Late Athlete’s Parents Reach Out to Others with Addiction
PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Tyler Campbell was just 23 years old when he died of a heroin overdose. He was a high school football standout, big brother of two and an overachiever in all facets of life.
“He was a fun-loving kid,” his father Wayne said. “He loved sports. He would have a ball in the driveway waiting when I came home from work everyday.”
“He was a really loving child,” his mother Christy said. “When he wanted something, he went after it with everything he had. He really was a driven person.”
Tyler, of Pickerington, Ohio, was an outstanding high school defensive back. He had offers from Division II and Division III schools, but he had his mind set on playing at a Division I level.
“He didn’t get recruited by Division I schools. He was what you call a ‘tweener,’” Wayne said. “He said, ‘I am playing Division I, there is no doubt about it.’”
Campbell excelled at Akron his first two seasons and even earned a scholarship.
“He was still achieving. He was in the weight room trying to get better,” Wayne said. “His grades were good and he had a bright future. He would go on NFL websites and look at the size of safeties.”
“We didn’t expect drugs ever,” Christy said. “We couldn’t understand why he never had any money. He was constantly needing money for rent. That November of 2009 is when we found out.”
His parents found out he was addicted to pain killers. Tyler was sent home from shoulder surgery in 2009 with Percocet, to help ease the pain. The Percocet became a crutch and Tyler started taking the pills non-medically.
“We were in shock,” his mother said.
Tyler’s addiction to Percocet was just the beginning.
Percocet contains five milligrams of oxycodone, which is an opioid drug similar to morphine, heroin and methadone.
While Percocet relieves pain for roughly five hours, Oxycontin works for close to twelve. Tyler’s addiction expanded from Percocet to Oxycontin.
Mr. and Mrs. Campbell encouraged Tyler to enroll in a nearby rehab program, but the results were destructive.
“We put him in to some outpatient programs and sent him back thinking that is what he needed to do and he could go right back to school,” Christy said.
“We thought that four to five weeks without the pain killers in the outpatient program, you should be fixed,” Wayne said. “We continued it at Akron but it was a much less grueling schedule. It was not nearly enough.”
The outpatient program at University of Akron was one hour a week and Tyler’s parents began noticing that wasn’t enough. He was chasing his addiction. Tyler stopped attending class, he began stealing money and his physical stamina was deteriorating.
During his outpatient program, he learned of a cheaper form of Oxycontin.
Heroin was only ten dollars a hit, while Oxycontin was roughly 50 dollars for one pill.
As Tyler’s parents started realized that his addiction was expanding and the outpatient program was not sufficient, they sent him to a rehab program at Glenbeigh, an affiliate of Cleveland Clinic, in June of 2011. He left the one-month program feeling optimistic.
“He talked about his future,” his mother said. “He wanted to put it all behind him. He came home and said, ‘I weigh 225 pounds,’ which for him was more weight than usual. He was muscular and looked so good. He was staying busy while he was at Glenbeigh.”
Tyler rode home from Glenbeigh with his mother and they spent the day together. His father spent a half hour with him after returning from the rehab facility and said he looked like his old son again.
“When they come out of rehab they are your kid again, the eyes are clear, they are very vibrant, they are witty and they have that pep in their step,” his father said.
The first night home, July 21, 2011, Tyler was required to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. His mother wanted to go with him, but he told her he needed to take that step on his own. The next morning, less than 24 hours after being home from rehab, Christy found her son dead of a heroin overdose.
“There is no way I believe it,” she said. “If anyone could have seen him, they would never think that he would do that. I don’t know what transpired when he apparently went to a meeting. He looked so good and he sounded so good,” Christy said.
“He had told a friend that evening you have to be careful after being abstinent for a month because you have no tolerance. That is the scary part of the addiction. You drop your tolerance, then you use and it causes the overdose,” Wayne said.
Tyler’s mother and father dealt with the loss differently. His father took an active approach. He couldn’t sit still knowing that other kids were suffering from the same addiction.
Tyler’s mother wanted to help educate parents. With the help of community members and fellow students, Wayne and Christy started ‘Tyler’s Light.’
“To have him die in vain would have been a waste,” Wayne said. “He is literally living through this.”
The family’s website, TylersLight.com, states that the number one cause of accidental death in the United States is prescription drugs.
“Our mission and vision is to be the benchmark program for drug awareness education and it’s starting to fruition,” Wayne said.
Tyler’s parents and community members created multiple drug awareness videos that you can see on the site. The plan is to travel to schools in Ohio and educate students, faculty, and parents about addiction.
“Our son is changing people’s lives,” Christy said.
The family would like for other students and families to tell their stories about drug addiction.
Tyler’s Light could be “Tom’s Light,” or “Sarah’s Light,” or “Billy’s Light.” It doesn’t stop with Tyler.
Wayne and Christy encourage other kids or parents that are dealing with addiction to speak up and ask for help.