Drug addiction. It’s a powerful, often misunderstood, disease. For Shelly Bornstein, it’s a nightmare
that changed her family forever.
Shelly is a nuclear medicine technologist who has been with Aultman for 28 years. When her son Tyler was in high
school, he became addicted to pain medication. “He had elbow surgery and, at the time, I had no idea of the possible
addictive qualities of the opiates he was given,” she said. “Tyler always struggled with stress, and I believe he
experimented with pain meds in high school. It was a big thing for kids to try, and he became addicted his senior year.”
Opiates are a group of drugs that are used for treating pain. They are derived from opium, which comes from poppy
plants. Opiates go by a variety of names including opiates, opioids and narcotics. The term opiates is sometimes used
for relatives of opium such as codeine, morphine and heroin.
As Tyler’s addiction grew, he transitioned from pain pills to heroin. “Pain meds are often more expensive and harder
to get than heroin. A year after Tyler graduated high school, he came to us to tell us he was addicted to heroin,”
Shelly shared. “For people with addictive personalities, addiction can happen in as little as a few weeks.
It’s a progressive disease.”
Tyler battled his opiate addiction for six years, including multiple attempts at getting clean in rehab facilities.
He died Sept. 28, 2014 after unknowingly taking heroin laced with another potent drug, fentanyl.
When a family loses a loved one to addiction, many perceive the situation as different from losing someone to a
disease like cancer. “To me, the biggest misconception is that addiction is a moral failure,” Shelly said. “Many judge
those who fight addiction; it’s hard for people to understand. They don’t know what to say when your family is directly
affected by addiction, so they don’t say anything. That adds more hurt to an already painful situation.”
Heroin use has become an epidemic in Ohio and throughout the United States. The Ohio Department of Health
reports a record 2,482 Ohioans died of drug-related deaths in 2014 – and about half of those deaths involved heroin.
“When we were going through Tyler’s addiction, no one talked about the growing problem of opiate addiction,”
Shelly recalled. “Now people are more open – and they need to be. There are a lot more support groups,
Facebook pages, talks, etc. for everyone to be educated.”
Shelly and her family are working to make a difference in the lives of others. Shelly volunteers weekly for Rahab
House in Akron, bringing hope to women caught in prostitution and addiction. Her daughter Taylor has spoken
at many local high schools and several opiate symposiums, sharing the Bornstein family’s story. Shelly and her
husband Travis have participated in local and national media interviews as well as a Columbus TV station documentary
on addiction. They also traveled to Washington, D.C. in October 2015 for a national march to raise awareness about
opiate addiction and met with senators and members of Congress afterward.
At times, being an advocate for addiction is hard because Shelly and her family hear about other people every day
who are lost to addiction. “As difficult as it is, it’s also healing for our family,” she said. “I believe our stories dictate
what our purpose is. We would have never chosen this story, but it’s the one God gave us. Who better to
advocate than people who have been in the trenches.”
The Bornstein family is launching a nonprofit organization called “Breaking Barriers – Hope Is Alive” to educate,
give hope and aid in recovery. “We are moving forward, as we trust in whatever God’s plans may entail,” Shelly said.
“I know my son, who wanted to beat his addiction more than anything, is smiling down – knowing his life mattered.”
|Breaking Barriers - Hope is Alive © 2016 All Rights Reserved | Breaking the Stigma of Addiction
P.O. Box 534 Uniontown, OH 44685