Kamloops kindergarten teacher says shame, secrecy contributed to her son's overdose death

·3 min read
Troylana Manson, second from left, and her son Aaron, second from right, pictured with his father and brother. Aaron Manson died of drug overdose in Kamloops, B.C., on April 26.  (Submitted by Troylana Manson - image credit)
Troylana Manson, second from left, and her son Aaron, second from right, pictured with his father and brother. Aaron Manson died of drug overdose in Kamloops, B.C., on April 26. (Submitted by Troylana Manson - image credit)

Troylana Manson still wonders how things might have turned out differently if her son had received more support when he was living with addictions.

Aaron Manson died at his parents' house in Kamloops, B.C., on April 26 after what his mother says was an accidental overdose. He was 26.

His mother, a kindergarten teacher in the southern Interior city, says Aaron grew up with severe anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had a lengthy battle with substance use, particularly alcohol and cocaine use.

Manson remembers Aaron as a talented guitarist and workout enthusiast who loved to interact with people. But she said he didn't feel comfortable disclosing his own struggles to friends and didn't want his family to tell anyone.

"We talked to him… 'Be sure to share things with your friends because they're the link to helping you through these things.' He didn't really want to," she said Thursday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

British Columbia has witnessed more than 7,000 toxicity deaths from illicit drugs since the province declared a public health emergency five years ago due to the overdose crisis.

Last year was the deadliest year on record with 1,716 lives lost. Sixty of those people were from Kamloops.

Aaron Manson is remembered by his family and friends as a talented guitarist.
Aaron Manson is remembered by his family and friends as a talented guitarist.(Submitted by Troylana Manson)

Manson recalls that Aaron had a lot of fun watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship and cooking dinner with his family on the Saturday before his death. But she noticed something strange about Aaron when she and her husband left town for the Okanagan on Sunday.

"We were in contact with him and he said that he was with a buddy," she said. "Usually when he says he's with a buddy and he doesn't name the person, a little red flag goes up."

Manson says she was jubilant when Aaron returned home safe around 1:30 a.m. PT on Monday.

"He came home and then he was up cooking the second part of the stir-fry that he made on the UFC night," she said. "He was chopping up vegetables two, three, four o'clock in the morning. He was making his meal."

Aaron went to bed around 6 a.m., but never woke up.

"I got up at around 9," Manson said. "I went over beside him and I touched him on the shoulder and I said, 'Honey, it's time to wake up,' and he didn't move at all."

"I shook his arm fully expecting him to be startled, and he didn't wake up," she continued. "That's when my stomach sank. I knew something was wrong."

Manson says the ambulance arrived two minutes after her family called 911, but it was too late.

Looking back, Manson says Aaron might be still alive now if his family and friends had created a more supportive environment where he could speak freely about his addiction issues.

"It was the secrets and the guilt and shame that kept him from seeking that help," she said. "He should have been able to tell [us] at six o'clock that morning 'I've taken something and I'm not sure about it.' "

Troylana Manson says her son Aaron's life could have been saved if his family and friends had created a more supportive environment where he could open up about this addiction issues without guilt and shame.
Troylana Manson says her son Aaron's life could have been saved if his family and friends had created a more supportive environment where he could open up about this addiction issues without guilt and shame.(Submitted by Troylana Manson)

And she says a safe supply of drugs would have rescued Aaron.

"If he had a safe supply, then he would be still using [drugs], but he would be on the road to recovery," she said. "It [addiction] may have petered itself out because his desire for recovery was so strong."

Tap the link below to hear Troylana Manson's interview on Daybreak Kamloops:

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