With the heroin epidemic being at an all time high, many families have found their lives touched or somehow shaped by this drug.
This is the story of one family who will be forever changed because of the disease of addiction.They will never forget what heroin cost them, and the price their son paid.

By Barbara High
bhigh@newstribune.info
Tribune Staff Writer
@BarbaraHighMDNT
Part 1
With the heroin epidemic being at an all time high, many families have found their lives touched or somehow shaped by this drug.
This is the story of one family who will be forever changed because of the disease of addiction.They will never forget what heroin cost them, and the price their son paid.

AUGUSTA - Eric and Charlene Bonner’s son Josh was a typical kid in high school, according to his parents. He liked to skateboard, he was a bit sloppy, and liked to listen to Johnny Cash. He spent his summers in the family pool in Hampshire County and participated in family game night. He learned to play poker at a young age.
“He was a good kid,” says his family.
Josh had a good family life, with his parents providing well for him and giving him a stable environment. Yet he was not immune to the devastating effects of the opioid crisis that West Virginia is facing right now.
West Virginia leads the nation in prescription and heroin deaths. The overdose deaths in the state have increased more than 600 percent since 1999 and the levels have reached epidemic proportions.
Last year, Huntington reported 27 overdoses in a 24-hour period.
Opioid use has become so predominant that it strikes everywhere. The stereotype of drug use is well on its way out, with opioids affecting every race, gender, and class, without discrimination. Many families feel like it can’t happen to them because they are safe - even immune, if you will - as Josh’s family probably felt until it happened.
Josh was not safe even with a loving family, and Josh was not safe at his local high school in their local community.  According to his parents, that is when Josh started on pain pills. They were offered to him in school.
Kids don’t often see pain pills as an opiate, and don’t relate the dangers as great. According to Eric, Josh’s school was full of opiates. His local high school would be the starting point of Josh’s addiction and the beginning of a tragedy.
It wasn’t until after Josh had graduated that his pill addiction turned into heroin. Eric remembers that, in 2014, Josh had gotten cash for Christmas and he went on a binge with it. He had gotten a loan for a car and was unable to pay it. He was really beginning to struggle.
Josh was around 20 when a friend introduced him to needles. The year was 2015 and at that point things had started to get really bad for Josh.
Josh lived at home and had no bills and worked for his dad. According to Eric, Josh would get paid on Friday and take his money and go buy drugs with it. He would run out by Sunday or Monday and be sick for a day or two.
His dad said he just couldn’t work like that.
“I’d have to let him go, then he’d get clean for a little bit and then repeat it,” he said.
Thanksgiving Day 2015 was a turning point for Josh and his family. According to Eric, that was the first time Josh really reached out for help.
“He came in and we were going to have dinner, and he said, ‘I want and need to go to rehab.’”
Josh’s dad told him, “Well let’s sit down to eat and then we will go,” but Josh ate nothing.
“He was too sick to eat,” Eric said.
Josh’s dad was able to find a detox center in another county, and Josh spent a few days there before entering a rehab center in another state.  
“For the first so many days, nobody was allowed to call him or see him,” said Josh’s father. Josh was busy trying to get well.
Josh did seem to get better. He did six months in the rehab center and did great while in there. He got a high rank, and was moved up to oversee other addicts.
“He didn’t care for that; he said he would rather be an indian than a chief,” Eric said.
Josh returned home after rehab, and went back to work with his father. He relapsed the first week he was home.
“They warn you to change your people, places, and things,” said Josh’s dad. “We were bringing him home to the same place, in the same town, and around the same people, because it’s all we had.”
At that time Josh’s dad tried to take more control. Josh was given so much of his pay and he would have to provide receipts to show where the money went before getting more. Josh seemed to be coming around.
He saved enough money to buy a car and to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. He paid off the money he owed people. He seemed to be doing good. He even had a court date to try and get custody of his daughter.
“Every time I said I was proud, though, it always came back to bite me,” Eric said. “I started giving him control of his finances again, and trusting him more.”
But Josh’s demons still haunted him. Josh’s dad said when Josh was clean he would substitute alcohol in place of the drugs. Josh had an addictive personality, and took everything to the extreme.
“He couldn’t just drink a few drinks, he had to get wasted. He did everything in excess,” he said.
The night before his custody hearing for his daughter, Josh had  a couple of drinks, and announced he was going out with friends. His dad tried to get him to stay home, but Josh assured him it was just for a little bit and that he had a designated driver and left.
“The call came in during the night. Josh had been arrested for DUI.” He was in jail.
This was his second run in with the law during his addiction. This one cost him dearly, because he was in jail and could not get custody of his daughter.
Josh spent 90 days in jail for his DUI. Upon his release things went down hill and that is when his family tried a different approach. This time it was a tougher approach.
“I guess we thought it was time for tough love,” said Josh’s dad. Instead of always letting him work with him, his father thought the steady money only fueled his habit by giving him access to money. Josh living at home with no bills, and a weekly check was not helping but enabling, so Josh went to live with “Coach.”
“Coach,” as Josh came to call him, was a mentor to him. He was good with kids, and really took an interest in Josh and wanted to help. With “Coach,” Josh had no job, or car, or money. He only was taken places by “Coach” or family. The only other person who had any real access to Josh was his fiancé, who was allowed to spend weekends at “Coach’s” house with Josh.
At this time Josh’s dad said he had done everything he could think of to help his son. He talked to those in his son’s life and asked them to not help Josh in any way to get drugs.
According to Josh’s dad, one of the individuals he spoke to, who had come into josh’s life, had become an addict himself due to being prescribed pain pills. He said it led to a life of heroin.
This individual is a Mineral County resident.
Josh’s dad said the two were never really close growing up, but bonded later over their addictions.
Josh’s family thought he was doing better living with coach, but the truth would only be found out later when they were able to look through his cell phone.
According to Josh’s dad, his son would wait for rides to get heroin. They would travel in the area, and he would get the drugs and shoot up in the parking lots of local businesses.
On Thursday, Jan. 19,  Josh’s dad said his son’s phone showed that he was using. On Friday, Jan 20, Josh’s phone showed that he was waiting on his ride to get off work. The ride then came and got him and took him to meet the individual to get drugs in the LaVale area.
Josh’s dad said according to his phone he got the heroin and then headed back home where he stopped and according to his phone shot up in a local convenience store restroom. Josh at that time even messaged the individual in the car letting them know it was taking him longer because he was having trouble finding a vein, said his dad.
The two returned to “Coach’s” house, where Josh’s father said “Coach” asked if Josh was on something and he denied it.
The next day Josh was alone with what was left of the drugs that were purchased the night before.
According to Eric, his son shot up in the “Coach’s” bathroom.
“My son texted one person and said, ‘I need you.’ He then texted, ‘I feel so free’.” Josh never texted again.
The person called back, and got no answer, but never called anyone to check on him either. According to Josh’s dad, they told him they thought he would sleep it off.
But Josh didn’t.

(Tomorrow: The devastated Bonner family is left to pick up the pieces, and use their tragedy to try to reach out to others.)