One of the top educators in Baldwin County wants to stop other families from going through the horrors of opioid addiction, as her family did. Her 33-year-old son died three years ago of an overdose. Hope Zeanah, the Assistant Superintendent of Baldwin County schools, is sharing her story for the first time, and she says perhaps this is the most important lesson she has ever taught.
Zeanah has so many happy memories of her son, Rex Miller Raley. He was a smart child, an athlete, rarely in trouble. He got a basketball scholarship to Huntington college. That’s where trouble found him in the form of a doctor’s prescription.
“Instead of muscle relaxers, immediately they went to pain medication,” Zeanah recounted.
Rex hurt his back playing basketball in college, but the heavy-hitter opioid, Oxycontin, seemed to help him. He took it and bounced back from the injury. Slowly, though, he needed more and more of the drug and became addicted. He eventually dropped out of college and came home.
“That addictive personality came out and took a hold of him at that level, and he became addicted to the Oxycontin,” Zeanah said.
Zeanah says Rex battled addiction for the next fifteen years of his life. He eventually graduated from college and got good jobs, but addiction always crept in. She said he would be clean for months at a time, but would always return to needing the Oxycontin.
At the age of 33, Rex experienced anxiety regarding a job interview. He had interviewed for a job at Wind Creek Casino. After the interview, the anxiety did not subside and his mother said he went searching for Oxycontin. Unfortunately, he found something even more dangerous: heroin.
“He couldn’t find Oxycontin anywhere, and he ended up buying heroin off the street. Later on the autopsy, it showed it was laced with toxins. His heart exploded.”
She learned three days after Rex’s death that he got the job he was so worried about.
Zeanah wants people to be aware that opioid addiction can happen in any family. She never thought it would happen in hers. She also wants to warn people about opioid prescriptions. She recommends people make sure they ask the right questions to their doctor and try to only stay on pain medication for a short amount of time if possible.
“You really have to be your own keeper when it comes to medication and know what you are taking. Research it. ‘Is there something else you can take other than pain medication?’ would be my advice right now.”
News 5’s interview with Zeanah was one of the first times she has spoken publicly about her son’s addiction. She wants to spare other families the agony she has experienced.
“Drug addiction crosses all lines, different incomes, and races. It does not discriminate.”