WEST MILFORD, N.J. – When Carol Cooper’s only child overdosed on a combination of heroin and fentanyl, the West Milford woman didn’t know what she would tell people.
But it eventually came to her: “If I don’t tell my story, then I can’t help anybody,’” she said.
Cooper’s son Brian -- whom she calls “the love of my life” -- was 32 when he died just seven months ago.
Cooper said Brian had separation anxiety disorder and ADHD, was bullied when he was younger, then made a “complete transformation” in high school when he joined the football team and lost 125 pounds. He went on to Monmouth University, and to work as a financial analyst for Morgan Stanley and E-Trade, she said.
Then he was laid off and “he started to go back toward the old Brian,” eating a lot and battling anxiety, she said. She said he would have done anything to get some sleep, and she believes someone gave him the drugs and he snorted them. “He was gone in minutes,” she said.
Cooper said she had two choices when Brian died. “I could one, lay down and die … or I could try to fight back and make a change … and something is telling me to keep going and help other people.”
In mere months, Cooper has managed to create the A Life For Brian Foundation, speak at local events, organize fundraisers to help others, and create a line of stuffed bears to comfort those who have lost loved ones and people battling addiction.
A large portion of the sales from the bears will go toward providing addicts opportunities to enter sober living homes, she said.
Cooper has also met many others impacted by heroin. “It is such a bad, bad epidemic,” she said.
She tries to be an inspiration to other parents who have lost children. “They look at me and it has only been seven months, and they say, 'Oh my God. If she can do it, then I can do it,”' she said.
A Life For Brian is hosting a Shop Til You Drop fundraiser on April 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the West Milford Presbyterian Church, 1452 Union Valley Road. For more information, CLICK HERE.
For more on A Life For Brian and to purchase anti-addiction and comfort bears, CLICK HERE.
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