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Looking at the front page of this week's edition of The Lebanon Enterprise, Derrick Hutchins is staring back at me with his piercing green eyes.
It's as if he's looking right at me.
It's been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. They reveal your inner most emotions. They reveal who you are on the inside.
And, with every glance at the front page of the newspaper, it's as if Derrick's eyes are trying to speak to me.
But what are they trying to say?
After spending several hours with his family recently, I have a new appreciation for who Derrick Hutchins was, who he hoped to be and who he transformed into after becoming addicted to heroin. His addiction would lead to him committing suicide in May of this year. And, now his family is left with too many questions, not enough answers and a gaping hole in their hearts.
But, even after the hell they went through because of Derrick's addiction, they just want him back. They admit they would go through it all again if they could just have Derrick back.
His life wasn't supposed to end this way. Hutchins, 24, was a normal kid. He had a supportive family. A great home. A bright future.
He was a handsome young man, an extremely hard worker and, most importantly, he had a good heart. At least, he did when he was clean. The Derrick on drugs was much different. When he was using he was short-tempered, he lied, he stole and he was selfish.
His addiction literally had a death grip on him that he couldn't escape. He tried. And tried. And tried again. Even his parents' unconditional love was no match for his addiction.
"We fought so hard to save him," Mary Kaye Hutchins said to me last week while looking through photos of her son at her kitchen table.
But, addiction is an evil force that some people just can't fight. I've witnessed it firsthand. When someone is truly suffering from addiction nothing else matters. The most important thing to them is their drug. Whether it's alcohol, pills, heroin, etc., they will do whatever it takes to feed their addiction. Even if that means losing everything - their career, their family, even their life.
To those of us who aren't fighting an addiction it's hard for us to understand how someone could choose alcohol, drugs, etc., over their family. It seems illogical. It seems heartless. It just doesn't make sense.
Sitting beside her mother, wiping tears from her face, Derrick's 21-year-old sister, Erin, said it perfectly as I interviewed her last week.
“It’s not that we don’t want to understand," she said, "we just don’t know how."
Now, all Derrick's family can do is use his story to help others. They have put aside their pride and are being brutally honest about their fight to save him. I can't tell you how much respect I have for them and their openness. When these things happen, our gut reaction is to keep it a secret. We don't tell anyone in fear of damaging our image or our reputation. But, in order to help others and make a difference we must be outspoken about our struggles with drugs and addiction. It shows that no one is alone in this fight. We all have our battles. We all have skeletons in the closet. No one or no family is perfect.
Derrick Hutchins' story is not unique. There are so many people fighting similar battles as we speak. They might be your nextdoor neighbors. They might be your coworkers. Or, they might be members of your church. Addiction does not discriminate. We are all vulnerable to its vicious grip. But, as Tony and Mary Kaye Hutchins told me many times last week, there is help out there. No one has to go through this struggle alone. So, if you know someone who is suffering from addiction, or you yourself are suffering, reach out for help. We want to help you. We might not know how, but believe me, we want to help.