The O'Brien's Story
If you have received a book from the Father McKenna Fund we would love to hear about your journey. If you would like to leave a note for the O'Brien's you may enter it here
Kevin John O'Brien
3/07/86 - 12/02/16
I'm Kevin's Mom - Nancy. I would like you to get to know my son, Kevin, who died from the disease of addiction. The book you have been given is dedicated to his memory. I hope and pray that Kevin didn't die in vain. I hope the message of who he was may send a message that can save lives. I hope the message in this book can help you as it has helped millions.
Kevin was the youngest of our two sons. His brother, Corey, is 21 months older than Kevin. We reside in Bergen County, New Jersey. My boys grew up in an upscale, upper/middle class town that offered all of the opportunities parents would want for their children. We were a blessed family of four living the "American Dream" in the burbs!
Kevin was born on March 7, 1986. He was a premature baby born with hyaline membrane disease (underdeveloped lungs). Kevin was a trooper, and was referred to as the "Fighting Irishman" in the Nicu. Kevin thrived, and although he had some health issues related to his prematurity, he persevered to beat some of the odds that faced him. He was our baby warrior. His perseverance carried him through much of his life. It was his strongest character trait.
Kevin was a happy, healthy little guy born into a loving family. Kevin and his brother, Corey, shared a great sibling relationship. Because they were so close in age, they did most everything together and shared mutual friends. Corey liked to play by the rules and, in contrast, Kevin liked to push the envelope and bend the rules. Their personalities complimented one another, and they truly grew up as brothers and friends. Both boys participated in sports while in grade school and high school. Basketball, baseball, lacrosse were all part of their childhood. Their Dad was a coach. Pretty typical stuff! It should be noted that Kevin's childhood was without traumatic incident (abuse, etc.). We enjoyed the yearly family vacations to North and South Carolina and, of course, the traditional Disney World. Dad was a salesman and Mom was a teacher. Life was good.
Kevin's sense of humor and his love of pranks was his hallmark. In grammar school there was a devilish side to Kevin that often got him into minor trouble and, more importantly, lots of attention. He had a remote-control watch that he would wear to school, and when the teacher would bring in the tv to show an educational program, Kevin would sit at his desk and change the channels, volume, off/on controls from his watch and delight in the frustration of the teacher. Retelling the story to family and friends gave Kevin great pleasure. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met. He could cut us to shreds with his impersonations, and we would laugh until the tears streamed down our faces. Corey and Kevin's Dad were his best audience.
Kevin went to a Catholic High School in Oradell, N.J. An average, student, Kevin was able to maintain grades that afforded him a small scholarship to the University of Rhode Island. Kevin was a bright, witty kid who had tremendous potential for a bright future. He enjoyed the company of having many friends, including girlfriends, while in high school and, in hindsight, his life ahead looked promising. I know that he planned that for himself. Kevin didn't wake up thinking, "I think I'll become a drug addict when I grow up." No one does. He didn't choose to struggle with the disease of addiction as he did for the next 10 plus years. He saw a relatively typical future for himself, and we did too. Certainly, Kevin had no understanding of how powerful his disease would become and the impact it would have on himself and those who love him. No one could possible envision where this journey would take us...least of all, Kevin. Truthfully, we didn't think these kinds of events happened to people "like us". When Kevin left for URI, he life and ours changed. Forever. It was here that he was introduced to heroin.
Kevin majored in finance in college. He lived in a beautiful home, off campus, on the beach. His behavior began to change, and our once carefree boy, would vacillate between euphoria and lethargy. In spite of his drug use, Kevin was able to graduate from college. We suspected drugs and thus began years of rehabs, detoxes and sober living homes which would become part of Kevin's lifestyle. His once bright future was looking more unattainable to Kevin. He had dreams of getting married and raising a family. Kevin adored children and pets. He had a love of both that was part of his charm and warmth. He was a good person with a bad problem. Heroin. Heroin was winning. However, there were some periods of sobriety where Kevin was fulfilling his dreams by holding down a job, renting the condo, driving a nice car and the girlfriend. That was the best time..for all of us. He was really happy during those times. His employers raved at his potential. He worked in telephone sales and had the ability to "sell you the bridge" you never wanted. No matter what the circumstances, Kevin maintained a close relationship with his family. We were always in touch, usually on a daily basis. We loved him...no matter what. Although we walked that difficult path between enabling and tough love with Kevin, he ALWAYS knew we loved him and we knew how much he loved us. I will know that forever. I wish you could have met him. You would have liked him. I think everyone who met Kevin loved being in his company when he was clean.
Kevin's last rehab was in Portland, Maine. He desperately wanted to return to Delray Beach when he completed treatment. That was during the summer of 2016. He found his way back to Florida and returned to a previous job. He got high. On December 2, 2016, Kevin was found dead in a motel in Boynton Beach. He was 30 years old.
His coworker and friend called me that morning to tell me Kevin was getting high and was missing. Four hours later, the town police were at my door in N.J. to give me the news of his death. My scream was primal. Our beautiful, funny, smart boy was gone. Life will never be the same since that day in December. Our grief is palpable. It's unbearable at times.
Corey flew down to Florida to identify the body and bring home Kevin's belongings. Through Kevin's call phone, Corey was able to retrace Kevin's last night. Kevin told the uber driver to pick him up the next morning for work. He didn't want to die. He wanted to live. The next morning, housekeeping found him. That was his last day alive. Cause of death - fentanyl intoxication.
We are all broken having watched Kevin's struggle. He was an amazing human being who was unable to maintain recovery. He had every tool made available to him to fight this disease, but it was just too big. Love was not enough to save him. I pray that no more families experience what we have endured. Kevin should still be here with us.
I know there is hope and there is a solution to live clean and sober. I can only pray that you can find it for yourself .... in the name and memory of Kevin O'Brien