New Castle News

September 9, 2013

‘Brandon’s Story’: Parents share heart-breaking tale of son’s addiction

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — From the moment a child enters this world, a parent has dreams for a bright future.

However, mothers and fathers can only do so much to make that possible.

Dan and Terri Bailey of Shenango Township had high hopes for both their sons. They still do. Even when they reached the darkest times of their lives with their youngest son, Brandon, they never lost faith that he would somehow get on the right path again.

The Baileys have conveyed that message for several years in a video presentation called “Brandon’s Story.” It chronicles what can happen when a young person turns to drugs and tells the audience that Brandon is an addict.

And it points out that these trials and tribulations can happen anywhere and to any family.



THE WRONG CHOICES

On Aug. 27, Brandon turned 29. He spent his birthday in jail — a place he has become familiar with during the last 10 years.

The 2002 Shenango High graduate had been a model student academically with mostly A’s on his report card. He was nominated for “Who’s Who of America” and won National Merit awards in math and English.

Brandon passed an apprenticeship test for carpentry about the same time he graduated. But when fall came, he instead enrolled at Butler County Community College to major in parks and recreation. During his second semester, Dan and Terri noticed changes in their son’s behavior.

“He would miss classes and then, when he lost a job, it smacked in our faces that he needed money,” Dan said.

First, Dan and Terri’s cash began to disappear. After that, three rings including Dan’s wedding band were gone one day.

They confronted Brandon only to be met with denial.

So Dan went to a store that buys jewelry and learned that his son had taken the wedding ring to the shop.

At that point, drug use entered the Baileys’ minds, but they weren’t ready to face that possibility.

Eventually, Brandon admitted he had a problem. From there, the situation continued to accelerate.



TEARS AND HEARTACHE

Dan and Terri later discovered their son was taking Oxycontin, which Dan learned is highly addictive and gives the user a feeling of euphoria and of being invincible.

“Someone says ‘try this’ and bang, next thing, they’re hooked,” he said. “On the street, a 1 milligram tablet of Oxycontin is $10, 2 milligrams is $20 and at the height of his addiction, Brandon admitted to taking eight, 80 milligrams of Oxycontin a day. That’s $640.”

Shortly after the ring incident, Brandon broke into Terri’s father’s house, taking cash and old coins. Although he again denied what had happened, Terri’s father pressed charges.

“In ‘Brandon’s Story’, I ask people why they would steal from loved ones, and the kids respond that they know where things are and relatives won’t turn them in,” Dan explained. “The answer from Brandon stunned me. He said, ‘I was pretty sure grandpa wouldn’t shoot me.’ That floored me.”

Just one year past high school graduation, Brandon pleaded guilty at his preliminary hearing. He paid restitution to his grandfather and an agreement was worked out between the judge, prosecution and Lawrence County Drug and Alcohol to send him to a one-year program called Teen Challenge — a Christian-based facility with professional counselors but no medical treatment.

The Baileys found an opening in Buffalo, N.Y., and took their son there two weeks before Christmas. They were unaware that Brandon was still using.

“We dropped him off, and sat out in the car and cried,” Dan said. “We were heartbroken but optimistic.”

The next morning, Dan went back to his job as a training supervisor at First Energy and answered a call from Terri, who was sobbing.

Brandon was going through withdrawal, and had climbed out a three-story window and shimmied along a downspout. He was cold, hungry and wandering the streets of Buffalo.

Terri said that was probably the darkest moment in the entire ordeal of the past 10 years.

Ultimately, someone bought food for her son, and he hitchhiked and got a ride with a truck driver back to Pennsylvania. He ended up in Ellwood City with a friend, knowing he had violated his probation and said, “I’m going to jail.”

DOWNWARD SPIRAL

One day later, Terri, Dan and Brandon met with a counselor at Drug and Alcohol Services. Because he needed immediate treatment, Brandon was sent to Turning Point in Franklin for six weeks. For the second segment, he was to spend six months at a halfway house in Aliquippa while working and continuing rehabilitation.

Two weeks before he was to be discharged, Brandon tested positively for marijuana and was thrown out of the program.

Soon after, he was arrested in New Castle for possession of 17 stamp packs of heroin and placed in the Lawrence County jail.

“We made the mistake of bailing him out on $25,000 bond, and that is enabling,” Dan said. “Altogether, we have bailed Brandon out of jail three times — once so he could be present for the birth of his daughter.”

The Baileys’ lawyer and bail fees add up to $17,000.

The couple also learned that an addict becomes successful at lying and manipulation.

“They learn how to play on your heartstrings,” Dan pointed out.

In 2005, Brandon served about a year at a state prison in Somerset for burglary, receiving stolen property, and breaking and entering.

“Since then, he would serve the sentence, do well for two or three months and the cycle would start again,” Dan explained. “He started using and would need money, so breaking and entering would start up again.”

Last July, he was released from the State Correctional Institute in Mercer for a parole violation.

Five months later, Brandon told his parents he was sick of the way his life was going and of hurting them, and confessed to state police to a number of burglary charges.

He was sentenced to three to seven years at the Mercer facility and remains housed there.

TELLING THE STORY

Audiences for the “Brandon’s Story” presentations are told that parents go from being unaware to denial, and that leads to enabling.

Terri and Dan got the idea for “Brandon’s Story” after Dan became involved with pastoral counseling at St. Joseph the Worker Church, where both are members. Through it all, they believe they were brought closer to God.

A priest told Dan he needed to find an outlet.

“One day I woke up and just knew I had to do something and things fell into place.”

He began to chronicle the story with a PowerPoint presentation and video set to the song, “Broken.” The first presentation was at his church and since then, he has presented “Brandon’s Story” to other area Catholic churches, agencies and District Attorney Josh Lamancusa.

The presentations frequently leave some audience members in tears, and it’s still difficult for Terry not to cry.

“Our goal is to make it personal and share our experiences as parents and the mistakes we made,” Dan explained. “We need to say how slippery the slope is.”

Meanwhile, both Dan and Terri want to continue reaching out by sharing “Brandon’s Story” with other groups.

“The biggest message is — you can’t deal with it on your own,” Dan said. “You need to get professional help as soon as you can.”

Terri believes that prayer should never stop.

“I tell Brandon there’s a plan for everyone and he will one day see what that plan is,” she said. “Without faith, you can be ripped apart and it can tear a family down.”

Through the turmoil, they never stopped loving their son.

Terri and Dan are hopeful that following this incarceration Brandon can lead a productive life.

“He has so many gifts,” Terri noted. “The detour he took is devastating and sad but he can turn his life around.”

(Email: lhudson@ncnewsonline.com.)