Jeff Morrow, 55
in recovery since November 13, 1991
lost a son and a brother to addiction
“I was so scared I saw myself in him.” The 55-year-old flooring installer speaks slowly and matter-of-factly about his middle child.
“I tried everything — church, support groups, school meetings — everything. But I could tell he was self-destructing.”
Early on the cold Monday morning of January 4, 2010, Jeff Morrow lost his 21-year-old son to a heroin overdose.
Kyle’s struggle actually began with an ADHD/ADD diagnosis at age 11. The alternative school he was sent to was meant to help him, but it actually placed him around other struggling youths. And that’s when the huffing and smoking began.
Kyle was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and his parents opted for in-patient treatment. Kyle’s mental illness was now full blown. He was in and out of treatment centers, and by 18 he rejected his medications, choosing instead to self-medicate with street drugs.
You see, Jeff knows the struggle of addiction all too well. The youngest of nine, by 12 he was smoking pot and drinking. This escalated to tripping on LSD in his teens and shooting coke a decade later.
Then one Wednesday night in his 30’s, Jeff hit rock-bottom, understanding finally that he had a problem and needed to turn his life around.
“I clocked a co-worker in a bar-room fight. I ended up blacking out, and still have no idea how I got home that night,” he says. “My kids were two, three, and five at the time. I knew that life needed to be behind me.”
It was November 13, 1991 and Jeff Morrow hasn’t had a drink or a drug since. But the struggle to overcome addiction was one his son was never able to conquer.
“Kyle was surrounded by a lot of people who really tried and cared,” he says. “But there were some support pieces missing, things that really could have helped Kyle find the sobriety I know he wanted.”
A recovery high school, suggests Jeff, might well have meant a different outcome for his son. Such schools allow youth striving to overcome addiction to attend an all-sober learning environment, surrounded by like-minded peers and staff who are specially-trained to support youth in their recovery journey and their educations.
East Central Illinois as yet does not have such a school, but communities that do see remarkable recovery results, including some with graduation rates around 96 percent. It’s a concept that Prairie Center supports discussing for our region.
“For me as an adult, Prairie Center’s programs meant a bridge to getting help and finding another path,” he says. “I wish my son had access to the opportunities he needed to find his sobriety, too.”
Today, Kyle would be 26. Like any father who has lost a son, Jeff thinks about him often, and also ponders how his own past might have played a role in Kyle’s addiction struggle.
And so Jeff now gives back, helping those struggling with addiction by reaching out and supporting residential clients and others trying to find and keep their sobriety. He wants to make a difference — to change things.
“If I can help save another parent’s son or daughter, I can help keep Kyle’s memory alive and keep my peace of mind.”