By Jon Tatting
North Branch resident Trisha Smith has lived through the tragedy of losing a son too early.
She knows the pressures that kids face with drugs and alcohol. She realizes how life events can be the symptom that triggers such habits and other poor choices.
Smith was one of about a dozen people who attended the “Street Drugs: What’s Out There Today?” class on Feb. 23 at North Branch Area High School. Afterward, she shared her story including the divorce that impacted her two boys: Tim, now nearing age 40, and Adam.
Adam would have turned 34 years old last November if it weren’t for the March 13, 1998, car accident that killed him. Living in Burnsville at the time, he had been driving to his building maintenance job in the Twin Cities area until a patch of black ice on the freeway caused his vehicle to lose control and roll five times down an embankment.
Adam died of massive internal injuries on Friday the 13th.
In the years leading up to the crash, Trisha explained, Adam struggled with chemicals beginning with alcohol at age 12. One night, when living in Alexandria, he came home drunk and nearly passed out with a friend who helped him into his bed, she recalled.
Trisha compares Adam’s fifth and eighth grade school pictures to illustrate how his life took a turn for the worse in those challenging junior high years. The younger picture shows a smiling, confident young man; the other reveals a different Adam, a sad Adam with longer, unkept hair and a hopeless stare.
As is so often the case, his drinking led to pot and more.
“Alcohol was his gateway to marijuana and methamphetamines,” said Trisha. “I didn’t know about the meth until after he died. It was like the elephant in the room. How could you not notice?”
Even so, Trisha and son Tim were there for Adam and tried their interventions while he went through multiple treatment centers. Perhaps he was turning a corner on the night before the crash when his brother talked him into handing over his meth pipe. “He tried to intervene so many times,” she noted of Tim’s efforts.
Today, Trisha continues to show compassion toward children through her job as a lunch room supervisor at North Branch Middle School and volunteer role with an organization that encourages youths to make good life choices. “If I can help one kid, I’ll be happy,” she explained.
If she could offer any advice to parents concerned with their own kids’ social lives, “pay attention to their hygiene and appearance, and find out who their friends are,” she stressed.
Trisha said she would always fix huge plates of nachos for her sons and their friends at her house. While she indeed enjoyed the get-togethers, they also allowed her to get to know her sons’ friends and feel comforted in knowing they were not at some party.
“One of his (Adam or Tim’s) friends still calls me Mom,” she smiled. “I even had kids stay over night on the couch, with their parents’ permission of course.”
And if Adam were here today, what would he have to say to kids thinking about starting street drugs? “Don’t start, don’t even go there. Find a different group of friends,” said his mother without hesitation.
— This is the second and last part of a series based on the community education class, “Street Drugs: What’s Out there Today?” held Feb. 23 at North Branch Area High School.