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Oct 26, 2020

As an Intervention Specialist at a suburban Atlanta High School, Joy Crowe taught special education for 37 years. Furthermore, she specialized in working with students with emotional and behavior disorders. 

In this episode, Joy reflects on losing two of her three sons to a drug overdose and nearly losing her third son to COVID-19. We discuss the shame associated with addiction and how Joy is getting through each day in light of unbelievable loss. Finally, learn how Joy came to realize that she couldn’t “fix” her children, She could only fix herself.



  • Joy shares her story and how her oldest son Brenden, passed away from a drug overdose on 28 September 2011.
  • Also, Joy lost her second son Alex, to an overdose on 25 February 2020.
  • Furthermore, we talk about the risk factors for addiction such as being gifted, diagnosed with ADHD, and seeking an adrenaline rush. 
  • Joy describes the day she learned her oldest son, Brenden, was using drugs. 
  • The juvenile justice system is overloaded with children with mental health issues. 
  • Joy was able to get Brenden into a long term rehabilitative program. 
  • Next, Joy describes what happened when Brenden returned home from the program. 
  • Joy shares all she did to try to help her son. 
  • Ultimately, she learned how to set boundaries. You love your child but not the addict.
  • Also, the other children in the family suffer because the focus tends to be on the addict.
  • Unfortunately, Brenden relapsed and Joy got the call she never wanted to get.
  • Next Joy describes her life after Brenden’s funeral. 
  • She felt shame around child dying from a drug overdose. 
  • Also, Joy felt like an outsider and like people thought it was her fault.
  • Furthermore, it took Joy 4 years to detach from the idea that Brenden’s death was her fault. 
  • She can't take on the whole responsibility of Brenden becoming an addict and she won't be ashamed of it anymore.
  • Also, she joined a local organization of moms called Warrior Moms. 
  • This tight knit group helps other parents and advocates for legislative changes.  
  • Next Joy talks about her son, Alex, and shares his story. 
  • Alex started drinking at an early age and he silently became addicted to oxy.
  • Joy never saw Alex’s death coming.  
  • It’s especially hard to grieve during COVID.
  • Depression and isolation sink in even worse during COVID.
  • Joy gets by day by day.
  • Her son Josh the light of her life
  • Josh and his father became ill with COVID and his father passed away  from COVID in July 2020.
  • Next Joy describes the differences in her 3 son’s personalities.
  • You never heal and talking about it helps.
  • Joy shares some tips for living with an addict. 
  • Next Joy talks about what she’s doing in memory of her sons. 
  • Finally, say their name.


Donate to Brenden’s Scholarship Fund:

How to donate to the Brenden  M. Elbaz Scholarship Fund: Donations can be made in 2 different ways: 1) Send a check in any amount made out to GCPS (Gwinnett County Public Schools) Foundation Fund with the designation to BRENDEN ELBAZ SCHOLARSHIP. Or 2) go to the website:


If you mail a check please send it to:

Marissa Robertson

c/o Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation

437 Old Peachtree Road


Resources Mentioned: