The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Melissa Bresnahan: A Mother's Perspective on Tragically Losing A Child to an Overdose

Episode Summary

Melissa grew up in Long Beach, California where she earned a BA in Speech Communications/English and a MA in Educational Administration along with several California State Teaching credentials. She met her amazing husband, Dan, when she was in college and they have been married almost 40 wonderful years. They have three grown children and are the grandparents to the most adorable three year old little girl. Melissa and her family live in the beautiful central coast of California, and Melissa was a teacher and principal for almost 35 years. Melissa’s first born child, a son, died tragically in 2017 at the age of 35. After many years of struggling with addiction and four wonderful years of sobriety, her son (Pat), relapsed and died from a drug overdose. She and her family have determined to remember Pat forever in their hearts and lives by adopting their family motto “Forever A Family of Five”.

Episode Notes

#19: Melissa grew up in Long Beach, California where she earned a BA in Speech Communications/English and a MA in Educational Administration along with several California State Teaching credentials. She met her amazing husband, Dan, when she was in college and they have been married almost 40 wonderful years. They have three grown children and are the grandparents to the most adorable three year old little girl. Melissa and her family live in the beautiful central coast of California, and Melissa was a teacher and principal for almost 35 years.

Melissa’s first born child, a son, died tragically in 2017 at the age of 35. After many years of struggling with addiction and four wonderful years of sobriety, her son (Pat), relapsed and died from a drug overdose. She and her family have determined to remember Pat forever in their hearts and lives by adopting their family motto “Forever A Family of Five”. Join Ashley and Melissa as they sit down for a very special episode where Melissa shares about the life of her son and gives an in-depth look into her grief from an indescribable loss.

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Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to The Courage to Change a Recovery Podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame and I am your host. Today we have Melissa Bresnahan. Melissa Bresnahan grew up in long beach, California where she earned a BA in Speech Communications in English and a Master's Degree in Educational Administration along with several California State Teaching Credentials. She met her amazing husband Dan when she was in college and they have been married almost 40 wonderful years. They have three grown children and are the grandparents to the most adorable three year old little girl. Melissa Bresnahan and her family live in beautiful central coast of California and Melissa Bresnahan was a Teacher and a Principal for almost 35 years. Melissa Bresnahan's first born child, a son, died tragically in 2017 at the age of 35, after many years of struggling with addiction and four wonderful years of sobriety, her son Pat relapsed and died from a drug overdose. She and her family have been determined to remember Pat forever in their hearts and lives by adopting their family motto, Forever A Family of Five. Please enjoy my good friend Melissa Bresnahan on episode 19. Let's do this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Melissa Bresnahan, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate you coming down and be willing to step into the booth. [inaudible 00:01:37] booth.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Happy to be here.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We've been talking and you were talking about potentially going back and forth with the decision to share your story and hearing my dad tell his story and that being a difficult thing for you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yep.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What made you change your mind and be here?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well I think the road I've traveled with my son and his addiction and then losing him a little over two years ago to an overdose. After four years of sobriety, it has been a difficult road. And I would like to be able to share my ideas and thoughts and experiences with other people in the hope that it might help them with as a similar journey or help them understand others that are going through a similar journey.

Melissa Bresnahan:

There is so much addiction and if anybody can understand it better or think in a way that doesn't, that's not judgemental and stigmatize addiction and Oh, he's an addict. He had a bad home. Must had terrible parents. Nobody loved him. They were poor. They were-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Whatever it is.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Because I don't think it's that way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That wasn't your experience. And, so were you were a principal.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We were talking about this, so you have three children?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you were a principal and your husband was a police officer?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So your son grew up with the-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Do Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's funny.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What's the age spread between the kids?

Melissa Bresnahan:

When I had my third, Pat was eight when the youngest was born. Megan. So there's eight years difference there. And then Caitlin's right in the middle. There's almost three years difference between Pat and Caitlin.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then five years between Caitlin and Megan.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you guys lived in San Louis?

Melissa Bresnahan:

We live in Atascadero, which is the next town over the grade.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Okay. And when you look back, what kind of kid was Pat and what did you see? You heard and my dad talking, things that he saw that he looks back on and goes, Oh gosh, we had no idea what that was. Or were there things that he did that you guys were like, Oh Pat? Or things like that in retrospect you look at and go, Oh, maybe that was some of the stuff you saw.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. I think, and I don't know why I think this because I look at my brother and I, and we're so different. Same mom and dad. My three kids are so different. So individual. But I think I thought all my kids were going to be the same and they were going to be like me or like my husband.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think that too sometimes.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So, I look at my three kids. Pat was born, kicking and screaming and fighting the world. Caitlin was born just quiet and sweet and angelic. And Megan was born looking around, trying to figure out what's this and what's that. And that's their personalities.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That is from the moment they were born, that's their personalities. And Pat was born in '82 and Dan and I had been married about two years and he was a crier and a screamer and I couldn't always sooth him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that was.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I know that part.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Yeah. And that, I think idealistically thinking I was, babies are, pink and blue blankets and cute toys and there's more too it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, they lied to you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So I learned a lot about parenting.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Were you a teacher yet?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, I was already a teacher and Dan and I were able to work out our schedules. So when Pat was young, he really didn't have to do a whole lot of daycare.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he was a voracious eater.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He was a big man.

Melissa Bresnahan:

6'3, 250.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Big kid. And was always a big kid. And I think your dad said something about self-soothing. And I never maybe put it into those terms, but now that I'm a grandmother, I see my little granddaughter, she can put herself to sleep and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Pat screamed and yelled a lot and cried a lot and I think it was called, being colicy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Which I don't really understand what that is. So, he cried a lot, didn't sleep a lot. And then I would say by the time he was... Well, the first time he was sick, he was only two or three weeks old. I took him to a Christmas party so he could sit in Santa's lap and the stomach flu was going around. So he got the stomach flu.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh no.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then I got the stomach.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh no.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then he was probably four months old and he started getting ear infections.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Which I had ear infections and very vividmemories of ear infections. And they're very painful and uncomfortable.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that just broke my heart as a mom. So he went through that for years. Several sets of tubes in his ears. He always popped him out. But just chronic ear infections, waking up in the middle of the night, me sleeping with him up over my shoulder when he was two, three, four because it was easier. He eventually got a mastoid infection and I had to-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Must be jaw related.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's the bone.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right? The connection behind-

Melissa Bresnahan:

The bone behind your ear.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And the doctor says the next place, the infection will go is his brain. So he was in the hospital. I was pregnant like six months pregnant. He was in the hospital on massive doses of antibiotics and had to have his ear drums lanced several times. So, that's a big part.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then he always, everybody else would get a cold. He would get bronchitis.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He was on inhalers. He was asthmatic. He would get pneumonia. Like the first time I heard that, pneumonia is like, who gets pneumonia?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He had pneumonia all the time. He just had a sick respiratory system and the earaches finally went away. But he had the cough throughout his life.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And he was very adventurous little boy. He had little temper tantrums. I remember when Caitlyn was a little older, I took her on the back of the bicycle because I couldn't take him anymore because he was just too big.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But he wanted to go and he liked flung himself on the steps. I'd already gone.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I come back from the bike ride 45 minutes later and no one's home. Well they're the emergency room getting his head stitched up because he really wanted to go on the bike.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

There's the piece that he's a little boy, which from my experience, little boys and little girls are very different. Not always, but mine certainly are.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The little girls would see at the park. There's some of that. Did you see a difference between him and other little boys or was he pretty in sync with what was?

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, I don't think so.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, I do remember, maybe was two or three and I had a great pediatrician. In fact, my granddaughter goes to the same pediatrician, great. And he would always tell me to read this book or that book. And I remember him telling, Pat was two or three, he said you should read the book, The Strong Willed Child. Oh, okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And, and I read it and it was like this book was, somebody knows my son.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And, it was eyeopening for me because I learned a lot.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But it also made me feel like, well, there's nothing wrong with him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

This is just how he is.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Personality.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. He had so many ear infections in the one ear that he didn't have an eardrum.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then it would grow back in, any way he got older and he-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did he have hearing problems?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So he had hearing problems and speech problems.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, and I'm a teacher.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But with your boys, you speak their language. So I understood what he was saying.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But my mother came to visit and she says, Melissa Bresnahan, he really has a speech problem and you think being a teacher.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, we understand. There's a meme going around.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It has a joke about, it has this garbled, something and the baby saying I want garbled something. And then the mom peeks her head around the corner and says, he said he wants yogurt.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And I was like, yeah, that's accurate.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh yeah. Yeah. So, he went to a speech and language therapist and was tested and we did some speech and language therapy, but it was also around that time, three, four, five, he was born in November and that was back when the date for kindergarten was December 1st and I had to make a decision. I always thought, Oh, kids are ready for kindergarten when they're the right age.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But we did end up holding him out a year because he was in a Pre-K program and she just thought he needed another year. And so we did hold him out of kindergarten for a year, which I think was a really good move. But it was, those ages that we discovered, he did have some more serious learning disabilities and our pediatrician really helped us. He sent us to a neurologist and they really couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, but it was something neurological.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So once he got into school, we went through all the testing and whatnot. And it was language processing problem.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And ADD, not so much H but ADD. Could be very inattentive and very impulsive.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Which is not the teacher's favorite child to have in the classroom.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right. Did you have a new, respect is the wrong word, understanding.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. I attribute Pat and the way he was to making me a better teacher because again you go into life being very idealistic and I thought I'm going to teach it to all these little darling's one time and they're going to get it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that's not how it was. So I think he made me a much better teacher because I went through, he was in special ed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He wasn't in a special day class. He was in a pullout program.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Which he called by second grade, the stupid class. And he didn't want to go to the stupid class.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And how come, Joey is sitting next to him, how come Joey knows what to do when the teacher says something and I don't know? How do you explain that?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But he always loved sports and being active and wanted to have the ball. And so then he was labeled a bully because he just wanted the ball. And there was some bullying going on there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But yeah, so he was not an easy child to raise. But I do have a... I mean that makes me sound like a horrible mother.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why? I literally heard nothing of-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well thank you. I think because-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Here, let me help. I have really difficult children to raise.

Melissa Bresnahan:

There you go.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And I feel like a great mother. So.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and maybe I just didn't understand that or.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I remember, and I was thinking about this last night and when we're talking about being the parent of a child who has an addiction problem, I don't know how it would compare to having a parent or a sibling or, because that's not my experience.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I remember Dan worked funny hours, so I was home a lot in the evenings with Pat and he probably wasn't three or four weeks old and I was nursing him and I had said he got sick right away and had the stomach flu. Then I had the stomach flu, so that may have delayed our bonding just a little bit. But I remember one night I nursed him, he has a little milk dripping out his mouth and he fell asleep and I had him up on my shoulder, burping him and his little head was turned toward me and I just remember, I can just feel it. His little cheek right here and you their little sweet milky breath and his little Navy blue velour outfit. And I remember thinking this is the most wonderful feeling I've ever had in the whole wide world. And I love my parents and I love my children and I love my dogs and my friends, but I love my kids.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And a parent's love is unlike any other kind of love. And I don't think I knew it at the time, but I think that set me up for that unconditional love. This is my kid, my baby.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He depends on me. I remember feeling power. I don't know if that's the right word.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Importance.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Important. Powerful. Because I could get him to stop crying when he had an earache. He didn't want Dan, he wanted me and I could get him up and I thought that was a powerful feeling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

If that makes sense.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But there's nothing else. I mean, I love chocolate and good food.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And all kinds of things, but-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not the same.

Melissa Bresnahan:

The feeling you have for your kids and you're a mom.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I don't know. I didn't get that until that moment.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. So what was the moment or talk to me about the chapter that was like, Oh, maybe there's, this is not normal. Pat may have a problem. I don't know what the problem, as my dad said, I didn't know what the problem was.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I just knew that something was wrong.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Well, school was just never easy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And being that I was a teacher and eventually a principal and then a teacher again, and I would have to go to his IEP, Individual Education Plan meetings, and I had to go into that meeting and say, I am here as Pat's mom. I am a mom. I'm sitting in this chair as a mom. The day before, I might've been sitting in the chair as the teacher or.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I'm a mom and because I think I went through a few meetings where I wanted everybody to get along and everything. But I knew my kid and I wanted my input to be important about what his needs were.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I would think you'd have more clout in an IEP as a teacher and a principal.

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, I think you know too much.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I'm sure they had meetings before meeting with me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Because we have to manage this one.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Because I knew the laws and I knew that his needs needed to be met.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

If you don't have enough room in this program or that program, I don't care whether it's my kid or a student. It's like this is what this child needs. So.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Yeah. At what point did you start to realize that this was more than just difficult?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Spirited as we, the new term is, by the way, strong-willed is now spirited.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, he went through junior high and I think it was in junior high when he, and I don't remember all the details and circumstances, but there was some pot smoking going on, which still I thought, that happens.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He was very-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, just kidding. If my kids hear this it's not real.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. He was really into sports and athletics and excelled there. Seemed to get a lot of self esteem from that. He would do anything for the coach. You could really see him-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wanting to please.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Wanted to please because he wanted to be first string.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Bresnahan:

He did not want to be the bench seater.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He wanted to be the best.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was something that he could excel in. So, he did really well in sports and my husband was also really into sports. He went to Cal-Poly on a football scholarship. So when drinking started going on probably, eighth grade, then pretty heavy in high school, it was something that-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Relatively normal for.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But I always thought it was excessive.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I remembered partying.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

In high school, you have a beer or some vodka. And I never liked the way it made me feel. I would get sick easily.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Sick to my stomach easily. I don't think alcohol likes me but I never, it wasn't excessive. So, through high school, which was I think a blur at times because I'm working full time, Dan's working full time, we have two girls, all the activities that go with that. Pat's sports, and up where I live, it wasn't like you went across town to go to the game, you went to Bakersfield or.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Or Santa Ynez. So I'd get off work at three, load the girls up and we'd pick up Dan on the way out of town and we'd have to go to Lompoc, which is an hour and a half drive.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But it was important to be at his games.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I just remember a lot of drinking.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then it's kind of a blur, but a lot of drinking, a lot of coming home late. We started getting calls from the police.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. When did you turn to Dan and say, I think our son has a problem or look at him and both of you knew?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

This has crossed a line.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We weren't on the same page.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Through a lot of high school and I tried to get Pat into counseling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He got suspended from school a lot. What were his suspensions for? Being disobedient or rude or this or that. And then eventually he got suspended his senior year after basketball season for having pot at school. But he stayed on the straight and narrow, especially during sports time because that was really important to him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Was he not drinking or smoking pot? He was back on it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. He was able-

Melissa Bresnahan:

He was able to... Yeah. And I think it was his freshman year. I think he got suspended. And then when you get suspended you're put on activities suspension.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I can't remember what he was suspended for anyway and the end. And so we had to sit out of the football season and he didn't like that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He played basketball, football, he played baseball but eventually dropped that. Basketball was his big sport. He was on the All County team, I think his junior year and senior year for basketball, I think maybe for football too. And he was the Most Valuable Player his senior year for basketball. And then shortly after that he'd already moved out of the house. He-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

At what age?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He turned 18, remember we held them out of kindergarten?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He turned 18 November of his senior year.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so he kind of thought he was his own boss at that point.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So he just moved out.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, it was midway through basketball. I think we finally set up a rule that when you're in our house, you can't do anything illegal or you won't live here anymore.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, and I remember, God so stupid at times. I remember getting the kids loaded up in the car to get to school and walking through the garage several times saying, God, it really smells like marijuana in here. And Pat would say, Oh, it's all dad's chemicals. So one night I got up and went to get a drink of water or something and I could see from the kitchen window, the garage lights were on. So I thought, Oh, Dan left the lights on, I go out there, open the door. I mean, it is just.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

A plume of smoke is coming out of there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And there was another young man who was staying with us for like a week because his parents kicked him out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they were sitting there just smoking away. And I looked, I just remember looking, going I'm comprehending this, but I'm not getting it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I went and got Dan and a fight ensued and he moved out. And his girlfriend's parents.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Took him in.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Took him in and he lived there probably a year.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I want to go back to an idea just in retrospect.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

This idea that you can't do anything illegal.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And I want to know, from my perspective, from an alcoholic addict, whatever, I think to myself, the illegal aspect when you look back is marijuana is now legal.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And when you were young, alcohol was legal at 18.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't think so.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mm-mm (negative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When my parents were young, 18 was the legal drinking age.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Not in California.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Really?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't think so.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, interesting. Okay. So on the East coast, my parents, I always heard this growing up on the East coast, my parents said that when they were growing up, 18 was the legal drinking age where they were.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You went to college.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And so I'm just curious, what, when you look back, do you think, was that a good line to draw? Would you do it differently?

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was, no. I don't know what I would do differently. I would not. I just had such a mindset that, I can be so black and white that this is the right thing to do. This is not the right thing to do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And very clearly in my mind, when you're 16 you shouldn't be drinking, smoking or smoking pot.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's illegal. And I would try to explain to him the cause and effect thing that makes sense to me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right?

Melissa Bresnahan:

That you're doing this now in my garage, but if you're doing it here, or here, or here, you're going to get suspended from school.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Expelled from school, you're going to get arrested. You're going to.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So it's really about, okay. That actually helps me because it was really about the fact that when you do these things. So you were thinking from a perspective of when you do these things that are illegal, that causes you legal problems, you're thinking about it in the societal, not actually the substance per se.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Not as much, at least.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Because I don't even think I was aware of addiction.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That or that was even, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, but that's really interesting. For me at least, that's really interesting. Like we don't want you doing anything illegal. Right?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was really about breaking the law. It wasn't really about being intoxicated.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, I didn't want him to be intoxicated.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But your cause and effects had a lot to do with getting in trouble with society.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yes. Yes. And I didn't want him to be drunk. I didn't want him to smoke pot. I didn't want him to smoke cigarettes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That's nasty.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That's dirty. And with living in a small town, he couldn't get away with anything because someone else is driving their kid, picking their kid up from school and there's Pat walking off campus smoking a cigarette or-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Didn't help that his dad was a police officer.

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, no. And so he couldn't get away with anything.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Because it's, Oh, Melissa Bresnahan, I just saw Pat. I mean, teachers would call me at work. This was before cell phones. On the school phone.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Connect me with room 12, just wanted you to know, we just saw Pat walking off campus.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you're like, great, that's really helpful.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But then I could go, Oh, how was school today? Oh, fine. Well, what'd you do? [inaudible 00:25:27].

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's like, Oh well you were at Jack-in-the-Box and you were supposed to be at school. It's like, huh? So.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. So it's like-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, but it didn't seem to matter to him. And I was, I don't know, people pleaser or I had that sense of right and wrong and I didn't want to disappoint my parents and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did it help that people were, I'm putting myself in your shoes. Like I have this thing going on at home with this kid and it's really public because people are calling me in my classroom at work saying your child is walking off, like other teachers. Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Like pointing it out to me.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't think that it was public, bothered me. I think, I appreciated knowing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. Okay. Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So that, yeah, because I think for a long time he pulled the wool over my eyes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You felt supported by it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Even when he relapsed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, I look back on it and it's like all the signs were there, but when it was happening, he-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So-

Melissa Bresnahan:

The addict Pat was masterful at pulling the wool over my eyes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When was the first time that you guys decided to try to get him help?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, I-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Or what was the catalyst for that?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I talked a lot about it when he was in high school, even-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

For substance abuse?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't know if I thought it was just for substance abuse, but for a troubled teen.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

A combination.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I have a troubled teen.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Troubled teen.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And if you look in the back of Sunset Magazine, they have places where you send-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Your troubled teen.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Your troubled teen and they take them on hikes and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I thought-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Take them.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, that's for sure. I thought there were times we needed to send him away.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I didn't get a lot of support.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You heard my dad talk about that too.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that it was just a phase he was going through and everything was going to be fine and [inaudible 00:00:27:26]. But I remember thinking he needed help way back.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And there were, Oh, lots of situations. He was sneaking out of the house and would be gone all night. I had no idea.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I had no idea until the police called one night and said, Oh, we have your son here in the back of our car and I said no you don't, he's sleeping downstairs and I'm running down the stairs, pillows in the bed, windows unlocked. And I stayed home with the girls and Dan went to pick him up. And it was interesting that he was not intoxicated because Dan gave permission to breathalyze him. He was not intoxicated because their plan was foiled. So his friend, they weren't quite 16, took his mom's car, this old station wagon, and they just wanted to be out driving around and they discovered maybe at 11 o'clock there's not a whole lot going on in this town and they didn't want to be downtown.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So they were out on the back roads and they were, I found this out many years later, they were going out to someone's house because they knew this girl's dad had a bunch of beer in the refrigerator and they were going to get the beer and the dog barked or this or that. So they never did get the beer. So then, and that's way out of town. So then they're driving back in and the driver, they both have to go to the bathroom. So the driver gets out of the car and Pat's going to go to the bathroom too. They watched the car go.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Because he didn't put the parking brake on.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh God.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And it wasn't a 90 foot cliff. It was down to a Creek.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh boy.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Big old Esquire Station Wagon with the plastic wood panels on the side.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So then they-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right into the Creek?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Yeah. So it didn't go airborne.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It just rolled right down there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, and they couldn't get it out of there, so.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, but you know they tried.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh yeah, they tried. And what grows around Creek beds? Poison Oak. So yeah. And a house heard, the police got called the cars down there. They call the [inaudible 00:29:32]. They get the two boys up there, put them in the back of the car. The parents get there, they get breathalyzed. They weren't drunk.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. But they wish they were.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, they probably wish they were. And the tow truck, I think it costs $300 to pull the car out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so he had to go do hard labor over at his friend's house for a long time. But, four days later, I get this call at school, Mom you got to come pick me up. It's like, well, why? Oh, I got really bad Poison Oak Mom. So I go pick him up, get off-

PART 1 OF 5 ENDS [00:30:04]

Melissa Bresnahan:

"... Really bad poison oak mom." So I go pick him up. They get a substitute, go pick him up. It's all in his private parts.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was bad and I didn't feel sorry for him one bit.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, it's so funny. One time my sister and I stole a bottle of port wine not knowing what port was, and we stole it out of the pantry. And we drank the whole bottle and got incredibly sick and vomited up all over each other and had the [crosstalk 00:30:33]. It was really bad. And so he comes down and it's red port everywhere, like vomit. And my dad walks into the room and my sister and I are laying on the bed totally out of it and he looks at us and he says, "Well, the punishment fits the crime. I'll leave you two here." And walks out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We never got punished. He said, "You got what you deserved." Like if that doesn't show you, I'm not sure why being grounded will. So sounds like-

Melissa Bresnahan:

And the way I was when I drank in high school, threw up, I didn't like that feeling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's a normal human response.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I would not drink port wine again or I would not-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, I didn't drink port wine... I've never had port wine since.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well I bet. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But I've had a lot of other ones, hence the alcoholism.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And there were a lot of [inaudible 00:31:24] that I look back now on, that was a pretty funny story at the time but it was-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was a big deal. Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was not funny. And yeah, so I knew he needed help and just busy... It's like, let's get through another day. I do remember him coming home at night. He didn't drive until he was like 18. And I don't think if he wanted to, we would have let him drive much. So he didn't drive until he was like 18. Out of high school, really. But I remember always being relieved when I'd hear somebody dropped him off at night.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But there were many nights where two, three, four... I mean a curfew was nothing to him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I was panic stricken when I was his age. If it was two minutes after midnight, I was... I don't know why. I can't remember them all, but lots of trouble; getting tickets for smoking-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But then he had an injury, right?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. His drinking got really bad after high school and he was... All kids go to college, right? Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I didn't. But-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, eventually you did.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Eventually, I did.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well I just thought that's what you do. That's what I did. That's what my husband did.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My parents thought so too.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So he had been living with the girlfriend. He went to Allan Hancock College for maybe a semester and maybe finished three units. And I don't know what was going on, but we can all well imagine.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then he started working for his girlfriend's father and he became a brick layer, and he worked, I think for about seven years doing that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, wow.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So from 18 to 24, lot of drinking.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, like day drinking. Lot of-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And lot of drinking-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And did he live nearby?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He lived nearby-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you had contact?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Talk about enabling. We actually bought a... There's a little older trailer park in town where you own the property and people are now moving in the nicer homes and whatnot. So we thought instead of him having to pay rent and whatnot... Well then he did to pay rent to us. But we bought this little place. It had this dilapidated single wide trailer on it that he lived in for about two years. And then Dan and Pat worked on... They put a double wide in and they built on the garage and Pat did a lot of the work.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, he was very handy.

Melissa Bresnahan:

They did the cement work. And yeah, he was good about that. So things were good. He had a good job, he never needed money from us, he paid the rent, took care of himself. He could come over for dinner. It was nice, but he would pound down the beers. And a lot of arrests. And it just made me sick. A lot of arrests for... Getting beat up, bars. Sometimes we'd get a call from-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

This was after he turned 18 but you knew-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Between 18 and 23, 24.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But you knew because your husband was an investigator so it popped up.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, either that or we'd get a courtesy call that... Yeah. And we never bailed him out. We never did. You do the crime, you do the time. And it was a lot. It was a lot of arrests. So it got to the point where they put him on probation or something and he had to wear an ankle bracelet and he never had a DUI. He had a BUI in a boat. Our boat. Used to take our boat out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh jeez.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But he never had a DUI. And I'm not saying that he never got behind the wheel drunk because I'm sure he did. And thank God there weren't any accidents that hurt him or somebody else. But lots of drunk in public, lots of fights, lots of getting beat up, lots of arrests for... I know there's not a law against being an ass(beep), but I really think that's what he was arrested for, if that makes sense.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, nobody wants to-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Penal code 36940.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Everybody else would be drunk and miserable or drunk and happy or whatever, but he would get belligerent.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right. Take it too far.

Melissa Bresnahan:

He would mouth off or he would get tough or... And so he got arrested for being drunk in public, but there were a lot of people on the 4th of July that were drunk in public. So, yeah. And I think his girlfriend's dad got him out a few times, but we never did. And he spent time in jail. A couple of weeks here, a couple of weeks there. But he finally had to go onto probation and he asked help because it was expensive. So he did the ankle bracelet and he had some kind of a phone at home where you had to be videotaped, or they'd call him and he had to like respond right away or... I don't remember all of it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he had to go to meetings through the County and I don't think he was really good at following through with all of that. So he just got into more trouble and more trouble but he did start drinking less. He did start drinking less. And looking back on, I think that was when he was starting to do drugs more and not so much drinking. And then the probation officers came one night and he was doing really well. We'd just put the new house on. He was doing that, he was still working with the masonry and he had a really nice girlfriend.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he'd maybe had two beers and they took him in, locked him up. I mean, no drinking is no drinking. And it got to the point, wherever he had to go to court. And I never went to court. I think there was one time I went. Because my husband worked for the district attorney's office, the district attorney couldn't... It was a conflict of interest and so they had to call someone from the department of justice to come down.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, jeez.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So he just always just had the book slammed on him. And that was the time that when they put them in jail, and here I thought he was doing really, really well, and accused with two beers. It's like, two beers isn't that bad.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Six months ago he was having 10 shots and 20 beers.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Dan and I fought about it and I went and tried to talk to the probation officer and I guess you just don't do that. And I felt like a criminal myself and I didn't know what to do, and I knew he was really in trouble then. So I went downtown and walked into a law office crying said, "I need a lawyer. My son's in trouble. I don't know any lawyers. He's in jail, this is what he did." And they said, "Oh, well you should go see the lawyer down the street." So I walked into that office. Just was totally out of control. I need help, he needs help, I'm having problems at home with my husband.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I remember the lady, I said, "They won't let us talk to him, they won't this, they won't that, they won't..." And she kind of was Southern and she said, "Well honey, the lawyer will be right with you, but we're waiting..." And she got me like a cup of water and Kleenex. She says, "Well, while we're waiting, watch this." And she picks up the phone and calls the probation department, she says, "Hi, this is so and so, and we're representing Patrick, and I need this and this, and you need to do that and this and that. Yes, he'll be in touch with you soon." And she goes, "There honey, everything's going to be just fine." And I did have to spend $1,500.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Best money justice could buy.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, best justice money can buy.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So it was $1,500 and I went to court, Dan and I were not even speaking. I was sitting there in the audience and Dan was in a suit and tie, leaning up against the wall. And I remember I like waved or something to Pat when he comes in. He's in an orange jumpsuit with clinks and clankers. And I waved to him or something and the bailiff came to speak to me because we don't do that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Don't wave at your son.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh my gosh. So this particular lawyer really helped with getting him involved in some programs. And he continued to wear the thing, and he said after that, he didn't want to be on probation anymore. So he went and served his time, whatever that was, because he did not want to be on probation anymore. So the drinking kind of got better. So I thought, "Oh he's doing better."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then that was right around the time when there was the big housing crunch and construction stopped. And so the business went under, and this is a business that had been around for like 40 years. This man took it over from his dad and so he did odd jobs for a while and then he got a job out on the oil rigs, off the coast of Santa Barbara and was making like $90,000 a year. He worked out there for about five years and right before he got that job, it was, I remember it well because he was still on my insurance until the age of 25.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he seemed to be doing better, wasn't partying, wasn't doing the bar scene as much. And he went and was playing on like a city league basketball. Totally blew his knee out. And I remember it was right before his 25th birthday because we got him in to see the doctor that he saw from all his other sports injuries. And I said to him, "His insurance is up in two weeks and so if there's a way that we can get all this accomplished by this day." So he didn't need surgery and he had, I don't know, I always call it the ACLU and the MIA and the... Whatever.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Like three things were rebuilt and re-this and re-that. And he was put an Oxycontin. Looking back, I think maybe meth had started and I didn't know really until after he passed that meth was a drug of choice for him. So he was laid up with this knee thing and then did the physical therapy and he was always athletic and went to the gym. Bodybuilding, working out with weights. And I remember being at his place and seeing prescription bottles for Oxycontin from a different doctor, not the doctor that did his knee surgery.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I said, "Yeah, I'm sure your knee hurts, but I don't think this is a good idea. You shouldn't do this anymore." So then he got the job out on the oil rig. And by that time, I think maybe the first year... He worked out there five years. So from 25 until he went to rehab at 29, I think. I've kind of got-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Roughly.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I think he did pretty well. Liked his job, was making good money, spent a lot of money on drugs. And when he finally went to rehab, I found out that there was a doctor in LA that if you take him an X Ray, he will write you a prescription for Oxycontin. So he would get for $500. That was not a problem with Pat. So he was taking Oxy and this, I think it was right around 2011. And you really didn't hear about the opiate crisis so much and that's when the pharmaceutical companies changed Oxycontin because so many people were getting addicted to it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they changed it chemically so that you couldn't snort or shoot it, which my son would never do that, and I'm sure he was. I mean, hello. And then I think that's when the big hit of the opioid crisis and the heroin started, because they changed Oxycontin. It wasn't working anymore and here's your alternative.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did you find out or how did you... You helped him go to rehab, right?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did he go to Gatehouse or Blueprints?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He went to Decision Point first.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Decision Point. Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And was there three months and then went to Blueprints.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. So how did you get him to Arizona for rehab?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, he had to come home from work. Well, he got in trouble once at work. I think the oil rigs, they would have the feds come with dogs, and I think they found up in the rafters or something, they found all this Oxycontin and they sent him into town to see a doctor and this and that, but he didn't get fired because it was prescription.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that was around Christmas time and then in January, that's when he always got this horrible bronchitis pneumonia thing. And I think Caitlyn calls us from the emergency room. She took him to the emergency room and he had like really bad pneumonia. Really, really bad. And he was put into intensive care. And I had no idea. Of course the doctors knew at the time that he was on drugs. And I think looking back on it, I think he didn't want to go to the doctor because he was so sick because he didn't want to get found out. And I never did find out. In fact, even one of the nurses had a child in my class. Never knew and they asked me to leave the room once or twice because I stayed the night with them.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then he came...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, because he's detoxing at the same time as the pneumonia.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, yeah. And he was really agitated and I mean the behaviors he was displaying were... And of course they were giving him morphine and...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. They gave me morphine for pneumonia.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah. Anyway. And so I just didn't understand it, but I'd never seen this kind of behavior from him. So then he came and stayed at our house for maybe a week. But he was in the hospital for a full week. Intensive care for like four or five days. So it was shortly after that, I think he went to work. It's like he went to work at Christmas and had to come home because he was hurting. And I think what he was doing, and I found this out later, was they'd get Suboxone on the street and take Suboxone.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So he couldn't really work anymore. And then he got the pneumonia. He missed work. I think he went back for one more round because you'd go out there two weeks at a time. So he had to come back. I mean he was at work for three or four days and he had to come back, and some friends of his, kind of some of his old friends came to see Dan. And Dan went to see Pat and they had a conversation and he said, "You have to tell your mom." And so I had a cell phone at that time. I was on my way to the fabric store after work, going to buy some fabric. And I got this call and Dan said, "Hey, I'm over at Pat. You need to come by."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I said, "Why?" And I could tell. And I wouldn't get off the phone until they told me. And he said the H-word and it was like someone just took a bat and hit me in the chest. It was like I couldn't breathe because I never thought-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He said Pat's on...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Pat's shooting heroin. And I mean, I don't think I ate for weeks. And I went over there. I went and bought my fabric though first. Not because that was important to me, but because-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You just had to process.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know what it was, but I remember feeling really awkward in the store. Anyway, then I went over there and Dan was just being great and Pat was being great and he needed help and he wanted help. And what do we know? I didn't know anything. I think I wrote in one of my emails that I thought if you go to rehab for 30 days, voila, you're fixed. I mean, I really thought that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think a lot of people really think that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I had no clue. No clue. So I have a friend who was in my Bunco group who worked for County Drug and Alcohol services. So I called her and Dan and Pat went in and had an interview the next day, and they got him involved in whatever the County and outpatient program. And he had to go to individual and group and he saw a nurse and was on Suboxone and a taper of Suboxone, like a two week taper thing. And he was really thin, like 170 pounds. For Pat that's... He's big bunk head was just like grey and emaciated.

Melissa Bresnahan:

This was also right around the time when my daughter got engaged and we had a engagement party planned when all this was happening. And it's like, I don't know if I'm up to that. I think by that time I was sick of faking it. Not even sick of it. I was at a point where I was unable as a parent and a person to function because there was so much trauma and I couldn't fix it. You're supposed to take care of your kids as a mother, keep them safe and protected. And so that was tough.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But we went ahead and we had the party and I remember Megan coming and she's saying, "Mom, someone's upstairs asleep on your bed." She didn't recognize it was Pat.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And this was maybe just a month after. So he had probably just used. So Dan took him in again and tried to get this County program going and then Dan went by his house and went in, and he didn't have a job by that point. And he was looking to see if there were needles or this or that. He didn't find any needles, but in his bathroom he had like two or three of those orange things full of pot. Orange tubs like that you get. And Dan was still working at the time. So Dan takes the tubs and takes them to the police department and says, "I found these. My family's involved. I don't want to go into details, but I don't want this."

Melissa Bresnahan:

So there was no arrest or anything. And I was really pissed that Dan... There were several times that Dan turned Pat and that was not the alternative I liked. I always thought that just caused more problems. But anyway, lots of turmoil. I don't remember if they confronted each other, but the pot wasn't his and it was a friend's and he has a medical marijuana card. And so Dan said, Well, then tell your friend to go down to the police department with his medical marijuana card and get his pot back." But that was a big story. Pat was going to be selling this stuff.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That's what he was going to be doing. So we kicked him out of the house and he loaded up his few belongings and was gone. And lived on the streets and in crummy hotels for about six months, I'd say. And it was almost summer vacation and so he was making some money. He was able to go to work. He was working, just doing cement or something, minimum wage. And I kept running into him. He had this big blue truck and I'd run into him and see him down... And we really didn't have any contact with him at all.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then I heard Dan saying something, that they had to interview Pat because he was on some surveillance thing. It was his car. Pat wasn't in it. Money, heroin and he wouldn't tell me. It's kind of like, I think they both tried to protect me because I took everything so hard. So there were a lot of things I didn't know about. So I called the officer that interviewed him and wanted to know what was going on and I was very agitated. And then I said, "I got to save my son." And I got in my car and I heard that he was in Paso Robles and he was at this hotel and I went there and he wasn't there, but there was someone there who had seen him there.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I just started going to the crummy hotels and Paso Robles. And I mean by the third one there's the big blue truck. And so I just went and asked what room is Pat Bresnahan in. And I went and banged on the door and I know somebody was in there with pink hair. I didn't go in the room. He came out and that was when I knew... The word I used was junkie. My son is a junkie. And I remember slugging him and I didn't know what to do and I said, "Just get in my car and we'll go." And he wouldn't get my car and I had been screaming at Dan because he wouldn't tell me the whole thing that went on.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was summer and I got in the car and I drove down here to Orange County to my brothers because I was broken. Dysfunctional.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Pat didn't get in the car.

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, no. And I just remember crying the whole way. I have never cried like that, and praying, "Help me, God help me. Help me, God. Help me, God. Help my son, help me. Show me what to do, help me..." And I just went to my brothers, to the safe haven. He lived in Irvine at the time and I was there, I don't know, three weeks, maybe a month. And then Dan came down on the train and took me home and I was better but I was just... Lived in fear. My son is going to die any day. So school started up again. My daughter was getting married and Pat knew the guy that lived next door to him. Katelyn was now living in the house and her future husband, my son-in-law.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And we'd just talked to the caterer or something and I went by the house and it was funny that Dan went by the house too. We had separate cars because we came after work. Dan went by. I just thought, "Oh, I just want to go talk to Katelyn." And Pat was there. I didn't see him. Talking to the guy that he knew that lived next door, which is a whole different story. A lot of meth came out of that house, I think. And I didn't see Pat. I walked in and I guess he said, "Hi mom?" To me and I didn't respond. And next thing you know, Pat's knocking on the door and he came and he sat down and he said, "I need help."

Melissa Bresnahan:

We said, "Well, you want to go to rehab?" And he said, "Yeah." Looking back on it, I don't think he wanted help. I think he had run out of resources.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's the same thing.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, is it?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It is.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It is. That's how you get to the point because you want to help because you've run out of resources.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's like-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, because he had this job that was paying for all this, and then no job. And then-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because it was too hard.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. I mean, he would come by Katelyn's occasionally and she'd make them a bag of food. I mean, he was an on the street addict. Junkie. And so yeah. So we sat down there and I said, "So let's go." So I started looking through my iPad for places and I called the airport. And we're kind of isolated in San Luis Obispo. The air airport at that time flew to LA, San Francisco and Phoenix. Phoenix, Arizona. I don't want him in San Francisco. I don't want him in California. I don't want him in the rehab that's in the next town.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So Arizona, okay Arizona. And Phoenix, I've never been all that impressed with Phoenix. And I call places. I called places in Utah, called places he wouldn't go that second. I mean, I wanted to take possession of him and he wouldn't. He said, "I promise I'll go but give me, I don't know, until..." And somewhere in there, I'd made a plane reservation form for the following morning, flying out at 5:30 in the morning, or 6:30 maybe. And I don't know if he was going to make it or not. And I think he went on big drug binge. And he would pick up his phone, but then he wasn't picking up his phone.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Of course, I didn't sleep at all but I found Decision Point and looked up Prescott. I thought, okay he's from a small town. I don't think he needs to go to the big city. And the young man I talked to was great. And so he was all set and I again called my brother in the middle of the night because I was just... And my brother called Pat. Pat picked up the phone and said, "Yeah, I'm going to go." And Dan met him in front of Katelyn's house at 6:30 in the morning. He had a bag and Dan went and put him on the plane.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they said, "I thought he needed to be escorted." But he said, "No, just put them on the plane." It was a direct flight. He had sown drugs into the-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Lining of his-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thing of his Levis. And luckily he got through and didn't get arrested. And I gave him this red folder that had this paperwork I downloaded and he was picked up at the airport and he went to Decision Point. And it was a big relief, but I was still of the mindset that two or three months and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He'll be better.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So that was like October. October, November, December. So like the day after Christmas, and he'd like worked up to a level he'd pretty... Took him a month to detox I think was.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. For sure.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and we got calls. And I remember that someone would call and I would get a good vibe from them. And then the main person who called, I just didn't get a good vibe from that person. I kind of felt like he doesn't really know who I am. I'm probably the 29th call and he would say, "Oh, please go to Al-Anon and take care of yourself." And it's like jeez, told me the same thing before. I just didn't feel any connection with him. But anyway, he was at Decision Point and the day after Christmas, we're in the movie theater with the girls seeing something and Pat calls, Dan disappears and he's gone awhile.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So then I go out and he had gotten kicked out of Decision Point. I mean, we're talking to this gentlemen... That's a nice word. And I mean it was like, "Here's your bag." And it's like, "Can you hold on to him for 24 hours and we'll get in the car right now, we'll drive..." Nothing, nothing. And so what had happened is he was at level X, Y, Z where you could walk down to Starbucks and get a coffee if you signed out and were with someone who was a level this and a level that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Anyway. So apparently there were four of them that went to Starbucks and then one of them had a debit card or something and they went to Staples and they got computer fume spray, something or rather. And they all got high and they went back to Decision Point and they were very understaffed because it was the day after Christmas. And somebody figured it out. I don't remember all the details. And so of the four guys, two of them said, "Okay, we've been found out. We're out of here." And these two guys leave and one of them have the debit card. They got more alcohol and drugs and whatever.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And the one young man was found dead the next morning on the side of the road.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And that had a profound effect on Pat. I think that's the first time... Because he had friends and people die. And it was just, "Well, they're stupid. They don't know what they're doing." Well, they wouldn't let me talk to him. He was just getting kicked out. We got sketchy details, and I still don't know exactly what happened-

PART 2 OF 5 ENDS [01:00:04]

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I still don't know exactly what happened, but he had heard what happened to this young man; they had not announced it or told anybody yet and it made him really angry. Then they had some kind of meeting and the big boss guy from whoever-knows came.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I don't know how businesses deal with those kinds of things, so maybe they did a great job. But I think Pat went back to the room and threw something or banged the wall, and punched a hole in the wall. So, he basically got kicked out for being violent.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then, while we're still in the movie theater, the gentlemen says, "I have one person who I think is opening up a new place out on a ranch..." It was Blueprints. "I'll have her call you. Maybe they have an opening or something." So, she called and just immediately, I heard this voice, and it was like a connection was made. You know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. And it was my best friend, Serena.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was Serena, yeah. Who, to this day, is just... She helped give Pat the best four years of his life. Which, even though my son lost his life, I'm so grateful for those four years because he was able to make amends with all of us, and we were able to be a family again, and there was some good, good stuff during those four years. So, Serena's a saint. I think it takes a really special person to work with addicts, and she got it. She provided Pat with what he needed, a sense of family, love, caring.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

She's phenomenal that way.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But he was a real, yeah, asshole. The first couple weeks, he didn't want to be there, he wanted me to come get him out... He didn't like Dave, which, he ended up loving Dave...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, that's how-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Then he's, "Out in the middle of nowhere, there's only three guys here, I don't like it..." It's like, what do I do? But Serena just talked us through it. You know what I mean? We were talking to her every day. I mean, she did not-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. And that's what the families need, you know?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's one of the most important positions with any treatment is someone who liaisons with, or is it liaises with the family-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Networks.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Networks. Someone who networks or supports the family, and explains to them what's going on, why this is happening, why they're saying this, why they need... and regularly ensures them that this is normal, this is part of the process, "This is what's going on in your child's brain. This is..." Just all those things, and she's just really phenomenal with that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, gosh. Yeah, so, we would hear from her daily.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they were there... he was there a week and a half, and it was the... I don't know, Ichipa, Wikipa, Yikipa...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Some big-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[inaudible 01:02:55]

Melissa Bresnahan:

Big thing that he went to in Tucson...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I met him there.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You did? Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, he and another young man didn't do what they were supposed to do, and they went and they found heroin and got high. And it's like, I don't understand that concept. How can you go to a town you've never been to before...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh. Oh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And find what you need?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Easily.

Melissa Bresnahan:

What you want.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Easily. The same way you know, the same way... Let me help you out. It's the part of town or the people that look the... just find the shadiest-looking human, the sketchiest neighborhood situation, and you will find it!

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So, they did that and then, they were all supposed to be checking back with Serena after they went to this session and that session, and...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I forgot about that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

There were six or seven guys, and...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because people didn't-

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they disappeared, they didn't know where they were, and they I think they finally went back to the hotel because, where are they going to go now?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Serena knew what was going on, but I think they said, "Oh, yeah, you know, we just wanted some girls, and we met up with some girls, and decided to come back..."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, that was what they told them. That's right, because she was like, "Oh, so, we had to clients go meet up with some girls."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And I don't think Serena told me right away that they had the drugs, but he was just in hot water for disappearing, and going and finding girls and this and that, because I think Serena knew that Melissa Bresnahan's living on the edge, and this is going to just shove her right off. But she was working through it with him, and they went back to the ranch, and maybe another two weeks go by, and he's making some progress, and then there's some incident that Pat... he's a grown-up little man-child, and if you remember the ranch, it had open staircase, and then a little room up there...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Dave was out in his spot, so all the guys were supposed to be sleeping, and Pat decided to have everybody get their mattresses, put them in the group meeting room so they could jump off the landing. And Serena calls and tells me that, and I hit my limit. The unconditional love was out the window. It's like, "Okay... Okay, Serena. I am done. I am done. We're a police officer and a teacher. We have a bank account, but it's not an endless supply, and he's been gone October, November, December, we're into January, almost February, and I am just flinging money out the window, and I can't do this. It's going to get to the point where I jeopardize my retirement. I'm not going to be able to send the baby to college!"

Melissa Bresnahan:

You know? It's like, "I'm done. He's not..." And I was done. And I said, "You just go dump him! And you go tell him to go live his life, because Mama, she be done. She's not doing this anymore. I'm not going to keep throwing money at something that doesn't want help, isn't going to..." You know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And she was... Serena just was worming her way in there, but he was not kind. So, she said, "Give me a couple days. Give me a couple days," and it's like, I was done. I was really done. I was... you know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I said, "The only thing you can tell him is to give him the address of the nearest Salvation Army, and he can go do this on his own time." And so, I think a couple days went by, and another young man that Pat had gotten very close to left, and relapsed, and nobody knew where he was. And that had an effect on him, and Serena told him, "Mom's done," and I don't think he ever thought Mom would be done.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he and I talked about that, and I kind of see that as being his rock bottom; he doesn't. He didn't. Oh, no. It wasn't that. But for him to admit that, he'd have to be pretty vulnerable. But that unconditional love with that little baby, you know, it was still there...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

But you weren't dealing with a baby any...

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I just... yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You weren't dealing with the good part of him anymore.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it anymore.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, he...

Melissa Bresnahan:

He hit his knees and prayed for his friend, and then it was like night and day. And Pat, the boy I raised, was coming back, and the demon was slowly going away. I imagined the demon turning his head, you know, kind of like this, and Pat and Serena and the ranch are down here, and he's going, "Yeah, I can't deal with that." And he did great.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And from that point, he stayed sober for those four years?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Close to four years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Close to four years.

Melissa Bresnahan:

As far as I know.

Peter Loeb:

Hi, I'm Peter Loeb, CEO and Co-Founder of Lionrock Recovery. We're proud to sponsor The Courage to Change, and I hope you find that it's an inspiration. I was inspired to start Lionrock after my sister lost her own struggle with drugs and alcohol back in 2010. Because we provide care online by live video, Lionrock clients can get help from the privacy of home. We offer flexible schedules that fit our clients' busy lives, and of course, we're licensed and accredited, and we accept most private health insurance.

Peter Loeb:

You can find out more about us at lionrockrecovery.com, or call us for a free consultation, no commitment, at (800) 258-6550. Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I want to get a sense from you... One thing, frankly, I'm curious about, and I'm sure other people are... I'll just use my experience, and then you help me understand. I don't think about, unless my husband's doing anything weird, he's... he's particularly grumpy or dry or not [inaudible 01:08:51], I don't really think about him getting loaded, and the other sober people in my life, same thing. I don't really think...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, someone has to really act up for me to consider that they may be using. At this point in my life, that's just... As a parent, is that something... Four years of sobriety for Pat, is that something that was on your mind? Was it kind of the same thing of, he goes to rehab for 30 days, he's fixed? Like, "Oh, now we're sober, we have momentum, I think we're in the clear"? What was the mindset during that time?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Well, I remember back in high school and through the drinking... the early 20's, being afraid to wake up in the morning because, who's going to call me? Or if the phone rang at night...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. That's what my mom said.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You know? I mean, just that fear. So, yeah, I still worried about him. I remember about six months into the program with Serena at Blueprints, they went to another-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Conference?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Conference, thank you, in Fresno, which is just a two-hour drive for us.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so, I talked to Serena; I said, "Can we come and see him?" So, Dan and I both took a day off work, and it's just a two-hour... We drove for the day, and oh, I can just feel that. I remember hugging him, and he had some meat on his bones, and I remember thinking, "My boy is back. My boy is back."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And we just had a great visit, and he was excited about what he was learning, and he kept talking about the Blue Book, and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Big Book?

Melissa Bresnahan:

The Big Book, the Blue Book? Okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah! I love you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It is blue!

Melissa Bresnahan:

Is it? Maybe that's why, because I did go get one, and I have read... not it cover to cover, but, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. No, it is. It is blue.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And just these cool people, and met Serena face-to-face for the first time...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh! Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Though, you know, she was like my best friend because I talked to her on the phone all the time.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exactly!

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't think Rodney was there... No, maybe he was. He was there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. He was.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And just the guys. I mean, Pat had been... I'm not going to say their names, but just the guys that were there that were just best friends for him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, it was just... And then, Caitlin got married right on the same... practically the same day that he was finishing up out at the ranch, and he was going to move into the transitional program in town. And I remember when Caitlin got engaged, we made a deal that, "Okay, if Pat can come to the wedding, great. If Pat can't come to the wedding because he's using, he won't be invited, and it's going to be the best day ever."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, like, "We're going to make it."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And then, once he got into rehab, we said, "If Pat is at a crucial point of his rehab and he can't be here, he can't be here, and we're going to have a great day." So, he was able to be there, and he flew... we bought a ticket for Pat and his sponsor at the time, and they flew home, and Pat was a groomsman. And of course, he walked Mama down the aisle, and Caitlin and I had worked on this wedding for a year...

Melissa Bresnahan:

And probably one of the proudest moments of my life, and I'd cried the whole way walking down the aisle not only because I was happy my daughter was getting married, but my boy was walking me down the aisle. And I remember Catilin and I talking about if... I think she asked me, "If Pat can't be there, Mom, who's going to walk you down the aisle?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

I said, "No one. No one will take his place. I will walk my damn self down the aisle and be proud and happy." So, that was really, really...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Special.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Really, really special. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And just that he came home, and... I remember, he and his sponsor were at the kitchen table the day after the wedding, and we brought home all the leftover cakes and this, and they're eating a whole cake...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

They ate the cake topper that you're supposed to save...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, no!

Melissa Bresnahan:

Just, they both had forks and were just going for it. And luckily, you know, really, who wants to eat a cake a year later?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Honestly, I did it, I saved it, froze it; it's terrible. Don't do it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Eat it when it's good.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But I just thought that was a great story. And we laughed, and it was just great, yeah. So, I would say...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Then he did the program in town for six months, and he was still at... we did the parent thing at Blueprints, he was still at Blueprints, and he thought as soon as he went into the transitional program, he could get his truck. "Mom, why don't you and Dad bring my truck out?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it's like, "Well, you know, I don't think this is my decision. Go ask Serena." And I just remember him going over to Serena, and I couldn't hear anything, but I saw his mouth moving, and then I saw her mouth saying, "No!"

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he came back, he's like, "Serena says I can't have my car." But that was a motivation for him, when he could get his truck. And eventually, he was at the point where he could get his truck, maybe halfway through. And Serena's grandma lives close to where I live, so they flew out, and then drove home.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, I remember that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I think I still... you still worry, you know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You still... if the phone ever rang at... Dan and I really stopped breathing, and usually by that time, it was like a telemarketer or something, or a wrong number.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Then you're really pissed at the guy! Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And then, I remember just having a revelation one day, it was like, "I don't worry anymore."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How long was he sober, do you think?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Probably close to a year.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, close to a year. And it's like...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You're like, "I'm..."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And he had started working...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. And when did he go to the fire academy?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think he started that in about year two.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay, okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Being sober at year two, because it was three semesters.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And what led up to his relapse?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, I remember him calling us, saying he wanted to go back to Yavapai Junior College and go to this fire program, and it's like... "Dan. Pat wants to go back to school. Like, college. He wants to..."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was like, "Huh?" And he had a plan, he'd looked into it, he knew what he was doing. He was just really excited about that. And after he graduated, he lived right next door to the Blueprints place, in a little place above the garage, so he like still part of the... And he worked at Blueprints.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, he started going to the classes, and he was working, I don't know, three or four nights a week, I don't know, 12-hour shifts, whatever. And he had to go see a counselor every so often, and he was taking meds; you know, he was dual diagnosis. He was diagnosed with depression, a kind of depression I'd never heard of called dysthymia, which is like... and I look back on it, it's like, "Oh. Yeah," and then anxiety, and he did really well. And would see a counselor, and he...

Melissa Bresnahan:

I really had no idea that he had relapsed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, he had relapsed during this time?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He relapsed... His four-year anniversary would have been January of 2017, and so, this was Christmas 2016, he came home for Christmas, and he had just finished the final thing of the fire academy, and it was... that last semester, it was like a full-time cadet thing. And he was still working. And I remember, he came home, and school was kind of hard for him, so there were times that he had to take a test a second time, but they really worked with him, everything was great, we were so proud of him. He took all his state tests; he had one more test to pass on the state test, and he was working with one of the, I don't know, colonels of the Fire Department to get that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so, he came home for Christmas, and I just remember he was really moody, and crabby, slept a lot. But it's like, "Well, he works nights, he's-"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He's tired.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, I just really didn't think too much of it, and I just kind of stayed away from him, and that was really the last time I saw him, was that Christmas. And then...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And so, he got-

Melissa Bresnahan:

He had, looking back, he had relapsed, and I remember when he left, I was cleaning, taking the sheets-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, he had relapsed.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, okay.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. But I don't think he was...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Fully...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Yeah, I think he relapsed that fall, and what I found out later is that he stopped taking his meds. He just got busy, and I know how that is that you just... you don't pick up your prescription on time, or you...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep. Oh, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You let this slide and this slide and this slide, and he was somewhere, and they were... And he relapsed. I don't know all the details. I'm better not knowing all the details. But I remember cleaning his sheets, and there was black something on the sheets, and they were ivory-colored sheets, and I just thought, you know, we go to the beach a lot, it was tar, or...

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I look back, and it was the heroin or the soot from the spoon or something. And I remember, when he first got there, he said he had to go up to [inaudible 01:18:12] to see a friend... "Well, you know, who are you going to go see?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

"Oh, you know, just a friend."

Melissa Bresnahan:

"Well, like who?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

"Mom, a girl. I'm going to go see a girl."

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's like, "Oh, okay. Well, have fun."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he came back... you'd think if he went to see a girl, he'd be gone a while. So, he comes back and I tease him about, "Oh, you struck out with the girl!"

Melissa Bresnahan:

But he probably was buying what he needed to buy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I did question him about that after he went to rehab again, and he denied it, but I believe that's what happened. So, then we take him home...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, and it was also unusual because when he came home at that Christmas, he missed his flight. It was a 10 o'clock flight, and he missed his flight, and that was just...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Bizarre.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, not typical. He was able to get the next flight out, three or four hours later, but anyway. So, we'd talk to him on the phone, and I remember that fall and that January, he would call us sometimes at 10 or 11 at night and he'd just want to talk, especially to Dan, and they would just be on the phone for an hour. And I think he was lonely, he had to move from next door to the rehab place because they were selling it, somebody bought it, so he had to move, and I think he moved in with some guys who maybe were using, or...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Even though he told us he didn't, so I didn't know anything, and then the phone rings one day, and it was Serena... and I think your babies were brand new.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. She was at my house. She was at my house, and she was a mess, and the twins had just been born, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because they were born January 11th, and this would have been... She came three days after they were born.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And he was still working for Blueprints, and had progressed so that it was obvious what was going on, and they drug-tested him. So, Serena just called, she didn't know the details, she just basically said... I think the guys at Blueprints called Serena because they knew that we were close, and she said...

Melissa Bresnahan:

And she didn't know the details. She basically said, "Pat relapsed, he's arrested, and he's in jail." And it's like... I remember Dan standing right there. I repeated what he said, and Dan's shaking his head, it's like... you know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Just right back on the ride.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So, we called and talked to some of the guys at Blueprints, and they gave us a few more details, but nobody really knew exactly what had happened, and I don't want to get into all the details of that arrest. But he'd never been arrested for drugs, and I remember reading that in the report, that he stated that, "I've never been arrested for drugs."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was a bad arrest, and he had taken meth and heroin, a firebomb, fireball...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Speedball.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Speedball, there you go. You know, why would anybody want to do that? I have no... I still don't comprehend that. But so, we didn't know... I looked up and I could find online that his name was there, and out of the blue, he calls us. So, they kept him overnight and released him; he didn't have to be bailed out. Released him, he called, and he was just broken. It was bad.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I don't think... I just thought it was, like, a little relapse. It was just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

A slip!

Melissa Bresnahan:

A series of... he had a slip, was using some drugs, got caught, got arrested, but it wasn't... he wasn't full back into demon addiction mode. And then, I realized he was.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When you talked to him?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And he was just... so ashamed, and so disgusted with himself, and just... It was just really awful. So, our granddaughter was fairly new at the time, and we were taking care of her, so we asked him if he needed to go to rehab, and he said yeah. And I know I'd said to him, for the rehab, that, "This is our gift to you. We're giving you this gift of rehab, but we're not at a point where we can do rehab every six months." And I have friends whose sons struggle and have struggled for 20 years, and it's heartbreaking. And so, it's like, "Well, do I go back on that? Do I..."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But anyway, Blueprints found him a placement, and it didn't cost us any money. I'm assuming that Blueprints had to kick in some money, but I know they do trades and... the program was in Desert Hot Springs, by Palm Springs and Palm Desert, and Dan went out to Arizona right away, and he started, I don't know, maybe three, four days later... Dan got a room at the Hassayampa in a little suite, and Pat stayed with him, and they went out to eat, and I'm assuming he was sober. I don't know if he was needing to use then or not. I don't know.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How long was he at Desert Springs?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He was there 45 days.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. And he gets out, and he's better.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah! He's better, we got calls from the people he was working with, he was like the model client, he helped others; everything went really well. Every time we'd talk to him, he was very upbeat. And Dan went and picked him up, and we had to get... Dan had to go to court to get permission to take him out of state.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I remember at that time thinking, "I want to bring him home. When he finishes rehab, I want to bring him home." Well, we couldn't. It's like, I wish I had just brought him home. He needed to be at home. I don't know. It doesn't change the outcome. But he went...

Melissa Bresnahan:

He was supposed to be there 30 days and he stayed 45. They scholarshipped him in or whatever, and then Dan went and picked him up and took him back, and I remember Dan... spent a couple days, dropped him off, he was supposed to be looking for a job. And you know...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Brought back to-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Back to Prescott, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think they hired a lawyer... Dan kind of did what I did many years ago, just went to downtown by the courthouse and started knocking on doors, and he found a really, really great guy. And I think before Pat went to rehab, he went and met with a guy as soon as he got back from rehab, because they had to set the court thing.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And the thing that Pat kept talking about was that he had a felony arrest, and that if you're convicted of a felony, you can't be a fireman. And I would say, "You don't have to be a fireman. You could do this, you could do that. We could do this, we could make this up, you could do this," you know?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But that had a profound effect on him, a profound effect. And Dan spent a few days with him, and I remember Dan saying, "I didn't want to leave him, but I knew I couldn't just move into an apartment with him and hold his hand," and he died three weeks later.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, he moved into an apartment...

Melissa Bresnahan:

He went back to the same place, but nobody else was living there, it was a three-bedroom place; one of the bedrooms was... a good friend of his, but he was always at his girlfriend's. So, he was basically there alone...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Who called you?

Melissa Bresnahan:

The police came to our house. Which was not an unusual occurrence, because my husband had retired, and when he worked for the DA's office, you get subpoenaed.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. They bring you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

They just give it to you at work.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's not like they could mail it, and so, whenever... He finished working, he'd maybe been retired for six months, and during that time, police would serve him with a subpoena. So, I mean, I would say that happened five or six times. You know, I used to think, "Oh, God, what do the neighbors think?"

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah!

Melissa Bresnahan:

"We've got police cars going up and down our driveway all the time." So, I don't know if I heard something or... but we were watching TV downstairs, my dog was old and if somebody pulled up in the driveway, he didn't bark anymore, and something made me get up and I was walking to the back part of the room, and the porch light... back part of the house, and the porch light was on and there was a police officer standing there.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, I didn't think anything of it. It's like, "Oh, okay, they have a..." And there's times, once Dan retired, he didn't have his cell phone on, and nobody thinks to call you on your landline, so he would sometimes... the police would come by to say, you know, "You need to call so-and-so." Because he had cases that went on for maybe as long as a year and a half.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, we opened the door, and I don't really remember... I said, "Dan, the police are here!"

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, Dan jumps up, and Dan said he knew. He knew. He just... he knew. I didn't know. And he said something; all I remember is hearing, "He passed," and it just didn't... It didn't settle. I didn't comprehend it. I mean, I knew what had happened...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, they said, "We're here-"

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. "We're here to inform you that your son is in Prescott, and the police went to his house, and some friends discovered him, and he overdosed, and he passed. And here's a number to call and they have more details."

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I invited the officer to come in, and I mean, because, I don't know, what do you do?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I don't know, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't know what you do, and...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you respond? Or did you just, "I'm sorry. What?" Or just like, "Come on in"?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, just like... yeah, I mean, I was calm.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I always thought I would just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Freak out, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You know, because you think about it, when you have...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

A child, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

A child who's an addict, you think about, what's it going to be like if somebody...

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so, they're standing at the door, and I remember Dan fumbling, because he's going to get this number that he's supposed to call, and he couldn't find a pencil, and he's throwing things, and...

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, then I said, "Why don't you just come in?" And we went into the den, and I think I was just in a...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

A haze, and Dan gets the number, and Dan makes a call, and the police officer stayed, and then Dan tells me the information, and the officer said, "Would you like us to send the chaplain?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I'm a little more religious than Dan is, and Dan said no, and I said yes. So, a chaplain came and spent some time with us, and while we were waiting for him to come... and I think the officer stayed there till the chaplain came.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. It was like living a nightmare, an unbelievable... It's just really kind of a haze. I remember calling Dan's sister; she lived in town. I remember, I think she was the first person I told, because Dan wasn't... I think as a wife and mother, you take care of your kids and your husband, and I felt like...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Drop into the caregiver role.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. And so, she came over, and I called my son-in-law, told him exactly what had happened, asked if he'd bring Caitlin up and tell her, and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And so, he told her?

Melissa Bresnahan:

He told her, and she was up 10 minutes later, and Megan was traveling in Germany with her boyfriend.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, no. Ugh...

Melissa Bresnahan:

So, before the officer left, I said, "I don't know what your protocols are, but could you not make this public or put it..." because I was really fearful, because it was already out on Facebook, Caitlin checked, and somebody had written something on Pat's Facebook page. And with the time change, I can't remember if it was 14 or 15 hours one way or the other, but we figured out Megan would be

PART 3 OF 5 ENDS [01:30:04]

Melissa Bresnahan:

The number was 14 or 15 hours one way or the other, but we figured out Megan would be sleeping. And we hadn't really talked with her. She'd been gone almost three weeks. I think she was coming home in a couple days. And Caitlin was able to get ahold of her. She had an international phone, but she only used it for emergencies because it was really expensive or something. So Caitlin called and told Megan, and she was, I think, due to come home two or three days later, so that I know. That was an immediate concern that Megan was going to wake up in Germany, and check her iPad and-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

See this-

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Pat and I were never friends on Facebook. And I really don't do much social media anyway but that was a huge concern. So once Megan knew I was relieved because I didn't think that's something you should find out via Social media

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, yeah. Agreed.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And then I called my brother and they like got in the car that second. They drove through the night and went to see my dad first and then brought my dad over. And they stayed a couple days. And we just tried to figure out what to do. I mean, there's things to do. And I pretty much had to go into, 'take care of it mode.' You have to find a morgue and this and that. And then Megan came home and I remember Megan was home and my sister in law was still there cooking food for everybody and I get a call from the mortuary that they were going to do the autopsy that morning. And it's like, "Why?" And that's what they do. And that just horrified me.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We know how he died. Of course, we don't have a toxicology report. They pulled a needle out of his arm when he was there. There was drug paraphernalia. We know how he died. He wasn't murdered. He didn't have a heart attack, or maybe he did have a heart attack. I don't know. And I just thought of an autopsy being done on my son. I just thought that this is just not peaceful. And I was like, this is not going to happen. And it was like I had an hour and I just started writing a letter to the autopsy guy, and they didn't do an autopsy.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So there's all these things to get done.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you immediately, there's no time to process anything.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mm-mm (negative).

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's completely like, okay now you have to move both the logistics of it. And when you do that, does it have to be you or you want it to be you or other people can they step in? Should they step in?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Well, I think it's different for everybody. And I've talked with and have the moms that have lost their children to addiction. And I think every story I hear is different. Some people want to be surrounded with others. Other people don't.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What did you want?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't want to be ... I'm not a big people-person. I don't want to go in where I live to the concert in the park Tuesday nights because there's nowhere to park and there's hundreds of people and it's a lot of noise and you can't even hear the music. I'd rather put my headphones on and listen to something I really like so I was really happy my brother was there, they took care of feeding us but I really didn't have an appetite. I don't really feel like we had to make a lot of calls. I think Dan's sister called the rest of the family. His two brothers went to tell Dan's parents...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You talked about coming out of that and people and the judgment of how him dying as a result of a drug overdose and that negative connotation and I've seen this with other people where it's, there's a lot that happens right after someone passes away, and then maybe a couple weeks out after the funeral it all comes down and then it's quiet and that's when people just fall apart.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you guys experience that? And in that, how were people... The reason I asked this is I think a lot of people don't know how to show... This is a really big problem and I think a lot of people don't know how to show up for people when this stuff happens. And I'm curious what your thoughts like, what should people do?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Well, we had... I think I called one or two of my close girlfriends. And they wanted to like do something. Everybody wants to do something, bring food, do this do that. They want to come see you. I just didn't want to see anybody. And I didn't want food. And I didn't want someone to go to all the trouble to make food and then it just sat there and I threw it away because nobody had an appetite. Other people do. So I think, what can I do to help you and it's like finally after about five days, well, I wanted Megan home.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That took three or four days. And with the time change so that's all I wanted. I wanted Megan home and when Caitlyn first got there, it was a big breakdown. I mean, it even scared Dan because I went out to greet her in the car and you could hear me screaming. And then when Megan came again, but I think I'm a very emotional person, and I used to cry really easily, but I'm not a big crier anymore. And I think going through this addiction for the number of years that we did, it just blunted my emotions. And I think it's been two years since he passed, and I think bit by bit more and more emotion's coming out, which is good.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I think another reason I wanted to do the podcast is because talking about my son is like music to my ears.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What is the last two years been like? That's a really terrible question, but-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, I think our saving grace was that we had a little granddaughter and I truly believe that this little girl was sent into our lives by a higher power. Who knew that this family needs this little girl and Caitlyn we could do a whole other show on infertility and she struggled getting pregnant and out of the blue, she got pregnant, and Pat got to meet little Allison. It was a week before her first birthday, when Pat passed. And so, Caitlin and Dan at that point, we're taking care for five days a week from eight in the morning till three in the afternoon.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

God bless them.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was [inaudible 01:36:39]. She was just a light in our lives but Caitlyn took a week, maybe two weeks off. And we didn't have a funeral. We didn't want to do anything in a casket or because he really-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, you didn't do funeral?

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, and that was just just not our thing. I had been to several funerals of-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Addicted-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Young people who lost their lives and this is before Pat passed, but some of them were, "They're all lovely." And it's like whatever works for the family is what you should do. But there was one in particular, that the preacher did all the things you're supposed to do and stayed at the funeral and friends got up and talked and then he said, "I want to talk about the elephant in the room." And he talked about addiction, and didn't try to sugarcoat it or just focus on someone's gone, but there's a reason they're gone. And if you were having a problem, this is what you can do and they had like a team of people there for people to meet with. And I just thought that was like, really cool.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That is cool.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We're kind of a private family. We don't do big anything.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What was it about the funeral that you didn't want?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I didn't like having a wedding, for me, I loved having my daughters when... I don't like being the center of attention. I don't want people fussing over me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You don't want...

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't want to-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Affect-

Melissa Bresnahan:

And so we knew we didn't want to do anything in a [cascader 01:38:12] because he had more bad memories in a cascader than good ones. And he would come home to be with us. But they're only like two friends he would keep in touch with. And then his sober family were in Prescott. So then the couple who found him, and we had been on the phone with them. So we knew more about what they saw and experienced and they're the ones that called the police.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Was that helpful?

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Why?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Because he was alone. And I'm glad that we didn't go by and somebody who knew and loved him found him and the particular person who found him, she was trained, I don't know exactly what but she worked in... She's a recovered addict working on her recovery, worked in the industry. I think was LVN and nurses assistant so she knew what to do and took his pulse and this and that, got on the phone. I mean, she went right into...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right. So you felt like someone-

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. I wouldn't want time to go by and police do a wellness check. That was comforting me and then talking to them was comforting to me. And I still talk with a lot of Pat's friends and I find that comforting, very comforting. So, I wanted to know the details, but I don't want to know every detail. I don't want to know exactly what he looked like or... and when Dan talked to the police officers, they assured him that he did have a needle in his arm. And they described that it looked like he had just fallen back on his pillows and died peacefully. And I appreciate that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So then it was this couple that said, "There are a lot of his friends here that would like to talk with you and share things with you." So we decided to have a, I wouldn't even call it a [inaudible 01:40:06], gathering of friends. I would say there were maybe 30 or 40 people that came. It happened to be on Mother's Day. Which was okay. So the other thing right after he passed was at Ellison was having her first birthday and Caitlin are already planned it and this and that. She was going to cancel it. And Megan got home. We got through that. And then I remember thinking, "The kid's a year old, she's the light of our life. We're having a damn party." And it wasn't like we invited the whole neighborhood. It was the grandmas and grandpas and the aunts and the uncles and a couple friends.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And it was delightful and she was adorable. And you cannot look at the sweet little girl and be sad. I mean, were are sad but she's just... God put her in our lives because he knew this family needs this baby. And so, Caitlin had her.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How have you... What have you done to attempt to regain a sense of self at all. You talked about meeting other mothers who have lost children...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, that has been helpful. Getting back to the routine of our lives. So Caitlin went back to work a week and a half, two weeks later. And at first I said, "Caitlin, I'm not capable of this." And she said, "Whatever you need, Mom, I need to go back to work." Well she was going to work something out and then I thought, "No," so we started having her, she was just a year old and feeding her and playing with her and then we did go meet with all his friends. It was about three weeks later and we weren't going to have family and stuff going because it really wasn't a big formal service memorial.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was a gathering of friends, and I'd busy myself making some little succulent center pieces. Started gathering pictures, my brother and sister in law came. Dan's one brother and his wife, I called and asked them to come because Dan was just struggling so much.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And his nephews had just been to our house because they were taking their kids to see Cal Poly, where they're now attending. And Dan just always lit up when his nephews around and there were nine nephews.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Wow.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Pat was the youngest of nine and then my two girls and Dan was just struggling so I called his brother Mike and I said, "Can my brother and sister in law were just coming. I didn't ask them to they just knew this is where we need to be." So Dan's brother came and that was really lovely. Just hearing the stories and talking, Serena was there, having it be on Mother's Day was really like a celebration. And then I think we spent about a week there with family. The girls didn't come, it got to the point with the girls, with jobs and the new baby and it's like, "No, just stay home." I didn't want to have more stress added.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So and it was three weeks later, and then we came home and just resumed our lives. And I would wake up every morning to it, was like a nightmare. I was like, "Did this really happen?" And yeah, it's like a nightmare. And I don't know if I'll ever heal. I don't know if I'll ever get over it. I mean, I function, I'm happy-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You will get over it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, I have joy in my life. I have love in my life.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What happens you and your husband Dan, were married for a long time. Why do so many couples who lose a child get divorced?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I'm aware of that. I don't know. They're not getting what they need from their partner. But I think over the years with... Dan, and I, you learn to know your partner really, really well. Dan, figured out that Melissa Bresnahan's intuitions are usually spot on. Melissa Bresnahan smell something, I smell smoke, chances are-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

There's smoke,

Melissa Bresnahan:

There's a fire.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think there's times where I have to take care of him, and he has to take care of me. And we take care of each other. And we have our girls, so we just wanted to pull our family in close. And there's things that we talked about as a family that we don't talk about with other people, or even some of our other family members because they might not understand addiction the way we do, but I'm trying to think of other things I've done.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think the best advice was when I met up with a gal who'd lost her son five years before in a cascader and she said, "Do whatever you feel you need to do to feel better. "It's okay to sleep," because I kept saying, "I just want to sleep, she said then sleep." If you sleep in five years from now, I'm going to come pick you up and I'm going to take you to a counselor so right but if you want to sleep, sleep, if you want to eat, eat, if you want to go away, go away. If you want to talk to somebody, talk to somebody if you don't want to talk to somebody, don't talk to somebody."

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I felt like I had permission to, and so I did. I slept a lot, but I always could get up when little Allison was there and taking care of a little one is exhausting anyway, so I would go to sleep at night, but I tried to go to some counseling, I made several attempts and it just, I don't know if it was the person, I didn't connect it, but it wasn't for me. I remember going to the bookstore to look for books. So imagine me sitting there in Barnes and Noble and I went to the section where the grieving stuff is, and it was all like the seven steps of grieving or the five steps and it's like, "No, no, no, no."

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I looked up some books and I should have bought a list, but I could send it to you. There were several books that I read that were helpful. What one pops into my mind? I think it was called Plan B. And it's it was written by the girl who did the lean in, she is a businesswoman-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Sheryl Sandberg?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think so, I can't remember now, but anyway, and her husband passed away, and she had all this great success and she had-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's her.

Melissa Bresnahan:

She had kids at home and that really helped. So there were several books I read that helped, doing my creative things helped. Another thing I've always enjoyed doing. I've always loved the beach, grew up near the beach. We live 20 minutes away from Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, beach, [inaudible 01:46:38] San Simeon. So once we retired, we were able to go to the beach more. And we did take our dogs to the beach, we take the granddaughter the beach, I've always loved looking for sea glass but I noticed, when I started because it was just something you go to the beach, it just clears your mind and you can get into your thoughts and it's just-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Just relaxing, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Meditative and all of a sudden, I started noticing heart shaped rocks and heart shaped driftwood. So I started collecting these heart things and I'm convinced that Pat leaves them for me. And I know someone's going to listen to that say, "Oh my God, this lady's really off her rocker because how could that happen?" But I truly believe that I started noticing heart shaped rocks because of Pat. Physically, he didn't fly down with the angel wings and put the rock there. But so I have quite a collection of heart rocks and we were just in Hawaii on a little vacation. I thought my luggage was going to weigh too much-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I was going to say, what's his security like, ma'am?

Melissa Bresnahan:

All these little coral pieces are shaped like hearts and I know that some people have... I've talked to like one mom, awesome girl. She has a like a memorial Golf Tournament every year, and she gets to get together with his friends and they put this golf tournament together and she does gift bags and the money they raise goes to a pet project of her son's. And other people have done Memorial scholarships for their child. They've-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Where did you meet these moms or how did you find them?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Most of them I knew of them and then either I connected or they reach, they-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

They reach out.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, a friend would connect me. And it's not a formal thing. I thought maybe that would be a good thing to do sometime.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's what I was thinking. Like is there a group that or some sort of network that because I feel like nothing is better than someone who's been through what I've been through.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Because you can just sit there.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. You don't have to say anything.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You don't have to try to explain, "This is what I'm feeling."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And they just get it and that's so comforting. I would say I've always been kind of a private person. And I haven't been one to venture way out. I don't have big social circles. I have some really great friends that have been amazing. But I would say the last two years, I have been more secluded, but I love being home. That's my thing. I love to be home. I love to cook. I love to sew the little granddaughters there, I love my dogs. We take the dogs out for a walk.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We take the dogs to the beach, Dan, and I'll go get a bite to eat when I don't feel like cooking. But I'm not, and I think I've given my self permission to do what I want to do. And it was actually your sister. I think you and I wrote about this. You posted one of her pictures of grief. And of course I have that now.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, you ordered it?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, wow.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And Megan wanted one. And so I just got one for Megan and I'm waiting for Caitlyn because I don't want to like, "Here's art." So I got that like-

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Both different.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. So I ordered it right away.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you read her writing?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I saw the picture and I remember, and it was just titled "Grief." And it just got me. And then I read what she wrote, I think I corresponded with your sister.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, you did?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, yeah. She hit me like a ton of bricks.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my gosh.

Melissa Bresnahan:

She took what was in my brain that I couldn't comprehend, let alone express and took the words away from me in the most beautiful way. And just in a nutshell, birth and living and dying are natural things in the world. And why is it that it's an uncomfortable topic to talk about, and it shouldn't be? And it says in the other really great thing about grief is that it allows you to step out of your life for a minute, and kind of take an inventory, see what's out there and discover what's important to you. Because you have lost something so dear and precious that the riffraff stuff in life doesn't matter anymore. And so I've just let it fall away. I don't do as much social media because somebody would write a snarky comment and that would make me angry.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I get post [inaudible 01:51:28] which is just great joy. Posts of this one particular family in a tasket arrow that this young man struggled as Pat did, but turned his life around. Marry a great gal, has his own company has a little set of twin girls. Oh, we need to get them together.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh my goodness.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think they're a little older.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My boys probably like older women.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Okay. So those girls are like four now, Pat used to go visit them when they were babies when he'd come home and they now have a little boy and I look at like a post of them like on Mother's Day and then again on Father's Day with the whole little family and the little girls are in their little dresses and there's that nice picture and then the course they post the one where one of the little girls in her dresses hanging upside down on the fence next to them and everyone's cracking up and the baby's crying and I don't look at Pat's friends that have been so successful and I'm not sad because I can't have that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I listened to your dad and you and how close you were and I think I said to you, I would like to have that. Well, I don't but it brings me joy. I am not mad at you because you're successful. I share in your success. And I have found that the people closest to me where I look at a picture of this family or look at your boys. I feel like you are sharing some of my sorrow because you get it, you know and you understand. So I love to see the pictures. Loved going to Serena's wedding and seeing her surrounded by love and joy and people that she has helped and that was just, I can't even tell you, you were there.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It was just a lovely day. So I go back and look at some of the posts that people put on Pat's Facebook page. And I have to go through my daughter's account because we weren't friends, but I wanted some of them I've taken screenshots and I go back and read them and I had no idea the impact that Pat had on some of the young men that were in blueprints. I had no idea. I thought, it was job, you know Pat, he's not expressive. "How's work?" "Fine." "You got some new guys in there?" "Yeah." "You get along with everybody?" "Yeah," Yeah he just wasn't... One young man's mother who met Pat several times at the parent things. She wrote me a three page letter, I should send it to you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I received that like right before we left for Prescott to meet up with all those friends. And I think just a flood of tears, not sorrow but pride. Because the things she said about Pat, I had no idea that he had had this impact on her son. And how memorable some little small actions that she remembered. And she also happened to be there when Pat received his three year pin. And Pat, like the rest of my family, we're not big celebrate, we'd like to celebrate kind of, in our own way. He didn't want to have a party downtown or... He just wanted to get his pin but just the way she described him getting his three year and of course, that was the last pin that he got, because he didn't quite make it to the four.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I have all those letters saved. I have cards that people sent me I have screenshots of these sayings. "Big Pat," Where the name came from, Serena actually gave him the name because there were like two Pats and one was big and one was little. But then it turned into something so much more than that. Caitlin had sweatshirts made for us the first Christmas that said big Pat, and they had the Yabba pie Fire Academy emblem on them.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So you guys are finding all these ways just to keep him a part of the memory and you described for me once, which I thought was really interesting and useful for people to know. You described how regular relationships are, can sometimes be difficult and I say regular relationships like not met out of intense, traumatic situation. Because people are talking about things like oh my gosh, my daughter got to be on her paper and I'm just so terrified. But like just that some of the relationships that you once had and maintained became difficult to function and because you're such a disconnect from both what you both had experienced.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I think the whole addiction thing is just so difficult and so overwhelming and I still haven't come to grips with comprehending and understanding. And I don't know if I will, but I'm on my way to, I said to you, I'm in recovery for grief.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I'm trying to now fill that void, and I spent a lot of time trying to get rid of the void.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So talk about that revelation, all of that.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I was going somewhere with a friend just that... And I don't want to say, "Well, my pain is greater than your pain."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

No it isn't. And I'm not and I don't want to be like that but I just had a hard time talking to some friends and acquaintances about what's going on in their life. I don't know maybe I'm selfish or something, but it just didn't register with me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think this is something that happens for a lot of people. So I think it's Important to talk about because it feels like, I have this in my life too where at different stages of life, you experience such depths of life. And I had this experience not that long ago where a friend called me and was talking about her difficulties and what was going on for her and she was broken over what was going on. And my husband had just lost his job. And I was supporting our family. And it was a financial thing. And I was terrified. And I had two little kids and I was working on all this stuff. And I remember that the she's crying about something that was like, I mean, from my perspective was... And you just, it's so like, you want to stay in the friendship and you want to relate and be empathetic but there's a distance now.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, which is uncomfortable but it goes back to what your sister said, is you identify what's working in your life and what's right for you. And what's important. And I mean, that comes glaring out, so focusing on that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

[crosstalk 01:58:14] I was like, "Okay this is not."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. I'm not going to stop at Magic Mountain on the way home and go to on a roller coaster because I don't like it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What were some of the big revelations related to addiction, related to recovery, related to the void? What were some of the big revelations that you have had?

Melissa Bresnahan:

That it's not five steps that you need to go through. The five stages of grief and when I get to this part, there will be acceptance, and voila. I mean, I had told you earlier that I lost my mom to cancer when I was 29. My mom was only 56. And I don't know if I should compare it up, but it's harder to lose a child. It was hard to lose my mother so young. I still miss my mom to this day. I'm never going to get over missing her or grieving for her. But I remember with I only had two kids when my mom passed so she never got to know Megan but I always had visions that she knew Megan and she would come and visit Megan and she perhaps it's just her living through my heart or doing something because that's what my mother would have wanted or that would have made my mother happy to put Pat in sailor suit or to put Megan in a poly Flinders dress instead of something more current, just that it's ongoing, and it's not going to go away.

Melissa Bresnahan:

And I think I'm at the point now where I want to find more things that make me feel better, useful. I like it when somebody calls me and they say, "My child is in trouble. I have a friend and their child is doing this, this and this"...

PART 4 OF 5 ENDS [02:00:04]

Melissa Bresnahan:

"I have a friend, and their child is doing this, this, and this. They don't know what to do. What should they do?" I'm not the expert, and I don't want to think I'm the expert, or I don't want someone else to think tha. But it's like, "Get help. Go to Al Anon. Go to AA. Call the county. Start looking into rehab. Read."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, I always recommend an article from National Geographic that came out maybe three years ago in the fall, and it was called The Science of Addiction. I don't know if you've read it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, I've read the studies it was based on.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, that's great. I'd be interested in that. But that particular article explained it in a way that made so much sense to me, and I've read a lot, trying to find an answer. That really helped, because it talked about just the whole science behind it and the brain-based theory, which was fascinating to me, because, being a teacher, we studied learning theory and brain-based theory.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So much more has come out in the last 20 years ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... than when I was in college, learning styles and ... I did a lot of training in that and how certain pathways in your brain stopped working because of the drugs. It's like, "That explains that," because my son was just this really great kid. My son, the addict, I don't even like him. He was not kind. He lied, and he cheated, and he did horrible things. But my son, my Pat, didn't. My boy didn't. He was kind and loving and had a heart of gold, and he got this terrible addiction thing that turned him into this demon.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I want to remember Pat, my boy, and when I reread one of these, something, a picture of Serena's 30th birthday, when my son has a pink boa around his neck and is in dress pants ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We put ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

A hair thing.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We put hair extensions in his beard.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah. It's like just so much, "That's my boy."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

That helps. Some people have to take pictures down.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Some people don't have a lot of pictures up. In my hallway, I have everybody's first birthday picture and their high school graduation pictures and Caitlin's wedding pictures now, and I like having the pictures up. I don't want to turn a room into a shrine or anything. But we do have ... The people from the fire academy sent us his fire hat ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... and his boots and [inaudible 00:02:57], and I have that sitting on the sofa table with a picture of him in his fireman gear.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I have some of my heart-shaped rocks there. Allison knows that's Unky Pat, Unky Pat, and she plays with the rocks. So things like that. Dan and I each have a bulletin board in our closets, and it's kind of turned into an inspiration board. So I might be cleaning something out, and I find a picture of Pat when he played Little League and Dan was the coach and they're both in short shirts and they look like dorks. I just pin it to his board, and it just brings ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and I have this little box of his, where he had written and doodled on. It was probably like a little box you'd get at Michael's craft store that was made out of wood, and his chips are in there. Serena has a couple chips.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Like, "Okay. I know she'll take good care of them." I have that kind of in my closet, where you're getting ready for ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... whatever you're doing, and that's ... I mean, that little box is priceless.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's priceless.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What do you want people to know, hearing this, about addiction, about grief?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I want people to know that addiction is not a choice. Addiction is an illness. I don't think Pat ever made a conscious decision to stick a needle in his arm, and then it took over. It was like that centrifugal force or that gravity. It was like he had no control over it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I want them to be less judgmental. They're rarely ... I mean, I wouldn't say lots of people said this, but I have heard people say, maybe not even in reference to my son, but one less drug addict on the streets is ... and that kind of cuts to the core.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I understand homelessness more because of what we experienced with our boy. I don't want to see that happen. But he was homeless for a while. But all these people that are struggling with addiction on a daily basis are struggling.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

They're not doing things because that's what they want to do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

They're somebody's child.

Melissa Bresnahan:

They're somebody's child, somebody's sister, somebody's brother, and I feel very fortunate that we had the four sober years, because we have ... So many of Pat's adult years were not good years, and we had those four years that were so good.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I don't know. You asked me about how does a couple stay together, and maybe if we didn't have those four years, we wouldn't have been able to make it through, because I think there would have been so much more regret and "You should have" and "I could have" and "You didn't" ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... or blame or just trials and tribulations. But we had those four years, and I know that it got to the point where Dan was not supportive, maybe, when I would bring up going somewhere like Gatehouse, sending him away when he was younger, or going to counseling or this or that. But he says sending him to Blueprints was the best money we ever spent and the best thing we ever did.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So I have no regret. I've heard people say that rehab centers are just places where people want to get your money. I mean, there's good stuff involved, and it's not like ... It was pricey. It was probably a college education, and it's not like someone's ... I don't think Serena's moved into a Beverly Hills mansion and drives a Bentley.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, no. It's expensive to run.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It went toward medication and doctor's visits and psychologist appointments and one-to-one counseling with MFCCs and group and food. I don't feel like we were just giving our money to ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, I was behind the scenes, and I can tell you that it was not that way. I do understand that there are places where that is the case, but there are also hospitals that are bad. There are doctors and nurses.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think that you find a place, you find a good place, and they're going to give you what they can.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Something that's so valuable, and you brought up Gatehouse, was I was there for ten months. It comes back to that 30 days thing, where it's like you can't ... It doesn't ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We're talking about a brain, a neuro issue.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

This is not going to change in 30 days ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... or even 60 maybe 90. So what's cool about some of these programs, Blueprints being one of them, is that they have the client for long enough to make a real, significant difference.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and it takes that long to get all the craving out.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

No, it takes a long time. I would say people who say things like that, that they're just out to get ... That's very hurtful to me, but I don't even stop to try to educate them ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... because it's too passionate and emotional for me.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

But I'm not going to call them up and have dinner with them tomorrow. So, I mean, it's a crisis. There's a crisis out there, and I wish I could sit here and you or I could say, "We need to do this, this, this, this, and this," because I don't know how you fix the crisis. I mean, I had visions once that all the mothers like me were going to reunite. We were going to unite with our quilting bags, and we were going to march down to Mexico and take care of the cartels. You want to come with me?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Sure. But when you say Mexico and cartels, just remember, I'm a drug addict, so that doesn't have quite the same effect on me. I was thinking Washington.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That is easier for me.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

There's not a lot of temptation there. I was like, "Oh, Mexico." But there are groups ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... and there are mothers that I want to connect you with who are working on behalf of this issue.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Actually, there's been some marches in Washington, and that doctor who Pat was buying for $500, we know these ... I was at one of my business school residencies in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins, and one of the doctors in my section is a pain medication doctor. He prescribed suboxone as part of his clinic, and I said, "Oh my gosh, I want to talk to you."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"Let's wrap out about what this is" ... I said, "What's your training in addiction?", because he was telling me, "Oh, I'm on an addiction board, and I deal with these" ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"Well, I have no training in addiction." Swear to God.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's what he said to me.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, my jaw ... I was like, "What?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"You are on the front lines." I said, "Well, what do you tell" ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was just like the people who are on the front lines so often do not understand what we're dealing with. They've read about it in a couple books, maybe one book, two book, but we're not talking about experts in the field who really understand what we're talking about.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I think that there's a lot of work to be done, and I think that the principal and the police officer coming out and saying, "My son grew up in a good home. I did everything I could. I loved him, and he put a needle in his arm."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My parents coming out and saying, "This is" ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Because the image, right, is these dark images, and the truth is that it is so far-reaching.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It's touching so many lives.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, 20 years ago, I couldn't tell you anybody I knew that died from addiction, and now ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's what my mom would say. She says, "I don't" ... I remember I told her, "Oh, my friend went to jail" or something ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... and she said, "I don't know anyone who's been to jail."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I was like, "What?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It just has seeped into every ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah. Even though these other moms that I talk with were great moms and are educated and they were great kids and they ... I mean, look at what is happening. This is not an epidemic that is being caused by poverty ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... or stupidity ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... or neglect. I really feel it has a very strong connection to brain health and mental health.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Mental health was a taboo word. People 20, 30 years ago didn't go to counseling unless, "Woo-hoo."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

"You need to go to the loony bin."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I could get on the bandwagon with schools and education, but the one thing I would like to see more of is more help with mental health in schools ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... because the kids I see, when they were in kindergarten, were experiencing the same problems ....

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exactly.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... in sixth grade.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Then I read about them in the Red Light Roundup in the [inaudible 02:12:45] or a newspaper.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yep.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Schools are a place to educate. I think schools are making great strides, and I think there's more links for kids between school and county programs and welfare programs and gifted programs and getting kids the help they need so that we're just not a bunch of different entities. I'm seeing more working together, but we have a long way to go.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. Before we close, if there's a parent out there that is listening who has a child who is in the grips of their disease and they don't know what to do, what would you tell them?

Melissa Bresnahan:

I would tell them to just gain as much information as they can. Read. We all have computers and phones and iPads. Look up recovery, substance abuse. Read the article that was in the National Geographic. Don't give up. That was your dad's mantra. Don't give up. Don't give up. How can you give up on your kid? Don't give up on your kid.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Provide them with whatever you can. I mean, you can get sober without spending money on a rehab center. You can do it in the privacy of your pwn home, online. You can do it through the Salvation Army. You can do it through governmental programs. But the help isn't going to come and knock on your door.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

You're going to have to search it out and talk to anybody you know and anybody you know that knows anything. I know that there are people out there that can help you match up your situation with ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Case manager. Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... with the addict's situation ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... because I talked about Decision Point. Got Pat on the right path. The situation happened. It didn't work out for him, but I know they have great success with other people. So what's going to work for one is not going to work for the other, and just find out as much information as you can.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

To the parent who has just lost their child?

Melissa Bresnahan:

Oh, my heart just breaks. I think if I said that to a parent, if I looked them in the eye and said, "I know," I wouldn't have to say too much more.

Melissa Bresnahan:

The other thing, and I did come out and ask several parents, "How did you handle this situation?", of using past tense when you refer to your kid ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't, but if somebody asks me if I have kids, I say "Yes, I have three." I can't say two, because I have three kids.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

One of us is not here on earth with us anymore, but I love three kids in my life, and so that ... I didn't want people to say, "Oh, she's in denial, because she's not using tenses" or whatever. But Pat is a part of our family still, and I think our other family mantra has become, "Always a family of five."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We have a picture that was taken before he relapsed that was at my dad's 90th birthday, and it's the five of us. We're laughing, and we're happy. I'm always going to remember us this way.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

We're kind of finding our way as a family that's experiencing grief, but he's always going to be a part of our life, and I can't pull him out of my heart or do something to get rid of that void. I need to fill that void, and I think it's different with every person. You just have to find your way and cling to those who love and support you, and don't give up. Don't give up on yourself.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, I had moments when I thought, "I can't do this anymore," but then Ellison would walk through the door or my dog had to go outside and go potty, and it distracted my brain.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Life has gone on, and life is good. Dan couldn't wear his "Life is good" shirts for a while.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Interesting. It's interesting the things that come up. I was thinking about that past tense. My friend lost her brother, and she says, "Do you have any siblings?" How do you answer that question? Same kind of thing.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"Life is good." I can't ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and a lot of times, it's just an acquaintance. It's a thing you talk about.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

So the girls will say, "Yeah, I have an older brother and a younger sister" ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... or "I have a sister" or "sister and a brother" or "There are three kids in my family." You don't have to take it any further. But if, "Oh, well, what are your kids doing now?" ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... I'm honest. I say, "My daughter's doing this, and my other daughter's doing this. We have a grandchild. Unfortunately, my son lost his life, and he's no longer with us, two years ago." If they want to know more, I'll tell them more. I don't want to just corner somebody and give them my life story.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Some people are interested and, "Oh, gee, I'm so sorry." I don't know. We've had a lot of support, but I think everybody needs to seek out what is going to help them fill their void. I still have my void, and I'm not sure how I'm going to fill it up, but I'm attempting different things so that I can carry on and be a good mother and a good wife and a good person and help others. So if any word I say can help somebody else, great.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Thank you so much. I want to say ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... I think you're wonderful.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thank you,

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I could see you helping the school systems and doing lots of stuff, moving forward. So it'll be cool to see what good comes, what more good comes out of this ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... because I suspect that you will turn this into something that can help other people.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Right. I hope so. I've tried some different things, and I haven't found my way yet, but I have a valuable life experience that you can't study in a textbook, as does your dad.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, I really made a connection with your dad, because he knows. He knows, and I could sense his pride of you, but he also has that hurt that will never go away. I identify with that hurt.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Thank you for what you do. Lionrock Recovery is ... I've read about it online in articles, because I'm the kind of person that likes to know lots of information, and I think it's fascinating. We're living in an era now that I'm fighting tooth and nail all this technology stuff, and, I mean, I still don't like cell phones. They irritate me. But there's so much you're doing for people who can't go away to a residential program for a year, and they may be ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

I mean, Pat's addiction was long and deep, and maybe if someone experiences addiction and gets the help before it gets long and deep ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's our hope.

Melissa Bresnahan:

The program that you're doing is amazing, and it's private until they get to a point where their privacy is not as important. But I understand why it's private, because of the stigmatism and the judgment.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

It doesn't define you as a person.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We are starting this program, I don't know what to call it, where we are going to get groups of our alumni and those of us who are sober and willing to be out, and we're going to go and do good in our communities. One of the things that I've shared is that I am a tried and true drug addict, alcoholic, and I'm also a graduate of UCLA and a business owner and a mother. I pay my bills, mostly on time, and I walk my dog in your neighborhood. I'm part of society, and I'm your neighbor. I'm at your grocery store.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So we're here. Those of us who are sober and integrated back into society, you may not know. Most people, I'm sure the people in this building have no idea where I come from or whatever it is. But we do recover. We can recover.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Many of us need to step out and show that that's just one side of the disease and that the other side is still there and bring the humanity back into addiction ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... because it's become such a problem that people don't ... The homelessness, the epidemic, it's such a problem that people want to put a bandaid on it. They want it out of our communities. Send them ... Whatever it is, and that's the vision of the heroin addict. But the heroin addict ... I'm still an addict, whether I'm high or not.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Sure.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, if that's the case, then I'm still that person, and I'm out in the community in a different light. I think that it's really important that people understand and people know people. That's the thing that changes your mind. The thing that changes your mind, it's not reading about it in a book. It's meeting someone, getting to know them in their life today, and them saying, "Oh, yeah, I'm in recovery" and you going, "You?"

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"You shop at LL Bean."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"There's no way you're in recovery or whatever it is."

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's how we change people's perception of the problem.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Well, and you are spot-on, because the people that are going to make the difference and make the biggest changes in this horrific epidemic is the people like you that are working on your 12-step. I don't know the exact words, but it's like giving back ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Giving back.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You've got it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Step 12.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Giving back. You've been through your steps. You're experiencing recovery on a daily basis, and you're now going to help others, because who knows better than you? So there's going to be some ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

In education, I used to talk about, "Oh, what do the suits know that are making all these big decisions? That suit needs to come into my classroom and show me how this works." The suits are going to be sitting on this board and that board and this board and that board, but I think the people that are going to make the difference are going to be the ones, the mother like me, who has a broken heart ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... the recovered addict, such as you, who works on recovery daily and is raising two amazing boys and running a successful company and the person sitting in an AA meeting who is going to say, "Here's my number." I mean, it could be that ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I mean, it's all of it, too. My sponsor is one of the top members of a Fortune 500 company. I know we interviewed a guy who is an attorney. He worked at the White House, and now he is in Washington, is the executive director of re-entry policy, and he went to federal prison. He's been sober seven years.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Wow. Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

He's an attorney now ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Wow.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... making re-entry policy. That's who should be making policy ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... the person ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah. Life experience.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, and he's an attorney. He met all the requirements. We're not asking for a free pass.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We're asking for a fair chance.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We're not asking you to say ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... to give us something more than equal opportunity. I think that if that happens, those of us who are in suits, so to speak, need to come out, because there are a lot of people. There are a lot of people in recovery in suits who are afraid to come out.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Right, right.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's a big piece of this.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, and it goes back to the shame or the not wanting to be honest ...

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

We don't want to be judged.

Melissa Bresnahan:

... because you don't want to be judged. Absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

My thing, I don't want my husband, at his job, to be judged.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I don't want my children ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

"Oh my gosh, your mom was this stinky drug addict."

Melissa Bresnahan:

"You can't go over to so-and-so's house."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah. I don't want that to have ... A fear I've had is, if I want to go get another job and I want to work in corporate America and whatever, will I be able to do that, or will that be held against me? All of these things, and the truth is that we just have to close our eyes and trust that the process is going to take us where we need to be ...

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah, yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

... where we'll be most useful.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Work your passion. Work your passion.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yeah.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Yeah.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So anyway, well, I just adore you.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Thank you so much for being here and sharing your story.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I really appreciate it.

Melissa Bresnahan:

Thank you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast would like to thank our sponsor, Lionrock Recovery, for their support. Lionrock Recovery provides online substance abuse counseling, where you can get help from the privacy of your own home.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

For more information, visit www.lionrockrecovery.com/podcast. Subscribe and join our podcast community to hear amazing stories of courage and transformation. We are so grateful to our listeners and hope that you will engage with us. Please email us comments, questions, anything you want to share with us, how this podcast has affected you. Our email address is podcast@lionrockrecovery.com. We want to hear from you.

PART 5 OF 5 ENDS [02:26:54]