This is the fourth article in a series examining the opioid crisis in Fayette County.
Trenton Davis, 20, of Fayette County, spent most of his life trying to hide the difficulties he was facing. It wasn’t until he was a junior or senior in high school that he revealed to his classmates that his mother had been struggling with addiction since he could remember.
They were shocked that Davis, who kept his grades up and himself dressed with money he earned, had spent nights sleeping in cars, and days wondering where his next meal would come from.
Davis was one of the millions of children who grow up with family members who suffer from addiction. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children grow up in homes where someone abuses drugs or alcohol, according to the study, “Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse.”
Davis said he believes his mother became addicted to pills after undergoing a few surgeries and receiving painkiller prescriptions. From there, things escalated and “there’d be days… that she would be so high and out of her mind that it was like there was nobody there.” Over time, she moved from pills to more readily available and cheaper opioids, like heroin. This is a common path toward addiction. In fact, according to drugabuse.gov, nearly 80 percent of Americans who use heroin reported abusing pain pills first.
As his mother’s addiction escalated, Davis and his younger sister spent time living out of cars with their mother and at the homes of various relatives. “We never had a stable home,” he said, adding “it was very lonely, very painful.”
There are millions of other children who experience the pain and loneliness of not having a “stable home” each year. In fact, according to a report from National Center on Family Homelessness, about 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. That’s one out of every 30 children, or one student from every homeroom class. The study called this rate a “historic high.”
Today, Davis’ mother is in jail in Marysville after leaving a rehab facility to which she had been placed, and Davis is working and attending school. He is currently an STNA at Fayette County Memorial Hospital and a student at Southern State Community College where he is studying to become a nurse. He credits his ability to overcome his obstacles to “family, friends, and my educational mentors, and God.”
Davis does, however, still feel the effects of his upbringing. “I have struggled with depression. I have struggled with anxiety. I struggle with my weight as a result of not having much food as a child,” he said.
Despite the struggles he has faced, Davis is determined not to let anything prevent him from achieving his goals.
Davis is also determined to help other children who are facing similar challenges. To that end, Davis now shares his story with students at his alma mater, Laurel Oaks, and he plans to write a book about his experiences. His goal is to show children facing similar challenges that “You’re not alone. I believe in you.”
He also hopes sharing his story will show people that “you’ll never know what another person’s going through.” To adults in the community, he said, “Don’t give up on these kids. Don’t give up because one good example… it could be the very thing that changes their lives.”
A few weeks ago, Davis went to visit his mother. He said,“I was so nervous because I hadn’t talked to a clean mother in many, many years.” The visit “was a very, very emotional time. For the first time, [his mother] took responsibility for the things she had done and for the life she had given me and my sister.”
Davis plans to visit again, and said “I’m trying my best to move past everything that’s been done. I will make an effort to have a relationship with her, you know, as long as she stays clean.”
Davis has come to understand his mother’s struggles with addiction and said, “The truth about it is anyone of us is one mistake away from being in those shoes.” He added, “I think you just, you gotta pray for them, you gotta be patient, you gotta love them.”
Reach Megan Neary at 614-440-9124 or @MeganNeary2