Luke had incredible green eyes, a million dollar smile, and a vibrant presence that could change the mood in any room simply by walking in. It would surprise many that Luke struggled with anxiety and depression most of his life. It was one of the reasons he continuously worked to surround himself with joy, laughter, and solid friends. He said it was the perfect distraction, and that “when I’m with people I love and care about, I know someone always has my back.” He always tried to make others feel the same way.
Luke had been addressing his anxiety and depression issues with a very qualified doctor. Unfortunately, medications didn’t seem to help, so he self-medicated during his high school years with marijuana. He was arrested his senior year for buying marijuana and advised by his lawyer to go to outpatient treatment in exchange for the charges being dropped. Luke’s doctor opposed that idea because he believed Luke’s issue wasn’t addiction, but rather, poor decision making. He felt treatment posed a greater risk than benefit in Luke’s case. We felt our hands were tied, and so, sent Luke to treatment. Unfortunately and ironically it is there he met the person who later introduced Luke to heroin.
Luke completed his treatment program, did his community service, and attempted to move on with life like so many other teenagers who made stupid mistakes. He worked to save for college, enjoyed his friends, finished high school, and got ready to move on to the next step at University of Wisconsin — River Falls. It was around that time that Luke started to fall away from his life. Halfway through his first year of college Luke’s “friend” encouraged him to smoke heroin for the first time, telling him it was something else entirely. That’s when the roller coaster of use and sobriety started. Almost as soon as Luke realized he was in trouble, he came to us for help. He began seeing an addiction specialist who used every available method to help Luke win his fight, including cognitive therapy, Suboxone, and Naltrexone.
Despite his wishes and best efforts, Luke’s attempts to quell his fears or lift his spirits led to an additional struggle with addiction that ultimately ended his life on January 7, 2016 — just 30 days shy of his 21st birthday. In the scheme of things, Luke struggled with addiction for a relatively short time; approximately 2 years, half of which he spent in recovery. He always seemed to keep his life going in terms of work or school, but then he’d hit a bump and go off the rails again.
The day before Luke died, he had just returned from an adventure with friends, exploring and camping for three weeks in Australia. The plan was for him to come home for a couple of days before he started spring semester back at ASU. Heartbreakingly, within 18 hours of arriving home, the struggle finally claimed him. After living so well, and fighting so hard and so courageously, he lost one battle and then lost the whole war. Luke died in his bedroom here at home.
Despite his short time here, he lived a HUGE life full of laughter, love, joy, and incredible dance moves! Luke had a legendary smile, a contagious laugh and made friends everywhere he went. He was funny, genuine, kind, humble, and caring. His positivity, despite his own private struggles, gave others hope.
It feels impossible, but this is our story. Our beautiful son Luke’s story. I share it in the hope that it doesn’t become your story, because we are losing too many beautiful souls to the opioid epidemic. We can change the outcome for others if we work together. Three months before Luke died he reached out to friends on Facebook: “Addiction is no joke people. If you or a loved one have this disease, it’s okay to reach out before it’s too late.” I know Luke would want others to learn from our tragedy. He never wanted to be a poster boy for a crusade, he just wanted people to know they weren’t alone in their struggles. By sharing his story, we want you to know that you’re not alone, either.
(Written by Luke’s Family)