One mother’s tale of loss and survival

02/16/2016

By Sue Cody

 

Jordan Strickland 2As a little kid, Jordan Strickland always had to be busy – going out and getting dirty, his mother Kerry says. He was very athletic playing soccer, football, and his favorite, baseball. He joined a Cub Scout troop and attended Sunday school. He was a happy, funny, sweet and respectful young man.

 

If he wasn’t playing a sport, he was hunting or fishing with family or friends. Jordan was a star athlete in high school. His junior year, he received the all-state football title for both offense and defense, which was a big achievement. He was the catcher for the baseball team. His coach, Jeff Miller, said in 2007 that Jordan was one of the best catchers in the league and that he would be an anchor for the team that year.

 

Jordan’s father is a commercial fisherman and Jordan also wanted a career on the river, says Kerry. He thought he could be the captain of a tug boat. He participated in the Marine Environmental Research and Training Station (MERTS) program in high school and after graduation, went to Alaska to fish commercially.

 

When Jordan returned home, he moved in with a friend. One day another friend told Kerry Jordan was using heroin. Kerry said it felt like someone had stabbed her in the stomach with a knife. She was so scared, she immediately called her husband and Jordan’s two eldest siblings. They went to him the next morning and did an intervention.

 

Kerry says Jordan grew up in an alcohol- and drug-free home. She has been a member of the recovery community in Astoria for the last 27 years.

 

“I sponsor young women while they work toward recovery,” Kerry says. “I had all the information available to get the help Jordan needed. I was lucky because I had resources and knowledge, but it didn’t take away the fear.”

 

Treatment

 

Jordan willingly went to Astoria Pointe, a rehab center. He was 18.

 

“It was heartbreaking. He looked awful,” Kerry says. “He experienced a lot of shame and guilt.”

 

Jordan told her along with alcohol, he had experimented with prescription pills and one day someone introduced him to heroin.

 

He was in and out of treatment five times over the next seven years fighting to get his life back. “He hated it, but he couldn’t stay away from it,” Kerry says.

 

The last Christmas

 

Before Christmas 2014, Jordan relapsed one more time. Kerry says he had always been a hard worker and supported himself. There were times he disappeared from the shame, and called asking for help, she says.

 

That Christmas Eve, Jordan had been gone for a week, when he called saying he needed help. He came home and was so sick, Kerry says. She called her friends at Klean treatment center and suggested a fresh start in California at their West Hollywood center.

 

“On Christmas evening, Kerry and her husband drove Jordan to the airport and he got on a plane to California.

 

Jordan spent 45 days in treatment, then moved to a sober living house. He was all business, helping others in rehab, his sponsor told Kerry. He was encouraging and funny, wanting everyone to be successful, she says 

 

Kerry went to visit Jordan during spring break last year. He was working in construction at the time, remodeling multi-million dollar homes. She says, “He was so proud and said he knew he could fish, but now he was also a home builder.

 

“He had to take three buses to get to work. It took a couple of hours there and back each day, but he didn’t mind. He would get up, make his lunch and get on the bus. His sponsor told me Jordan was doing the work.”

 

“He was happy and healthy,” Kerry says of her visit to see Jordan in California. He enjoyed the fresh start, the anonymity.

 

Kerry wanted to have a good time with Jordan and took him to Universal Studios. “We had two days of ‘him’ – the way he used to be. “We made plans for him to come home for his birthday on July 23, Kerry said. The ticket was bought and the whole family was excited to see him.”

 

Then, 13 days before his visit home and almost seven months clean from drugs, Jordan and a friend decided to use heroin after work one day. Just one time they thought, his sponsor reported. “They thought they could control it,” Kerry says. “Jordan was sick for two days, and then on the morning of July 10, 2015, he used for the last time, trying to end the sickness of withdrawal. His roommates came home from work and found him dead.

 

“Nothing is worse than watching your child struggle and feeling so helpless. Then he’s gone and you can never talk to him, touch him or hug him ever again. He fought so hard to reclaim his life. He would have continued to fight.

 

“This disease is all consuming and robs you of everything you love. It will kill you with just one use. You won’t always get that next chance.”

 

Jordan Strickland 1Aftermath

 

“Jordan was a great kid, a wonderful uncle. He had a family that did nothing but support him. We didn’t enable him, we just loved and accepted him,” Kerry says.

 

She says, “We had this conversation in March. I told him, “Jordan people are dying from this drug, he told me, it won’t happen to me Mom, I’m smarter than that.”

 

Kerry says she’s grateful Jordan had almost seven months of good, healthy, happy living before he lost his life. She said she and her family hang onto the fact that Jordan did not intend to die.

 

On how to help young people who are struggling with addiction she says, “If we can get kids through their 20s, they can become more mature and accept the fact that they have this disease.”

 

She is worried about the prevalence of alcohol in American society. “It has become a normal function to use some form of chemical while socializing in our society, alcohol being No. 1, she says. “We have learned to deal with our feelings by medicating them. It’s scary.”

 

 

Helping others

 

Kerry and others in the area have created an affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) called “Jordan’s Hope for Recovery.” There are 11 people on the executive board, which she chairs and about 30 on an advisory board. “He fought so hard,” Kerry says. “I want to honor his battle by continuing his work.” They will work with other groups in the area to provide education, prevention and resources for the community.

 

Kerry also mentioned the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) that was created in Gloucester, Mass., and has spread to many cities across the United States. The program is designed to:

• Encourage opioid drug users to seek recovery

• Help distribute life-saving opioid blocking drugs to prevent and treat overdoses

• Connect addicts with treatment programs and facilities

• Provide resources to other police departments and communities that want to do more to fight the opioid addiction epidemic

 

Kerry would like to see the North Coast community obtain resources and perhaps start a PARRI initiative here.

 

“Let’s get well,” she says.

 

The family plans on planting the live Christmas tree they decorated in his memory last Christmas and visiting a sober living facility in West Hollywood that has been named “Jordan’s House” in his honor.

 

Kerry says, “It’s all bittersweet for me, but if one family can be spared this awful pain by me sharing our story, then it helps the hurt.”

 

Donations in Jordan’s name may be made to Jordan’s Hope for Recovery NCADD affiliate at  Astoria Wauna Credit Union, 100 Columbia Ave., Astoria, OR 97103.