this story? What would you like them to know?
Missy Owen: “Addiction is a disease.”
Missy Owen: That addiction is a disease, and you need to involve the doctors, the counselors, the psychiatrists, and help them be in a place where they can build a network of people who can see them to the side of sobriety. What we found is that people get sober in treatment, but they get well in communities. He got very sober for the three weeks that he was in treatment.
He came home, he looked like a different child, and when the family went back out to do the things that we do, like go to work and go to school and do the things that we do on a daily basis, because he had missed the beginning of winter semester at his school, he had to lay out a quarter. During that time, he just had too much time on his hands, with nothing to do, nobody to reach out to. There was no such thing as formal aftercare in our community, so he had nobody.
Brian Wilson: Tell me about the Davis Direction Foundation.
Missy Owen: Well, the Davis Direction Foundation was set up as a place for people to come and stay sober, maintain their sobriety. We did a lot of research after Davis died, and what we found out is that 9 out of 10 kids coming out of incarceration or coming out of formal rehabilitation were going back out because there was no support when they left those formal situations. So what we did was to open a 21,000 square foot facility called The Zone, and The Zone is where people come to get the support and the services that they need to help them stay in recovery.
We have a coffee shop, a meeting room. We have over 32 meetings a week that you can get here. We have a music room. We have an arts and crafts room, a computer lab and a resource library. We have a full gymnasium. We have a game room with pool tables, ping pong tables. We have an arts and crafts room. We have a full kitchen, and we have a game room where people can come and play any video game that’s ever been invented. All of these services are free. We help people find jobs, we help people find housing, and we allow people to socially connect so that they can build their network of support with others. This whole project is run by people in recovery. It’s a peer-based model, it’s an evidence-based model, run by peers in recovery.
Announcer: You’re listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. More when we return.
[Begin Announcement] Three years ago, you fell down the stairs and ended up with a fractured ankle. OxyContin 10mg. Sometimes you need something to help you sleep, and even though they’re expired they still work. Ambien 5 mg. Last summer you finally broke down and had your wisdom teeth extracted. Percocet 2.5 mg
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Announcer: You’re listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope.
Brian Wilson: As it was said to me earlier today, you can take 30 seconds worth of action, trying to take the drugs that are in the medicine cabinet and taking them out of the cycle and you can interrupt years of addiction. What is your thought about the idea of making sure that moms, like you, take ownership of that medicine cabinet?
Missy Owen: “The most important thing you need to do is go home and clean out your medicine cabinet.”
Missy Owen: Every time I present, and I do multiple presentations each week, I say, “The most important thing you need to do is go home and clean out your medicine cabinet.” We literally hand out the DisposeRx packets at The Zone.
Brian Wilson: It would seem to me that much like in the 60’s when we started talking about the need for safety belts, it became a public campaign. When we started talking about moms against drunk driving, it was the moms that stepped up and took ownership of it, and pushed that across the goal line. So now, it’s not acceptable to drink and drive. In a time and place, it really was. It seems like it’s going to be the moms that may be the solution to this problem.
Missy Owen: Well, I think parents, on the whole, suffer the greatest loss. There’s just no way to explain the loss of losing a child. To think that you could give of your time and you energy to invest in a way to keep others from having to experience that loss is the ultimate goal. It’s a calling. It’s just, oh gosh, it’s just a mission that has to be done. We’ve lost more children to this epidemic than we’ve lost people in the Vietnam war.
Brian Wilson: How can people learn more about what you’re doing at the Davis Direction Foundation?
Missy Owen: They can go to our website, www.davisdirection.org and they can learn all about what we do here, and then get the education that you need to understand the problem, and then invest as a community member to make your community safe and sober in a place where people in long-term recovery can reenter with dignity and pride.
Brian Wilson: Missy Owen thank you for sharing your story.
Brian Wilson: Maybe you’re a parent of a child like Davis or maybe you know someone going through something like this. Even if you’re not, it’s becoming clearer every day how easy it is for family members, even friends, and even strangers to fall into the grip of this addiction. Why not make a positive contribution to this tragic situation today by safely disposing of your unused medications. Visit DisposeRx.com to learn more about why responsible drug disposal matters. That’s DisposeRx.com
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope
Subscribe today where you get your podcasts or visit opioids-hiddendangers-newhope.com for more information. This presentation is underwritten by DisposeRx.