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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Alvarado

Gavyn Alvarado - Forever 17

"We believe your son died from an accidental overdose."

As a parent, what do you say to that? For the most part, I have been at a loss for words. This coming up Sunday is father's day, and it will also mark the fifth week since Gavyn has passed. Here I sit writing to all of you in hopes that this will help me process the intense thoughts and feelings that I have had.

Many warned, especially those that have lost children said this nightmare becomes much more of a reality about a month out. It's about the time that everyone goes back to their normal lives, and we are left here with a vast emptiness trying to find ways to embrace the tremendous change that has cascaded into our present and altered the direction of our future.

While every day is different, both dark and light, the morning always tells the truth. It's the waking moment that slaps me with the reality of what has all happened. It's there before my eyes are even open that a rush of thoughts, feelings, and experiences pour over me like an unexpected wave. Often these waters are dark and filled with sadness, heartbreak, guilt, and shame.

"My son, how did we get here?" a question that plays on repeat. My eyes tear up, thinking about it now.

I feel like my world is starting to slow as everyone else's is picking up. Our family's new reality is taking firm root in our home, in our minds, and my soul. It has left me in disbelief. Emotionally numb, at times, with raw nerve endings exposed from rips of loss.

While I have better moments more often now, I can feel the anxiousness slip in and lead me to anger. Simply put, I am angry that my seventeen-year-old son is no longer with us. I am upset that Gavyn was a chronic runaway over this past year, which resulted in the family missing out on being with him, being there for him, guiding him, and helping him over the past seven months as much as we would have liked. Thinking about it now, I have been grieving the loss of my son for some time now. Already there have been many sleepless nights filled with terror of what could take place, and now my greatest fear has happened; losing a child.

I am angry that I have taken the past seven years to help prevent addiction, overdose, and death, but yet my son died from the very thing we worked tirelessly to curve here at home. After nearly a decade of pouring this lived experience, a vast amount of knowledge, education, and skills into my son, I sit here with great sadness as a parent, advocate, coach, and leader, wondering how to move forward.

Seconds, moments, days, weeks, and years, I know it's mostly one step at a time, and I can't expect anyone to understand what it is honestly like to walk in my shoes.

Today, I am in the early stages of finding forgiveness and compassion towards those that may be partially responsible for my son's death. I will seek justice for my son in the healthiest way possible. I believe those who sold to him should be held accountable. If they are selling pills mixed with fentanyl, or something similarly life-threatening, I pray that law enforcement can put a stop to it as soon as possible for the sheer fact that overdoses have spike here locally and I would hate to see more families go through the same pain that we are going through. I hope, more ever before, that our communities take a more reliable public health approach to help our broken neighborhoods and find innovative ways to work together. These changes will help save lives and empower families to do the same.

I know it's ok, not to be ok. I also understand that this righteous anger cannot be ignored.

After all that we have been through together, maybe this is the greatest lesson of all. We are learning in these moments of significant times. This year has changed us all whether we recognize it or not. Over 120,000 people have died so far from COVID in the U.S.; millions are unemployed, and riots take the streets of cities everywhere.

When people ask me how did your son die, I tell them it was a little bit of everything. It's all of it—the weight of the world on a young man's shoulders amid today's society. It was the brokenness not only within our country but also within his heart. It's more clear today that people are hurting, they are upset, and they feel unheard.

This year may be one of the greatest lessons of them all. It has been for me whether I like it or not. The choices we make now will be the difference between turning tragedy into greatness, loss into gain, and pain into joy.

What I do know is that the fears I once held are now pale compared to what I am facing today. Because of this, I choose to embrace this grief and to lean into the fucking mess. I choose to embrace the sacrifices and the commitments necessary to show up for me so I can continue to show up for others.

Here I am, face down in this bloody arena, still a father, willing to fight for his beautiful daughter, his family, and the life that remains. I am resilient, and I will survive.

I hold the most profound gratitude for everyone that is supporting us at this time. Because of you all, we are learning to stand, smile, and repeatedly heal over and over again. Thank you for helping us feel not so alone.

I love you all. Happy father's day.

Instead of sorry's, hug your children and loved ones a little tighter today, look them into their eyes, and tell them how much you love them. Do that for me but more importantly, do that for them.


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