Zach's Story - in his own words (latest chapter)

“If God has a plan for me, it’s going to be carried out no matter what, even if he has to change something along the way.” – Zach Crotty

Chapter 16 (Published November 2015)
The Phone Call

When the phone rang at 6 o’clock  that Monday morning, Oct. 26, 2009, Suzanne was rustled from a light sleep, rolled over, and answered.
“This is the Hamburg police department. Is this the mother of  Zachary Crotty?” “Yes,” Suzanne  replied.
“You need to get to Mercy Hospital right away,” the officer said. He said to bring all  of Zach’s medicine.
Suzanne and Mark  dressed quickly. Zach was probably in another car accident, they feared. He was just 19, but had already been stopped once for driving under the influence, been in four accidents and totaled two cars.  “We never should have gotten him a car at 16,” Suzanne often laments.
Within seconds of entering the emergency room doors, the Crottys were guided into a waiting area by a nurse. “The doctor will be right in,” she said as she closed the door behind her.
The doctor did, indeed, arrive soon.  “We tried to revive Zach,” he told the Crottys.  “We worked on reviving him for over an hour since he was so young.” It appears Zach overdosed on drugs, the doctor said.
 “This is because of you doctors. Zach is dead because of you doctors,” Suzanne screamed through her tears, as she threw Zach’s bottles filled with prescription pills at the doctor.

Suzanne walked over to Zach, who was on a bed in the ER, lying perfectly still. All but his face was covered with a white sheet. Blood dripped from his nose.
“I sat next to him,” Suzanne said. “I kissed him, and wiped the blood away from his nose. He was so still. I just thought he would wake up. He didn’t. He didn’t move. His eyes didn’t open. I just wanted to shake him and wake him up. But nothing happened.”

The one-page death certificate says Zach was born Oct. 1, 1990 and died at 6:30 a.m. Oct. 26, 2009.
Nineteen years old
It says Zach will be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, NY
The cause of death isn’t listed on the death certificate.
“Pending tox,” it says, meaning a toxicology test will be performed to determine what was in his system. An autopsy would be performed.


The autopsy lists Zach’s death as an accident.
“Accidental death,” it says. Methadone intoxication – toxic effects of taking too much over too short of a period of time. The presence of Remeron and Xanax may have also contributed to the death, it says.
The drugs, the medical examiner determined,  led to “respiratory failure due to central nervous system depression. Severe pulmonary congestion and edema contributing.”


  “Zach’s Story” is based on excerpts from his writings, his songs and poems, and his medical and counseling reports.

Chapter 15 (Posted October 2015)
Wake up, Zach.

By the time Zach got to his friend’s house, the Buffalo Bills were already way ahead in the game. They took an early first-quarter lead against the Carolina Panthers, and went on to win 20 to 9.

Zach wasn’t a big football fan though, and he also wasn’t feeling great when he got to his friend’s house. He seemed a bit congested.

In fact that night, after the two turned in, Zach’s friend at one point heard Zach snoring quite loudly.  So loud that the friend went to check on Zach. The friend wasn’t into drugs, but knew Zach was, so the snoring concerned him.  He tried to wake Zach up. But Zach wouldn’t stir. He called 911.

You need to perform CPR, the 911 dispatcher said.  The dispatcher talked him through the process as he tried to get Zach to react.
Wake up, Zach.
But Zach still didn’t wake up.
The ambulance arrived, and rushed Zach to the hospital.


  “Zach’s Story” is based on excerpts from his writings, his songs and poems, and his medical and counseling reports. Please come back November   for Chapter 16 of “Zach’s Story.”


CHAPTER  14  (Published Sept. 2015)

It was a Saturday, Oct. 24, when Zach met with a known drug pusher.  She had a supply of methadone pills, and gave some to Zach. The plan was for Zach to sell some, keep some for himself, and give the money he made back to her
Later that day, Zach called a friend. She didn’t answer, so he left a message on her cell  phone. I got some methadone, he said. You want any? I got a bunch to sell. Call me if you’re interested.

Zach met his supplier again on Sunday. He had some money for her from the methadone he sold. She gave him some more methadone pills.

The friend Zach called the previous day texted him.  Can I buy a couple – two or three?  She’d drive over to Zach’s house sometime around noon, she said. The two were good friends. They hung out at his house for a while that day, then split one methadone pill, before leaving to get cigarettes, and driving  back to her house.  She had another friend coming over later that afternoon, so wanted to get back home. Zach went back to her house with her.

Once at her house, they each had another methadone pill.

Zach was getting impatient. He was suppose  to meet with another friend later that day to watch a football game, and  he also  planned to spend the night at that friend’s house in Hamburg.  But Zach needed a ride.  So he’d have to wait a little longer. It was sometime around 3:30 p.m. when the girl’s friend arrived at her house -- later than Zach had hoped since the football game started at 4 p.m. And Zach still needed to stop by his own home to get clothes for the night and the next day.

Suzanne was in the back yard raking leaves with Mark when Zach arrived home. He needed to pick up some clothes, he told his parents, because he was staying  at his friend’s house in Hamburg for the night. It would be easier, that way, Zach said, since he was working at the Olean KFC/Taco Bell the following morning instead of his regular assignment in Springville, and his friend lived close by, and could give him a ride in.
Suzanne was surprised to hear Zach wouldn’t be home that night. She was getting ready to leave  for Germany in three days to visit  Zach’s sister Kerri, who had just had twins  (Zach wasn’t going this trip), so Suzanne was hoping Zach would be around in the days before she left.
But   Zach went into the house, then into his room. He got some clothes. He also  got some methadone and Xanax from his room to bring with him that night.
“Well then,  I guess I’ll see you later then,” Suzanne said when Zach came  out of the house.
Zach got back into the car with the friend who had just given him a ride back to his house.  She was a bit stressed out when he got back in the car. She was talking about some medical problems she was having, and seemed upset. Zach gave her half a Xanax pill. Zach told her the Xanax would help her feel better.


As she was driving Zach to his friend’s house in Hamburg, she started feeling tired. Her eyes felt weird.
Pull over into that parking  lot, Zach told her. She did. They split another methadone.  But she still wasn’t feeling right, and threw up.

They got back on the road and arrived at Zach’s friend’s house in Hamburg a little before 5 p.m.  She dropped Zach off, and left.

  “Zach’s Story” is based on excerpts from his writings, his songs and poems, and his medical and counseling reports. Please come back in October  for Chapter 15 of “Zach’s Story.”

Chapter 13 (Published  August 2015)
                   Zach's Prescription Medication List                         

Once Zach turned 18 in October 2008, he was making  his own doctor appointments. He even decided on his own to start seeing a psychiatrist. Zach also had his own health insurance at that point, so he was picking up prescriptions for medications without his parents knowledge. They later learned Zach received as many as five different prescriptions at the same time from three different doctors and four different pharmacies - a Wal-Mart, a CVS and two different Rite-Aids --  during 2009. The prescriptions included Suboxone to treat opioid addiction from one doctor, and an opioid painkiller from another.  Another doctor, meanwhile, prescribed Zach an anti-depressant that carried a “black box warning” of possibly increasing suicidal tendencies, and other drugs, including a controlled substance, requiring monitoring because of potential interactions with Suboxone and each other.

Date            Drug                Purpose                        Amount  Days         Physician        Pharmacy
10/22/09     Keppra         for anxiety/sleep                     30         30                  psychiatrist         CVS
10/22/09     Remeron     anti-depressant                30        30           psychiatrist         CVS
10/22/09     Xanax           anti-anxiety/depression  90       30          psychiatrist         CVS
10/19/09    Proventil       asthma                                    7         25    
      family doctor      Wal-Mart
10/14/09     Xanax          anti-anxiety/depression         21          7          psychiatrist         Wal-Mart
10/07/09    Xanax           anti-anxiety/depression         21          7          psychiatrist        Rite-Aid
10/07/09    Keppra         for anxiety/sleep                   60        30          psychiatrist       Rite-Aid
10/07/09    Remeron      anti-depressant                       30         30          psychiatrist        Rite-Aid
10/06/09    Ultram           pain killer, opioid                  78         20         family doctor   Wal-Mart
09/24/09    Suboxone     opioid addiction                           60         30          addiction specialist   Wal-Mart
09/16/09    Paxil              anti-depressant                   30         30          psychiatrist    Wal-Mart
09/16/09   Remeron       anti-depressant                         30         30             psychiatrist     Wal-Mart
09/09/09   Suboxone      opioid addiction                            34         17         addiction specialist   Wal-Mart
09/02/09  Proventil         asthma                                   7          25         family doctor    Wal-Mart
08/24/09   Suboxone        opioid addiction                        30           15         addiction specialist   Wal-Mart
08/18/09   Ambien            insomnia                                    12           12         family doctor           Wal-Mart
08/18/09    Suboxone       opioid addiction                        12           24         addiction specialist  Wal-Mart
08/15/09   Proventil         asthma   treatment                    7       25         family doctor          Wal-Mart
07/30/09   Proventil         asthma  treatment                     7        25         family doctor          Wal-Mart
07/10/09   Proventil         asthma  treatment                    7            25         family doctor           Wal-Mart
07/10/09   Ambien            insomnia                          12            12         family doctor       Rite-Aid
06/12/09   Proventil          asthma                          7            25          family doctor    Wal-Mart         
 06/12/09   Elavil                  anti-depressant             30           30          family doctor      Wal-Mart
03/30/09    Zoloft                anti-depressant                       30           30          family doctor          Wal-Mart  

  “Zach’s Story” is based on excerpts from his writings, his songs and poems, and his medical and counseling reports. Please come back in September for Chapter 14 of “Zach’s Story.”


Chapter 12 (Published July 2015)

Sept. 16, 2009 - The psychiatrist’s office was in Buffalo. That first meeting was like a retrospective of Zach’s life. 
They talked about Zach’s family, friends, girlfriends.  School. Work. All the times Zach was arrested. All of Zach’s medical problems.
 Ever break any bones, Zach was asked.  Fractured an arm at 3-years-old, he responded.
Allergies? To bran and potato chips, he said.
And drugs? Zach tells the psychiatrist he’s on a Suboxone program. I’ve been using opiates for the past five years, mostly Lortabs and OxyContin, he says. Zach denies ever using heroin. He never did feel comfortable talking about his heroin use.
Zach did, however, talk about his anxiety.
Often, when alone, I feel fine, Zach told the doctor. But when I go out I become nervous. My heart races. It’s hard to breathe. I get sweaty, can’t focus, and get scared. The symptoms, he said, last seconds to minutes. It doesn’t happen every day, but can happen every few days. The anxiety occurs, he said, when he’s around other people; never when he is alone.
Zach also talks about feeling paranoid for no reason, and indicates that he checks the closet before going to bed.
Are you depressed, the doctor asked.
 No, Zach said, but acknowledged he doesn’t sleep well, has a weird appetite,  and anxiety limits his motivation to do things.
The psychiatrist concludes Zach has a panic disorder in addition to his opiate addiction.
He prescribes Paxil – used to treat depression and anxiety - and Remeron, also an anti-depressant.
Come back in four weeks for follow-up, Zach was told.
Sept. 24, 2009- It was about a week after that first psychiatric appointment. Zach had another doctor appointment, this one with his addiction specialist.
“Fair,” Zach says when the doctor asked him how he’s doing. Zach acknowledged smoking pot and using Xanax a few times because of his anxiety.  He’s still having trouble sleeping, Zach tells the doctor. Marijuana helps him sleep, Zach says.
“Anxiety attacks lead me to anxiety meds that I’m not prescribed,” Zach said.
Zach tells the doctor that he’s now seeing a psychiatrist to address his anxiety.
After the appointment, the addiction specialist wrote a note to the psychiatrist, asking that he not prescribe controlled drugs, or use psychotropic meds for off- label purposes for Zach. Zach is given a new Suboxone prescription, and told to come back in a month. He also had Zach take a drug test.

Sept. 24, 2009 - “Tremendously tight feeling my back, pain is not too much worse than usual, but is spreading to upper back, which is unusual,” Zach writes in his journal.
Sept. 25, 2009 -   “I was in a very odd mood all day. My mood was monotone, just didn’t care about anything, and I didn’t like it. Paxil side effects? This drug is not for me.”|

Sept. 26, 2009 - “More anxiety than usual, and in situations where I don’t normally get it. I don’t normally get it, excessive sleepiness.”

Sept. 27, 2009 - 
 “I had to call off of work. Slept through entire day. I’m thinking it’s the Paxil.”Meanwhile, Zach’s drug test results came back. Positive for amphetamines and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax.

Sept. 28, 2009 - Zach went to a one-on-one counseling session. He would start group soon also.The appointment lasted three hours. Had tremendous anxiety during and after. It took me 15 minutes just for the urine sample.


Sept. 29, 2009 - Horrible, horrible back and neck pain. I think I slept wrong on my neck. It was unbearable.


Sept. 30, 2009 -  I was supposed to start group therapy, but my ride had meetings for work. Will start for sure on Monday, already set it up.

Oct.1, 2009 - My Birthday! Zach’s family planned to take him out to dinner for his 19th birthday. "Mom, can't we just stay home and order a pizza," Zach asked
"No, it's your birthday and I want to take you out,” his mom said.
It turned out a girl Zach knew in the drug community had called to tell Zach she would "get him anything he wanted for his birthday." She was referring to drugs.
But that’s not what he wrote in a journal he was keeping for the addiction doctor.
My Birthday? Hang out with a few (the few) sober friends I know. Went to dinner with family.”

Oct. 6, 2009 - Zach has another doctor appointment, this one with his family doctor.Zach told the doctor back pain is radiating down both his legs. He shows the doctor x-rays he had taken indicating he has some scoliosis.
The doctor gives Zach a prescription for Ultram, sold as Tramadol, an opioid painkiller, to be taken every four hours as needed.
The doctor also sent Zach for x-rays and a urine drug screen.

Oct. 7, 2009 - Back to the psychiatrist.
Zach tells his psychiatrist  he’s been buying Xanax on the street to help with his persistent anxiety, first .25 mg and later .5 mg  --  up to three times a day.
He also tells the psychiatrist that he’s attending group and counseling at the direction of  his Suboxone doctor.
The psychiatrist feels it’s better to oversee Zach’s Xanax use than have him continue buying it on the street.   The doctor gives Zach a prescription for a week’s supply of Xanax.  The plan, the doctor said, is for him to oversee Zach’s discontinuance of Xanax, and then stabilization. 
“Provided one week supply of Xanax to alleviate obtaining from the street, and feeling overwhelmed,” the doctor wrote.
He also wrote Zach a prescription for Kepra, which can help with sleep problems.
Since Zach did not tolerate Paxil well, he discontinues that drug treatment, but increases Zach’s Remeron to 30 mgs
The psychiatrist also talks to Zach about meditative abdominal breathing as a relaxation technique.
The doctor notes Zach is also taking Suboxone to treat his addition, and Tramadol for pain.
They psychiatrist tells Zach to come back in two weeks.

Oct.9, 2009- Zach missed his scheduled counseling session. “Dear Zach, I am sorry you missed your appointment with me on Oct. 9, 2009 at 6:45 p.m. I am   taking the liberty to reschedule an appointment for Tuesday Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. I want to remind you of the commitment made at the time of the intake to come to group twice a week and attend individual sessions as scheduled. It is important to follow through with your attendance in order to succeed in our program. 
If you miss this appointment you will not be allowed to continue to attend group. The court will then be notified of your failure to follow through the treatment as recommended.
I am looking forward to seeing you on the above rescheduled date.”
It was signed by Zach’s counselor.

Oct.19, 2009 - 
Back to his family physician.Zach told the doctor he’d like to be tested for Attention Deficit Disorder, and the doctor referred him to another doctor for an ADHD evaluation.
Zach also said the Tramadol is not working. He was still feeling pain. He mentioned he had tried Concerta from a friend, and it worked well.
The doctor gave Zach a new prescription for his asthma inhaler; but not for Concerta.
Oct. 22, 2009 - Zach rescheduled  until  Oct. 26 an appointment previously scheduled for  that day with his addiction specialist. But he did make it that day to an appointment he also had that day with his psychiatrist.
Zach and the psychiatrist discussed Xanax. Zach says the drug helps with his anxiety, and says a 1 mg. dose – rather than the 0.5 he was previously prescribed – is more effective. His focus is better, and he’s more productive at work.  Zach’s counselor approved the higher dose, saying that Zach has been more engaging and outgoing during counseling when he is taking Xanax, according to the psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist agreed to increase Zach’s dosage. He also increased Zach’s dosage of Remeron.  He reduced the strength of prescribed Kepra, given that Zach slept 15 hours at a time on the drug.
Zach was told to come back for a follow up visit in eight days. That would be  Oct. 30.

Chapter 11 (Published June  2015)


By Mark Crotty

When I think about my son, Zach, I can't ever stop thinking why us?  How could this happen? This wasn't supposed to happen to our family! This only happens to other families! I read about them!  But never us! Then there is guilt.  What did we do wrong? What did I do wrong? Were we not careful enough? The questions go on and on.  Your mind never stops.

Zach was really a quiet, well-mannered little boy.  Never got into mischief. Never really acted out or up for that matter.  Really a good little guy, but quiet.  Suzanne and I commented that we never had to discipline him when he was little.  But that changed in middle school.

I think most fathers will compare themselves to their own fathers.  Things they admired & respected in them and also things they might not have liked.  I was fortunate to have a great father, but he could be strict if he had to.  I guess I must admit that was something I admired now, but not then with a sore rear end.

The memories of Zach's death will haunt me always.  The hospital room, the funeral, the casket.  These are embedded in my mind for all time.  My total anger at God. Why would you let a young man only 19 years old, pass on? People have overdosed and lived.  Why not Zach, God? I hated God.  I lost my faith and trust in him.

There are things I cannot say because I can't relate the feelings in words, just anger.  He (Zach) has touched other lives after his death in ways  living people could only imagine and I know he is watching us from heaven.

As a father you always are protective of you children.  That's your job! You always worry... a bike accident, a car accident, sports accident, soccer, football, baseball.  Always think, well he can get injured.  But did you ever think you would loose you child to a pill? Really? Pills killed my son.  Why are these pills so available to anyone, especially young people.  So your telling me old people have pain and young people need the same pain reliever as an older person?  They haven't experienced life enough to have any pain, emotionally or physically.

Everyone knows that life is difficult, but really, the fact is God put us here for a reason and that reason is to not hurt others, including ourselves.  This drug epidemic has poisoned our youth, and now the stigma of it will continue to destroy future families.  This is unacceptable and all of us know at least one family who has been effected by drugs.  What a shame! How can we stop this?


Chapter 10 (Published May 2015)


I would love to get a tattoo if I had any idea what to get. I probably won’t get one until I have someone close to me die, so it would be in memory of them.”
-Zach Crotty

Zach and Suzanne months before made plans to travel to Germany at the end of May to visit Zach’s sister Kerri. The trip was only a week away. Suzanne and Zach decided together Zach would come home now as they got ready for the trip.
“I missed him so much,” Suzanne said. “He and I really wanted it to work,” Suzanne said.


The plane ride to Germany wasn’t what Suzanne hoped for. She thought it would be a good chance for her and Zach to reconnect.  Zach just wanted to put his head phones on and listen to music.
“I thought this would give us time to talk,” Suzanne said, adding: “Yeah, right. He had the head phones on during the flight.”
Once arriving in Germany, and connecting with Kerri and and her husband, Michael, the group traveled around. They visited the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany, and then went to Amsterdam, where they visited the Anne Frank Museum.
“We spent time traveling to Amsterdam and seeing the sights. Zach enjoyed his time with his sister,” Suzanne said.
Back in Germany, Zach and Michael went rope climbing. Zach was admittedly a bit scared of heights, but did it nonetheless.
But during much of the trip, Suzanne said, Zach moped around. He was probably having a hard time being away from the drugs, Suzanne said.
“I knew he wasn’t taking drugs on the trip,” she said. “He knew better than to take drugs in another country."


Back home, Zach’s second semester grades came.
Computer Art and Design: D
Drug Use and Abuse: F
Behavior Patterns: D
Survey of Math: F
Semester GPA: 0.75
“Academically dismissed,” the semester report said.
In another words, he flunked out.

Zach was having a hard time. He still wasn’t sleeping, so made another appointment with the family doctor.
The Zoloft, Zach told the doctor, wasn’t helping him sleep. He stopped taking it.
The doctor suggested a different drug, Elavil, an anti-depressant.
One pill a day. Thirty-day supply. No refills.

Zach opened up his journal again.
June 15 - It’s been awhile I guess. I want to explain so much to you but it’s all been negative and I don’t want this to be that. I’m sick of everyone being disappointed in me. I guess that’s why I haven’t been writing often. I’m trying so hard to get my shit together, but I have so many things I have to pay for – leaving me broke. I really don’t know what to do. I’m really searching for the will to carry on and it’s tough.  I keep getting let down. I keep letting other people down, which ultimately lets myself down. I’m trying to turn around. I really am. I can only do so much. I only know so much. God, I can’t explain what I’m going through. Put yourself in my shoes for a minute. Try to feel what I feel. I’m 100 percent on my own after basically having everything handed to me. I have to provide for myself. No help from anyone. I’m only 18 and I have enough bills to crack a family.  $100 IRS. I still have to go to Boston court and get a fine there. Struggling doesn’t begin to describe this. I can’t say I have no help though. I don’t know where I’d be without certain people taking me in. My whole world really flipped upside down and now I might not even have a no - that can’t happen. And here I go again with all the negativity. No wonder I can’t sleep. I have so much to worry about. No wonder I have anxiety and people – every one’s fucked me. It’s really time I took charge and became responsible. That’s the positivity – hopefully I feel this motivation in the morning.


While in the car, an announcement came on the radio. There is help for those suffering from drug addiction, the voice in the radio said.
Zach contacted his family physician.
I’d like to go back on Suboxone, and need a referral to the addiction specialist, he told the family doctor.
Also, Zach said, I’m still having trouble sleeping. Can you prescribe Ambien?  The doctor wrote a prescription for 30 tablets of the insomnia drug.  No refills.


Suzanne and Zach drove to Buffalo for Zach’s first appointment with the addiction specialist.
 “I have a drug problem,” Zach told the doctor.
Zach and the doctor were in the examining room  for almost an hour while Suzanne sat in the waiting room.
I want to go back on Suboxone,   Zach told the doctor. I want to stay on it however long it takes to get my life in order.  I plan to get back into counselling within the next weeks, and also attend NA, Zach told the doctor.
Zach and the doctor talked about  Zach’s addiction history, how he was smoking pot at 14, then taking pills by 15 years old. They talked about his first attempt with Suboxone – it didn’t go well, Zach said -- and his short stint at an in-treatment center.
They talked about Zach’s s arrests. Three charges, he said. Drug possession. Petty larceny, and driving under the influence of drugs. I’m due back in court in August, Zach told the doctor.
And they talked about Zach’s current drug use. I generally take Lortab, hydrocodone, at least seven a day to avoid withdrawal, and also use oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine, he said.
Fentanyl, Zach tells the doctor, is his drug of choice.

Zach also talked about his anxiety attacks and how he self-medicates with Xanax. In the last 30 days, Zach tells the doctor, he has taken benzodiazepines - Xanax -- on four days, marijuana on seven days, and also methadone. He took methadone to deal with withdrawal. He does marijuana to fall asleep, he said.

The two also talked about Zach’s home life. He described his childhood as “all right.” He talked about his job at KFC, and said that while he wasn’t currently taking classes, he still considers himself a student.
The doctor started Zach on Suboxone, and told him to return for another appointment in six days.


“I’m good.” Zach tells the addiction doctor at his next appointment. Things seem to be improving, although, Zach said, I still get stressed sometimes. And there was that weird dream when a drug dealer takes my money, but doesn’t give me any drugs, Zach tells the doctor.
Things are better at home, Zach says, telling the doctor he’s getting along better with his parents.
He’s still having trouble sleeping and with anxiety though. So he’s taken Ambien and also twice took benzoes.

The doctor renewed Zach’s Suboxone prescription, told Zach he needs to start outpatient counseling, and to come back in about two weeks.


“I’m doing excellent,” Zach told the addiction specialist at the third appointment.
Any side effects from the Suboxone? He was asked. Constipation. And I can’t always sleep, Zach told the doctor, but added that his insomnia predates the Suboxone.
He smoked marijuana a few times since his last appointment, he said, to help him sleep.
Still, Zach said things were getting better at home with his parents. And he also told the doctor that he was scheduled to start counseling the next day, and made an appointment to see a psychiatrist in about a week to help with his anxiety and panic attacks.

Zach never did get a tattoo, but after his death, others got one in his memory.
Zach's mom has a tattoo with her son's name, a heart and a rainbow from a picture taken of Suzanne and Zach when Zach was a young boy as well as the saying: "Forever Loved, Forever Remembered."

One of  Zach's friends tattooed one of Zach's sayings on her feet: "I'm not here to change what people think of me, I'm here to change what people think of themselves."

Another of Zach's friends had the word "Infinite" tattooed on her back in  memory of Zach.

And another of Zach's friends tattooed the lyrics from a Save the Day song in memory of Zach: "The trumpets call out now. We're home at last."


                                                   Chapter 9  (published April 2015)

"Mom, I’m thinking of you, of how I feel so bad for everything. I wish I could be your star child, something to be proud of. I’ll get there. You’ll be proud of me someday. And we’ll both be smiling.
How about that!”


Zach missed so many counseling sessions while out of the house in recent weeks that he was suspended from the program. But when you’re ready to commit to sobriety and counseling, you can return, Zach was told.  Now, 19 days after being dropped, and back at home, Zach was ready.

“I, Zachary Crotty, understand the importance of attending my treatment,” the contract with the counseling center read.
Zach signed. So did his counselor.
Zach would be attending group, and also getting one-on-one therapy sessions. Intensive out-patient treatment, it was called.

Do you go to church, Zach was asked the first time he came back to counseling. Are you religious?
“I don’t attend church,” Zach told the counselor.
And God? “I think I believe,” he said.
Is life meaningful, he was asked.
“I’m feeling again, not having to rely on drugs to feel good,” he said. “Good feeling. Natural high.”

 Zach was still having trouble sleeping, so made an appointment with his family doctor.
It's pretty bad, he told the doctor. I've been having trouble sleeping for years, he said. Just can't fall asleep. Sometimes, he told the doctor, I don't sleep for days. And sometimes, I have anxiety during the day.

The doctor did a complete physical. Zach's blood pressure and heart rate were good. Lungs too. Zach had a history of asthma, but told the doctor it was under control, and that he hasn't needed his inhaler in years. He also told the doctor he smokes about a third of a pack of cigarettes every day.

Zach has extrinsic asthma and a generalized anxiety disorder, the doctor wrote. He prescribed Zoloft, an anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication, ordering a 30-day supply with two refills. Come back in five weeks for a follow-up, the  doctor told Zach.


Suzanne  became worried when Zach was in the bathroom for what seemed like an unusually long time.
"I knocked on the door,"  Suzanne recalled.
Zach didn't respond.
Suzanne opened the door.
"He was passed out on the toilet," she said. "He told me he fell asleep."
Suzanne called the family doctor. She knew he had prescribed Zoloft to Zach and wondered if there was anything else the doctor could do to help Zach.
Zach should continue with the Zoloft, the doctor told her. "It can take several weeks to help with sleep," she recalled him telling her. Zach should come in for a follow-up next week,  he said.


Counseling was going pretty well.
I'm clean, Zach told the counselor. I'm not using drugs any longer.
Zach had a good attitude during sessions, his counselor reported. Zach openly shared his experiences with others in the group. He made suggestions for others who were trying to quit smoking.

But within weeks, Zach’s attendance became sporadic.
I no longer see any of my old friends, Zach told the group at a session he attended. My relationship with my parents has gotten really strained, he said.
Chemical abuse, Zach said at another session, nearly ruined my life in many areas.
I need to stay away from mild-altering drugs, he said.


Zach took a drug test before his next session. He was pretty quiet at group that day. Mostly just listened. Didn’t share his own experiences; didn’t offer suggestions to others.
The next day, the drug test came back. Positive for cocaine.
He was dropped from the counseling program
“Per your contract, your case is now closed,” Zach was told.
Still, Zach’s counselor noted that Zach should get in touch with him at any time. “Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future,” the counselor wrote.

The next week, the counselor called Zach’s house.  Suzanne answered.
“I haven’t seen or heard from Zach all week,” Suzanne told the counselor.
Zach was back living with friends.


May 2009 - A lot has gone on and a lot has changed, maybe I’ll write about it tomorrow or after tonight or something, but for right now I need to remember the lyrics for “Dear Mama” because I might incorporate quotes into the Mother’s Day card/present. It kind of tells the story of what’s been going on in my life between me and my Mom.

“Dear Mama”
By Tupac Shakur

“When I was young me and my mama had beef
Seventeen years old, kicked out on the streets
Though back at the time I never thought I’d see her face
Ain’t a woman alive that could take my mama’s place
Suspended from school, and scared to go home, I was a fool.
With the big boys, breakin all the rules.”


                              Chapter 8  (Published March 2015)


“I’ve done so much today. I have to take something else just to sleep. If I don’t wake up, Mom, I love you. With all my heart. And I always will.”

Zachs’ grades were atrocious. It was obvious he wasn't going to class.
In fact, after one semester – unknown at the time to his parents --  Zach was put on academic probation. His first semester GPA was a  0.4
“Dear Student: The guidelines for maintaining ‘good academic standing’ at ECC are determined by the Board,” the letter, addressed to Zach, said. “Since you have fallen below the standards listed, you are being sent this notification of Probation.”
Second semester would be better, Zach thought. He was still thinking he might want to work as a drug counselor one day.  He took a course called “Drug Use and Abuse” and another called “Behavior Patterns.” He also took math and computer design classes.
Zach missed some counseling sessions, but went whenever he could.Zach’s attitude is good, his counselor wrote after a session. Making progress. Feed back to others helpful, the counselor observed.“Staying busy with work and school,” Zach told the group, helps him to not relapse.


Zach’s attendance at counseling was getting more sporadic.
Car problems, can't make it.
Gotta work, can't make it.
More car problems, can't make it.
Feb. 3:  Zach cancels counseling session.
Feb. 16: Zach cancels counseling session.
Feb. 17: Zach cancels counseling session.
Feb. 23: Zach cancels counseling session.

Feb 25: Zach writes note to his counselor:

Hi Peter,
It’s Zach Crotty. I was wondering if you could squeeze me in sometime tomorrow, Thursday, the 26th, between 11:40 and 1 p.m., just to talk for 15 minutes or so. There’s  a few things on my mind  I need to get out like my problems with anxiety, my problems sleeping, why I really called off Monday and the drug test I took yesterday – all things causing even more anxiety and even more trouble sleeping. I know it takes some clean time for the anxiety to go away, but without some effective (anxiety) treatment, I won’t have a chance to get any treatment. As of right now, the only effective way I know is medications, but maybe you know of other ways. Even some short term, low dose of something, anything. I don’t get high off of benzodiazepines. I get relief, but I’ve heard of anti-depressants that deal with anxiety, and maybe that would help, but they scare me.  People tell me it makes them not sad, but it makes them not happy either- how can you enjoy life like that? I thought keeping myself busy would be the answer, but it’s not. It’s overwhelming. At school I am surrounded by people I don’t know, same with work. That’s my main anxiety, people I don’t know. It’s like the anxiety controls me. It makes me want to be isolated to feel better, but that makes me feel alienated, leading to further anxiety and it’s no fun.
Being alone all day and boredom is not a good thing for someone like me. I’ve read ‘An addict alone is in bad company.’ I don’t know how true it is, but I do know it definitely holds some value. I’m not saying I’ve cheated my way through this, because I’ve been giving it my all – but I have issues that need to be dealt with. I will spend nights without sleeping, and it’s then that I smoke weed to sleep. I don’t enjoy the drug, that isn’t why I do it. But I enjoy sleep and I enjoy being in a good mood and able to concentrate the next day. And back to the anxiety, my grades suffer because of it. I’ve had to leave school many times because of panic  attacks, and driving home, I feel like I’ve just escaped from a serial killer, yet I can’t think of anything specific that scared me away. I can’t focus other times because I feel like everyone is looking at me and I become obsessed with wondering what they are thinking – in a negative way. Even this paper, I will probably have to bring in because I can’t gather my thoughts when the focus is on me. I just can’t think about anything besides who is around me. You’ve got to understand, I am not having anxiety because I did drugs for so long. I did drugs for so long because of the anxiety. I have noticed that the day after I smoke weed, I feel great, and I thought it was something to do with weed, but now I think it’s more to do with being home.

Zach was back in counseling the next week for an hour-long session.
I’m clean, Zach told the counselor.
Good, constructive session, the counselor later said.


Zach was doodling on some paper.
Suzanne Crotty. Suzanne Crotty.He was practicing his mother’s handwriting.


It was early March when Suzanne was going through her checking account papers,  and found two cancelled checks she didn’t recognize. Zach stole blank checks from her, forged her signature, and cashed them. They totaled about $200. He had given the money to her to cover his car insurance payment.
Suzanne and Mark were upset.
Some months back, Zach was arrested on a drug charge in nearby Springville. He had some drugs in his pocket when stopped by police outside a Burger King  restaurant.  He ended up spending the night in jail because he wasn't arraigned in court until the morning.  Court was over by the time Suzanne and Mark arrived. Zach was already walking out of the court house. But the Crottys talked with the judge that morning while Zach was waiting outside.
“He told us Zach isn’t a bad kid,” Suzanne recalled. “He said Zach reminded him of a friend’s son who died from drugs. He said that ‘tough love’  sometimes worked.
“Your son needs tough love,” Suzanne recalled the judge telling them. “He needs to be told the rules.’”

Suzanne was never a “tough love” fan, especially for Zach. “He didn’t even like it when people raised their voices,” she said.
 But this incident with the checks left Mark and Suzanne feeling they had to try something different.  They needed to get through to Zach. Make him understand he couldn’t continue on the way he was going.
They remembered when the judge said about tough sometimes working.
So they tried it.

Zach, they said, you’re out of here.
He went to live with a friend.


March 10, 2009 -- At J’s right now, and I’m probably not going to school tomorrow. Neither one of us feels like getting up that early.  I need a day to myself. It’s been exactly a week since I talked to my mom.
Liz just called. It was unexpected, but nice.  I miss her. I miss just goofing off and her being by my side – and not being high. Why are the memories always better than the present. The one thing that comes close to my passion for drugs is my passion for music. Somehow I’ll replace it. I’ll get over this eventually. I love myself now. I can honestly say it, besides all the stupid shit I’ve been doing. I don’t even want to think about it. Why can’t I ever keep this quitting mindset until the morning? I’m going to bed. You understand Liz. I love you.


March 11, 2009 - Well, I talked to my mom. She thinks I need to go back to rehab. Fuck that. I will be 10 years sober before I step foot in another one of those. Yeah. They call me Amy Winehouse. Ha. It’s like 1:30 and M should be picking me up I guess. I don’t know where I’m going but I’ve been up since 8. I could have gone to school – and everyone else is still asleep
March 12 -  I feel so good. And guess what? I’m not high. Today was such a good day, well actually, most of it sucked as it was happening, but looking back, it was great. Day 2 was nothing. Controlling cravings. Talked to my Mom and it went good.

March 19 -  Nothing really exciting at all has happened. I got my license back today which was unexpected from the DMV. In August, I go to court --  the 30th --  so hopefully they won’t know I had a conditional. I cheated yesterday and had a piece of a patch, but besides that it’s been since the 10th.  I really don’t want to do anything.   I just want a Suboxone.  Not even for withdrawal. It takes care of the anxiety. Every time I think I can do it as soon as I’m around people I just lock up. And I’m just awkward. It sucks. I don’t know why.  And I’m seeing all these people around me start to get addicted. It’s sad. I almost want nothing to do with them, but they’re  my friends. So I’m trying to help, and just like I was, they don’t listen. They don’t believe me that it’s gonna happen to them, which is stupid because if anyone knows about that shit, it’s me – and everyone knows it. I’m working through this shit as hard as I can--- actually I’m not trying very hard at all. I’m giving up. I’m really not doing much, except for well, just that -- not doing  anything. My back hurts pretty bad right now. I’m not sure why. I’m finally getting my mind back at last. Thinking about the stupid stupid, stupid things I did and even worse, the things I actually contemplated doing – I’ve realized how crazy it all was. I can’t say I’m  gonna be clean. I can just say I hope I’m gonna be clean.
March 20. I want to finish school, have an apartment.  Meet nice girls, have good life.Later that day, Zach went back home.


                                CHAPTER  7 ( Published February 2015)
                                                                 A NEW START

If God has a plan for me, it’s going to be carried out no matter what, even if he has to change something along the way.”
--Zach Crotty

 The ride home that Friday afternoon  in early September was tough.
“Mom, I need you to stop at the store so I can get some cigarettes, ”Zach insisted.
“No way,” Suzanne replied. ”I’m not doing that. I’m not stopping so you can get cigarettes.”
Zach kept asking. Suzanne kept saying no. Finally Zach suggested she drop him off at a friend’s house.
No, she said. But she did stop for him to get cigarettes.

Already, Suzanne was starting to question her own decision to bring Zach home from the rehab center, but the rest of the ride went a little better. Suzanne told Zach that classes were starting in a few days at Erie Community College, and that he should enroll. He agreed to register for classes.


Zach seemed at loose ends during those first weeks at home. He was bored, spending most of his time on the couch watching television and playing video games.
If this was going to work, Zach and his parents knew, Zach would need structure. School. Counseling, A job. A new beginning.
Fall semester at ECC was just starting. Zach went to the campus in Orchard Park, about 20 minutes away. Perhaps he’d study to become a counselor, he thought.

Next, he got a new job at a local restaurant. Zach thought he would be doing counter work and waiting on customers like he did at his previous jobs at KFC/Taco Bell. But it turned out to be more  of a maintenance type position, lifting, cleaning and mopping. He wasn’t crazy about it. And it hurt his back. But it was a job.


Suzanne, meanwhile, spoke to the family doctor, letting him know that Zach was out of rehab, and would need a  prescription to have Zach periodically drug tested. Once a month should be enough, the doctor told Suzanne.
The first test came back negative.


Happy Birthday Zach, who  turned 18 on October 1 . He was now legally an adult.
Out-patient counseling started the next day.


 “I, Zachary Crotty, understand that the Program is based on abstinence. Given my history, I am signing this contract in agreement that if I relapse (use drugs or alcohol) and/or withhold any information about a relapse from my counselor, I can be terminated from the program and if there is a referral source, they will be notified immediately."

“I, Zachary Crotty, understand the importance attending my treatment appointments as scheduled in order to make satisfactory progress towards my goals.
Therefore I accept responsibility for reliably attending my treatment sessions according to the following schedule, unless I have a documented medical or personal emergency.”
Zach signed both contracts; so did his counselor.


Counseling was going well. Zach was talking to his counselor, and also attending twice-a-week group sessions, freely sharing his experiences, and even offering advice to others in the group.
“I realized I had a problem when all the kids in high school were coming to me for different drugs,” Zach told the group.

He’s been clean since going into rehab Aug. 27, Zach told the group. To stay clean since leaving rehab, Zach told them, he’s had to “change everything. Change school. Change friends. More counseling.”

Also, he said, going to work and school helps. So does having supportive parents, like he has, Zach said.  “If my parents weren’t so supportive, being clean would be more difficult, he told the group.
“The most important person in my life right now anyway, would be my mom” he said. “She is responsible for me, my shelter, food, or any other things I cannot afford myself. If something goes wrong in my life, she would be the one I would go to to help fix it. She’s important she kind of brought me into this world so without her, there wouldn’t be anyone important in my life because I wouldn’t have one. She overlooks a lot of decisions I make and gives more than anyone else in my life.”


There was a blip..
A positive drug test. A missed counseling session.
“I’m sorry you missed your appointment with me,” Zach’s counselor wrote. “I am taking the liberty to re-schedule. If you miss this appointment you will not be allowed to continue to attend group. The court will then be notified of your failure to follow through with treatment as recommend.”


Zach came to his next counseling session, and to group.
His next drug test was negative.


What do you like about yourself, the participants in Zach’s group were asked.
“I’m open-minded, and don’t hold a grudge. I’m basically pretty easy going,” Zach said.
Another session focused on stress reduction.
“I don’t have a lot of stress right now, but when I’m stressed, I try walking,  playing video games or playing with one of the pets,” he said..


Another blip.
He missed a counseling session.
Two days later, he missed another.
Zach was struggling, but not giving up.

What are the triggers that could bring on a relapse, he was asked at the next group session he attended. “Visiting areas in Buffalo associated with drugs,” he told the group.
“I changed many friendships,” he told the group. “I don’t see several of my old friends anymore.”
“In my years of drug use,” Zach said, “I’ve noticed several patterns, one of which is that every drug I’ve ever done, I have also done while in school. I have also noticed that every year brought a new drug of choice –drugs that got harder and harder with each coming year."


Zach wanted to stay clean. But just wanting to quit wasn’t always enough as Zach battled an addiction that was actually a disease, one that had rewired his teenage brain in a way that was constantly challenging his will to be drug-free. It just seemed to be getting harder with each day. He was, after all, only 14 when he first using the pills. His brain was still forming then, as it was now.

“We thought he was doing well,” Suzanne recalled.

Zach’s counselor apparently thought so too. Zach's mid-December drug test was negative. He was participating in group. “Did excellent job. Good insight,” the counselor wrote after a mid-December group session.

Just a few weeks later, Zach was in his room, unable to fall asleep. “I have taken quite a bit today, so I’m willing to share it all,” he wrote shortly after 3 a.m. on Jan.6.
“This  is what I took today:
Percocet – oxycodone – 15 mg.
Lortab (hydrocodone) – 30 mg
Morphine – 15mg
Clonopin (clonazepan) 1 mg
Xanax (alpralozam) 1 mg
Ecstasy 2 pills
Ambien – 12.5 mg.
Dexymothipneridate  5 mg.

"Just today. All together. Zach. We NEED TO STOP THIS.".


These drugs, it seemed, were hijacking Zach's brain.  But he wasn't giving up.
What Zach wanted, he said, was to get his life back, to be a former drug user, not a current one.


What is life?
By Zachary T. Crotty

What is life?
To live is to believe
To give
Is to receive
I was here
But now I’m gone



                                          CHAPTER 6 (published January 2015)


They  say I gotta go to rehabNever will I break –let me live forever
I loved all and never will I be forgotten
For  those who love me.
--Zach Crotty

It was Aug. 27, 2008. The Crottys drove about 45 minutes to the rehab center, a sprawling campus of brick buildings set off from the main road.
It looked like a friendly kind of place. Sort of like a small college. It even had dormitory-style rooms.
But shortly after they arrived, Zach started to feel like he didn't belong.
It felt like staff was reciting rules the second he walked in. Then the counselors started going through his suit case, checking what he brought.
“This isn’t a summer camp,” one counselor said, when finding the new towels and washcloths as well as some markers and writing paper that Suzanne bought for Zach to bring.
“You should think about a PINS petition,” one of the staff told Suzanne.  That way, the counselor explained, if Zach runs away the center can bring me back.
PINS. That’s Persons In Need of Supervision. Kids with a PINS petition aren’t here by choice, Suzanne thought. Zach was.
“No, that won’t be necessary,“ Suzanne said.
The next morning, the routine began.
Up at 6:45 a.m.
Breakfast. Then room check. Then “school,” in a make-shift classroom.
Next: Short break. Chores. Counseling. Lunch.
Free time. Group. Individual counseling. Dinner. Counseling.
More free time. Snack.
Bedtime at 10:30 p.m.
Next day, do it all again.
Get up at 6:45 a.m.
Breakfast. Room check. School.
Short break.
Chores. Then counseling. Then lunch.
Free time.
Group. Individual counseling. Dinner. Counseling.
Free time.
Snack. Bedtime at 10:30 p.m.


It was a lot of counseling. One-on-one counseling. Group counseling.
So many questions.

How did drug abuse change your relationship with your parents?
Zach: It has destroyed my relationship with my parents. There is no relationship,well, was no relationship.There will be, mark my words.

How do you feel about these changes in relationship?
Zach: Towards my family, I am incredibly sorry and I feel so bad.

Describe in detail your worst experience while using.
Zach: The first time I ever smoked crack, when I came down I wanted to kill myself so bad. I was in such a horrible state of mind, and it was like a panic attack that lasted the car ride from Buffalo to Boston. I had other drugs (tabs, Xanax) that I was afraid of taking just because they were drugs.

Have you become more sexually active since using drugs?
Zach: Yes. I’ve been using drugs for a while, I lost my virginity while I was addicted, so this is yes, because I technically had no sex life before drugs.

When was the last time you felt real inner calmness, comfort, and a sense of well-being?
Zach: The last time I did heroin.

 Do you like yourself?
Zach: I thought so but I’m finding out I barely know myself.  Every time I go to say something, I find I have nothing to say.

What things can you do to improve yourself?
Zach: Stay clean, definitely.

Do you have a higher power that loves you?
Zach: Definitely.  My mom is my higher power and she loves me very much. And I love her very much

Write a description of the person you want to be when you get out of treatment.
Zach: I want to be successful.  I want others to be successful too. My big thing is learning as much as I can, to help other people quit before they end up here. I want to go through college. I want to have a kid, and you sure can’t properly raise a kid when all your money goes to drugs, and you sure can’t properly love a kid when all your love goes to drugs.

More questions.

Do you feel inferior to others? Why?  Zach: No, but a lot of times I am very shy.

Do you always feel like you have to please others to get approval?

 Zach: Besides my family, yes. Especially here --only when I’m around people I don’t already know. It’s not so much I feel like I have to please others as much as I feel like I have to bring something to the table.

Make a list of examples of how doing things your way hurt you others. 
 Zach: Doing things my way especially hurt my mom. She suffered most from all of this. I always disobeyed and belittled her time and time again. It’s hard to believe she still loves me.

Make a list of all the things about yourself you want to change.
Zach: Being an addict.
Not getting along with my family.
Putting caring for myself a little bit in front of caring for other people.

Choose two of the most important changes and write out a plan to make them happen.
Zach: Being an addict – learn as much as I can here, in order to apply outside of here.
Not getting along with my family – involve my family in everything. Don’t hide anything from them. In order to make a support network out of it.

Do you accept people who are different?
Zach: Definitely. Because   I know what it’s like to be different.  

Can you tell the difference between disapproving of a person and disapproving of his conduct?

Zach:  Yes, and it’s something I’m going to need to put into action when I leave here.  I can’t drop my friends, but I can help to change them for the better.


And more questions.

Do you like to hang on to angry feelings and complain about them?
Zach: No. I like to express them to get them out, but after that, that’s that.  

Do you use resentments as an excuse for bad behavior?
Zach: No, I don’t usually make excuses when I behave badly, or use excuses anyway, when I was younger, I did but not recently by any means.

Are there any people in your life that you resent?

Zach:  While I was using, I resented my parents, but now I realize  it was me who was wrong.


After just a few days, Zach was starting to see things differently. He began writing his thoughts in letters:

Dear Opiates,
You destroyed the past four years of my life. You destroyed my high school career and you destroyed my relationship with my mom. I hate you for that.  Too much to reminisce about good times. Being in here made me realize you don’t know what you got till it’s gone – and I’ve spent longer time than this away from my mom – so I know it’s been the drugs. I never knew this feeling before, and if feels too good to let you back into my life. This is the end, and this is goodbye. Goodbye opiates, goodbye drugs, this is where it stops and this is where my life gets better.

Dear Mom,
I just don't know what to say. I love you so much and I was always afraid to show it, but I'm not anymore so,  I love you, so much. Never in a million years did I think I would miss you this much. I wish you could just come and pick me up from here.  Come save the day, like when I was little. I guess you can come see me Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, and  I want you to every one of these days. And stay as long as you can. I miss you so much. I don't think four months is right for me, cause what you don't know is I was clean forever. I would relapse when Fentanyl patches came around. I think having a healthy relationship with you will replace that. If you don't sign me out by my birthday, I'm going to sign myself out. But you know where I'm going to go? Home to you. I feel like such a baby, but I love you so much, and that's the truth.



Zach went to all the counseling sessions -- group and individual -- and even though he already graduated high school, he even went to the school classes they had.
And he never missed his kitchen duty chores.
 But Zach couldn’t stop thinking about – and talking about – how he wanted to leave.
The rehab center staff knew Zach still wasn’t feeling totally settled in, but they also noticed Zach was doing everything asked of him, and sometimes more.
“It gives us great pleasure to announce that Zach C is Client of the Day,” read the certificate Zach received on Sept. 5.
“Other kids told him they had been there for months and never got it," Suzanne said.
But the recognition didn't change the way Zach felt. He just didn't want to be there; just didn't feel like he belonged.
So on Sept. 5, nine days after arriving, and the same day he got his recognition certificate, Zach wrote a letter, then just walked through the central lounge and out the front door without anyone noticing he was leaving.

“I am not AWOLing so I can go get high (so don’t think your program failed me – I learned a lot). I’m leaving to get my life started – to build a relationship with my parents, my sisters, etc. To start college and  live a sober life. I don’t think it’s possible for me to be any more confident about staying sober, but if for whatever reason, I relapse, and end up back here, I can, if nothing else, be an example and be there to talk others out of leaving like this. I might be successful. I might not, but only doing this will tell.
Thank you, 


Zach didn’t go far after leaving the campus. He just went across the street to Tim Horton’s coffee and donut shop to call home.

Suzanne answered.

“‘Mom. You have to come get me. I can’t stay any longer. I’m at Tim Horton’s. Come get me.’”
“Zach, you gotta go back,” Suzanne said.
Mark agreed with her. “Leave him there;” he said.
But Suzanne felt Zach needed her, and that she would be able to help him figure things out
She told the counselors where Zach was, then drove up to meet them. The counselors wanted Zach to go back to rehab.
 “Zach struggled to make a commitment to treatment and openly talked of leaving throughout his stay,” the counselor said.
 He still needs treatment, the counselor told Suzanne.
But Zach was insistent on leaving, and Suzanne agreed to bring him home.
She began having regrets right away.“It was stupid on my part,” Suzanne would later say.  “They wanted him to stay.  It’s not like they were bad. They were good. It’s what Zach needed. But I was like, 'I raised two daughters and they turned out good.'. So we walked out.”


              A New Beginning
           By Zachary T. Crotty

Say Goodbye
Hard times, small crimes and felonies
A new beginning
I’m winning
Envisioning the breeze
I’m dressed in all white linen and fallen to my knees
For all that’s been
Given, I’m livin’ with ease.
Remember “I believe that an addict alone is in bad company.”
Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

                                                                   ++++                                                    CHAPTER 5  (published November 2014)   

                                                               FALLING APART

“Addicts don’t tell the truth about their drug use. We lie repeatedly and we are incredibly inventive with our deceptions, turning and twisting them to fit the situation. We lie, not because we are inherently dishonest people, but because the nature of addiction is such that we have to lie in areas to keep using, and we have to keep using because our bodies literally need the drugs to function. This is the fundamental truth about addiction – when want becomes need truth, honor, integrity and decency cease to matter. All we want is the drug.” – Zach Crotty

Zach looked so happy in his purple cap and gown as he walked across the auditorium stage at Springville-Griffith Institute to get his diploma, then posed in the gymnasium and outside the school for pictures with his friends.
Kerri and her family flew in from Germany, making that June day in 2008 even more special. Kerri’s husband, Michael, stayed back at the Crotty home with their 3-year-old son, Torben,  but Kerri came to the graduation ceremony. So did Zach’s sister Nichole, niece Erin  and nephew Connor;  his grandmother, and of course his parents, Mark and Suzanne.
June 2008

With sisters, Nichole, left, and Kerri
With friend Liz

Zach didn’t want a graduation party, but the whole family came back to the house after leaving the ceremony, including Zach,  who stayed home just long enough to say hello to everyone, and collect his graduation cards. He took whatever money was in them, then left.
“Where you going,” Zach was asked as he walked out, getting into his car without answering.
“I was told later he owed some money,” Suzanne said. “I don’t know if it’s true.”

Chances are, he was high during the ceremony.

Zach was still on Suboxone, and while it seemed he didn’t want to be addicted to drugs, it also seemed he wasn’t ready to give up the highs.
Zach gave one reason after another to miss counseling. One week it was homework; another he had to stay after school to take a test.
During one session he did attend, Zach admitted taking an opioid pill  “not from need but to feel good.”
“Total abstinence is necessary to allow the brain to recover from addiction use,” the counselor told him.

While Zach tested negative for drugs some weeks, the next he’d test positive for Xanax. Or Loratab.  Or Morphine.  Or Hydrocodone.  Or some combination of them.
Sometimes he denied taking the drugs he tested positive for. During one blood test in June, he tested positive for Adderall – a drug commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder. He needed it to help focus on his final exams, Zach told the counselor.

Suzanne suspects Zach may have been selling his Suboxone.  “I heard they got like $10 a pill on the street,” she said.  Whether that was happening or not, Zach’s positive drug tests continued. Finally, after testing positive for opioids at the end of July, and again at the beginning of August, Zach was dropped from the Suboxone program. “You are done,” Zach was told.
“They kicked him out,” Suzanne said. “They said he needed in-patient treatment.”

“I tried to stop using, tried to hang around people who didn’t use,” Zach later wrote. “Tried Suboxone, which was effective for the most part. I was clean until the date when (Fentanyl) patches came around.”
“I was on Suboxone for three weeks of every month, but the day the script of
patches came around I was down,” he said.

It didn’t seem like Zach cared much about getting kicked out of the Suboxone  program. Life went on. Friends. Drugs. Work.  Zach had a job at the KFC  in Springville. That’s where he was the Wednesday morning when one of his best friends called. “I’m on my way to ECMC,” the friend said in a message he left, referring to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo. The friend didn’t give a reason, so when Zach got the message, he worried. The first chance he got that day, during a break at work, Zach drove over to the Sheriff’s substation  in Springville to see if anyone there knew anything about his friend.
“I’m just a dispatcher,” was the only answer Zach got.   He returned to work. When his shift ended, he headed over to another friend’s house, still worried, and unsure of what he would do. But before getting a chance to deal with it, he had someone else to help out. A co-worker called Zach worried that her  uncle may have overdosed.  Zach jumped in his car, bringing the friend he was visiting with him, and headed toward the uncle’s house. Along the way, Zach called 911. As he was talking with the 911 dispatcher, Zach said, he noticed the car behind him had their bright lights on. It was annoying. Zach said he didn’t hear any sirens or initially see flashing lights on the car.  When he did see the lights, he said, he pulled over.
“Why didn’t you pull over sooner, “ the deputy asked.  “We’ve been trying to pull you over for more than a mile.”
“I was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher,” Zach tried to tell the officers, as he explained that a friend’s uncle might have overdosed. The officers weren’t interested,  Zach said, and demanded  that Zach hang up the phone.
 “What drugs have you taken today?” the officer wanted to know.
“Zach completely broke down,” the friend driving with Zach said. “He was crying, sobbing to the point that he was wheezing loudly, and shaking,” she said. “He was rocking back and forth in his seat.”
Zach’s friend said it was an anxiety attack. Zach agreed. “I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I know that I was hysterical,” he said. “I was shaking and crying.”
The call from his friend that morning, saying he went to ECMC,  had Zach very nervous, he said. Then the call about his co-worker’s uncle possibly overdosing added to his anxiety, he said.
Zach told the officer he had taken Suboxone.
“He asked me how many” Zach recalled. “At first I told him I took one extra, as to not admit taking illegal drugs.”
“Just tell me what you’ve really taken,” the officer said.
“I told him I had taken an oxycodone earlier in the day, but that the Suboxone had canceled it out.”
Zach was brought down to the station, and then to the hospital, where he was tested for drugs.
The tests were  negative for Suboxone and oxycodone, but positive for Xanax and benzos, Zach said.
“Unless my Suboxone was secretly replaced with those, I didn’t  take them,” Zach insisted.

Zach was taken to the Sheriff’s Office in downtown Buffalo to be fingerprinted. Suzanne was waiting in the hallway for him when her cell phone rang.
It was Zach’s counselor. Zach’s Suboxone doctor thinks he needs in-patient treatment, she said. There’s a bed available now.
After Zach was fingerprinted, Suzanne brought him home. They talked about rehab.   Zach knew he needed to go. “Zach knew he was in trouble,” Suzanne said. “This arrest, on top of his past one for shop lifting. The speeding ticket he was still dealing with. The bust at school. He agreed to go for in-patient treatment.”


If I Die Before I Wake
By Zachary T. Crotty

Thought I’d let you know
That if I die
Before I wake
You’re in my final thoughts

For the last breath I take
From mistake to mistake
Let me try to make it up.

I use to take, take and take
But I finally gave it up.
Take money, take drugs
Take advice from fake thugs
Fake friends
“Boy I’m witchu from the start to the end.”

Sorry homeboy not tryna
Hear that again
You see I had to let it go
Open my mouth let it flow
Open my heart let it show

This new life feels like Christmas
Let it snow
Let it snow
Got on with  the quickness
Ran away from the sickness
With god as my witness
I’ m a show you how I did this

This my 12 steps like the
10 crack commandments

If you’re serious, get serious.
Don’t ask god, demand it.
Now  when I say demand it
Think about  it and expand it

When you’re  fed up, had too
much and just can’t stand it
Now he just can’t hand it
You gotta put in work, hard work, receive me
Follow me and you’ll be
Believe that it works.
I know I said put in work but wipe
That mother  fuckin smirk.

                                                  CHAPTER 4 –      (published October 2014)
                                                                GETTING CLEAN

"I  don’t care where you are, who you are, what year it is, what time it is. None of that. If you’re reading this right now, you’re meant to. This is specially meant for you. Although I don’t say I know who you are  Everything happens for a  reason . Me? I love myself in a way others don’t love themselves. It’s so deep and it feels good, but I don’t always feel it. I’m not there yet. A lot of the time my need for others to love me gets in the way of me loving me, which is stupid. But listen, I’ve been through shit but never once did I wonder why it was happening to me, I always knew someday it would make sense. I’m figuring it out.”
                                                         --Zachary Crotty – Oct. 21,2008


Who would have thought finding a doctor was so difficult. Suzanne got  the name of an addiction specialist, called for an appointment, and was told that the doctor was all booked up. And that there was a waiting list.  The doctor’s office, did, however, suggest a referral from a family doctor could short circuit the waiting list. So Suzanne contacted her family  doctor, who wrote a letter that got  Zach an appointment pretty quickly.
Suzanne drove Zach to the first appointment. It was on  Bailey Avenue, not one of Buffalo’s best neighborhoods. Suzanne stayed in the waiting room while Zach talked with the doctor in the examining room. It was a long appointment.
I’ve been mostly using Loratab and OxyContin every day, Zach told the doctor. Up to 10 hydros a day , or as many as I can get.  The past few months, he told the doctor, I’ve also been doing a bag or two of heroin daily.  Snorting it. Not shooting up. I only did that once, Zach said.
“I was 16 when I did heroin for the first time. I only did it a couple times, and it wasn’t until I was 17 that I even did  it again, and got bad into it”, he said.
“In   December 07, “ Zach told the doctor,” I was addicted to morphine 100s.  That fell through so in January, February, March 08 I was on  Oxycontin.  That fell through. I got into heroin. Would get $20 bucks and two bags every day to give this girl a ride. I got my own connection and his prices were basically buy one get one free.
“Then my  supplier got arrested.”

My parents know about a lot of the drugs, Zach said, but not the heroin.  Please don’t tell them.
Oh, and also I took a methadone  pill today. Also, sometimes I’ve gotten suboxone.


The doctor met with  Mark and Suzanne  in what seemed like a lunchroom, while Zach sat in the waiting room.  He  didn’t tell Suzanne and Mark  about  Zach’s heroin use,  but did convey that Zach had a serious drug problem.
“Zach has had several failed attempts to get off drugs on his own, “ the doctor said. “At this point he is having some difficulty in school. Certainly  his opiate addiction is worsening in severity.”
Again, the subject of in-patient  rehab came up. “It would certainly be reasonable to consider,” the doctor said.
But  again, the Crotty's’ said they would prefer not  to at this time, given Zach was a high school senior.
 The doctor then explained  Suboxone was a drug that would reduce Zach’s opioid cravings. Hopefully, given  Zach’s youth, the doctor said, Suboxone would  help wean Zach off the opioids, and he could then remain drug free. However, the doctor warned, in his experience Suboxone is more of a maintenance drug, that requires  staying on Suboxone  for a long period of time. He also said Zach was the youngest Suboxone patient he ever had.


To start the Suboxone treatment, the doctor told Zach, take your first dose when you have mild withdrawal symptoms. Then, take  half a pill twice a  day.  Come back for a follow-up visit in 24 hours.
Zach took the drug, just as the doctor  prescribed, taking the first dose as soon as he began having withdrawal  symptoms,  and coming back into the doctor’s office for regular  weekly appointments. He was given a blood and  urine test each time. The  doctor “wanted to make sure he was a taking the drug, and  that it was in his system,” Suzanne said.
Over the next weeks, the visits continued.   After each appointment,  Zach got a prescription  for another week’s worth of the drug.
“We were, going back to see the doctor a fair amount,” Suzanne said. “ I remember the doctor telling us we would get Zach back, that when he was taking  Suboxone, he would be Zach, rather than this person who was walking in our house. He said Zach would become part of our family again.”
Things weren’t perfect.  A couple weeks into the treatment Zach’s blood test  showed, and he acknowledged taking,  hydrocodone.
But all in all, ,the Suboxone  seemed to be working.
As part of the treatment, Zach was also in counseling.   With the Suboxone,  Zach told his counselor, he was  “feeling better without cravings and withdrawal.”
Suzanne and Mark felt they were getting their son back.
“He would talk to us more,” Mark recalled.  “He seemed more relaxed, not so anxious.”
 “This is the answer, we thought. He is thinking clearly”  Suzanne said.

                                                                              I'll Always Love You
                                                                                  By Zach Crotty

                                                                              If you ever get down

                                                                           And feel like nobody cares.

                                                                                   Stop. Think                                                                                                     Remember I’m there.

                                                                                   Out here,  somewhere.
                                                                                   I’m thinking  of you
                                                                           and  there’s someone else besides me
                                                                                     that loves you too.

                                                                                     I’ll always love  you
                                                                                 With every part of my heart

                                                                                    No matter who I'm with

                                                                              Whether it’s til death do us part

                                                                             Because you’re a part of me

                                                                                You’re a piece of my soul

                                                                             You're in my thoughts  every day

                                                                                    You’re part of my whole

                                                                                Drugs have been injected

                                                                               And lives have been affected.

                                                                               But nothing can take away

                                                                                   This little place that

                                                                                       I’ve  protected

                                                                                         Defected? No.

                                                                                     Flaws are expected.

                                                               But your flaws are something to never be rejected.
                                                                                    My  flaws  however

                                                                                      Not so respected

                                                                                Overdosing in my sleep

                                                                                  I’ve  come to  expect it.

                                                                                    But also expect that

                                                                                     I'll  be resurrected

                                                                              The way we are connected

                                                                              You're always protected.

                                                                         That wouldn't be your fault though

                                                                            But more the way that I’ve risen

                                                                                With out you I'd be selling

                                                                                   Powder  in  prison

                                                                                         So listen

                                                                                   If you don’t think you can

                                                                                   Make it through the day

                                                                                   Remember I love you

                                                                              And everything's gonna be OK


CHAPTER 3 (Published September 2014)


 Pizza please – minus the cheese and sauce
        Zach was a picky eater. In the extreme. We’re not talking  trim-the-crust-off-my-bread picky eater. We’re talking  take everything off the pizza,  including the cheese before I’ll eat it picky eater.
Consider lunch. Zach’s wouldn’t eat school lunches, so always took food from home. And always the same thing:  For a while that was  American cheese on Strohman’s potato bread, Doritos, and a  Little  Debbie snack cake.
“Every day,  that was his lunch for years,” Suzanne recalled.
Then, she said, laughing, he switched to green peppers. “He would take a whole bag of them. Cut up.”
But there’s more.
Zach  was pretty much a vegetarian.
“Thanksgiving he would come sit at the table with us and eat buttered rolls and ask for vegetarian vegetable soup” Suzanne said.  “He didn’t eat 
turkey, mashed potatoes or anything else that was served.”
 Zach’s friends talk about  how he’d go  to Subway and order lettuce on a roll.
And then there’s the pizza. Yes, he’d eat pizza. Well, some of it anyway.
“When we traveled in Europe he would order a Margherita pizza (only cheese),” Suzanne recalled. "When it arrived at the table he would take the cheese off and eat only the crust and sauce.   We asked why he didn't order it that way and he said that the cheese added flavor but he didn't want to eat it.”
“We would buy a beautiful pizza and Zach  would just eat the  crust!,” Mark said in amazement.
Did we mention Zach was a vegetarian? But that he loved McDonald’s? McDonald’s cheeseburgers  in particular.
“Zach loved McDonalds,” Suzanne said. “He’d order a  cheeseburger – hold the pickle – every time.  And  French Fries, but he wouldn’t eat them if they were even the slightest bit burnt.
“We just got used to his strange food choices,” Suzanne said. “ He would eat cereal, didn’t eat potato chips, he loved his chocolate and candy.  He loved  Sour Patch kids. Any sour candy.”
The irony wasn’t lost on Suzanne and Mark..  Zach was so picky about what food he  put into his body, yet he  took all these different kinds of  pills, Suzanne said..


From Cologne to Paris to Amsterdam
Zach was  just  11 years old the first time he went to Europe in  2001.  Zach's sister Kerri was in the Air Force, stationed at the Sembach Air Force base  in Germany, so Suzanne and Zach took a trip overseas to visit her.

Notes from Zach’s 2001 European Trip travel journal:.

Day 1 - From Buffalo to Chicago to Germany
"It was the biggest plane I’d ever been  on,” Zach wrote.
Day 2 - "We started the day off by leaving for Switzerland.  We will be staying in Switzerland for two days and Italy as well. We drove through and on the Alps and very swervy roads. We stayed in a little town called Interlaken and it was really nice."
Interlaken, Switzerland 2001

Day 3 - "Today we left our hotel Latchberg.   It was bon voyage hotel and hello Alps. We rode train almost all the way to the top.... We stayed in a little town in Italy called Florence – which is spelled FIRENZE."
Day 4 - "After a kazillion hours of shopping Day 4 starts."
Day 5 - "We went to a market with a bunch of outside stands. There were clothes stands, chess stands, and candle stands – anything you can think of. I got a shirt with  20,000 lire  (leer-uh) ($10)."
Interlaken, Switzerland 2001
Day 6 - "We went to Heidelberg, Germany. We went shopping for a while then went to a castle.  Around the castle there were statues, fountains and many trees."
Lucerne, Switzerland, 2001
Day 7  - "Today from Sembach’s AFB we left for Kaiserslautern . ..All we did today was look in stores for six hours. We were headed toward the car when we got lost.  About a half hour later,  we found the car and drove to Frankfurt, Germany, where the airport is".

Day 8 – Today we got up at 5:45 to get to the airport at 7:00. We were on the plane for approximately 10 hours 25 minutes. I saw the movies "Along came a Spider” and "Down to Earth.”

That 2001 trip  turned out to be the first  of many such European excursions.. Eight in all.
Kerri  fell in love with and  married a German man, and they ended up staying in Germany, where Kerri and her husband  still live today with  their three children..

So trips to Europe became a somewhat regular thing for Suzanne, who usually brought Zach with her on what turned out to be European holidays.  The trips always started in Germany. But side trips took them everywhere    

from Venice to Paris to Austria.
Paris, 2003

When Zach was younger, he loved the trips. He’d be  so excited to go – although Kerri’s husband would joke  with him about always listening to music on his head phones  instead of paying attention to the amazing scenery  he’d be passing.
 “Zach – look!” Michael would say.

Italy 2004
Frankfort, Germany 2006

Zach’s last European was  trip in May 2009 and included  visits to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and the  Chocolate Museum in  Cologne, Germany. 

A family walk in Amsterdam, 2009

Ann Frank Museum, Amsterdam, 2009

At Chocolate Museum, Cologne, Germany 2009

Hanging with sister Kerri, Cologne, Germany 2009


The music man

From a very early age, maybe 7 or so, Zach loved music.  He had a CD player.  He  knew all of the words to the songs.
“I couldn’t even understand what the words were but he knew them,” Suzanne  recalled.
As Zach got older, he also got into video games.  He loved his Nintendo Game Boy. But music always came first.   He had a huge CD collection.  Once he got an iPod,  he had thousands of songs on it.   He categorized all of his music.  He loved the Hip Hop, rap . He loved Left Eye Lopez from TLC.  He took it really hard when  she died.  Tupac Shakur. Nora Jones. Bob Marley. He knew all their music..
Music wasn’t just a hobby with Zach. It was a passion.  He  could mix music on the computer, and create remixes .  He could sit for hours composing songs,  and writing lyrics. Like this song he wrote for Justine, a girl he was seeing in 2008:

(By Zach Crotty)
I just wanna hold you
sunset to sunrise
look deep into your eyes
until the end of time
I want our fingers laced together
til the sky falls down
and even then I'll still be around
“I just wanna touch you
Until the stars fall apart
Until  the sun burns out
And the world goes dark ;
I want you to confide in me
the planets collide
But tell  me then
would you be by my side 

          Click here to see and hear Zach and friend Alissa sing "A Song for Justine":


+ + + +

CHAPTER 2 (Published August 2014)


“I want to go through college. I want to have a kid, and you can’t properly raise a kid when all  your money goes to drugs, and  you sure can’t properly love a kid when all your love goes to drugs.” 
--Zachary T. Crotty

At 5 foot 9, and  somewhere between 155 and 165 pounds, Zach  wasn’t a particularly imposing kid. With his moppy  brown  hair  and big brown eyes,  at times  he barely looked  his age. But Zach was definitely growing up. He turned 17 about a month after the school year started. His senior year.
“Friends, definitely is what I like about school.  The fun I’ve had in school is irreplaceable. Learning about  new things. Fucking around and pissing teachers off or having adult conversations with teachers,” he told one of his counselors.
Zach was excited about  graduating  in June,  and was loving senior year. He took his best friend, Liz, to senior prom. And he eagerly went on the senior trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Cleveland’s waterfront. What an awesome trip. He was also working  part-time at the Kissing Bridge ski resort in the winter, and  Kentucky Fried Chicken the rest of the year.
Senior Prom with Liz

And of course, after getting busted outside Springville Griffith High School,  he was also seeing a drug counselor.
“I have friends at school who  use, but I use the most of  anybody I know at school,” he  told the counselor. ."I was always late for class cause I was always in the bathroom crushing a pill. Since I was under the influence, I cared less about tings, so I left all the  time during lunch to smoke.

"I would often fall asleep during class and when I wasn't high, I was plotting at how to leave and where to go. I really hurt my ability to succeed. I was never in any after school activities. Now that I'm somewhat sober,.I regret not going to musicals and things that were available. I'd probably be a completely different  person.  Just now I'm realizing the detriment drugs may have had on my life," he told the counselor.

Zach’s parents sometimes  attended  the counseling sessions,  joining  their son in a world   that Mark ,a furniture refinisher  and artisan; and Suzanne, a one-time  gift shop manager and later a  chiropractic assistant,  never really  knew existed.
It was in that world, though, that Suzanne and Mark  began  to understand how  Zach had transformed  into someone they didn’t always recognize.  Gone was the son who loved  playing Marco Polo in the swimming pool with his dad, who loved to help when the family’s  English Springers had puppies, and loved to take family vacations to Florida and even Europe.
 “Zach was a great little kid,” Mark said. “He never gave us any trouble.”


Zach loved winter

A family Christmas
 “The first time we went ,” Suzanne recalled of the counseling sessions, ”it felt like a scene from the old Bob  Newhart Show. The counselor was  a thin guy in his 50s, in a small, dimly lit office with a couch.”
”We took  Zach there a  few times,” she said.  “Zach didn’t say much to the guy. He viewed his questions as an invasion of privacy.”
After a few sessions, it was obvious to Zach  and the counselor that this wasn’t going anywhere.
The counselor referred Zach to a drug addiction clinic.

What drugs are you taking?, the counselor at the drug clinic asked.
 “ Loritabs. Up to 10 a day. And codeine and hydrocodone, not a lot, but still I get sick when I don’t take any.”
Are you under the influence of Lortabs now? he asked.
When’s the last time you used?
“Yesterday.  Two Lortabs.”
Did you take anything today?
Let’s talk about your drug history.
“Started smoking cigarettes, once in a while, when I was 13. Got to about half a pack a day when I was 15, but I didn’t smoke at home.”
“Marijuana, I started at 14 to be cool, but I didn’t really like it. Now, I only use it if I’m real stressed out. Maybe once a month. Last time was a couple days ago.”
And what about the opiates? When  did you start taking them?
“Around 15 or 16 years old. Much better than weed. They were a life saver.
“First used morphine, then oxycontin. Now, can take 10 in a day and be cool, or three in  a day and be fine.”
“I really get sick if  I don’t take  them. Diarrhea, achy skin, back hurts. Sometimes  goose bumps. Pupils really big.

Zach, You’re addicted to opiates, the counselor concluded.

Talking to the counselor wasn’t bad,  but  when the discussion came to telling his parents, Zach turned to the counselor:  “Can you tell them when I’m not here?”
The full conversation never occurred, but Suzanne and Mark were told enough to understood things were pretty bad.
“We didn’t have full knowledge of all the drugs “ Zach’s father sad. “We thought it was just the lortabs.”
During a session with his parents and counselor, Zach said he was ready to quit the drugs. He wanted to get clean. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. Even while in counseling, he was still doing drugs. He needed the hydrocodone, he told the counselor, or he would get sick. It’s an awful withdrawal. Like your skin is literally peeling off your body.
 “I want  to be a recovering  addict,” Zach told the counselor.  “I don’t want to be addicted to drugs anymore.”

You have two options, the counselor said:  Residential  counseling  where you live at the rehab center,  or outpatient counseling   combined with drug treatment provided by a doctor specializing in addiction medicine. He’ll put you on medication to help you overcome your  drug cravings.
Graduation was coming up. Zach didn’t want to miss it. Suzanne and Mark didn’t  want him to either. And after graduation.  Zach was planning to attend Erie County Community College.
So Zach and his parents said they’d rather try out- patient counseling, and drug treatment with a  physician specializing in addiction medicine.
"Trading one drug for another didn't really make sense to me," Suzanne said. "But we thought it was worth a try. Zach was just 17 and in high school. We didn't want to put him in in-patient rehab. We didn't want him to miss graduation."


  by Zachary T. Crotty  -- Nov. 22, 2008

If I die after this shot
this is my will and testament
My life was full of shit
but I made the best of it
don’t  ever think I didn’t
it was a good ride
I had some good times
but now I’m saying good bye
don’t cry – I’ll be at the end
with a smile
just promise me you won’t
try to rush it
Stay down here a while
And if you’re on drugs – QUIT
in memory of me
live your life drug free
the way it was meant to be
I knew my destiny
it was to go through shit
learn  from it
and help others get through it
not quite a role model
more of an example
so learn from me
and pay it forward
stay toward
all your goals and dreams
cause if you want it, they come true
And if you start cryin' in the middle of the night

I'm already there with you.


“I’m not here to change what people think of me. I’m here to change what people think of themselves,”  -- Zachary T. Crotty  


            The Phone Call
        The phone rang at  Crotty house late in the afternoon  on that April day in 2008.
 It was the Springville Griffith High School guidance  counselor. She didn’t say much, just that she needed to talk to Suzanne and  Mark about Zach, who was a senior at the time.
When the Crottys arrived, a  sheriff’s deputy was waiting for them along with  the guidance counselor.  The four met in the guidance office, a small, stark room with a long table. Suzanne and Mark sat on one side. The guidance counselor and deputy on the other.
“We think your son must be dealing drugs at school,” the deputy told the Crottys.
Mark and Suzanne couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
“No way is my son a drug dealer,” Suzanne  told them . “Someone is  trying to get him in trouble. You must have it all wrong.”
Zach of course,  knew better

The cops were waiting for him  when Zach  arrived  at Springville Griffith High School that morning.  They found morphine tablets in his pocket.
”I got arrested outside of school about 7:40 a.m. , with 2-1/2 morphine pills,” Zach said.   “Word  spread.  Fast.”
But the cops weren’t really interested in  Zach. They wanted to make a deal.  They wanted  names of the big-time drug dealers in town.  "They told me if I helped  them they’d forget about the charges, and I’d be good," Zach said. "I gave them names of people already  in jail and called it a day, thinking I was smooth as shit."
But the police did tell school officials.  Who called Zach’s parents.

The Crotty’s live in Colden, a kind of picture-postcard place most of  us drive through but don’t stop in, except  maybe  for the locals headed for the ski slopes at the end of a winding road running through town.
The slopes aren’t very big as ski slopes go. In fact, the ride up on the chair  lift can take longer than the run down the hill.
Still, it’s a nice view  from the hills.  And from atop  some of  the them,   you can  just about see the Crotty house.
Suzanne  likes to say it was  a perfect place for a boy to grow up.  Mark and Suzanne pretty much built the house  over the  years, taking a small bungalow and, room by room, building an expansive and  beautiful, rustic-style   home at the end of a dead-end street.
Zach and his friends would bike on the hills, then  go fishing in the creek behind the house.  Zach
 always liked fishing  as a kid.  One time, he called his grandmother, who lives about 40 minutes away,  to ask  if she had any corn.
“Why do you want corn,” his grandmother asked.
“For the fish,” Zach replied. “Fish like corn.”

It was a nice group of boys. They all attended Colden Elementary School, just a short distance from Zach’s house. When it was time for middle school,  though,
Zach attended a school that was an hour bus ride from their house.  He got a new set of friends. Suzanne and Mark didn't really know them. Zach was becoming a bit distant.

Ever since middle school, Zach would later explain, he felt anxious, especially around people he didn’t know.  “I didn’t feel like I fit  in,” he said. Sometimes, he said, he’d get so nervous his heart started racing, his breathing would tighten, and he’d feel light headed and start sweating.  Sometimes it would  last seconds; sometimes  minutes. Sometimes he’d be embarrassed.  Pot helped at first, but the painkillers he discovered were better. “They made me feel like a better  person,” Zach said.   When he took  them, he said, he didn’t have to work  hard  to fit in. So he took them a lot. And other drugs too.
He still smoked pot though, usually at night to help him sleep.
The meeting in the guidance office ended with Suzanne and Mark agreeing  Zach needed  counseling.
He needs to talk to someone to  help him understand why he feels he needs to take these drugs, and to find another way to cope with his concerns., Suzanne recalls the counselor telling her and  Mark.
As they headed home,   Mark and Suzanne thought back to when Zach was still at Colden Elementary, the neighborhood school close to their house. Zach did so well in school then, not like now.  His grades started slipping once he switched to middle school, a bus ride away in Springville. And he started hanging out with different kids.  Suzanne’s mind drifted some more,  to when  Zach was about 15. Suzanne and  Mark dropped Zach off to meet some friends at a pizza shop in Springville while  they went to Wal-Mart.
  “On our way out, we passed by Zach smoking in front of the pizza place,” Suzanne recalled. “He had the cigarette right up to his mouth. I pulled the car over, and told Zach to get into the car. I was so upset. How could he be smoking? In reality, by this time he had already tried drugs for two years. I was so naïve  to what was going on,” she said.
And then there was the phone call at the beginning of the  year from the father of one of Zach’s friends.
“My daughter and  your son are friends,” the man told Suzanne. “I caught the two of them sniffing a white powder.” The man suspected the teenagers were doing drugs.
Suzanne didn’t know what to think.   She picked Zach up from school later that day, stopped by the family doctor for a prescription, then took  Zach for a drug test.  He tested positive for some drug. Suzanne  doesn’t recall what one.
 “Zach was as angry with me as I was with him,” Suzanne said.
She and  Mark began keeping a closer eye  on Zach after that, but  Suzanne says: “We really didn’t  understand drugs and addiction.”
“I wanted to trust him,”  she added.
It’s often difficult to tell that someone is on prescription opioids, Mark said. The user doesn’t reek  the way a marijuana smoker does, or have red eyes like someone who had been drinking alcohol.

What is life?
By Zachary T. Crotty

To live is to believe
To give
Is to receive
I was here.
But now I’m gone.
I left my name to carry on.
Those who knew me
knew me well
Those who didn’t
can go to “l”
Live, love, laugh, learn
My name will stay
Life flames do burn.


(published June 2014)


“I’m not a role model, more of an example to learn from, “ Zach Crotty says as he recounts the beginning of his whirlwind life as a teenage drug addict, one that started in the halls of his rural middle school and took him to the streets of Buffalo, N.Y., where he looked up one day to see a man holding a gun to another man’s head.
By the time he was 17, Zach tells us, he had been using legal and illegal opioids for three years, having done everything from pot and cocaine, to one prescription painkiller after another as well as heroin and methadone.
By the time Zach was 19, he had tried in-patient  rehab, out-patient rehab, counselors,  drug addiction specialists,  and a psychiatrist who treated  the drug-addicted Zach with more and different drugs.
Did treatment fail Zach? Or was Zach just not ready for treatment? Or was it some of both?
Whatever the case,  Zach  became the poster child for  a new generation of drug addicts – young men and women addicted not to  drugs grown in far-away lands, but to the opioid  painkillers produced  by American  pharmaceuticals  and prescribed by American doctors.
Zach didn’t mean to become an addict.  It just happened, as pills he started taking to deal with teenage anxiety  unwittingly reprogrammed the chemistry of his teenage brain.
Zach also didn't mean to to die.   But part of him knew that was one possible ending of his  addiction -- a disease controlling part of his brain and hijacking much of his life.
And possibly because of that reality, Zach  left behind his writings, which, he often wrote, he hoped would do for others what he couldn’t do for himself – save their life.


Prologue - It was Quite A Ride

Zach Crotty. 


      When I was 14, I smoked marijuana for the first time. I wasn't pressured into it or anything. In fact, I asked my friend if she would smoke with me, and she agreed. The feeling was kind of overwhelming, but I loved it.  After a while though it started to give me panic attacks.
 Somewhere between 14 and 15 years old I began doing pills. My first pill was morphine 100 milligram a friend split with me.  I fell in love. To this day, people say to me: “Remember when we’d all be sitting at the basketball courts and  would be laying on the table, getting up only to throw up, talking about how good you felt? “
 I don’t remember.
               I had three pill friends. One stole morphine from her aunt. One stole oxys from her dad, and eventually one who stole tabs from her dad. I started out rough because my friends would be talking about “tabs” and   “hydros” and I had never heard of them. I only knew the misfortunate pleasure of morphine and  oxycodone, which I didn’t mention were handed to me daily for free.    Everything I ended up getting  bad into came free in the beginning.

                 When I was 15, I did cocaine. Oxy Girl got me  a gram, and  I did some right before gym class. I’m told I was a riot.  Sixteen is when I got bad. I was  heavy into pills, and  since I could no longer get them for free, I had  to find my own  connections.  Those connections had other connections and so when I was 16,  I used mostly fentanyl patches for the following few months.

                 When I was 16, I also did heroin for the first time. I wanted to try it so bad. I’ll never forget the conversation.
“How  you  doin’ with oxys?”
Alright. Do you have any?
“Not oxys. I  got something   a little stronger.”
What’s that?
You mean…..?
You home?
I told my friends I left  something at the  house. And I went to see him.  He was letting me try it. I said: Can I take it with me? I like to try things at night. So if it’s too much I can go to bed.

“No, do it here.”
“Do this one here  and I’ll give you one to take  home.”
WHAT? That defeats the purpose, but I wasn’t going to turn it down. Somehow I missed the whole  ‘heroin fucks you up’ thing.
           When I was 17, I smoked crack for the first time in Buffalo.  Police car after police car after SWAT car rushed past us. As I inhaled, my friend  was like “look over  there. He’s got. . He’s got a gun to his  head.”  Some man on the West Side of Buffalo had a gun to another man’s head. That was the first day I smoked crack.

Seventeen was not a good year.  When I look back, it was all inevitable.