Chris’s Story

By Vicki Foley, Christopher Foley’s Mother

I don’t know why as a young child I believed that I would have a storybook life but I’m sure that that precious hope was instilled in me by my parents and it was by their parents, etc.  We are all looking for our children to have a better life than we did.  That’s what I was looking for as I gazed into the eyes of my newborn son, Christopher on Jan. 29, 1980.  I wanted the best for him.  I wanted him to know God, to have a good career, nice house, job, wife, kids, etc….the American dream

And Chris was a wonderful child; he was smart, loving and fun.  At the age of 2 he was working puzzles above his age level and I knew he was going to be someone special.  I could see that he was going to be a world changer. 

In grade school he was an A or B student with very little effort and he was social.  He was the class clown.

“We took Chris for counseling and we did family counseling but things continued to escalate.  He voluntarily admitted himself into an inpatient rehab facility after my prodding; we were hopeful but not for long.  I remember visiting Chris at the facility on Mother’s Day—not the way a mother expects to spend her Mother’s Day.  This was just the start of ruined holidays.”

It wasn’t until junior high that I started to see changes in Chris.  His grades were still good but his social circle was changing. He was also caught smoking which brought its consequences of community service.  No one in my house smokes so I didn’t condone this behavior.  I also didn’t know that cigarette smoking increases a person’s risk of using illegal drugs.

We managed to make it through junior high but high school brought its new set of challenges, once again another circle of friends and appearance changes. He started to dress goth with baggy clothes and I questioned him frequently about what was going on.  We started searching his room and found some paraphernalia.  Chris was expelled from his senior year because he was found with marijuana.

On Chris’ 18th birthday, he moved away from home; he didn’t want to abide by our curfew and house rules.  He was supposed to come home that evening for cake and ice cream but did not show up.  I found out the next day that he had been arrested for marijuana possession.  That same year Chris tried Heroin with a group of friends and his life continued to spiral out of control.  He was now stealing from family, friends, stores, work or wherever he could to sustain his heroin habit.  I saw changes once again in his appearance and demeanor.  He was now thinner and his complexion mottled.  His teeth were also decaying and he needed dental work badly.  These were all signs of his drug use.  When not using Chris returned to being my sweet son again.  It was a roller coaster ride for him and our family.  The whole family suffered; siblings who inadvertently had to play second fiddle because their brother was an addict and extended family…aunts, grandma, cousins, they all missed the Chris that they loved so dearly.

Chris served time in Kane, Cook and Dupage County jails for possession.  He also served 9 months in Taylorville Correctional Center.  I kept praying that something would change for him; he was miserable and so were we.  He was on a merry-go-round that he just couldn’t get off of.  I have kept all the letters he wrote me when he was incarcerated; when I read them I can feel his pain…pain from not being able to overcome his addiction…pain from knowing how much he hurt his family but also his love; he truly loved his family.  You see heroin had rewired his brain; he could no longer live without it.  It had become his normal.  That is what an addiction does; what a disease does. It becomes your new master and takes total control of your life.  Chris told me that there wasn’t a day that he didn’t crave it; he didn’t want to but it continued to control him.

Chris became a father on March 26, 2004; his precious Caylee was born.  He was the proudest father and he was a good father.  I can still see him making noises and silly faces at her that made her giggle that precious, baby giggle.  He was also very good at changing diapers and taking care of his parental duties.  Things were going well for about 2-years until he started to use heroin again. He had battled hard but the temptations overcame him once again.

Chris lived with his heroin addiction for 10-years and passed away from an overdose on July 15, 2007; Caylee was just 3-years old.  I was broken and wondering how I was going to continue on.  I knew that God had called him home and that he had suffered enough but what about me?  How was I going to live with this hole in my heart?  I won’t say that it wasn’t difficult and that today, 9 years later that I don’t still hurt from his loss.  I will say though that God does give us strength to get us through; I could not have taken this walk without Him.

Today, Chris’ extended family remembers the caring, loving and fun man that he was; we have formed a 501c3 foundation in his memory to help others because that is what Chris would want us to do.  When Chris was alive he was always trying to help others through their addictions and many have come forward to say how he had impacted their lives.  Today Chris continues to impact lives through Chris Walk Against Substance Abuse.

Chris’ journey is not unlike many others who suffer from the disease of addiction.  If you are on a similar journey, please reach out to us.  Together we can support each other and make a difference.  CWASA is currently mentoring at Kane County Jail.  Annually we hold our awareness and fundraiser Chris Walk Night Out Against Substance Abuse in July.  We have educated through the showing of films, a drug forum, distribution of literature at Stateville, mentoring at the Illinois Youth Center, working with the drug court and more.  We also provide support to other 501c3’s working in the substance abuse arena.

So I did not get the storybook life for my son Chris, but I am proud of his accomplishments.  No one can look at his struggles and not see how much he tried and how much he loved.

Chris lives on in our hearts and he will always be watching over us as we fight for substance abuse prevention

 and awareness.”