Samuel Johnston

Samuel Johnston

Creative, stubborn, sensitive, protective, loyal, perfectionist

Sam was reserved, preferring to study things from afar before joining in. He felt things to his core and was sensitive to the feelings of others but didn’t like to share his own emotions. He was very self-disciplined, delving deeply into any of his interests and practicing until he conquered them. Earlier in life, this manifested in mastering flips and twists in skateboarding or spray-painting graffiti and painting murals; later in his love of custom knife making, which he planned to continue as a lifelong career.

In his late teen years, Sam acknowledged his drug problem and realizing he needed help, he took the lead in researching facilities to find a treatment program he thought would work for him. He signed himself up and went voluntarily.

Sam loved working with his hands and honed his skills working with his father in his custom furniture and cabinetry business. When he knew his knife making business had potential, it became his passion and primary focus. He took great pride in his work networking with other knife makers from around the world. His drive and determination to excel resulted in building a widely recognized business with a wait list for his custom creations. His knife making business thrived for years and then he relapsed.

His business began to take a back seat as his substance abuse disorder intensified. He started missing deadlines to complete orders or would use the money and not make the product. He lied, stole and cheated to get the drugs he needed so he wouldn’t be sick. He also stopped seeing his family. One of the hardest things for those who loved him was feeling helpless and trying to keep his illness a secret. His mother said: “I felt as though people would judge me and even more so judge Sam, I wanted to protect him from that.”

Sam eventually lost his battle with his illness. After Sam’s passing, Lisa learned as much as she could about substance abuse disorder, which was especially important because another close family member is suffering from it as well. She learned that stigma keeps those who are misusing drugs, from seeking help and families from getting support.

Lisa’s goal now is to let others know the truth about substance use disorder as a disease. She co founded The SHARE Project to provide education and help reduce stigma. “We want people to know that this illness can happen in any family, it knows no bounds, and you don’t have to handle it on your own.”

Lisa misses Sam’s name coming up on her phone, hearing stories about Sam’s adventures with his dog Lexus and about his newest customers and how much they loved his knives. “He was protective and devoted and I miss him caring about me. “

Sam’s mother, Lisa Falbo, provided the information for this narrative.

May 24, 1992 – July 26, 2019
Age 27 – Lived with addiction 10 years

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