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When Suzanne and John Boyer left their upper-middle class home for work on the morning of May 20, 2008, their 15-year-old son, Kyle, had a stomachache and was still in bed.
It wasn’t too bad, he told them. “Go on to work, I’ll sleep some more and feel better soon.”
A couple of hours later, Suzanne got a phone call that changed the trajectory of the Boyers’ lives forever.
“Ma’am I’m with the Cobb County police department. Is this Suzanne Boyer?”
“Do you have a son named Kyle Boyer?”
“Do you know where he is?”
“Yes, he’s home in bed sick.”
“No ma’am. He’s in the back of my patrol car. We’ve been looking for him for a long time.”
Kyle, who turns 18 in May, swears there are hundreds of kids just like him in Cobb County schools, thousands like him in Georgia, tens of thousands in America -- kids who have their well-meaning-but-clueless parents convinced that their babies are saying no to drugs.
“We believed what he told us,” said Suzanne. “We were stupid enough to believe him.”
Experts in juvenile drug and alcohol abuse agree the problem is indeed epidemic and catastrophic. And the Boyers’ belief in their kids’ innocence is the norm, particularly in the two-parent suburban households.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, one in 10 high school seniors have taken Vicodin without a prescription. Earlier this year, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “just about the only mortality statistic that is getting worse, is death from prescription opioid abuse." Frieden was referring to a comprehensive report on the nation's health released in February http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm that showed declining mortality rates in every category except prescription drug use.
Kyle’s journey was from isolation, bullies and OxyContin to purpose, hope and sobriety. It has been a long journey and one that is still very fluid. It threatened to ruin his parents’ marriage by creating a hostile home where everyone was taking sides. And it almost landed him in a jail cell that was much harsher than the Youth Detention Center he’d been in four times.
Kyle wasn’t just abusing prescription medication, such as Vicodin, Xanax and OxyContin; he was selling it to his friends. Worse yet, when he found himself out of pills, he’d fake a stomachache or a migraine. Then, when his parents would go to work, he’d get dressed, walk to a different part of his neighborhood, and start knocking on doors. If someone answered, he’d simply ask if they had seen his missing dog.
If no one answered, he’d break in.
“I wasn’t wanting to steal their stuff, or their money, and never did,” Kyle said. “I’d go straight to their medicine cabinet and take whatever they had that I could use.”
This was the Kyle Boyer police had been looking for, the one his friends kind of knew about, but the one who his parents had no idea existed.
“I was trying to break into a house and all the sudden, there were cops everywhere with their guns pulled,” Kyle said. “I ran for a split second, and saw more police on the other side of the house and I stopped.”
Kyle had broken into, or tried to break into about 10 houses in the two weeks leading up to his arrest.
Continue reading: Kyle meets a tough-love judge and Lock-up
Multimedia credits: Clay Duda