Gridley teacher loses teenage son to opioid overdose


CHICO, Calif. - What started as a simple treatment for a common ailment, ended in a deadly addiction for Anne Sisney's 19-year-old son in 2015.

Anne described William as gentle, selfless and an all-around great kid, whose life was cut too short. It all started when William was prescribed Oxycontin, an opiate, to treat shingles.

"They get a prescription for opioids, for a legitimate reason and then they can't stop taking it," Sisney explained.

It's what happened when William turned 18. "I don't get to spend birthdays with my son anymore," she cried. "He would have been 22 [years old] this August."

Instead, William's life ended abruptly.

"He had come home in his car, I don't know how he got..." Sisney trailed off. "He died in his car, outside of the house, and I was out of town."

She said it only took a year for William to change from a normal teenager to an addict. "But that's when he needed me, and even though it was hard to watch, you know, I needed to be there for my son, I wanted to fight for his life."

For nearly five months, they fought together. William had graduated from 30 days in rehab and seemed to be progressing. But Anne said she saw the signs when they returned. It was the sleepiness, the irritability, that told her William had relapsed.

"Just, you know, that brightness is gone from their eyes and that's the only way I can explain it," Anne said. "It was about a week, I'd say, maybe two weeks and he was gone."

She lost her pride and joy, then had to deal with isolation from the very people she thought would provide comfort.

"People just don't want to talk to you, if your kid dies from an overdose. So not only are you mourning the loss of your son, but you're isolated because there's a level of shame that goes with addiction, that isn't fair."

By speaking out, Anne hopes to eliminate that stigma and raise awareness that this is a reality that can happen to anyone. "I want people to know that I am the face of the opioid crisis, my son, William, is the face of the opioid crisis and we're everyday people. You know, I'm a teacher."

She said she believes it's difficult for the government to help because this is such a complex problem, especially since its treatment almost always includes a relapse.

Her hope is that health care will continue to provide full coverage of the therapy and rehabilitation needed to overcome the addiction or support the families of those who were taken by one.

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