The first cracks began to appear in Tim Webb’s world on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, when he noticed, while watching TV, an ambulance screaming up the road that ran beside his Rockford home.
“Somebody’s going through something awful today,” he thought. That somebody turned out to be his three children — sons Cody and Brandon and daughter Brooke, 25. The ambulance had been called for their mother, Teresa, who had died of an opioid overdose.
Tim was affected as well, of course; Teresa, after all, had been the mother of his children. But nothing could have prepared him for the arrival of law enforcement officers on his doorstep a mere six months later. Brooke, they told him somberly, was dead.
It was, he told me this week, the news he’d long expected, tried to prepare himself for but could not begin to comprehend once it arrived. He had struggled with his daughter’s addiction and watched her transform from the baby girl who was the delight of her father’s eye into an angry, unpredictable drug addict. In the end, she lost her life before she was able to get help for her problem, leaving behind a young daughter of her own, two brothers who loved her and a father who has slowly transformed his grief into a ministry.
In its own way, his loss and subsequent journey, which has resulted in a recently published book (“See It From My Side”), has been his own recovery, he told me last week.
“I live life on life’s terms, one day at a time, and the way I look at things, anything I do get in my life, I’m grateful for,” he said. “Anybody that’s put in my path, I welcome the opportunity to talk to them, because I’m looking at this world through a brand new set of eyes. I see things I’ve never noticed before. Before I realized Brooke was in the situation she was, that was never a world that I was involved in. But after she passed away, I realized that these people need help, and that’s the calling God has placed on my life — to help as many as I possibly can. I can’t help them all, but I can help them, one at a time.”
Like so many addicts, Brooke’s journey began through prescription medication. As a child, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis; after Tim and his ex-wife divorced, Brooke’s mother, he said, found it more convenient to treat the symptoms rather than the cause, and so Brooke wound up with multiple doses of narcotics. Mother and daughter eventually began using together once Brooke got older, and Tim readily admits that for the longest time, he had no idea how bad things were.
“My general opinion of addicts back then was that they were pretty much the scum of the earth,” he said. “You couldn’t trust them, because they would steal, kill, lie and take whatever they could. I hated the thought of even being around an addict. But the way I see things now has changed, because I did not know the depth of her situation.
“She kept it hidden from me for several years, and when she finally came to me and said, ‘I have a problem,’ I already knew. I said, ‘You’re addicted, aren’t you? What do you want me to do?’ She said, ‘I need help,’ so I took her to Celebrate Recovery one time in Knoxville, but before I actually got her any help, she OD’ed.”
“See It From My Side” is a powerful document of those early days of grief, and for a guy who’s not a professional writer, Tim weaves a compelling and harrowing narrative that pulls no punches. He talks in painful detail how the days blurred together, so much so that his son had to remind him once that he hadn’t showered in five days. Life, he writes, no longer had any meeting once his baby girl was gone. Finally, his sister put him in touch with Jan McCoy, another Blount County parent who had lost a child to an overdose.
“Jan called me, and in that 20 minutes we were on the phone, I realized that I wasn’t the only person going through this, because that’s how I felt,” he said. “Jan invited me to Celebrate Recovery in Maryville, and I told her I’d be there.”
But when the time came, he couldn’t bring himself to go.
“I thought it was for addicts and alcoholics and people with sexual problems or anger management issues,” he added. “I thought I didn’t have a problem — that I wasn’t suffering from anything! Why do I need to go to something that’s not designed for me? That went on for four or five weeks — she would invite me, and I would say okay, and then when the time came, I just couldn’t do it.
“But I finally gave in, and when I went to Celebrate Recovery, I saw everyone struggling with all different kinds of problems and hurts, and I realized, this was a program designed especially for people like me.”
He got involved in Jan’s group for parents of addicts and alcoholics, and eventually he was asked to give his testimony. That’s where “See It From My Side” began to germinate: In preparing to speak to the assembled crowd, he started making notes. He’d scribble them down wherever an idea hit him — the bedroom, the kitchen, his truck. When he began to collect and assemble them, he realized how many he had — almost 30 pages worth.
What if, he began to wonder, God wanted him to write a book? After asking around and getting some feedback, he took more notes and eventually sat down to write. It’s not a lengthy work — about 160 pages — but it seemed to take no time at all, and even those he asked to help him proofread it were amazed.
“My friend who wrote the foreword, I asked him to help me edit it, and after he read it he said, ‘I was going to, but I’ve never seen anybody write a book that doesn’t need editing!’” Webb said. “That’s because I didn’t write it. I was simply the vessel God used to write through.”
It’s not an easy read; no stories of grief and tragedy are, and Tim doesn’t sugarcoat the pain the he endured. But neither does he hold back from the miracle he’s experienced since: a spiritual deliverance from anger and a personal ministry that allows him to keep his daughter’s memory alive and, more importantly, use her experiences at a catalyst to prevent others from following in her footsteps.
“At the point I was able to admit my daughter had been an addict, when Jan got me into Celebrate Recovery, I was able to sit back and listen to stories and talk to people and realize that the only difference between them and me is that they made bad choices, and I’ve not made a bad choice — yet,” he said. “But they are not bad people. They need our help, they need our prayers, and they need somebody to just listen. And that’s what I want them, and anyone, to know: Regardless of whatever situation you’re in, there’s somebody who went before you, there will be somebody who goes there after you, and there are people who will be there to show you love and genuine concern.”
For more information on “See It From My Side,” or to order a copy, visit http://tiny.cc/timwebb