Inspiration to many, his legacy lives on
Geoff was loved and adored from the moment he was born. Adopted at birth, his parents were in the delivery room and at the hospital every day for the two months the three-pound, premature Geoff was in the NICU. He ended up being 6’1”, strong, healthy, and gorgeous. From the start, Geoff was sensitive, engaging, kind, compassionate, and fun-loving.
Geoff had a great life, filled with travel, fun, family, and friends. Passionate about baseball, Geoff made his high school varsity team as a freshman. His parents spent weekends sweltering in the Arizona heat at his traveling games. Geoff attended Jewish day camp from the age of five, eventually becoming head counselor. He loved children and organizing activities for them in the park where the camp was held each summer. His parents had his celebration of life ceremony with 170 people at the park and placed a memorial bench there. “His energy is everywhere in the park so that is where to go to commune with him,” his mother Michele said.
In college, Geoff started drinking. Realizing it was getting to an addiction state, his parents conducted an intervention. He willingly went to treatment. Over the intervening years, Geoff was in and out of sobriety. He went into a long-term Jewish-based treatment facility, Beit T’Shuvah (BTS). While there, he earned his EMT certificate. He got a coveted job with the Ski Patrol in Big Bear and left the facility. In a month, he relapsed and went back to BTS. He enrolled in Antioch University, switching his major to Psychology and Addiction Studies, and he planned on going into the recovery field. Then, Covid hit.
The extraverted Geoff had a difficult time during lockdown. Doing therapy and schoolwork remotely and rarely interacting with people was isolating. He wrote a blog for a recovery website that went viral. He formed the “SoberSquad,” with the goal to reduce the stigma of addiction and get people help. They created TikTok videos and in three weeks gained over 100 thousand followers. Over the next few months, followers increased to over 309 thousand, with 7 million likes. One video featured on Buzzfeed got over 26 million views! Many people from around the world still talk about how Geoff saved their lives.
Geoff launched a line of SoberSquad clothing and merchandise through TikTok’s Creators Fund and planned a scholarship fund to send BTS residents back to school. Against the advice of his treatment team, he left BTS for a sober house, which turned out not to be sober. Geoff relapsed and was scheduled to go back to treatment the next day. He stayed the night with a friend and was offered cocaine. He took it and died from fentanyl drug poisoning.
Geoff’s father, Mario, wears one of Geoff’s rings and, inspired by the INTO LIGHT Project founder, has started drawing portraits of Geoff at various ages. His mom wears a bracelet he gave her for Mother’s Day. It is engraved with “Mom” on one side and “bonded by love, connected for life” on the other. “A year and a half later, I am still broken,” Michele said. “I am not supposed to be a childless mother.” Married for 40 years, Geoff’s parents are trying to find their way through this. “We allow each other the space to grieve in the way that is needed.” She hears Geoff telling them to enjoy life, that they deserve it. “I can’t get there just yet,” she said. But Geoff’s passing does not equate to his absence. She explains, “Geoff will always be with us, no matter what!”
Geoffrey’s mother, Michele Tamayo, provided the information for this narrative.
August 10, 1995-October 9, 2020
Age 25-Lived with the disease of addiction for three years.