Saturday, September 14, 2019
Touching Interview with The Author Of A Book About an Olympian's Opioid-Addicted Father
Olympian’s Poignant Book, King Here, Shows the Inspiring Power of Faith Despite Suffering the Tragic Loss of Her Dad To Opioid Addiction
Trish Porter Topmiller knows of the discipline, sacrifice, and hard work it takes to succeed in life. She is a world record-holding athlete who participated in the Olympics. She also knows it takes faith to move forward in the face of obstacles and adverse conditions. Trish desperately called upon her faith to help her father, once a successful businessman and adventurist, who fell under the spell of depression and opioid addiction. He took his life at age 82.
In a new book penned by Trish, King Here: Never Too Old, Too Rich, or Too Anything to Meet Jesus, the story of her dad, Chuck King is told, providing insights on how anyone could fall on hard times and how difficult it is to make a comeback. Trish helped him turn to God, something he’d shunned his whole life. But in the last year of his life he began to come out of his dark hole with the help of faith and family, but his death ultimately proved just how difficult that road back really was.
King Here, is not only about finding faith and hope, but about the strength and courage it takes to handle what comes our way. From 2012-2017, Trish was confronted with the loss of her husband, Pat, of 20 years, and her son, Connor, 15. They perished in an airplane accident. A few years later her stepmother died at age 60 after a battle with addiction. A year after, her father overdosed after a long bout with depression and addiction.
Trish shows us:
· How even the wealthiest, most successful, and happiest people can fall into depression or addiction.
· In honor of National Recovery Month this September, she shares why we need to do more to fight addiction in seniors.
· How one can find faith, the power of prayer, and a relationship with God even later in their life, no matter their circumstances.
· What we should do when seeking to help an opioid-addicted family member or friend.
“He was a man who’d achieved so much, yet now he felt he had no purpose. He had no hope,” said Trish, just before he turned to God. “We too often think, and act, like people are too old, rich, or addicted to meet Jesus, but we forget that we serve a loving and powerful God. We can’t lose hope that others can find a way back.”
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Here is an insightful interview with Trish, who is a client of the public relations firm that I work for:
1. What inspired you to write King Here? I did not set out to write a book. I was preparing to talk at my Dad’s funeral and I looked at his life; the outrageous adventures, his business success, all the tragedies, and then the miracles. I realized his life was like an amazing puzzle and only God knew the puzzle box top. That’s when the outline came to me. He affected so many people and generations and once home, I was compelled to continue writing and it began to take shape and grow. I wanted information about publishing, so I contacted Terry Whalin who wrote Billy Graham’s biography. He said it was a story that I needed to share with people beyond my family.
2. Your dad was very wealthy, perhaps worth hundreds of millions before the Great Recession. Then he lost 97% of his wealth in the stock market crash. How did that put him into a tailspin? Dad thought his financial fortress was invincible. His worth and value was in money and making it. He lost it so quickly and there was nothing he could do to stop it from happening. He was powerless and couldn’t control it. Then he said his back started hurting. When he went to the doctors they gave him pain pills; oxycontin and oxycodone. (Narcotics, opioids, which are highly addictive). He got prescriptions from several doctors, large quantities with lots of refills. He slept twenty-one hours a day often not getting out of bed until 2pm. He laughed as he called his bedroom “The Bat Cave” because it was so dark with blackout window shades, which he never opened.
3. So your dad was depressed for years and was addicted to opioids. How challenging was that for you and your family to see, knowing what a vibrant, full-of-life guy he had always been? It was incredibly difficult. We had a father who loved taking us on adventures and now he didn’t get out of bed, for years. It affected all of us and we hated the grandchildren seeing him this way. I had very few arguments with my dad, except in the early years over boyfriends. Now we fought often. He said things that were pretty harsh to my brothers and me. It was hard seeing him not functioning or living life. He had this beautiful home and family and it was all going to waste. He stopped everything; traveling, family vacations, working out, seeing people. This was a totally different person, not the father I knew.
4. What did you try to do to help your dad? We all tried to help Dad. Even my kids talked to him about going to rehab. My brothers met with an addiction specialist. I wrote him cards, told him how much we needed him and wanted him to get better. I tried to find out what was wrong with his back and encourage him to do physical therapy and exercise. We tried to get him to decrease the pain pills and to get out of bed. We told him he had so much to live for and we all loved him. I made him a photo album that included everything he did for my kids, his sayings “Chuckisms”, and what he taught us. It expressed how important he was to us.
5. As a successful Olympic high jumper, you know the courage and self-discipline needed to commit to achieving a goal. Your kids have been competitive athletes as well. How did you call upon that intense training and inner strength to handle your father? I think part of being an Olympic athlete, able to defy the odds, means I am relentless. I’m persistent and don’t give up easily. This was not a quick solution. I think my dad saw that with my pursuit of him and his health. Unfortunately, he probably didn’t always like that aspect of me and wished I would just leave him alone and let him do what he wanted. I asked lots of questions, I’d research different areas of health but often I didn’t get great answers. As in my training, I tried not to give up. I was often pretty upset by things and it was difficult for me, but I wasn’t there day in and day out because I lived further away.
6. Tragically, while your dad was suffering from addiction and depression, you lost your husband, also a two-time Olympian and son to a plane crash. Did you feel deeply alone at that time? How did you find a way to handle this, immense pain? Losing half my family, my guys, in an instant was absolutely devastating, incredibly painful beyond words. The Lord, family, friends and my eleven year old daughter, Shannon, got me through this difficult time. I lived by clinging to “I trust you Lord”. I knew I wasn’t alone but the pain was so incredibly deep and I would often keel over and I could barely breathe from the hurt. I’d cry out to God. Reading my Bible and all the verses showed me he heard my cries. My dad was not there to help me in any way emotionally, as he couldn’t handle their loss himself. He’d call me crying when I felt like I barely had the strength for each day.
7. You say you are proud that your dad found faith in God towards the very end of his life, but he committed suicide. Did he truly find peace through faith? In some ways yes, but not maybe the peace you are thinking of. Did he find peace enough that he knew where he would go when his life was over? Yes, I believe so. I think he finally found comfort in knowing he would be in heaven with Jesus because of his belief. Maybe that’s why he waited so long to commit suicide and didn’t do it earlier. Now he was sure of where he was going. Only God knows if he had the peace that saves, but I believe he did. He wasn’t able to find purpose in continuing to live and that is one of the many sad parts that I wish could have been different.
8. What advice do you have for others who have a child, parent, or spouse under the addictive influence of a substance like opioids? You are not alone. It’s serious. Don’t ignore it because it won’t just go away. Addiction affects families from all walks of life. Get help. Go to the addictioncenter.com or call 855-327-7980 to get information and help. By choosing transparency over secrecy, you can have an impact on the course of your loved one’s addiction. Go to an Nar-Anon meeting for family members affected by someone else’s addiction. Stop negative enabling them, making excuses, paying for them to live. Do an intervention. If their doctor is over prescribing medications let the doctor know you are aware and will turn them in. HIPAA laws won’t let you talk privately to the doctor but you can give them the information. You may need to do tough love.
9. Your dad had loss after loss and then you saw how God stepped in. How did tragedy turn into triumph? Dad had lost his money, health, my husband and son, his wife and purpose. Life did not turn out how he planned. Finally, he was willing to go to church. Then God used several people in his life; my brother, his care taker, an angel Michael and my new husband James. James was a businessman who lost his wife too. He understood and knew Dad’s pain. I thought James should talk to Dad about Jesus. We prayed for our next visit that God would open the door and James would walk through it. One morning James intentionally studied his Bible in Dad’s kitchen. Dad entered and James began to ask questions and listen. Then Dad prayed with James to receive Jesus as His savior.
10. What warning signs are there that one may take their life? There are verbal and nonverbal signs. Some verbal examples are if they talk about having no purpose, meaning in life or no reason to live. You’d be better off without me. Don’t worry I won’t be around long. Nobody understands me or feels the way I do. I’d be better off dead. I feel like there is no way out. If they act out of character and tell people how much they love them. When they start asking to take control of their medications. Some nonverbal signs are if they start giving away their processions. Getting their affairs in order. Signs of planning a suicide. They can be extra happy once they’ve made the decision. Remember depression is a treatable mental disorder.