Angela McHenry has a story to tell.
"He was a baby and only 19-years-old and drug addiction took Joseph away."
Joseph was Angela’s son. She says he had an infectious laugh, bright eyes and was a smart kid. He wanted to be a stock broker once he graduated college. He was the type of guy who wanted to work for himself when he got older. He was about his independence.
Thanksgiving weekend of 2015; all of that ended. That was the last time Angela saw her son alive He left the house, never to return. Joseph battled a Xanax addiction for much of high school. Angela says he had a supportive family, went to a good school, had many friends, but had fallen victim to a national problem.
"Unfortunately, due to the withdrawal from Xanax it causes a lot of suicide ideation,” said Angela.
She says because of those withdrawals, Joseph took his life. Angela says her life’s work as a mother changed that day. The day she read the text message from her son apologizing, explaining this would be the end.
“As painful as it is, I have to tell his story,” said Angela. “No parent should ever have to go through this excruciating pain."
Since Joseph’s death two years ago, she is spreading her message through the organization she says even helped to save her life. An organization that gave her an outlet when she felt so lost after her son’s death.
It’s called Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education, NOPE for short. Angela talks to students and even parents, telling Joseph’s story, hoping they head her cry.
"Grades slipping, dropping out of activity, withdrawal. We normally attribute it to just being a teenager but we just can’t anymore and I wish I had known that," said Angela. "It is my goal and it is my life and I will go to my grave telling people about Joseph's story and hopefully it will impact them. This is not a joke anymore. This is an epidemic."
NOPE is holding their 7th annual Candle Light Vigil on Thursday, October 19, 2017 starting at 7pm. The free, community event will be held at Hillsborough High School at 5000 N Central Avenue, Tampa.