Heroin Heartbreak: Two emotional stories about families battling addiction

(WLNS) – An emotional story of two local families battling the same heart-breaking addiction.

Their stories have a similar beginning, but a very different end.

Andy Hirst — Born January 8th, 1986

“He was a great little kid. God, he was a lot of fun. The funniest kid you’d ever met growing up,” remembers Mike Hirst. “He was good-natured, never caused any problems whatsoever. He loved sports. He lived for sports.”

Kalen Coffelt– Born July 26th, 1990

“He did very well in school. He was very into sports. Just a fun-loving little guy,” said Cheryl Coffelt. “He liked to have fun and was always kind of joking. We always got compliments on how well behaved he was.”

Both boys came from loving families, both were born and raised in Jackson County, both had their whole lives ahead of them. And both had a very dark secret.

“He was a very even-tempered person. And when I saw that change a little bit, I got a little bit concerned,” said Mike Hirst. “He didn’t want to hang around the house, he didn’t want to hang around the family. It was really noticeable that something was going on with him.”

“Not very talkative. When he did come home, he was here just for short periods of time, took off you know, to be with friends,” recalls Cheryl Coffelt.

Both Andy Hirst and Kalen Coffelt has gotten hooked on prescription pills.

For Andy, it started soon after graduating high school and going to work for his dad.

For Kalen, it started in college. He’d been prescribed opioids to deal with the pain following two knee surgeries.

Eventually, when the habit became too expensive, both sought a cheaper high and settled on heroin.

“People are dying from this, how to we fix this? When you’re a child you can put a Band-Aid on it and you’re child’s ok. And it was pretty crazy time,” said Cheryl Coffelt tearfully.

“My son hated the drug dealers. He hated them with a passion. He hated the drug. He hated everything about it,” insists Mike Hirst.

What followed?

Several rehab stays, then relapses, trouble with the law and a need so strong, both would do just about anything to find their next fix.

“He said Dad, you do not understand. You do not understand how powerful this drug is,” Mike Hirst remembers. “It will make you use on the day you know you have a drug test. It will make you buy from a house that you know is under surveillance. It will control your life.”

Cheryl Coffelt’s son told her “He said, Mom, I don’t think I can make it. I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know.”

Andy Hirst– Born January 8th 1986
Died May 17th, 2010

“I get the call, you need to get over at the job site right away. I said, it is Andy? They said, yup.. and it’s bad,” recalls Mike Hirst. “I get to the job site and there he is. He’s lying on the ground and the paramedics are trying to revive him. Sit about 10 feet away while you’re looking at somebody unresponsive and not breathing. Sit and watch that for 30 minutes. You know, you wanna, you wanna come across something that you never want to do, that’d be it.” (Mike Hirst)

Andy died instantly with the needle still in his arm. He was 24 years old.

Kalen Coffelt — Born July 26th 1990
Two Years Sober

“God, if you’re up there, if you can hear me, please help me because I’m going crazy and need your help,” Kalen Coffelt recalls praying.

That pivotal moment came inside yet another rehab center, this one in Lansing. And one that would ultimately change Kalen’s life.

He had stayed sober for 30 days and for the first time, he says, he asked a staff member for help. They told him to pray.

“And I did that for three, four, five days and I woke up after that. I mean, that morning, it was as clear as day,” recalls Kalen Coffelt. “That morning I woke up and I didn’t want to use anymore. I didn’t want to get high.”

“I feel so blessed to still have Kalen with us. He’s irreplaceable. He has so much to offer. He’s such a great person,” Cheryl Coffelt said through her tears. “He’s got a lot going on. And he has really worked hard, he has worked very hard to get where he is.”

“I wanted something else. I wanted life. I wanted joy, happiness, you know, the memories of, of a long fruitful life, that’s what I wanted,” concluded Kalen Coffelt.

Kalen has been sober for two years now. He has a fiancé and they’re both busy planning their upcoming wedding.

Andy’s dad Mike started a non-profit called Andy’s Angels which helps support those battling addiction. Kalen has worked alongside Andy’s Angels sharing their story so that others won’t have a similar story.

Visit www.combatheroin.ny.gov for more information on addressing heroin and prescription opioid abuse, including a Kitchen Table Tool Kit to help start the conversation about the warning signs of addiction and where to get help. For tools to use in talking to a young person about preventing alcohol or drug use, visit the State’s Talk2Prevent website.

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