Daris Patrick Fent isn’t the stereotypical drug user. “I am a Marine, I am meant to save lives, be proud of that,” said Daris to his mother, Melissa Dye. The best way to describe Daris in the early stages of addiction is that he was able to function after his doctor in the Military prescribed him Oxycontin after a minor injury. Daris was not just a manly Marine; he was a sensitive musician too. If Daris tried something he was good at it. He was just that kind of young man.
No one in his family, nor the Marines noticed any signs of drug use until the pain meds he was getting from the doctor stopped coming. Daris like so many others felt he had no other choice but to move to heroin which is cheaper and more accessible than prescription medications.
It didn’t take long once heroin entered Daris’ life for the signs to start to show. Melissa, Daris’ mom, came across text messages between Daris’ brother and his girlfriend where they talked about the time he spent in the bathroom and mentioned Daris falling asleep in the middle of a text message. His mother didn’t have any proof but confronted him and said “I know you’re doing drugs,” he immediately broke down, begging for help. Over and over he kept saying “I don’t know why I can’t stop, I just want my life back.” That night Melissa stayed up all night surfing the Internet, looking for rehabs and resources only to come up empty-handed. Like so many parents she didn’t know where to turn.
Melissa found one facility with an available bed. It was a private center and Melissa had to take a loan out to get Daris into the facility. At Liberty Ranch, Daris was too close to home and all of his connections. Daris began leaving the center and had a tough time dealing with the rules. Melissa says she doesn’t blame the treatment center; she believes that a more faith-based program would have fit Daris better. One of his regular reassurances to his mom about his condition was ” God will see me through this.” Daris had a strong faith and Melissa wishes she could have found a faith-based program for him.
When your child is using a substance like heroin you know that at any moment your entire life can change. With fentanyl being added to heroin more often than not, parents are living their lives in agonizing fear that they will lose their child to this disease. Melissa was no different.
On August 14th Melissa joined an ever-growing group of families that have lost one of their most precious gems to a drug overdose. Daris had been doing very well. He was working out at the gym when he made plans to meet his mom at his sister’s basketball game. One of his old using buddies approached him at the gym and asked Daris to come hang out. On their way to the friend’s house, they bought heroin. It is estimated that Daris took his final dose of heroin around 10:30 am, at about 11 his “friend” called another friend and told them that Daris was unconscious. Unfortunately, even after he was told to call 911 he waited, at 3:10 another call was placed to the same friend at which time he admitted that he hadn’t called 911 and now he was talking about dumping Daris in a ditch somewhere. After hearing this, the kid on the other end of the conversation called 911. By then it was too late, Daris had suffered severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. Thankfully Daris gave his mother the gift of three days where Melissa was able to cuddle up next to her son, breathe his scent and tell him how much everyone loved him. Melissa held him looking at her beautiful son as he took his last breath.
The heartbreak that Melissa Dye and her surviving children have endured because of Daris’ senseless death has created an unstoppable force. Melissa still struggles with the loss of her son, but she is also determined to try to save someone else’s child. Project Daris, is a team made up of medical professionals that offer a FREE program to Kentucky and surrounding States schools. Melissa takes Project Daris into schools and provides drug education, K-12, on the subject of current drugs that are being abused and misused.
Melissa’s team is determined to counter the glorified messages kids see and hear on social media. Daris’s story is told to the students, and they watch his memorial video. Project Daris works with guest speakers which include people in recovery and parents that have also dealt with a child suffering from Substance Use Disorder.
When asked what her main goal was Melissa was quick to say, “My primary purpose is to put drug education back into schools. Drug education needs to be part of the curriculum; our children deserve to learn the life skills to avoid drugs. I believe this is where we can make the biggest impact. We’ll never be able to keep the drugs or dealers off the street, but we can educate our children in the truths of drug use and abuse!”
I then asked Melissa what advice would she give families facing this situation in their children and she said, “I didn’t have the tools or knowledge to save my son, become educated! Don’t believe in tough love or rock bottom; the bottom was my son’s death.”
Recently, after visiting a school, Melissa got an email from the parent of one of the students that saw Melissa’s story at school. This is what the email said:
I wanted to let you know that my son, who is a 14 yr old Freshman, was present in the assembly at Montgomery County High School when you spoke yesterday. He was very emotional telling me about your son’s life and his death. I am a drug counselor. We have people in our family who are in recovery, and have even lost many loved ones due to addiction including my mother-in-law in 2005, my best friend, who was like my brother and an uncle to my children; he died last year on my wedding anniversary, and my little sister lost her best friend only two months ago due to using heroin that had been laced with Carfentanil. We also come from a family of substantial military personnel including the Navy, Army, and United Stated Marine Corp., so there were many things about your life that struck home with my son. First, I want to offer to you my sincerest condolences for the loss of your child. Thank you for your child’s sacrifice for our country and our freedom, and thank you for your sacrifice as a military mom. I want to thank you mostly for sharing Daris’ story. Even though I try always to be very honest and real with him, my son was surprised by Daris’ age, talent, and Military service knowing that he died from an overdose. I know it can’t be easy to do this, but I want you to know that you made an impact on my son, and I am grateful for that. Tonight we sat together and listened to Daris sing songs on YouTube, and we cried together as we watched his memorial service. There are no words that I can say to relieve the pain of losing your child, and so I will not try to come up with any. I wanted only to thank you for taking the time to try to save other kids, MY CHILD, from the same desperation that I know Daris must have felt and that you must feel now. My heart breaks for you, but I am so grateful that you are using this as an opportunity to help heal our communities. Thank you, just doesn’t seem to be enough. Sincerely,
Letters like this one are all the payment that someone like Melissa Dye needs to continue working nonstop to make sure that she does her best to keep any other mother from going through the nightmare that she and her family have endured. Daris didn’t have to die. If his “friend” would have just dialed 911 as soon as he noticed there was a problem, Daris would still be here. Daris Patrick Fent was an all-American boy, who was talented, loving, intelligent and kind. His life mattered the same way your child’s life matters. Daris was right about one thing. He was a Marine; he was meant to save lives, and his mother is very proud of that.
To learn more about Project Daris visit their Facebook page at:
If you would like to get Project Daris into your School go to their Facebook page and send Melissa Dye a message. This is a free service.
Written By: JoAnn Miller – Director of Marketing for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.