When Stephanie and Andrew Oswald II sat down to write their 23-year-old son’s obituary, they decided to do something powerful.
They decided to tell the truth.
“On Jan. 27, 2017, our beautiful son, Andrew, died from an overdose of heroin,” the first sentence, juxtaposed with a grainy black and white photo of their son Andrew Oswald III reads.
“We want to share his story in the hope that lives may be saved and his death will not be in vain.
“Addiction is a mental illness. No one plans to be an addict.”
While their son from Hamilton, New Jersey, was an old soul with “a big heart and a bright future”, addiction ravaged his life, leaving him with little to live for other than the high he got from drugs.
Andrew’s parents could see him unravelling, and tried everything in their power to save him.
“We are not sure when he started snorting heroin but as soon as we realised we sent him to a rehab in Pennsylvania,” they wrote. “He spent 90 days there and three months in a sober living house. He got a job and moved into an apartment with two of his sober friends. He seemed to be thriving until we got a call from a friend telling us he was injecting heroin.
“We did everything we could to get him to stop but heroin won the battle,” they continued.
“The day Andrew died, we died along with him… the pain of his death is heartbreaking and intolerable, which is why stories like Andrew’s should not be ignored.”
Now, the mother who exposed her son’s hidden life in the hope of destigmatising the disease that killed him has spoken to Fox News.
Andrew's loss, Stephanie says, was partially the result of keeping "the dirty little secret.”
“None of his friends knew he was doing drugs until he went to rehab,” she said.
While she and her husband were "hesitant" to write such a forthright obituary, and battled feelings they were "outing" their son, the importance of sharing the truth outweighed everything else.
“My husband said ‘We’re putting it in there. Tell them, tell them that they’re playing Russian Roulette’ if they take opioids or heroin.”
Andrew's death, despite happening thousands of kilometres today, closely mirrors that of New South Wales' Daniel Smith, who died in 2012.
"My son and only child Daniel died four years ago from an accidental heroin overdose," mother Judy Smith wrote for Mamamia last year.
"He died alone in my car early one Sunday morning across the road from the house of a well-known dealer in a quiet street in beautiful Blackheath. He was 28. That day the sunshine died and our lives changed forever."
LISTEN: Samuel Johnson discusses his life, including his battle with drug addiction. (Post continues...)
The Smith family also felt the weight of stigma pressing down on their shoulders.
"The unfairness of our son’s death is that after years of struggle, he had turned a corner and was changing," Judy wrote.
"He was getting better and wanted to leave this addiction behind. He was well educated, intelligent and handsome, he was a thoughtful and supportive son when he could be; and despite his addiction, he had a caring social network of friends who accepted him for the good person he was.
"... Daniel paid the ultimate price for the black moods and indiscretions of his youth."
Addiction doesn't discriminate; the more stories like these that are published, and the more dark truths that are shared, the more we can navigate the murky terrain of depression and addiction.
Because nothing good comes from keeping secrets. The families of Andrew Oswald and Daniel Smith know that all too well.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mamamia urges you to contact the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation here.