Joyful, Adventurous, Faithful, Brave, Loving
Clay was the quintessential all-American guy next door. He was kind-hearted, affectionate and selfless with a glorious smile and contagious laugh. Family and faith was everything to Clay. He revered his father, adored his extended family and doted on his younger brother. He was a self-proclaimed mama’s boy, stating his mama was his #1.
He was passionate about outdoor activities, rafting, hiking, baseball and disc golf, but his real love was fly-fishing. He practiced relentlessly, and was patient and graceful. He knew all the best fishing spots and would teach anyone how to fly fish if they showed an interest. One of his dreams was to open a Fly Fishing Guide business in his home county.
After high school, Clay went to Western Carolina University and studied business and Entrepreneurship. At 22, while going to school full time, he purchased a 3- bedroom home and someday wished to marry and fill the house with children. About the same time, Clay needed routine sinus surgery and was over-prescribed Percocet, which started his opioid addiction. “I watched my son go from a college-educated, successful homeowner with a savings account to someone who called begging me for $20 when he was using,” his mother Michele said.
Even during his struggle with Substance Abuse Disorder Clay was passionate about helping others get and stay clean. After being sober for 11 months, he applied for a full time job at Teen Challenge as a faith-based Peer Counselor, but was advised to give it a little more time. In the meantime, he rented a new apartment and was excited to settle in. The night he relapsed and subsequently passed away was his first night in his new apartment. Hours earlier, he had sent a selfie to his mom with the caption: “New Life Begins.”
Clay’s mother didn’t know where to turn for help during his addiction. She was not ashamed of Clay, but of how his addiction was taking over their lives. She suffered in silence and alone. She has since learned that ‘addiction does not equate to bad parenting’ and has co-founded a non-profit to support the loved ones of addicts. She hopes to de-stigmatize addiction so families will get the love and support they need.
Michele says she misses Clay’s voice, their inside jokes, book discussions and shared love of music. He was positive and encouraging and always showed unconditional love for his entire family. He had a gentle spirit and a tender, kind heart.” She states: “It’s been a long, painful journey, but helping others has become a form of healing for me. I feel my son’s presence with me every step of the way.”
Clay’s mother, Michele Rogers, provided the information for this narrative.
July 2, 1989- Sept. 28, 2018,
Age 29 – Lived with addiction 6 ½ years