Parents Urged To Be Vigilant in Battle Against Addiction

Posted on 23 April 2014


By Stephen J. Kotz

The pain and suffering addiction to heroin and other narcotics can cause a family was brought home Tuesday night when survivors of Gabriel Phillippe, a 15-year-old Center Moriches boy who died of a drug overdose four years ago to the day, took part in a forum on the growing epidemic of teen drug and alcohol abuse at Joshua’s Place in Southampton.

“Four years ago this morning, we got a phone call from my son, Bryan, saying my grandson Gabriel was in the hospital and had died of a drug overdose,” said Paulette Phillippe of East Hampton. “I can remember holding his hand…and it was very cold, and I can remember praying, praying really hard, thinking maybe this was a dream. Maybe he was going to come back. He didn’t.”

“It’s hard to put into words how I actually felt, but if just one person can be saved I would do this a million times,” she said of the forum that also included presentations by Gabriel’s father, Kim Laube, the executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Seminars, Inc., or HUGS, Lieutenant David Sheehan of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and Katie Pryhocki, a recovering alcoholic and the mother of four.

“We know we have this epidemic, some are calling it a pandemic” said Ms. Laube, who shared with the group that she had been in recovery for more than two decades. “Young people are dying and that is unacceptable.”

“This is simply a health issue,” she said, adding that there would be no stigma attached to someone coping with heart disease or cancer. “When we begin to treat this as a health issue, we are going to see progress.”

Ms. Laube told the gathering of about 25 people a major cause of the problem is “we have normalized substance use in this society” and are unable to talk about the problems substance abuse causes. “Even the best cooks refer to cookbooks, she said. “Why do parents think they have to work in silence?”

Isolation and denial combine to prevent parents from recognizing the reality of addiction, she said, pointing out how many people say, “Thank God, my kid’s just drinking and he’s not using heroin.”

The reality, she said, is that Suffolk County, and the East End in particular, show higher alcoholism rates than the national average and that kids who start by experimenting with alcohol and marijuana are at greater risk for trying harder drugs.

“There’s a line I hear very often,” said Lieutenant David Sheehan of the Sheriff’s Department. “’Not my kid.’”

Lt. Sheehan said many parents think their children are too intelligent, responsible, honest, or good to fall into the trap of drug abuse, but that they are dead wrong. He advised parents to watch their children closely for changes in behavior. If a kid who participates in sports loses interest in them, or if his grades suffer, or if he starts hanging around with a new group of friends, it’s a clear sign that “something’s up,” he said.

He urged parents to monitor their children’s computers and cell phones, administer drug tests, and make it a point to look through their rooms for signs of suspicious activity. He then showed off some of the typical hiding places for drugs, including beer and energy drink cans that are really containers, as well as the kinds of small paper bags and rubber bands used to wrap up tiny bags of heroin.

Katie Pryhocki, who said she had developed a serious drinking problem by the time she was 15 and became sober seven years ago after collapsing in her home, with the youngest of her four children with her, also urged parents to be vigilant. “I don’t know what my decisions have done to them. Time will show,” she said, adding that even though she cannot keep up with her children’s activities, she does her best to always be on guard for their welfare.

Bryan Phillippe, Gabriel’s dad, said his son matched the profile described by other speakers. “He was the good kid. He was the smart kid,” he said.

Mr. Phillippe, who said he too has been in recovery for many years, said he noticed changes in his son, starting when he was about 12 years old. “I trusted him too much,” he said.

Things spiraled out of control quickly, with Gabriel being hospitalized for a drug overdose in December 2009. “For three months, it was a struggle every day,” he said, as he tried to convince his son that he needed to enter a 12-step program for recovery. The night before his son’s death, Mr. Phillippe said he took him to a meeting in Port Jefferson, but Gabriel refused to get out of the car.

Instead, they went to a diner. When Mr. Phillippe dropped his son off at his mother’s house in Center Moriches that night, he said, “I gave him a hug and told him to call me tomorrow.”

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One Response to “Parents Urged To Be Vigilant in Battle Against Addiction”

  1. I am extremely saddened by the use of drugs in our community. The number of drug overdoses, motor vehicle accidents due to alcohol and drugs, and the casual use of drugs from the teenagers in our community. Saddened is almost not the word, I am almost enraged!!! My 24 year old daughter has progressed form a casual weekend parties with her friend, to a full time herioine user!!! Her friends from school, same. Some with criminal records, some drug dealers now. Once straight A students of the Center Moriches High School, now Disfuctional Addicts!!! I have showed up at the door of her high school friend houses with intentions of telling their parents new they might not be aware of, because as a mother, I would want that myself, only to find the mother crying to me about how she lost her daughter to drugs many years ago. She told me “that is not my daughter anymore!!” In the same distraught condition as myself!! Told me her daughter had been dropped off on her lawn several times by another classmate after a night of partying. Dead on her front lawn, and revived by local EMS with CPR and narcan!!!-her not child supplies our students in the community with they’re daily supply!! She is not the only drug supplier in our little community of Center Moriches. The neighbors who watch my daughter ride her bike to a well known seller of heroin 2 blocks away, call me to tell me they see her!! The neighborhood families all know of the drug traffic in and out of this particular home. Cars all hours of the day and night!! And the printed labels on the wrappers my daughter hides displays their business name!! I have watched my daughter suffer from addiction. I have seen my other children dabble in what they think “is just marijuana”, our community has lost many children to this epidemic, broken hearts of families who watch it all unfold!! I am well versed to this pain!! I have no shame to stand up to our parents, to admit to my child’s problem, or to identify the sellers who invade our homes and endanger our elementary school children who have not yet even been introduced to what drugs are, As my 9 year old daughter is completely aware from our daily struggles of rehabilitating her sister!! I am not the greatest company to my neighbors with our family arguements that have been out on the lawn, or in their presence, but I am open and honest to this. Some are embarrased by my directness, others are apologetic to me, but my guy feeling is the parent of our community should stand up!! Fight for their children!! If not for the ones already addicted, for the little ones who have not yet been corrupted!! I can’t single handedly take on this problem!! I know which parents suffer as my kids tell me which kids do what. Don’t sit in silence embarrased!! 12 step programs, rehabs, Overdoses!! I see it all!! Eyes wide open!!!

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