Ian Nicholas-Gunnar Nelson

Ian Nicholas-Gunnar Nelson

Loving, funny, thoughtful, selfless, beautifully broken

Ian was “little Mr. Independent” as a child. He loved his cars, trucks, and dinosaurs. When he was two, he was sitting at the breakfast table staring at the wheels on his car intensely while spinning them. He actually put himself to sleep and fell off the chair! Ian was initially quiet but came out of his shell at about nine. He skateboarded, played street hockey and little league. Anything outdoors was appealing to him. He also became a practical joker with his mom as his primary victim. Any time she got startled by a rubber snake hidden somewhere, she knew Ian was at the bottom of it.

Ian and his family enjoyed spending time together, going to the park, to the beach on weekends, and with family on holidays. Ian was the one in the kitchen helping his mom from the time he was small and later became a skilled cook. “He had a knack for putting anything together with no recipe and making it wonderful,” his mom said.

Ian’s love of cars extended into adulthood, and he enjoyed music and learning anything new. He had a very close relationship with his sister, Caitlin, throughout his life; he was her greatest fan. Only eleven months older, she was a protective Mama Bear with Ian; no one was good enough for her brother! Ian loved Caitlin’s son, Jayce, like he was his own son. He was teaching Jayce about music and how to ride a skateboard.

“Ian was definitely a momma’s boy,” his mother, Michelle, said, we were very close.” He was very handsome and well-liked, but he didn’t see himself that way and often felt insecure. He was often ahead of everyone in school, which bored him, so he finished 10th grade, signed himself out of school, and went to work, first in restaurants and later in construction, which he loved.

Ian was saving to buy a new car, looking for his own apartment, and planning on working construction while returning to school. “Ian became withdrawn and thought he let us down,” his mom said. “He was depressed but covered it up with everyone but me. He told me everything, good and bad, and I loved him unconditionally through it all.” After completing an 18-month recovery program, the family felt Ian had his life back until his life was tragically taken from them. “The most difficult part was knowing his potential and not being able to see my son make his turn around toward the end of his life,” Michelle said.

“I have learned that addiction does not discriminate about who it affects,” Michelle said. She owns the fact that she and her husband used cocaine when their kids were little. “We thought our kids were oblivious, but they knew more than we wanted them to. They always said they would never use drugs, and that was enough for us to hear… or so we thought.”

Michelle has become a Recovery Peer Support Specialist and has started a non-profit called “Picking up the Pieces. She feels she is Ian’s voice to advocate for the underdog and is on a mission to end the stigma around those with Substance Use Disorder. She helps people get their lives back and is an advocate for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). “I treat everyone as if they were my child,” she said.

Ian’s mother, Michelle Pepin, provided the information for this narrative.

August 4, 1991-April 20, 2018

Age 26-Lived with the disease of addiction for 9 years.

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