Joey's Story comes to the Monroeville

Stacey Hartley • Updated Jul 11, 2019 at 9:08 AM

MONROEVILLE — The heart-breaking story of Joey Silcox’s fentanyl overdose death was told at the Monroeville Athletic Complex (MAC) Monday.

Featuring a presentation by Lavin and Tom Schwan, Silcox’s mother and step-father, the event also included a hands-on activity and a meal cooked by their family restaurant, Bone Boys BBQ. Also present were volunteers from The Cottage sober-living house in Tiffin.

Lavin started to tell the story of Joey, who died at 25. By 13, Joey had begun smoking cigarettes. Within a few years, the teenager was exposed to and became dependent on addictive substances.

“Of course I got on him when I found out he was smoking cigarettes — he was 13,” she said.

Luckily, after admitting to his mother that he liked “the way the nicotine made (him) feel,” Joey seemed to have stopped.

Despite doing well as a student-athlete in high school, the social butterfly started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. After graduating from Old Fort High School in 2011, Joey was accepted into Bowling Green State University, where he majored in business.

His mother assumed that he started experimenting more with substances while living in a house with a group of guys. 

“While I wasn’t thrilled that he was partying (while using drugs,) the other students his age all were, so I backed off a little,” his mother said.

Giving Joey space to be a care-free college kid took on a tougher meaning when he called his mom, asking her to bail him out of jail after being arrested with drug paraphernalia and cocaine.

“I refused to bail him out, then I called his father (Paul Silcox) and he agreed that we wouldn’t be picking him up,” she said.

Thanks to a girlfriend, Joey was released anyway. Then after being prescribed a Percocet for having his wisdom teeth removed, Joey was hired and fired from jobs run by family and close friends, until settling at Bone Boy’s BBQ. Soon after however, Joey’s family members found he was often asking for money, and when he was captured taking his coworker’s tips by a security camera, Lavin said.

“I realized then that he had a serious problem,” the self-proclaimed faith-filled woman added. “I had been praying to God and at the same time was wondering ‘Where can I go to get Joey help?’ and as I’m  driving down Route 2 from Sandusky, I see a billboard (advertising) for addiction services.” 

After the family had a call on speakerphone with a representative from a rehab center in California, the Schwan’s were dropping Joey off at the airport within 48 hours.

It was during that time that Lavin found out from her daughter that cocaine was not her son’s “drug of choice” — heroin was. 

That realization hit her, and through phone calls, and later journal entries, the family did what they could to work through the damage that had been done by mistrust and Joey’s own battle with mental illness.

After his treatment, Joey flew in from California and was welcomed back home by his family. His dog Brooklyn, who was kept by his parents while he was away, was especially excited to see him.

Just a couple days later, Joey was found dead by his sister from an apparent drug overdose. A toxicology report later confirmed the overdose was caused by heroin and 33 milligrams of fentanyl. Physicians normally prescribe 1 to 2 milligrams of fentanyl for pain. 

Tom Schwan then spoke, sharing statistics and shining light on his relationship with his step-son.

Tom, who coached football at Monroeville for 12 years, tearfully admitted his own complicity in encouraging his son’s doctor to prescribe him pain pills so he could still play after spraining his knee. 

“That was the most selfish thing I have ever done,” Joey’s step-father said. “Just let your child heal ... no matter how long it takes. Don’t let them dole out their own (pain) medication. Just let them heal.”

The Schwans wrapped up their presentation by taking questions and comments, and thanking the members of area recovery and group-homes who came to the event, and were also willing to answer questions. 

“I thank those of you that are here tonight, that are currently in recovery now,” she addressed a group in the crowd.

“You have taken the biggest and most important step of your life, and I am so proud of you. Tom and I love each of you . . . So keep it up. Keep working the program. Keep surrounding yourself with people that will support you and love you.”

 before everyone was dismissed back into the MAC’s lobby/first floor-area, where booths with literature and other resources for substance abuse treatment, mental health and recovery services remained. 

Including the Schwan’s own Joey’s Story organization, on display was the Bellevue Recovery And Support Services (BRASS), in addition to booths for Firelands Recovery services, the Oriana House, and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAAS)

For more information about Tom and Lavin Schwan’s Joey’s Story, and BRASS organizations visit the respective Facebook pages and websites.

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