Vicious drug cycle haunts Ottawa family

The Ottawa Sun on July 25, 2013 ran a story that adoptive families in British Columbia may find achingly familiar.

by Tim Baines

“I wish I could live forever.”

Darren Cody tattooed those words on his chest, a tribute to his 18-year-old brother Nick, who had tweeted it before he was found dead in Vanier early in the morning of June 24.

Drug overdose.

Tragedy.

Heartbreaking.

A kid who had to overcome so much to be who he was, was gone.

Nick Cody was small, maybe 5-foot-3, 120 lbs. He had a great inner circle of friends. He had dreams. He wanted to be a police officer, maybe an underwater welder.

He was going to be the one to change things, to make something of himself. His dad, Andre, died of a drug overdose when the kid was nine months old. Drug use ran in the family.

“He’d say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to break the cycle. He said it to us several times,” says Steve Cody, who, with his wife Natalie, took in Nick, his cousin Andre’s child, when he was seven. The Codys own businesses — Cody Party, Cody Mobile and Monster Halloween.

Nick had returned to live with his birth mother 10 days or so before he died, but was at the Cody house for Steve’s birthday on June 23. He left at 7 p.m. or so.

“We got a call, at 2 o’clock. It was (Nick’s) mother’s boyfriend. He just said, ‘Nick’s gone.’ They tried to revive him, but his body had just shut down.”

Nick had come so far in 11 years.

“When he came to live with us, we said, ‘If you’re comfortable and want to call us Mom and Dad, it’s your choice.’ Two days later, he was calling us Mom and Dad,” says Natalie.

He had anxiety issues — he couldn’t sit. But he changed, adapted, warmed up to people.

He went to St. Patrick Elementary School, then St. Joseph High School.

Nick fit in with the Cody kids: Paige, 22, Bradley, 20, Darren, 17 and Katrina, 14.

He loved computers, dirt biking and listening to Lil Wayne. He was a good soccer player (Ottawa South United). He was outgoing. His favourite colour was pink. He wanted people to pay attention, he wanted to get noticed.

When he was 15 or so, Nick experimented with drugs. It started with pot, then pills — oxycontin.

“He’d go to his room. He’d isolate himself,” says Steve. “He’d do drugs alone. His dad was a cocaine addict. It was in the family. I’d tell him, ‘Nick, you can’t take that stuff.’ “

Steve and Natalie later started testing him for drugs.

“He was fooling us. He’d switch up the pee bottle,” says Steve.

When confronted, he’d fess up.

“He wasn’t a good liar,” says Natalie.

The Codys had taken a course through Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services. They learned how to cope with situations.

“We have a rule: If you’re doing drugs, you can’t live here,” says Steve. “Our house has to be safe for the other kids.”

They gave Nick a choice last summer — check into rehab or move back to Vanier. He spent three months at a treatment centre near Carleton Place.

“He came out, he was great. He was more relaxed and more focused,” says Steve. “We thought he had it under control. Probably about a month before he passed, we found out he was using drugs again so we told him he had to go live with his mom.”

He seemed OK the night of the birthday party.

“He’d had cocaine and speed the night before,” says Steve. “He had two hits of MDMA (ecstasy) the night he died. What MDMA does is overheat your internal organs. It was hot that day and he hadn’t slept in three days. He literally would have fried himself inside.”

Steve spoke candidly about the drug issue at a beautiful, emotional service at Kelly Funeral Home, with a few hundred people there to pay their respects.

“As a family, we don’t pretend to be perfect,” says Steve. “We don’t believe in hiding things. The message was whether you’re on drugs or thinking of doing drugs, just say no. Try and turn that into a habit. You have a choice. We want to let people know it’s OK to say no … and let them know there’s a consequence, a consequence that’s very real for us now. The reality with drugs is there is no second chance.”

A supplier donated T-shirts. There’s a Facebook page (Say No for Nick, created by Paige, with 2,000 likes already). Nearly $3,000 has been raised, with the money going to Rideauwood. You can donate by clicking on the Facebook page’s link.

Messages of sadness, reassurance, support and love come from near and far.

“His whole life came to us through the people he had touched,” says Natalie. “It’s been very comforting.”

In the backyard of the family home, in a serene setting in the Cedarhill area, water cascades down rocks into a pool. The serenity masks the hurt, the giant puncture in the collective heart.

The night of Steve’s birthday party, Nick’s last words to Natalie: ‘I’m leaving now, I love you Mom.’ “

He was a teenager with a big, goofy smile — a kid who made some bad decisions. Now he’s gone.

Say No for Nick. It’s a powerful message. One that needs to be heard.