“My son was Josh Barefoot. I joined ‘the club’ Aug. 4, 2017. That club being a mother who lost her child,” Valinda Barefoot told a group gathered for a recent drug awareness …
“My son was Josh Barefoot. I joined ‘the club’ Aug. 4, 2017. That club being a mother who lost her child,” Valinda Barefoot told a group gathered for a recent drug awareness event at Neills Creek Baptist Church.
The former educator shared her story of personal tragedy at Sheriff Wayne Coats’ drug awareness program titled “What are you missing?”
Like most parents, Barefoot didn’t notice her son’s addiction until it was full grown.
Barefoot explained her son, Josh, was a hardworking young man. He was a full-time firefighter, a volunteer firefighter, a full-time employee with Circle K convenience stores, a member of a Harnett County Sheriff’s Office softball team and a friend to many people in the emergency services field and his community.
He came from a home with God-fearing, hardworking people. In Valinda Barefoot’s words, “Life was good.”
Josh lived in a house on his family’s farm.
Months prior to his death, he was involved in a single-vehicle wreck. The vehicle he was driving rolled over twice as he swerved to miss striking a dog in the highway.
The collision broke his back.
His doctor prescribed him Percocet, a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, to help Josh manage his pain.
The first prescription was for 90 tablets. Then, Josh received a refill for 90 more.
The physician’s attempt to make Josh Barefoot’s healing tolerable led to a terminal path of addiction that took him, his mother and many who loved him on a nightmarish odyssey that haunts Valinda Barefoot to this day.
Josh was able to go about his day-to-day duties, responsibilities and activities with no hint to others he was struggling with an opioid’s stranglehold on his life.
“If such a thing is possible, Josh was a functioning addict,” she said.
Once Barefoot realized the nightmare her son was living, it became her mission to fix the problem.
As Josh suffered through withdrawals, she begged a physician friend to help.
“You can’t save him,” said the friend. “He has to want to save himself.”
With the support of friends and family and great health insurance, Josh applied for and was accepted into a drug rehabilitation program near Nashville, Tennessee. He was discharged from the facility clean and sober after 45 days. He returned home, got back to life — and relapsed.
Valinda Barefoot feared the worst and called in a friend and narcotics agent with the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office to see if her son was using again.
“He broke down and sobbed while talking with me,” Chris Carroll said. “So Josh, Valinda and I sat on her back porch for several hours as we talked and looked at what to do next.”
Josh didn’t want to be an addict.
Barefoot and Carroll were able to get him accepted into a rehabilitation facility in Florida.
On the morning of Aug. 4, 2017, Josh was packed and ready to leave for Florida. There were some toiletry items he needed, so his mother left to go to a local Walmart to make the purchases.
Upon her return, 45 minutes later, she found Josh in severe respiratory distress. He was barely breathing. He had called a dealer who brought him something “better than pills” and he overdosed. Josh died four days before his 25th birthday.
Barefoot has partnered with Sheriff Wayne Coats in programs to share Josh’s story with middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, parents, grandparents and anyone else who will listen.
Ten students came to her for help with addictions in their homes or lives after her talk at Harnett Central High School. The problem is real in Harnett County where deaths from opioids continue to climb.
Eleven people died from it in 2018, 19 in 2019, 27 in 2020 and 50 in 2021.
Harnett County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Josh Christensen set up a mock bedroom to show places drugs, paraphernalia and other evidence of abuse can be hidden at the drug awareness program. The bedroom is part of the presentation and the props for the display were donated by Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County. Christensen explains what to search, as well as what to look for when you search.
“Many persons worry about invading the privacy of their children,” Coats said. “This is not about privacy. This is YOUR home. You are trying to keep your children safe.”
This was the first of several meetings across Harnett County. The next meeting is planned to be held at Hood Memorial Christian Church in Dunn. The date and time of the session will be announced soon.
Robert Jordan can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2037.