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'No one is immune to this': Valley family shares story of drug addiction that claimed 17-year-old after fentanyl overdose

Alex Taylor was once a gymnast on the national level, but depression and drugs ultimately took his life. Now his family is now on a mission to save others.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Hamilton High School senior Alex Taylor was just two months shy of his 18th birthday and weeks away from graduating when he overdosed May 9 on fentanyl and passed away. 

"No one is immune to this," said his mother Lindsay Taylor as she sat on the couch next to Alex's dad, Matt. Both of them are still processing what happened on May 9 when they would see their son alive for the last time. 

Alex was a competitive gymnast at the national level. 

“When the lights were on, and he was out there performing. He was laser-focused in those moments,” said Matt Taylor.

Losing a child to drug addiction

Beyond the high level of competition, his parents said Alex struggled with mental illness in the form of depression, and drug use exacerbated his struggles. 

“Marijuana use, drug use, About the time the whole pandemic started about March of last year, that was the real next level. Really started to turn more inward,” Matt Taylor said. “He finally came around and was willing to receive some counseling after he was hospitalized for suicidal ideations. 

"After he was hospitalized, I realized it was the substance abuse, until he got that under control, there would be no way to focus on his mental health."

Alex's parents said he was in denial about his addiction and turned away from programs offering help. 

"He declined going to pathways, because that was for addicts, and he wasn’t an addict," Matt Taylor said.   

Alex's mother is a social worker at Perry High School and said she has worked with addicts. She knew that in order for Alex to overcome his addiction, he would need to make the decision for himself. 

"The reason we didn't force help, I know it's going to be hard for them to be successful," Lindsay Taylor said. "If they are not willing and ready, they are not going to get much out of it." 

She said she lost one of her students to suicide the week prior to Alex’s death.

As a mental health professional, she said she's frustrated by the lack of resources and quality of affordable services, along with a lack of support for parents.

"You do everything you can, and as a parent, I was turning inward, but at the end of the day you can't control your son," Lindsay Taylor said. 

"You can not enable them," Matt Taylor said. 

Helping others

“We wish we could force change. Find a way for him to help him help himself. But we knew we had to let him figure it out and letting go was extremely hard,” Lindsay Taylor said. 

Both said they understand how parents can carry the weight of shame associated with losing a child to addiction. 

Now Matt and Lindsay Taylor want to do their part to help others.

"I want people to know that nobody is immune to this," Lindsay Taylor. "He had everything you would think a child would need. A mom who works in mental health and social worker and understands this works with addicts. It doesn’t matter. No one is immune to this.”   

A fundraiser page has been established to help the family with outstanding medical expenses and to start a program the family hopes to create to fight addiction and help other families.

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