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From Grief to Growth

How one mom took her greatest pain and turned it into her life message

BY KARYN BRODSKY

When it comes to the death of a loved one, the loss of a child is possibly the most devastating. If one of the hardest parts of losing a child is living every day afterwards, how does a parent go on with life?

For Richardson couple, Angie and David Rogers, the struggle is real. Yet somehow, they managed to find the strength to move forward after the drug overdose death of their 24-year-old son Brandon. Angie, along with David and Brandon’s twin sister, Blair McCurdy, tirelessly and passionately promotes awareness of substance abuse and advocates for young people pursuing a sober lifestyle.

Angie, a veterinarian, says she and David, a pharmacist, were blessed to have a wonderful son, affectionately called “Bubba,” who loved his family, was a loyal friend, had a warm spot for animals and loved sports, especially golf and basketball. Angie says her son was a “church kid” who was on the straight and narrow during his childhood. Unfortunately, his youthful indiscretion and rebellion led to drug addiction. A series of events that began with an incident in high school with alcohol, escalated to painkillers, prescription and over-the-counter drugs in college and then heroin, propelled Brandon and his family on the roller coaster of drug abuse and rehabilitation.

After one instance when his parents found him drinking and wanted to teach him about the perils of alcohol, Brandon was sent to a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) impact meeting to listen to abuse stories, an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and the local police department. Sadly, it was not enough to keep Brandon’s abuse from spinning out of control.

It wasn’t until Brandon was arrested at Plano East High School his junior year for buying Adderall at school, that Angie realized there was a big problem. He was sent to rehab during the summer between junior and senior year of high school and experienced some recovery. Angie says she fought to keep him at Plano East for his senior year but now regrets not knowing about Serenity High School (SHS), part of the McKinney Independent School District. Serenity, which serves all of Texas, is one of America’s longest tenured recovery high schools that is open to students who have completed a drug or alcohol rehab program. Though it was too late for Brandon, Angie became a member of the SHS board, so she could make others aware of what the school has to offer.

At age 18 after his senior year of high school, Brandon had his tonsils out, which is a typically routine procedure for a young child but can be particularly difficult for an adult. He was prescribed hydrocodone, semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine for six weeks, which was the beginning of drug dependence.

Brandon attended Blinn College in Bryan, TX with the hopes of transferring into Texas A&M, his dream school. Due to the easy access to drugs and alcohol, a college campus is not the best environment for someone battling addiction, and neither Blinn College nor Texas A&M had a collegiate recovery program at the time. Brandon moved from rehab centers, to the Salvation Army to the streets then back to school before joining the 24 Hour Club in Dallas, a sober living community. Angie helped start a once-a-week prayer group next door to the residence to be close to him.

Life changed in 2014 when Blair, a veterinarian and A&M alum like her mom, got engaged and Brandon learned his girlfriend was pregnant. Though he wanted to be a part of his child’s life and agonized over the decision to put the child up for adoption, Brandon ultimately helped select the adoptive parents for his son, Brennan.

In the fall of 2015, Brandon left his sober living community after the death of a friend by overdose. He had been sober for 4 ½ months, but her funeral was the day he started using drugs again. On November 3, 2015, at the age of 24, Brandon was found dead at the apartment of an acquaintance, the victim of a heroin overdose.

Though grief stricken, Angie wasted no time in speaking out as an advocate. A dear friend established a scholarship at Texas A&M in Brandon’s memory. Funded by the Collin County Aggie Mom’s Club, the Brandon Rogers Memorial Scholarship Fund was to award a scholarship to a student in a collegiate recovery program, however at the time, none existed at A&M. An alum of the university, Angie spoke to the president, and the program was started by 2016. “I’m so proud of this community at A&M,” notes Angie. “They are all smart people – chemical engineers, bio-engineers – and yet they’re in recovery.” She now serves on the committee looking to expand recovery services at A&M.

Angie’s advocacy has spread to other avenues, as well. She is on the Friends of 24 Board at the 24 Hour Club, and she talks to parents and students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She notes that young men outnumber young women in rehab by nine to one, due to the slower development of young men’s frontal cortex, which for some unknown reason, makes them more impulsive and attracted to drugs. Angie regularly communicates with the recovery student community at Texas A&M and still stays in touch with Brandon’s friends at the 24 Hour Club and the Salvation Army. “The people in recovery are my heroes because of what they deal with every day,” Angie says.

Little Brennan and his family are also now a part of the Rogers’ life. They reconnected after Brandon’s funeral and visit regularly.

Angie reminds others that it’s not the stereotypical person who you think is the user; it’s the kid next door. She adds that even involved parents can miss the signs of abuse and addiction. “I was a helicopter parent, and it still happened. If it happened to me, it could happen to you,” she says. “I don’t want any of this pain to be wasted or in vain. If I can just reach one parent, I’ve been successful.”

For her dedication to honor Brandon’s memory in giving back to the community and her determination in fighting for those affected by substance abuse, for telling her son’s story, offering guidance and providing others with resources, we present Angie Rogers with our Very Inspiring Parent award.

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