Colin Patrick McGuiggin Gear was born with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. Diagnosed at age 10, he led a life not unlike other students with hidden disabilities, trying hard to fly under the radar of differences, fending off bullying, and turning away from support and assistance to dodge the stigma attached to his disability. Colin was offered Oxycontin in high school in Stoneham, and by the time he was a senior, he had developed a full-blown addiction to heroin. He was honest about his need to escape his reality; he would tell his mother that he took drugs to ease the pain.
You’ll hear Colin’s story, along with that of another teenager, Jolene Murphy, on Channel 13, MVTV, on an episode of the new show “Addiction — Got a Minute?” The program airs on Thursdays on Channel 13 at 6 pm, but it’s most easily accessible on YouTube: bit.ly/addiction_MVT. There’s also a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and Twitter account. Colin’s mother, Kelly McGuiggin, and Jolene’s father, John Murphy, opened up about their experiences on the MVTV show.
Like Colin’s mother, John Murphy was immensely proud of his daughter, Jolene. She researched and wrote about kids with differences, was popular, and, he says, “She had a really kind heart.” John began to notice changes in Jolene, from smoking cigarettes to pushing back in school, to smoking weed, and eventually she showed signs of using harder drugs.
By sophomore year, Jolene had entered into an alternative education class in Burlington High School in Vermont. She did really well in a creative writing class, and found success in writing as an outlet. John held a lot of hope she would stay on the right track and graduate.
Unknown to John, Jolene’s addiction to drugs was fully formed.
On a snowy Sunday night after a Super Bowl party, Jolene and three girlfriends veered off the road and crashed their car. Alcohol and speed that ultimately played a part in the crash that caused Jolene’s death.
While elementary school offers much support to families, the early teen and emotionally formative years bring more intense social and emotional issues in daily life, and can lead to anxiety and depression and for so many, to self-medication.
Although Collin had many achievements through his local chapter of DECA (a young business and entrepreneurs’ organization), was on the track team, and played baseball, the school knew he was smoking pot, and it wasn’t long before he was suspended and excluded, punished instead of being helped by a psychological or therapeutic approach.
Colin graduated, walked the stage, received his diploma, and went on to university. Five days after returning from Christmas break, Colin was found dead in his dorm room. He had inhaled fentanyl.
Murphy and McGuiggan want to make sure people understand their children were loved, cared for, and embraced, but were taken too soon by a pandemic that is sweeping our country, and how absolutely important it is to remain in the love-first lane with our children, especially for those children who struggle.
The deaths of their children have been a catalyst for Murphy and McGuiggan to tell their children’s stories in an effort to help other families, communities, and organizations. They have the same message — to treat addiction like any other disease, and for our leaders and local organizations to help families battling addiction with a love-first approach, rather than a punitive drive and exclusion.
Hosts of “Addiction — Got a Minute?” Howie Marlin and Michael Blanchard are both sober activists and professionals living on the Island.
Marlin explained that the idea for the show began as an audio podcast about those working in the intervention field, with the idea that a one-minute overview might draw people into a more detailed discussion. It’s morphed into an hourlong, two-part talk magazine–style show, acting on the Think Globally, Act Locally idea. “Think Globally” is the Skype portion of the show, with a co-host from the West Coast, Patti Pike, an interventionist from Vancouver, B.C., who works all over the world. “Act Locally” is the in-person interview show with Blanchard and Marlin.
Volunteers at MVTV shoot the production on Fridays. Marlin writes, produces, hosts, and edits the show, and created the social media platform on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and the show’s website, addictiongotaminute.com, where all their videos can be found.
Blanchard spoke about his motivations and hopes for the show. He said they are embodied in this upcoming segment featuring parents who lost their kids to addiction. The hope is that the show will act as a format to share the pain of loss and the experience of living with addiction, while providing information surrounding the disease. Learning, education, the sharing of ideas, identifying service needs, and discussing issues specific to Martha’s Vineyard are the key focus.
“My hope for the show is to create a place for the community to come together to identify problems and identify solutions,” Blanchard said. “My measure of success is simple: If one person watches the show and is moved to help themselves, or others, fight the disease of addiction, then it was a success.”
Michael Blanchard is available at blanchardphotomv.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Howard Marlin may be reached at 508-687-0068 or by email at email@example.com, or visit decisionscounselingservices.com.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
–Kahlil Gibran, “On Children”