Amazing son, friend, father, and family man
“There was nothing about Joseph that would have predicted that he would have substance use disorder, his mother,” Renee said. “This could happen to anyone–we are proof of that.”
Joey was an only child. He loved cars, BMX racing and won the Gold Cup Nationals when he was 14. The family traveled all around to BMX and AMA events at speedways and tracks. Though his parents were divorced, the family remained friendly.
At 15, a modeling agent saw Joey and signed him to model for print and runway. He and his mom went to L.A. for a time, but at 17, when Joey and his childhood sweetheart, Janette, discovered they were having a baby, Joey decided it was not for him. They had their first daughter Jalyssa and four years later a second daughter, Jaylah. Joey quickly became the quintessential family man, embracing family life.
Joey was a sheet metal apprentice at age 15, following in his dad, Dexter’s, footsteps. The two were very close and rode to and from work together. By 25, Joey was at the top of his pay rate as a union welder. He was proud of his accomplishments, especially his work on building the Freedom Tower in New York City. In his off time, he played basketball and rode bikes with Jaylah and took Jalyssa to get manicures and pedicures. Just prior to his death, Joey put a deposit on an engagement ring for Janette. After 15 years, he was preparing to propose.
It was during his work at the Freedom Tower that Joey fell 200 feet from a scaffold and broke three discs in his back, sending life in a different direction. After three surgeries and being given liberal amounts of pain medications, he became dependent. The family supported him in immediately going to an eight-month treatment program. He did well, becoming a speaker at groups, going to church, and getting closer to God. “The Christian church was a big part of his life in the last months of his life, and gave him peace,” his mom stated.
With a family to support, Joey returned to work sooner than advisable. Working in tight spaces was hard and painful. His cell phone messages show that by the third day back at work, he was questioning his early return and was thinking about taking something for the pain. On the fourth day back to work, he overdosed on fentanyl and was found by his foreman on the job site, the Bible he was reading during lunch, by his side. His entire journey with SUD was one year, including the eight months in treatment.
Joey’s children and their mother have embraced Christianity and are starting to move forward in adjusting to life without Joey present. His mom and dad still feel like their lives are on pause, mourning the Sunday dinners, barbeques, and family gatherings they had with Joey. Renee is active in grief groups and speaking out about the cause of her son’s death, hoping to eliminate the stigma and stereotypes of those with substance use disorder. She hasn’t heard someone call her mom for four years. “Not hearing that is so loud to me,” she said.
Joey’s mother, Renee Negron, provided the information for this narrative.
March 8, 1987-December 12, 2017
Age 29- Lived with the disease of addiction for one year.