VIC 22 | Addiction

Today KL Wells is back with Jim Horton, the founder of the Zachary Horton Foundation, this time with Jim as a featured guest on the Voices InCourage Podcast.

Jim is the father of Zach, who died of an accidental opioid overdose. In today’s conversation, KL and Jim focus on the grieving process of losing a child.

Jim shares how they lost Zach in January of 2020 when Zach finally met his bottom; in his grief, he wasn’t sure if he could ever feel joy again. However, Jim kept taking the steps of healing, and his new path slowly began to reveal itself.

He shares his daily efforts to create new memories and experiences that begin to shape his future.

If you’re a parent of an addict and need help with the grieving process of addiction, you don’t want to miss this episode!

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

Jim Horton On The Loss Of A Child To Addiction

I am thrilled to have join me Jim Horton, who has come through a very dear friend of both of ours. She connected us a while back and we had a delightful conversation. I was on his podcast, Zach’s Life, and he has established a foundation. I want him to speak to that, but we’ve both been on this journey of children dealing with addiction. That is where our paths have crossed, and yet we have still very different experiences. He is delightful, engaging, still seeking, and still learning. He speaks my language. I’m very thrilled to bring Jim to our show.

Thank you. It’s so nice to be here. I heard so many positive comments about our exchange that we had from different friends I had that listened to our podcast. I’m excited to talk to you every time. As we mentioned earlier, I’m excited, yet I’m always a little scared. The last time we talked, you introduced me to a couple of books that I immediately purchased and have started reading. Again, I like being challenged, so you’re a good friend to have in that regard.

If you would share a little bit about your background, your story, and how it has unfolded for you, some milestone moments, and then how the foundation got born and what its purpose is.

My last job before I became a stay-at-home dad, I was in the mortgage industry. I was in the mortgage industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, threw a boom, and then a bust. Around 2006, everything started imploding before our great recession of ’08. I managed a wholesale mortgage bank. I had been in that world. It was around 2000 that my son was born.

I live in the Central Valley in Fresno, but I was up working in the Bay Area. I was managing a bank up in San Mateo up in the Bay Area. I came home, that job ended, and I started another wholesale venture here in Fresno. My wife and I had a wonderful baby boy. When the market started to fall apart, I was ready for a change. I talked to my wife who works in the hospital industry. We both made a decision that I loved the fact of being a stay-at-home dad. She loved her career and what she was doing. My career was stalling, so I made that jump.

That’s interesting in itself. Especially almost twenty years ago, as a male figure, you see how the world pictures you by how much you make. If you’re not making a lot, then it’s about how many hours you put in. There always has to be some success boundary that you gauge by. Most of the time, incorrectly, I gauge that by what my peers were doing, as opposed to what I was doing. It was like, “Am I doing as well as so-and-so?” Certainly, that’s how my manager gauged me according to the rest of my peers in my company.

Becoming a stay-at-home dad was a whole new concept in itself. However, at that point, my son was six, starting first grade. All of a sudden, I became the Cub Scout leader. Not one like they had before because I was used to working 70 to 80 hours a week. Me putting in 40 hours a week as a Cub master was nothing. It was the most beautiful time in the world with my son getting to experience all the things, scouting with him, and planning vacations.

Anyway, that was a wonderful time. From the time Zach was 6 until he was probably 13 or 14, those years, we did scouting. We did martial arts together for 2 or 3 years, which I had done earlier. I got to do a bunch of stuff that I wanted to do and that he wanted to do, too. We camped. We sailed. I coached soccer. I coached baseball. Everything that was his life got to be my life as well.

It was wonderful, then he became a teenager. We’re just watching one of those vampire movies, and you really like the character. It’s like, “Don’t get bit.” We still had great conversations, but that was certainly some challenging years. Again, it felt like a normal process for us. My son, when he was younger, had severe ADD. Through the encouragement of the school and his doctors, we put him on a regimen.

He ended up being on Adderall. It ended up being the one that worked the best for him on the medication. It did allow him to focus in class and go from being an extremely underperforming student to someone who performed and accomplished everything. It worked like a miracle for him. However, it did heighten some other issues.

Oftentimes with ADD, there are co-occurring mental health issues, and my son’s happened to be depression that developed. It didn’t show up in a big way when he was younger, but in adolescence, it showed up. That challenge for him along with his ADD, going to a new school, feeling out of place, and then all the normal adolescent things. He began experimenting with drugs, probably around 15 or 16. Every time that my wife and I would find out he was smoking weed, he was grounded for the summer. He and I spent all summer together, which was a great summer.

He’s growing so dramatically, and then all of a sudden, there are no other problems. It’s like we dodged that bullet, but then in just a few months, something else would happen. Again, we’d go through that same process. That became the cycle. Through high school, he got a job, working every weekend, being promoted at his job at a local grocery store, and excelling there.

One year he figured out that, “I need to have good grades for my junior year if I want to get into a good school. I’m going to get straight A’s.” We go, “How are you going to do that?” It was no problem. Whatever he put his mind to, he was very bright. His last year, the summer before his senior year, his drug experimentation became an addiction that we weren’t aware of. He began using opioids very heavily.

From there, we finally got him into treatment three months before graduation. Again, he did the medical detox. “Mom, Dad, I’m never going to do this again.” I’m so happy we’re here and we’re convinced. He went into sober living, but that wasn’t it. He’s eighteen years old, just young, and not understanding. Even for us, what’s amazing is that we had probably two years of his use history, now that I look back on it.

There were all these things happening. His mother and I were in such denial that that was happening to our son. We had both grown up and went through teen years and college years. I had partied, smoked a lot of weed, and did other things. For a lot of my friends, especially back during the ’70s and ’80s, that was normal behavior.

It’s not that big of a deal, but it was a big enough deal that we grounded him. He had a psychologist or psychiatrist. We did everything by the book. To think and understand what addiction meant, we didn’t even have a framework. The irony is, many years ago, I worked in an adolescent treatment center. I even had a background in mental health, but I had been a couple of decades separated from that from when I left. That’s not who I saw in my son.

Nine months into history, he was doing so well. He had a few slips along the way, but he’d go 45 days to 2 months or 3 months without a relapse, and then a little slip. Again, from using every day for 2 or 3 years, all of that should have been something that I should have cheered and rejoiced over. Unfortunately, because I didn’t know, I didn’t understand, and the denial was still so great even in his recovery, even when he was working the hardest to have success and he was feeling some of that success.

I was part of a TOUGHLOVE Group that espoused that only 100% sobriety is a success, and anything short of that, you need to set stronger boundaries, stronger rules, and more punishment until they change and hit bottom. Unfortunately, for an opioid addict, bottom means death, and my son found his bottom. He had an accidental overdose on January 7th, 2020. It was a tragic end to what was such a beautiful life. The stories that I could tell and go into about the kind of person that Zach was, the way he treated other people, and the way he thought about other people. He was loved and adored.

I can only imagine knowing you as briefly as I have. You are a walking light on Earth. I’m imagining he had that same heart as a lot of addicts do. Most of the people that I know that are in recovery, including my son, have extraordinary hearts and they feel at such an incredible level and depth. This world is harsh. We all have our different journeys. I’ve talked to a parent that has been years out. You’re just three years out. That was two months before the lockdown started happening with COVID. I’m wondering, honestly, how did you navigate this with the loss of Zach, and then going into COVID?

Most people in recovery have extraordinary hearts, and they feel at such an incredible level and depth, but this world is harsh for them. Share on X

One of the books that I’m reading now is a story of grieving parents that have lost a child. There are several books like this, but this one is a compilation of different parents that have lost their children to all different sorts of reasons. Every one of them in this book, as they look back on it, they’ve all learned something. I can say that I’ve learned through the process.

All of these parents in this book, this has a very strong religious bend to them, and all of these people are people of faith. That seems to have worked very strongly in their favor. I don’t think any of them would say that the death of their child was a blessing, but they almost feel blessed through this process. I don’t have that luxury. I remember talking to several pastors after it happened. I remember saying, “Nothing would make me happier than to be able to believe that this is part of a bigger plan. That I’m going to see Zach again.”

I’ve fantasized about that. That’s not where I am now. Even saying that, I can still say that I’ve learned a lot. There were none of the things that I would’ve assumed that I would’ve gained through it. The grieving process for a parent losing a child is the most horrendous and extraordinary thing. I’ve always been, if not the most, in the top 5% of the happiest people in every room that I’ve ever been a part of. That’s the way I’ve embraced life.

For 1.5 to 2 years, I never dreamed that I would ever experience a spot of joy or happiness again. It’s still hard for me to fathom that that could be possible on a large end, but I’m not as miserable as I was. I remember telling a class that I spoke at two years into it. People will say to me some days, “Jim, how are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m doing okay.” They’ll say, “Just okay?” I remember saying one day, “This is a day I didn’t feel like I wanted to put a gun in my mouth. This is a good day.”

As harsh as that sounds, I know enough about mental health that if I got to that point, I went down that road, and I thought about that over and over, I would seek out some help. The first couple of years, it was a coin flip as to how I felt. Even now, I still feel the thought. Here’s one of the blessings. The political crisis, gas prices, and the imminent flooding that’s going to happen because of the next rainstorm that’s coming, nothing matters.

I used to fear death happening. I don’t welcome it, but now not only am I not afraid if it happened. There would be a lot of calm that would come because of that. I know that I wouldn’t have to live. My wife encouraged me to go talk to our psychiatrist and get on some medication. I took some antidepressants for a year and that allowed me to function.

That first year, I couldn’t drive down any road in Fresno without having to pull over and sob hysterically. I don’t know how people are able to lose a child. Our social constructs in companies as you get three days of bereavement, it’s insane. I still feel so broken, but I was worthless to anybody for anything for 1 full year or 2, I couldn’t remember. It’s bizarre.

I would get up from my couch, “I’m thirsty. I’m going to go get a glass of water.” I would walk twenty steps into my kitchen, stand around, and go, “What am I doing here?” I’d go turn around, sit back down, and go, “I’m thirsty. I’m going to go get a glass of water.” I would repeat that 2 or 3 times. That’s the way my mind was shattered.

My wife and I started going to a grief group of other parents that had lost children. It was a twelve-week process. We went through that, being able to talk about that with other parents that were anywhere from recent to three years in their journey. We did that for 12 weeks and we did another 12 weeks, and then they invited us to be co-facilitators in the group. We’ve been doing this every twelve weeks since then, and that’ll most likely be part of our continued healing. That is very therapeutic for us, and then also to help other people along their journey.

There are a couple of things that you’ve said in the midst of this that ring extraordinarily, profoundly for me. One is giving yourself and having the courage to feel the shatter. I wrote a book called 5 Acts of Courage. The first act is to feel because we live in a culture that is distracting us all the time and encouraging us not to. It takes great courage to lean into the shattering of our hearts.

VIC 22 | Addiction
Addiction: The Five Acts of Courage.

I don’t think of myself as courageous that way, but I can see that. and I can say that in the last few years, I’ve met other people in our situation that haven’t allowed themselves to feel or their journey is taking them in a different path. I don’t know why I respond the way I respond. My wife and I respond a little differently to this process. It’s our life now.

After a few years, I’m beginning to see that there may be an opportunity for me to develop something outside without this pain being the core of everything that I spring from every day. I see that there’s a chance. I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but I can see that that’s an opportunity. I used to even go back. I remember thinking, I’ve said this in my group so many times.

I was 40. Before Zach was born, I had this whole life. I had a career. My wife and I had been married for 7 or 8 years. We had this whole life before Zach was born, and then Zach was born. For the next twenty years, those of us that have children know that all of a sudden, life starts over. I can barely recall anything I did in junior high school, high school, or even college.

If I have a friend that tells me, “Remember when this happened?” I go, “I thought I forgot about it. Now I remember,” but it doesn’t have any bearing on how I feel. I am not sad nor happy about anything that happened when I was 5, 15, 25, 30, or 35 years old. Now that I’ve lost Zach and I got another 20 years to go from 60 to 80, I don’t want the next 20 years to only be framed by the sadness of his loss. Yet I can see how that could happen. How do I change it?

Somehow my mind shifted and I got rid of everything that I had done before Zach. We were married. I was still going on with my career and my life, raising Zach, and the fun that we were having. That’s the biggest challenge maybe. For parents that are grieving, how do we create new memories and experiences that begin to shape and structure our future without having other children? If I had grandchildren or children, then I think to myself, I’d still be sad but I’d have something to pour myself into.

To some extent, by starting the grieving twelve-week programs, and then continuing to do that, it’s almost as if you just kept taking one step forward, and the path began to reveal itself to you. What I would say for our audience is that one of the high-determining factors of how we survive and thrive in the midst of any of this part of the disease, whether we lose a child or we still have a child that’s dealing with a disease, or a spouse, is to have a community that can hold us in the midst of it. That is one of the major determining factors of our ability to navigate in a healthy way. Those steps forward begin to reveal a path. What I hear in your story is that you just continue to take these steps forward and it sounds like the path is going to reveal itself to you.

I had never thought of it like that. What you said about having a community that can help support, whether it’s one that I’m creating or one that I find that’s in place. The group that I’m a part of, that’s been a big part of that. What’s amazing is the people that I imagine would’ve been my closest supporters are people that have been almost entirely absent. It’s been new people.

My wife and I started the foundation. The mission of our foundation is to end the stigma of addiction. We’ve done that through building awareness, speaking, and telling our story wherever we can. I deeply encourage people to change the conversation around substance use disorder. To think of it as a disease and that it is, to think of it, act like it as other diseases that people have. To support people like myself that are touched by it, so families that are touched by it. It is a family disease.

There’s no family out there that’s ever had someone struggle with addiction in their family that hasn’t been touched by it. I would also go as far as to say that there are no companies or workplaces that have ever had an employee that hadn’t been touched by it. If the statistics are correct that 1 in 10 people suffer from substance use disorder, that’s the latest stats that I heard, and then because of 1 in 10 of us that suffer from it, then that touches even 1 in 3 of us. You have one person in the family, and it still touches everybody. It has this growing impact.

The statistics are 1 in 3 families. In every walk of life across America and around the world, 1 in 3 families is dealing with this substance abuse disorder in some form or fashion.

We don’t talk about it.

I’m totally with you. It’s one of the things that you and I completely are aligned on. The silence will kill us. It allows us to make stuff up about what this disease is, who we are, and all the judgment that goes with it. That is completely unserving and wrong.

We still talk about the way we did many years ago. It’s still portrayed that way in much of the media and it’s something that we ignore. I was speaking last night to a group of high school parents. The principal and one of the learning directors were there. It was a great meeting. I talked about, my wife says that I overuse analogies. If that’s true, it’s only because they work so well for me.

I became aware of this statistic, and it was so astounding to me. Again, because of when Zach passed, I know that in 2021, we had 109,000 overdose deaths in America. That’s over 300 a day of people dying from an overdose. One day, I was sitting and thinking. I contrasted that in 2018 and 2019, if you remember back, there were two occasions when a Boeing 737 plane crashed. It happened within 30 or 60 days. On one plane, there were 132 deaths I believe. On the other plane, there were 189 deaths. Over 320 people died in a month from a plane crash.

The world’s response to that was to ground every 737 plane in the world until they figure it out. Cripple an entire industry if needed until they came up with a solution for what the problem was. Yet we have those two planes crashing every single day in America. We can barely get coverage on the news about coming up with a different program or plan or talking about it.

We argue and fight about how great punishment should be or if it’s coming over the border. I’m not saying that all of these things aren’t important conversations, but we need to change our conversation about how we approach it. We need to change our conversations in our families. We don’t need to talk about it in schools once a year during Red Ribbon Week. It doesn’t need to be somewhere stuck in the back of an HR manual about what to do and what happens in the workplace. It needs to be a discussion that’s front and center because we have two 737s crashing every day.

The statistics are going up, certainly with Fentanyl now, you have no idea what you’re getting. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for 24 to 40-year-olds. We are in a pandemic relative to overdoses. The stigma and the judgment, all that goes along with that being born out of ignorance.

We are in a pandemic relative to overdoses, and the stigma, the judgment, and all that goes along are born out of ignorance. Share on X

I was one of those that was the most ignorant. I had worked in the field. I tell people when I speak, “I don’t believe that I have all the answers or maybe any answers. What I do know is that everything that we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked.” The war on drugs that we started in 1980 has failed. We haven’t won. Let’s do something different. Let’s have discussions about it. Let’s talk about the most outlandish things that could stop our planes from falling out of the sky. What could that be?

We know Narcan because of the Fentanyl epidemic that’s happening. It is laced because it is so cheap and so powerful. It’s put into almost every single street drug that’s manufactured. It’s going to have some trace of Fentanyl in it, and we know that Narcan can save a life. It can instantly bring somebody back. It can cause absolutely zero harm. There’s no danger. If it’s given to somebody that’s not having an opioid overdose, it’s no harm, absolutely nothing.

We have something to do with it. Yet even having that, there’s this battle even among our stating in California as to whether or not we can make it an over-the-counter drug. Imagine if to get a fire extinguisher, you had to get a special dispensation from the fire department or you could have a fire extinguisher in your home. “Do you have a problem with starting fires? Do you have an arsonist living with you? I’m sorry. We can’t let you have a fire extinguisher unless you can validate that.” It’s ridiculous.

That’s one of those conversations. That’s the conversations that I have with parents and that I have with schools. Fortunately, this is almost like a paradigm shift maybe. In our thinking, even people that would have denounced it a few years ago are beginning to see the value. That’s there. Let’s take what we can get and run with it.

Part of it is because it is becoming a pandemic or is a pandemic, it’s touching so many people’s lives at this point. We can no longer act as if it’s an isolated incident. I remember way back decades ago when I helped my brother get into his rehab. I didn’t know anybody else that was dealing with the same thing I was as a sister. I would talk about it with people, but there was nobody to talk to.

Years later, dealing with my son’s issues, there are plenty of people to talk to, but a lot of people are staying silent because they think they’re the only ones. That’s why the stigma has got to drop because what we know is that as I am much more vocal at this point, the more people I talk to, the more stories I hear, and the more experiences that I hear from parents, sisters, and brothers. How many grandparents are raising grandkids now because one of their children has overdosed and died, or is in jail? We need to unpack this whole notion of because they’re addicted to a drug, they’re a criminal and should go to jail.

I understand that when your brain gets hijacked, you have to have drugs in order to survive. That’s what the brain is telling you. You will do things that you would never do in a sober or clean state. We have witnessed that with my son. There were certainly things where the day that I watched him being arrested, he needed to be arrested so that he could, at some point hopefully, get clean behind bars, and have some possibility of getting his brain back.

VIC 22 | Addiction
Addiction: When your brain gets hijacked, it will tell you to have drugs to survive. You will do things you would never do in a sober or clean state.

In the State of Washington, there are drug courts and things like that. There was a big process around all of that, but lots of relapses, ups and downs, and all the things. As I reached out to more people, I realized we are not having this conversation. Voices InCourage was born out of the place of, “I needed to cobble together all the resources that I knew I needed in order to thrive in the midst of the chaos of this disease.” That should not be happening in this decade. This whole notion of stigma and judgment, and, “I’m better than you are, you’re better than I am, or you’re just a dirty druggie,” or all the things that pop up out of this is born out of ignorance and immaturity in how to love.

Here’s where I have to take some ownership in my relationship with Zach. I don’t think of myself as someone who has a big ego. I can look back now and I can see that part of my ego said, “I know I can control this. This couldn’t possibly be happening to my son.” Somehow I felt like it was an indictment on me and how I parented. It kept me from seeing.

Especially when we started having those conflicts like a father and son might have when they’re 15, 16, or 17 years old. I’m starting to have some of those conflicts and doggone it, I wanted to be, “You’re going to listen to me because I’m the dad.” I think so many times he did want to tell me. He was telling me things and I wasn’t hearing it, I wasn’t taking it in. Part of that was my hubris and my ego around that. Now, I get to work on how I forgive myself for that. That’s way down on the list of the thousands of things I blame myself for, and that any parent does when they lose a child. That’s still something that I get to think about.

I think the notion that we’re in control is the thing that a lot of us carry around with us, whether we’re parents or not. This is how my brain works. I believe that all things that happen are in service of a higher understanding. I think about it in terms of, it’s another way of getting our attention for us to question the unanswered beliefs that we have and that we are in control of other people.

Who made that up? Just because we’re parents, who made it our job to control our children? The other thing too is, “I want to keep them safe. I don’t want them to suffer.” I know, in my journey, it’s been revealed and gotten super clear to me that my job is to help my son learn how to lean into when life shows up and knocks you on your ass.

Our job is to help our children learn how to lean in when life shows up and knocks them down. Share on X

I certainly get that now. Just like they say, “When you have a kid, there are a lot of manuals you can buy. If you buy them or they’re given to you, you don’t read them.” The difference is, when they’re young, you are responsible for all that. You do have to control everything that they do. Somehow, again, with the stigma associated with substance use disorder and addiction, because we don’t talk about it, other parents that went through this may now have kids that are 25 or 30, and now Zach’s a teenager. I’m not talking to him about our problems. They’re not able to pass on any of that wisdom.

Zach now is 15 or 16. I’m still treating him like he’s 9 or 10. Certainly to his mother, she’s still her little boy. I was my mom’s little boy until she passed. That’s the way that is. Again, I think that’s where the denial and the stigma of addiction still come into play. It’s exactly what you say. If that had been my mindset, and I’d always thought, “How do I prepare my son to be an adult?” I’m going to get him working.” At fifteen, he’s washing dishes and working in a grocery store. I want to make sure that his manners are correct when he’s talking. “I’m going to do this.”

At no part did I sit back and have the discussion about, “Zach, when you’re feeling bad and you feel like you need to take a drug to make yourself feel better, what’s really happening?” We didn’t have those discussions. I certainly had plenty of opportunities, but it wasn’t something that I thought about. It’s certainly something that I talked to every parent I come in contact with now about.

What I appreciate so much about you is you’re still leaning into the lessons of all of this as I am, too. It’s not like I’ve arrived. I’m still unfolding, too, in this understanding, knowing, and rethinking what I believe to be true about being a mom and a human and learning how I hold the space for loving my son fiercely and his journey and path as fiercely.

I was looking back over pictures because of this book launch that we’re doing. Half the pictures in the last few years are of him and me. Half the time, he’s high. I’m still smiling the same smile because I reached a point somewhere in there where I realized I just needed to love him unconditionally through this journey. I wanted him to know that no matter what, I was going to be there.

I’ve heard that before. Had Zach not the horrific accident that he had, I believe I would’ve got there because it is my nature to continually search for new, different, and better alternatives. That’s what I’m hoping with groups that I speak to. They’re probably there because they’re searching or open. When we allow ourselves to be open, there’s the opportunity to have some new ideas come our way. I’d love to hear that, about how you came to that and what grace that is to be able to feel. It’s just the opposite of, “I know that this is the right way, so I’ll do it my way.”

I certainly remember those moments in the early stages where I was terrified that I would lose him. Yet, I knew because Sam is 32 now. He was in his twenties when he went off a cliff. He’s an adult. It required a different way to be with him and be a mom with him as the mom of an adult dealing with substance abuse disorder. That’s why this conversation’s powerful because we both have these different lenses that we’re walking through. Yet, the very foundation of it all is love and this desire to love ourselves in our own evolution through this process.

I’ll have to think about that a little more and see what that looks like. There are some things that I do for my own mental health. I stay incredibly active physically. I exercise, and that helps. I’ve thought of that more about survival than I have, how I love myself or care for myself, but maybe that’s what that is. I can allow myself to reframe that.

Clearly, the work that you’re doing in the world at this point is changing lives. That’s a tremendous gift.

Thank you. That’s nice to hear.

If you would, speak a little bit about the foundation that you and your wife started, and then a little bit about what’s coming up for you, because we were talking about this before we got on. I love your enthusiasm about this. Like I said, it’s one step forward and it’s unfolding. You don’t know exactly where it’s leading to, but you’re on the path of walking it. Let people know how they can get ahold of you, reach out to you, and find out what you’re up to. I’m imagining that we have an audience of people that know people, if not, are people that have lost children, spouses, and others that they love deeply, too.

We have an online presence at Everything that we do is found there. We have a Facebook and a Twitter that I have nothing to do with. When our foundation again started out, we do some work with sober livings. We deliver care packages to seventeen different sober livings in Fresno every month to remind these young people that they’re still loved and cared about. We call it Zach’s Closet, one of the recovery centers where we’re going to stock that.

When people go into sober livings, oftentimes they have no clothes, toiletries, or necessities. This will be a place that they can go. That’s something that we’re wanting to support in that way. The opportunities are starting to develop as we are able to talk to more parent organizations and schools. I love the way you put it that things are unfolding for us.

VIC 22 | Addiction
Addiction: When people go into sober living, mostly, they have no clothes, toiletries, or necessities that they have. Zach’s Closet at one of the recovery centers will provide them with that.

Through a conversation I was having with a friend, we decided to do a Harm Reduction: Overdose Prevention Summit. It has turned into this wonderful event that’s going to be at Fresno State on March 14th, 2023. It’s free to the public. We have 500 seats, which is pretty ambitious to fill up. We’ve already got over 250 people that have ordered tickets. We have eight different speakers that are going to be speaking. All about people telling their stories of success through recovery, and what recovery is like for them because it’s a different path for everybody.

What a wonderful opportunity on a college campus where I’m hoping that the average age is going to be 20 years old and 22 years old, and allow these young people to hear the story of hope. They’re all in the midst of it. They’re going to parties every weekend. They’re seeing things happen that, “This could never happen to me,” but they’re seeing it happen. Everyone will leave with a box of Narcan or Fentanyl testing strips.

They can take those back to their dorm rooms or apartments. I see this as even building. Through this, we’re setting up. Next month, I’m going to four different fraternities. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have Narcan in every fraternity and sorority home on campus as well. These are young people that have a chance to change and do a shift, type of thinking.

They can start to do very adult-like behaviors in preparing and being safe. We’ll see where this takes us. Throughout the year, we have as many different functions as we can. This is our largest one. Seeing this, we did about twenty different events in 2022 from attending local farmers’ markets and such to bigger events. I would like to see us be able to spread and take this model to other cities as well.

There’s nothing unique about the Zachary Horton Foundation to the Central Valley except it’s just where I happen to live. Our resource page has recovery places that are here. If someone tuning in to this says, “I’d love to do some of the things that you’re doing in our city,” I would be open to helping make that happen. We can certainly create that.

I’m sure you’re open to anybody who would want to reach out and have a conversation with you too.

Please call me. If you go to the website, my phone number is there. You can call me, you can email me, and we can talk. I’d also be happy to talk to your organization. We can do a Zoom. If you’re local or close enough, I can come and visit. Spreading this message about changing our conversation around addiction is what needs to happen. Let’s open it up and start talking about it.

I’m with you. Thank you so much for being with me and sharing that bright beautiful smile of yours and your journey. I am looking forward to another conversation as your journey unfolds and mine does, too, and seeing where they both lead us. Thank you again, Jim.

Thank you. Every time we get to visit, it’s such a bright spot in my day.

Important Links

About Jim Horton

VIC 22 | AddictionI’m Jim Horton. Born and raised in California, I attended college in Fresno. While working in the Mental Health field I met my wife Lynn. We were married in 1991 and had our only child, Zach in 2000. I became “Zach’s Dad”. I was a full time Dad starting 2006. Scout Leader, Soccer and Baseball Coach, Crossing Guard, Class room Assistant, Volleyball Coach, etc…

In 2020, Zach died of an accidental drug overdose. His Mother and I started the Foundation to help others battle this horrendous disease. My life now centers around Speaking, Grief counseling, Podcasting, Sober Living support, Fundraising, Narcan training and helping families like ours navigate the recovery process.