Bright, creative, fun-loving, with an infectious laugh
Ben was full of life. He was compassionate, kind, and fun to be around. His mother, Libby said, “He was a wonderful son and a bright light in everyone’s life; he was loved by all who knew him.” Ben enjoyed swimming, guitar, photography, drawing, and living life to the fullest. He loved the outdoors and liked to spend time in the water, whether it be the ocean or a pool.
Ben was close to his brother Jake and sister Emily. They all had a special bond with each other. Ben loved his siblings with all his heart, and they loved him the same. The entire family was close, sharing holidays and significant life events together. Ben always looked forward to time with extended family and spent many summers with his grandparents at Meadowlark Gardens when he was young. The family still goes to Ocean City, MD, where they shared vacations with Ben, and never leave without carving Ben’s name into the sand. “I miss Ben showing up and hanging out with us, I miss his hugs, his playing guitar wherever he went; I just miss everything about him,” his mom said.
Ben was proud to be in the Air Conditioning and Heating field. He did on-the-job training and moved up the ranks quickly. He took pride in his work and was looking forward to continuing his HVAC career.
After being prescribed opiates for the removal of his wisdom teeth, Ben struggled with opioid addiction for years. When he quit using them in 2013, the doctor prescribed Suboxone, and he lived a normal life for the next three years. When he no longer had insurance and could not pay out of pocket for Suboxone, he attempted to quit it but became very ill. He relapsed and used Xanax to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. Realizing this was making matters worse, Ben fought to be off all substances. When he quit Xanax, he began having seizures. After a stay in the hospital, he had two wonderful months of being sober. “We had our son back,” his mother said.
“Monday, November 13, 2017, we talked on the phone,” Libby recalls. “Ben sounded happy and excited to come over that weekend. He had plans to give his sister guitar lessons and throw the ball around with his brother.” It was an hour and a half later when his family got the call that Ben was on life support. He was gone before they arrived at the hospital.
“We were told he overdosed, but when the toxicology report came back it showed he died from huffing freon,” his mom said. “I didn’t know people did that, there is so little awareness about it.” Ben evidently inhaled freon straight from the tank he got from work. His mom said, “I can only imagine that he was so desperate to stay off the pills, he tried something different, and it killed him.”
His mom shares this story to illustrate how desperate Ben was to stay off opiates and what great lengths someone may go to seek a high. “I feared every day my son would die, for years every time the phone rang, I wondered if it was going to be the call,” she said. Libby is now an advocate for educating others about the stigma that comes with drug addiction and the need for treatment, not jail. She stated, “People who have a substance use disorder are sick and need medical help just as someone with cancer or any other disease.”
Ben’s mother, Libby McAuliffe, provided the information for this narrative.
February 25, 1990-November 13, 2017
Age 27-Lived with the disease of addiction for 10 years.