Joey’s struggle

Parents detail son’s drug addiction

PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY Lavin Schwan tells the story of her son, Joey Silcox, who died of a drug overdose last year, during a presentation at Bellevue High School Monday.

BELLEVUE — One year later, Bellevue residents gathered to hear the story of Joey Silcox Monday night at Bellevue High School.

Joey’s mother, Lavin Schwan, and stepfather, Tom Schwan, told the story of their son’s battle with drug addiction during a community event.

Silcox died Nov. 12, 2016, of a drug overdose after returning from a California rehabilitation facility.

 Lavin said Silcox’s situation had a strong correlation to her own story. Lavin said her parents were alcoholics and her three younger brothers all dealt with addictions. 

For Silcox, it started at age 13, when his mother found him smoking cigarettes. At the time, Silcox was a student at Old Fort Local Schools and, according to Lavin, he was a great student involved in athletics, such as basketball, golf and track.

“I didn’t understand why he wanted to smoke cigarettes,” she said.

According to Lavin, when asked, Silcox said he “enjoyed what the nicotine did.”

After high school, he attended Bowling Green State University. Six months after being away from home, Lavin said she received a call from Silcox saying he had been arrested due to drug paraphernalia being found in his car.

She said she did not bail him out.

“I felt it was a good lesson for him to learn,” she said.

After being released, Lavin said Silcox had to submit to a drug test and the test came back positive for Adderall.

“I soon realized there was a pattern developing,” she said. “Obviously I assumed he would outgrow it. He was partying in college and so were his buddies.”

Silcox’s drug use escalated after he had to have his wisdom teeth taken out and the doctor prescribed him a 30-day prescription of Percocet.

Silcox soon left BGSU and started working for a family friend’s roofing company and his uncle’s home improvement business in Michigan.

“I wanted to see him continue his education, but ultimately I wanted him to be happy,” Lavin said. “He was doing really well and engaged in family activities.”

Lavin said she soon got a call from her brother that Silcox was caught snorting a substance in a work truck. Her brother was firing Silcox.

“From my brother’s point of view, I understood his side, but I was devastated,” she said.

Lavin’s brother later gave Silcox a second chance and Silcox told his family it never would happen again.

Silcox moved back home and in 2016 started working in his family’s restaurant. His mother said Silcox started showing up to work late and constantly was asking people for money.

The last straw for him was when she found out Silcox had been going through the tip drawer looking for money.

“I soon knew this was bigger than we had thought,” she said. “Honestly, I was sick to my stomach to watch the video. I did not sleep well that night.”

Lavin said she knew Silcox needed rehab and, once he agreed to enter a program in California, Lavin said she had a family meeting and gave Silcox a journal.

“In the journal, I wrote him telling him how much I loved him and always will,” she said. “I told him I was his No. 1 fan and always will be and I knew he could do this.”

During rehab, Lavin said she could tell Silcox was doing well at times and at times would fight them, wanting to come home. In one phone call to his sister, Silcox admitted he had been using heroine.

When Lavin found out, she told Silcox, “You have to work this program hard. If you don’t, you could die.”

“I know I said this to him, but I never thought I would be living it,” she said.

After 35 days Joey returned home Nov. 9, 2016. His sister found him three days later in his apartment with his dog, Brooklyn.

“I remember he looked really good when he came home,” Lavin said.

She said the toxicology report indicated Silcox had heroine and 33 grams of fentanyl in his system.

Lavin remembers when Silcox got Brooklyn when the pup was 8 weeks old.

“He absolutely loved that dog,” she said.

Lavin said Silcox is buried next to his grandparents.

“We take regular trips to the cemetery,” she said.

After Silcox’s death, Lavin said she went through the journal she gave him and found names of some of the people he was in rehab with and started talking with them.

She asked one man what he would say to the group of people she would be talking to.

Lavin said he gave her two ideas: Never start experimenting with drugs and the moment you believe you can handle it, you already have lost.

She said there were an estimated 3,050 deaths in Ohio due to overdose in 2015 and 4,050 in 2016.

“We are in the middle of an ugly epidemic,” she said. “We have to get a handle on this. We have to stop judging and stigmatizing.”