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Parents share story of son's battle with addiction to help others

Annie and Ernie say their son, Anthony, was an uplifter, and truly loved others.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Anthony Rapiere had everything going for him.

He was popular, loved, and admired by many.

"He had a wonderful heart," said his mother, Annie Rapiere. "He loved people."

"It was never about him, it was about others," said his father, Ernie Rapiere.

Anthony loved sports, but it was more about being with people than playing the sport.

"It was remarkable to have the number of friends he had," said Ernie.

"Anthony loved people," said Annie. "He wanted people around him to be happy. He didn't look down to anybody. They could've been the poorest kid on the block or the richest. He treated them all the same."

Anthony had plans to be a nurse, get married and have a family, but all that changed with a few wrong turns.

Anthony's first taste of pills was at age 15.

Doctors perscribed him Vyvance, for Attention Deficit Disorder.


Annie says his birth mother took drugs, so Anthony was inclined to get addicted.

Annie and Ernie Rapiere adopted Anthony when he was one year old.

"(Taking Vyvance) made him feel good," said Ernie. "Then having that proclivity for addiction, he was like 'oh, what have I been waiting for?'"

Like most of his peers, Anthony drank alcohol and smoked marijuana -- an often overlooked gateway drug, according to mom and dad.

"That's what I felt -- that it was a gateway," said Annie. "He and I would talk about that. I was afraid of that. He knew we knew. That's going to open the door for something stronger."

Annie and Ernie believe dealers use marijuana as bate for so-called "money motivation," a tool drug dealers use to slowly addict consumers.

"It does lead to stronger drugs," said Annie. "We are living proof to that. We saw that."

Anthony started to be reclusive and quite, a one eighty from his typical outgoing and social personality.

"He was just so ashamed," said Ernie. "He knew what he was doing wasn't what we wanted and what we would approve of."

It wasn't until Anthony went to rehab did his parents realize the intensity of his drug addiction.

"We believe he didn't really get into the hard opiates until he came back from OMA," said Ernie.

OMA stands for Outreach Ministries of Alabama.

The hardest part? He was so close to recovery.

During rehab, he prayed and finally felt hope.

"He said, 'mom at that moment, I felt free. A burden lifted off of me.' He said, 'I didn't have any withdrawals,'" said Annie. "'I didn't need any more drugs. Christ just took that away from me.'"

Anthony later ran into an old friend, and fell into his old ways.

His father says guilt, shame and a low self-esteem took over.

"Never think in God's eyes that you're second best," said Ernie. "You've got to reach to Christ. God doesn't condemn people who are sick."

Anthony eventually died from a heroin overdose.

He was just 25.

"He was a rare gift and these drugs take the best," said Ernie.

Annie and Ernie want the community to be open -- not ashamed.

"We didn't make the mistake of not loving him," said Ernie. "We loved him, but love is not enough. You've got to get help."

They want parents to talk to other parents, so they can better help others struggling with addiction.

They don't want you to make the fatal mistake of thinking it won't happen to you, or someone you love.

The couple says the only answer is faith.

"I could not make it without Christ in my life right now," said Annie.

"That's where the faith comes in," said Ernie. "Instead of excruciating pain, I feel comfort." 

Until they meet again, they are on a mission to help others, so others won't feel the pain of losing a son or daughter to drugs.

"We just miss him tremendously... so much," said Annie.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please utilize these local resources:

Outreach Ministries of Alabama

New Horizons Recovery Center

New Life Outreach

Huntsville & Stevenson Recovery Centers

To learn more about how our nation's opioid epidemic is taking a toll on the Tennessee Valley, click here.


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