A Kanata dad’s brutally honest letter about his daughter and drug abuse


“My first thought every morning is to check that Paige is alive,” writes Kanata dad Sean O’Leary in a letter that’s been circulating in recent days on Facebook and through e-mail.


O’Leary, whose daughter Paige is addicted to drugs, told OttawaStart.com he sent the letter to a group of parents in similar situations after Kanata teen Chloe Kotval, 14, died of a drug overdose on Valentine’s Day.

“I want people to start talking,” he said. “We’re just the tip of the iceberg.”

He set up a meeting for next Thursday to meet with other parents and to discuss their problem. He’s not sure what will happen, but he thinks a dialogue will help find solutions.

“There’s power in knowledge,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll find a solution.”

He said there is little support for families like him. He recounted one close call when Paige was rushed to hospital.

The addiction beds were full and O’Leary said a paramedic could not look him in the eye when he told him that they couldn’t help his daughter. Paige was discharged.

At one point, they sent Paige to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre in Stittsville, which he said only has a few beds for drug treatment. Paige was clean for about five days before she relapsed.

The letter he wrote is frank, detailing his daughter’s drug problem and the near-death experience of another teen in O’Leary’s own garage. He said he is trying to lead as normal a life as possible, but felt the need to speak out.

“Somebody had to be brave this week (after Kotval’s death)… I couldn’t even press send, I had my wife come to my computer and press send.”

The response has been enormous and he said he has been inundated with responses from other parents.

Sean O’Leary with his son, Ronan, inside the family store MYHome Furniture in Kanata. O’Leary says he is trying to give his children as normal a life as possible as his daughter struggles with drug addiction. (Devyn Barrie/OttawaStart.com)

The letter is republished below with his permission. We’ve done some light editing for style and clarity.


To all whom are concerned,

As many if not all of you are aware from news reports a beautiful fourteen year old Kanata girl passed away this week as a result of a drug overdose.

What hasn’t been reported as of yet is that Chloe Kotval was the third Kanata teenager to die of a drug overdose in the last eight weeks.

The two other children that have died were a 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy. At this time the families of these two other children do not want the publicity of having their children’s names and causes of death known and unless I am told otherwise I will respect their wishes.

If I know of three in Kanata you can be assured there are many more.

My sixteen-year-old daughter Paige is also a drug addict/abuser.

I feel so sad for the parents of the children that have died. But even worse than the sadness I have for them is the fear I/we and many others live with every day that is so real.

My first thought every morning is to check that Paige is alive. It is a nightmare of a way to live life especially when you have other children and have to try to make their lives as normal as possible.

Paige has been an addict/abuser for about 20 months. Our family dealt with it the best we could with the limited resources that are available to families in situations like ours.

The nightmare that we have lived for 18 months was nothing compared to the nightmare our lives turned into starting on Dec. 31 at 10:30 p.m. At that moment I arrived home to find a 17 year old boy dead in my garage.

Thankfully I arrived when I did, and one kid was not high and she had called 911. We performed CPR, eventually got his heart going and then the paramedics arrived.

I put a post on “Bell’s Let Talk.” Since then I can’t even to begin to explain what we have been through. I personally know the names of eight Kanata teens whom have overdosed in the last two months.

Sadly the deaths that have occurred are only the beginning. If you look at statistics from any other communities where the kids started getting hooked on counterfeit opioids the prognosis for our community and our children does not look promising.

The point of this letter is not to discuss my families problems and/or the problem in general. Most of us know there is a problem.

We have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on psychologists, counsellors etc. etc. Our daughter has spent 10 weeks at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.

I have locked her at home, chased her around, grabbed her off the streets, walked in to people’s homes uninvited to take my daughter out of there, we have had paramedics and police to our home numerous times. But here we sit not knowing day to day whether our beautiful little girl will be alive tomorrow.

I have talked to a few parents of other addict/abusers in Kanata and their stories are all the same. I do not know the answer nor am I any closer to finding the answer than when I first started seeking it.

I do know that when any of us have questions or need help having two families asking is better than one. Having 10 families is better than two and so on. The only people that really know what is going on are the kids and they need help.

My goal is not to try and solve the drug problem. It has been going on for many decades but never before right now have the drugs been indiscriminately taking our children’s lives.

I do not know how many families are suffering the same fate as us right now but I know there are many.

The first thing I would like to do is have a meeting with as many parents of addicts/abusers as I can find. We have all experienced the futility of dealing with this scourge on our own.

We the parents of these kids and future kids need to unite for ourselves and for our kids. Please forward this to as many people you know whom have teenage kids.

I will keep all replies confidential unless permission is granted otherwise. If they want to come to the meeting, great, or I can send them notes after our discussion.

Primary focus will be making sure everyone is aware of what resources are available, what treatments are available, use of Soboxone and if it is working. Ottawa Health will give us full support and supply Naloxone Kits, Training etc.

Then we can have an open discussion of ideas, questions to be asked etc.

The days of the saying “They need to hit rock bottom before getting better.” are over. Sadly in most cases today rock bottom is a slab at the morgue.


To contact O’Leary, e-mail sean109@icloud.com

Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the editor of OttawaStart.com and its sister site StittsvilleCentral.ca. He has a journalism diploma from Algonquin College and has lived in Ottawa most of his life. Twitter: @DevynBarrieNews.


22 Responses

  1. Sylvie Haddad says:

    I can’t begin to understand the pain your family must endure constantly. I’m a grandmother of four bright granddaughters and still have a terrible fear of the reality of what’s going on in our neibhorhood! I feel strongly that it’s voices like yours that can bring this problem out in the open. The conversation must never end. We have to press our governments for stickter laws on drug traffickers and provide them with every opportunity to get the help to fight this! I want to know more.

  2. Stacey says:

    I would love to meet. My step daughter who is 16 is wrapped up in this.

  3. Suzanne B. says:

    I am so sorry to hear that your daughter has passed this way….my daughter who was 42 passed away from an overdose on January 21, 2017, just a couple of weeks ago out in BC….she fought her whole life with addictions, getting better then once again falling back ….it has been more than a nightmare for our family, I was always afraid to get that call and I did, my sympathies to you and your family…

  4. Carrie says:

    There is in fact a great resource to families such as yours Al-anon.

  5. Janet Taetz says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your struggles and so grateful my 2 kanata kids are passed that stage. My thought and prayer are with you, other families and these kids that are struggling.

  6. Teresa says:

    I fell for everyone involved in this opiod epidemic. I know some people scoff at the idea of treating drug addiction with drugs, but have you considered treatment with cannabis. If done correctly, it can wean a patient off opiates slowly (over 3-6month period) successfully without the side effects of methadone, and other pharmas. I also have grandchildren and worry about the dangers of the deadly drugs out there…..

    • S. Teal says:

      This could work … but probably not.

      But as an addict in recovery, this is won’t work. You need to want it. You need to have the desire to change your whole life.

      If you’d ever experienced even a few hours in full blow withdrawl from any opiate, the thought of smoking a joint is honestly, laughable. Except you can’t laugh you’ve just begin vomiting and crapping consistently. You can’t even sit on a toilet with out the cold seat feeling like needles and feeling like even a light breeze would knock you over. Your body is cold yet melting like you’re in a 400℃ oven and still every cell in your body is exploding in pain.
      It blows my mind that we think we can replace one drug for another.
      I am clean from all drugs and alcohol today, but my addict always finds a way to surface.

      Once an addict, always an addict.
      We need not replace because drugs are only a SYMPTOM OF OUR DISEASE.

      • Paula says:

        Heart Wrenching and thank you for your detailed description of what drug withdraw entails. I’ve often wondered how bad it gets and your detailed description answers it for me. If we could just get this out to kids who are thinking about taking drugs to let them know exactly what getting off them will feel like maybe they’d reconsider even starting. I’m in awe of your strength to be able to come out on the other side of that horror.

  7. Bonnie MacDiarmid says:

    I am a mother of two grown children but the teenage years were simply “awful”. I think it started with smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and then it lead to smoking marijuana and then drugs. At 17 our beautiful daughter was pregnant but that didn’t stop her from using. She physically attacked me one night – very high – and very strong. Police and laweyrs were our friends and we visited them often. Back in the 90’s I’m not sure we were concerned about fatalities but rather the harm they were doing to themselves, others and their babies. I congratulate this gentleman for recognizing the epidemic that is amongst our young people and for striking up a forum where parents can come and voice their distress, share their pain and suffering within the family and in their community. The lose of yet another young person this week continues to bring so much sadness and grief to our friends and neighbours. Please don’t hide your troubles from each other – you need to come together and support one another and not be ashamed. This is the scourge that is ravishing our generation of young people today and we as adults, need to find some common ground and try to support one another. In my career I was a teacher and thought I was ” aware of drugs” but not when your own children become involved. Then I denied and denied and turned a blind eye and only woke up to reality when a grandchild was born to an addicted mother – our daughter – and reality became very real!!! Please help each other – you are not alone – in this day and age when everything is open for discussion, I pray that you will take this opportunity to save your family and your future. Love to all of you.

  8. Karen says:

    We know your pain. We have lived through this also. We went everywhere and begged for help. It is not out there. We actually are waiting for that dreadful phonecall from the police or hospital. We thought she hit rock bottom many times. Her rock bottom will be the morgue.

  9. Brett says:

    I dont normally share this but I may be able to help. If someone is hooked on opioids and wants to quit then research Ibogaine Treatment. It is not cheap but works incredibly well. It will stop the addiction in under 24 hours and stop all cravings or withdrawls which is the biggest hurdle to the addict.
    I know because I was treated with it 6 years ago. It completely wiped out the addiction and all cravings and withdrawls. 6 years later I am still clean. It was the ONLY thing that would work. Addiction is really tough due to withdrawal and cravings.
    The addict must want it though because its pricey. But it will work. Unfortunately it is not prescribed by doctors. There are treatment centres in Canada and around the world – but not in USA.
    Do your research on it and choose a “provider” wisely. There are some really good ones and some bad ones. I am not affilliated with any treatment centres but know of a few good ones in Mexico if you need a referral.
    It is in my opinion much safer and more effective than methadone or suboxone. Those drugs are even tougher to come off and unhealthy although they are much cheaper than buying drugs on the street. Ibogaine is a single treatment and kills the addiction in less than 24 hrs. Hope this helps and I wish you all the best. I do understand where you are at.

  10. Jaimie says:

    My heart goes out to all involved. Addiction is heart wrenching on all involved.
    My son is 6.5 and has some serious mental health issues all ready. Several diagnosis.
    I am extremely familiar with the addiction aid of things has well unfortunately. The money that is poured into these agencies, facilities etc is astounding. Having said that, the services that they offer are very limited , lengthy waitlists and a lot of obstacles in between.
    Unfortunately the general population has no real u serstanding of how it all works and how many children, adolescents and adults are failed daily. I wish you and your family the best. Keep advocating 🙂 I really pray she gets clean.

  11. Jo Parker says:

    My heart goes out to you ..your family and all those who are struggling with this issue.. I wish you the best in creating a safe place for those who need to come together.. I have no answers.. I recommend a book by Dr Gabor Mate InThe Realm Of Hungry Ghosts … Just check out Gabor Mate .. He is in Vancouver Canada,.. My granddaghter has had a journry with mental heath and drugs.. I do know the pain …

  12. vicki says:

    My heart goes out to you

  13. Jo-Ann says:

    I feel your pain! Our youngest is 23 and suffers from mental health issues. He’s often up all night and sleeping all day. The first thing we do when we get up and go home in the evening is check that he is still alive. He’s an adult and we can’t make him follow through with his doctors. We have to call police when we fear for our lives or his. There is not much help and most friends distance themselves after giving the great advice to “just kick him out”!

  14. Marguerite says:

    Hopefully you can get your daughter into a residential program – not sure if there are any in town – but Dave Smith Center can give you inormation about the ones out of town – I know from having worked in addiction that the province used to pay for residential treatment in the US – good luck – and Rideauwood probably still has a supportive program for parents

  15. denise lefebvre says:

    I am wondering if you would consider a spiritual approach as well as the physical. A good pastor and church might be able to pray for your children. Prayer helped save my daughter years ago from a series of addictions.

  16. Candice M Christmas says:

    It’s Family Day… and for many, this is just another day in what seems like an endless nightmare of worry, fear, and feelings of helplessness and anger. Thank you Sean O’Leary for having the courage to speak these words… you are braver than I have been. “We the parents of these kids and future kids need to unite for ourselves and for our kids. Please forward this to as many people you know who have teenage kids… Then we can have an open discussion of ideas, questions to be asked etc. The days of the saying ‘They need to hit rock bottom before getting better’ are over. Sadly in most cases today rock bottom is a slab at the morgue.” These aren’t bad kids… after my 18 months of study about Canadian youth, the majority have unmet mental health needs and the availability of drugs (from parents’ medicine cabinets as well as the streets) makes ‘escape’ just too convenient. The flavours vary – where I live it’s Meth and Crack, but Fentanyl is having terminal effects in major cities. My family is finding our way out, but the spectre of addiction is always one hit away from the spiral… Mr. O’Leary you have inspired me: what you suggest – opening up ways for parents to talk and learn what help is available or what we need to advocate for (because there is’t enough or appropriate help available) – that is what needs to be done. This can’t lurk in the shadows anymore because of the shame and stigma we fear. Those who have not walked the road are often very quick to judge, but they do not know. How could they?! Thank you. I’m in Kingston. I’ll be in touch by email.

  17. Catherine Surphlis says:

    My beautiful son died of a drug overdose October 16th, 2016 in Oakville, Ontario. Mr. O’Leary, thank you for rescuing that boy.

  18. Lynn Jenkins says:

    There is only one possible ray of hope that I can offer outside of the other resources you have looked into, and that is a rock solid hard look at your family diet. I often believe that in today’s world, the bodies of many people are absolutely starving for basic quality nutrients, and this lack of nutrients is causing all kinds of irrational behavior. Our body needs good nutrition each and every day that can only be achieved through balanced meal programs. In order to be sure my family was properly nourished, I simply googled ‘brain food’, ‘ heart healthy food’ etc., and those searches always produced similar results. For example, the brain desperately needs QUALITY fats. I’m just putting in my two cents and hoping it can help a little. I was raised in the days before McDonalds in a farming community during a time when people just seemed to naturally know a lot more about how to balance food intake. I don’t think many households these days have much of an idea of what is involved in a balanced, highly nutritional diet.

  19. Diane says:

    My heart goes out to you and many other families suffering the same problem. Having seen two family members go through the same thing I feel your pain. We watched one family member conquer her addiction for many years , help other addicts and then sadly slip back into drugs and die. She was an amazing person and did so much good for other people but sadly had a hard time dealing with stresses in her life and started using again. My children grew up seeing this as it was something we chose not to hide, and as a result were totally against drugs in their teenage years as they saw firsthand what drugs can do. I have heard from people that have worked with people with addictions that there are a lot of people that use drugs as a way to “self medicate” from undiagnosed or diagnosed mental health issues. Perhaps our school systems need to have a mandatory ongoing classes at different school ages that deal with talking about drugs/ addictions and mental health. My thoughts and prayers are with every parent and child that are going through this right now and I pray for some type of a solution for this problem before more children’s lives are lost.

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