ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Lori Kokoski hopes to bring awareness to the fact that many families, including her own, struggling to deal with a loved one’s drug addiction aren’t alone.
“There’s a lot of people suffering in silence,” she said. “I want to let them know that we’re going through that, too. I almost think we should start a new movement like the #MeToo Movement, which took a lot of that stuff out of the shadows. #UsToo because this is a family disease. We need to try to reduce the stigma of the disease.”
Last month, Kokoski’s son Jordan, 28, was indicted on charges on charges of trafficking fentanyl and buprenorphine, which is used to treat dependence and addiction to opioids. The Lorain County Sheriff’s Office reported Jordan Kokoski sold drugs in an undercover operation.
Lori Kokoski said that she believes that if her son is guilty, he did it to support his own opioid addiction. Jordan Kokoski and his twin brother, Joseph Kokoski, have both struggled with addiction for years, their mother said.
“It’s been going on for quite a few years now, unfortunately,” Lori Kokoski said. “I’m actually surprised that this hasn’t come out sooner. I thought I could do one of two things — I could say ‘no comment’ or use this as an opportunity to help bring awareness to other families struggling with the same thing. This doesn’t discriminate. It’s like they say: ‘It can happen to anybody.’”
Lori Kokoski said Jordan Kokoski was a skateboarder and people would give him Percocet or Vicodin when he would get hurt doing it. Shortly afterward, he was addicted to opioids, she said.
“Neither one of them ever got in trouble in school,” she said. “They became adults, and something triggered them.”
Jordan and Joseph Kokoski have both tried to get break free from their addictions, Lori Kokoski said. Last year, Jordan Kokoski was sober for close to a year before relapsing.
“Last summer, we had the best summer,” she said. “He was on a couple baseball teams. I went and watched him play baseball. We went golfing every Saturday. It was beautiful. He was the best baseball player; he was fantastic.
“It felt like I had my son back.”
The previous year, it was Joseph Kokoski that seemed to be straightening out his life, going through Lorain County Recovery Court. He stayed sober for nearly a year and a half, she said.
Lori Kokoski said it’s difficult watching her children go through life with addiction. As a mother, she wants to jump in and help in any way she can “give them the best future.”
She’s taken a hard line this time, though.
“I have not taken any of his (Jordan’s) calls this time,” she said. “Usually I go visit once a week when they’re in jail, but I’m not doing any of that. He’s not owning up to it. He’s claiming he’s innocent and he didn’t do it. When my kids are in recovery, being honest and in treatment, I support them. When they’re not, I don’t.”
As a county commissioner, Lori Kokoski has tried to be at the forefront in battling the opioid crisis in the county.
“If everybody realized how many people are struggling with this in silence, they’d be shocked,” she said. “I got to a lot of conferences on the subject. I’m trying to learn as much about it as I can for myself and how best to try to help all of Lorain County.”
She admits a big reason for her involvement in trying to help with the opioid crisis is personal.
“I’ve seen it firsthand with my kids,” she said. “I’ve seen it with other families, on the faces of all those moms and dads who don’t know what to do. Hopefully, we’ll start a conversation and get people talking. They need to realize that they don’t just need to get help for the addict, but for the family, as well.”