When Parents Become Recovery Advocates
It may be hard to believe, but nearly 10 years have passed since up-and-coming actor Heath Ledger lost his battle with addiction. Right on the brink of superstardom, the 28-year-old Dark Knight star passed away in his hotel room after taking a lethal mixture of pills. Since then, Heath’s father, Kim Ledger, has become a vocal recovery advocate, using his son’s tragic overdose as an example of the need for treatment.
Kim made more headlines this week after speaking out about the growing opioid epidemic. Though based in Australia, he has strong opinions about its impact on young people (and for the record, painkiller abuse is rising quickly down under too). Ledger emphasized on local TV how millions are unknowingly putting their lives in jeopardy, much like his young son did.
“Heath’s passing really just highlights what is happening everywhere,” Kim explained to Australian reporters. “Whether it’s by accident and in most cases, it is by accident of course.”
One of Ledger’s major platforms is tighter restrictions on prescribing doctors. He believes that monitoring systems should be put in place, so patients aren’t given dangerous drugs that they are ill equipped to handle. Because, as we all know, opioid overdoses can happen very easily.
“By having a real-time monitoring system implemented, it will give doctors an opportunity to prepare themselves for when that patient comes in,” Kim continued to say. “And maybe that can also give them an opportunity to offer up some kind of counseling and perhaps discover with that client or that patient may be another pathway to try to restore their life to some normality.”
Though its hard to admit, most parents like Kim don’t become recovery advocates by choice. The loss of a child and firsthand accounts of addiction are what lead them down this road and we certainly admire all family members who answer the call.
We recently profiled an Ohio mom who channeled the pain of her daughter’s fatal overdose into a new life mission. Rather than feel shame and try to hide away from the issue, Tonda DaRe started her own recovery foundation and is traveling the country to bring attention to opioid abuse.
Kim is doing much of the same and, to his credit, is using the high-profile Ledger name to help further the cause. He had previously confided to reporters about the guilt his family felt for not urging Heath into treatment. Kim admitted that the signs were present in his son and Heath’s sister Kate had tried to intervene.
“The last conversation Kate had with him was this discussion about his medications and she warned him, ‘You can’t mix drugs that you don’t know anything about,’ ” Kim added. “He said ‘Katie, Katie, I’ll be fine.’ Well, that’s a cavalier boy’s answer. It just put his whole system to sleep I guess.”
We applaud the entire extended Ledger family for using their pain to help others and we sincerely hope that thus helps propel the message to a new global audience.