Sensitive, hilarious, bright, explorer, troubled
In terms of language, Jake was a late bloomer, not speaking until he was about 18 months old. “Then he spoke in full sentences,” his mother Kristy recalls. “It was in keeping with his personality that he didn’t do things until he was ready to do them perfectly!” He was smart, musically talented, an avid reader, and had a sophisticated and dry sense of humor. Jake had a massive vinyl collection, with hundreds of albums of every genre, all stored carefully in alphabetical order. He always had a book nearby. David Foster Wallace was among his favorite authors.
Jake had a normal elementary school experience and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at 12. The family took memorable trips to Oregon, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. At 13, Jake disclosed feelings of depression and asked for help. He was put immediately into therapy. “Things got really difficult during middle school,” his mom remembers. “Jake was severely anxious and started self-medicating.” There were multiple calls during his teen years from schools and police about his behavior while drunk or high. After conferring with an educational consultant, Jake willingly went into a wilderness program in Idaho. He knew he needed help. The program was a positive step, and Jake went from there to a therapeutic boarding school in Montana, where he stayed until he was 18. He came home to the full support of his family, a psychiatrist, and therapist, and, later, a drug counselor. He earned his high school diploma. When Jake was 20, he joined his sister and mom on a trip to Thailand where they enjoyed an amazing tour of the country.
Jake wrecked two cars while he was intoxicated and, miraculously, didn’t hurt himself or anyone else. He started working at a local restaurant where he was well-liked and comfortable with many regular customers, some of whom he’d known since childhood. Jake’s self-medication expanded to include Xanax, which gave him some relief from his anxiety. He began Arizona State University’s online undergraduate program, majoring in English, and was steadily progressing toward graduation. He moved to his own, very tidy apartment, which he and his sister Shayna decorated with posters and album art. They were very close. Kristy treasures a phone screensaver image of them on move-in day, sitting on the back bumper of a U-Haul, laughing, and enjoying each other. Jake was figuring out how to live in society. He had taken some acting and improv classes and developed an interest in stand-up comedy. He had plans for his future. Unfortunately, they were not to be. Alone in his apartment, Jake took what he thought was a Percocet. The pill was, in fact, 100 percent fentanyl; Jake passed away.
“Jake was such a great kid; he just didn’t believe it,” his mom says. “He thought he wasn’t lovable.” Kristy misses his sensitivity, his sense of humor, discussing books, and seeing the man he was becoming. “He had every resource available to him, still it was up to him. I know he knew I was always there for him,” Kristy said.
Her advice to others is to enjoy every moment with your kids. Do everything you can to stay connected. Just love them. Kristy is now involved in the Yolo County Opioid Coalition to promote fentanyl education and outreach.
Jake’s mother, Kristy Lee, provided the information for this narrative.
January 6, 1998-April 11, 2021
Age 23-Lived with the disease of addiction for 11 years.