HOLIDAY, Fla. — Addiction affects so many families in the Tampa Bay area, and rarely do we get to hear firsthand from the children left behind.
But a brave 12-year-old sat down with reporter Erik Waxler because he wants to help other kids deal with similar tragedies.
Aedan Haggerty wanted what any kid would. He wanted to have his mother in his life.
"I wanted to go see her sometimes, but she wasn't really in the right place to visit me," he said.
As Melissa Cleary struggled with addiction, there were moments of happiness.
"Actually, for a little while, I was able to visit her some weekends. It was really fun. It was like a vacation," Aedan said.
But last year, Aedan lost his mom for good.
"I was kind of angry. Sad. Kind of happy that I got those moments with her before. It was just a mix of emotions," he said.
Aedan's father, Kevin, also fought addiction in his younger days, but he has been in recovery for 32 years.
He works now to help others at the Next Level Church in Holiday.
Ultimately he couldn't save Melissa.
"Especially when someone has been clean and sober, you think they would fight back. But it's not about willpower. You are kind of in a space where you are hoping for the best. You expect the worst," Kevin said.
But in the middle of all this, it's Aedan, still just 12 years old, who is finding hope.
He is using his pain to reach other kids by making YouTube videos about his feelings. He's even going to speak at an addiction awareness event.
"He probably knows more about addiction than a 12-year-old kid should know for sure, and that hit home when his mom passed," Kevin said.
Aedan finds therapy in making music and spending time on projects with his dad.
He misses his mom but will use her memory to lift others and show them the way.
"Honestly, no matter the outcome, it's going to be okay. All you can do is try and help them and hope it gets better," Aedan said.