Family of an overdose victim advocates against addiction

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The family of an overdose victim speaks out days after their loved one was found dead on the side of the road in Chugiak.

"We all fail," said Chris Schneider, Zach's 17-year old brother. "We all make bad decisions. It's hard man, I'm waiting for him to walk through the door, or a phone call, and it's not going to come."

On Tuesday, the body of 19-year old Zach Schneider was left on a graveled road off South Brichwood Loop. He died of an apparent overdose. Although an investigation is ongoing, Anchorage Police say there is nothing suspicious about his death.

Zach's mother Alaina Rochelle Thiessen learned about her son's death while recovering from back surgery.

"I had just pulled out of anesthesia when my son texted me and told me Zach was dead," said Thiessen. "I couldn't believe it, and to think he was laying there by himself in his last moments."

Zach's family described him as a gentle giant. A 6'6'' tall man who was driven, smart and had a huge heart.

"Zach had a lot of passion for helping people," Thiessen said. "I think a lot of times he would be self-sacrificial in that he put himself in dangerous situations to help other people."

After years of battling her own substance abuse issues, Zach's mom recently reconnected with Zach and her younger son Chris. Although Alaina has been clean for four years, she says Zach has long struggled with substance abuse issues, abusing marijuana and Xanax, as a result of anxiety and PTSD.

In the days that have followed since learning of her son's death, Alaina is determined to not let Zach's death be in vain. She hopes to serve as a substance abuse counselor, sharing Zach's story, and her own, to help other's in their fight against addiction.

"The snares of addiction, it tears families apart," Thiessen said. "We detach from the true person that we are and we make horrible choices. I want to see an end to this."

In addition to becoming an advocate for addiction, Thiessen wants to inform people of the Alaska statue that says a person will not be prosecuted for seeking medical attention or help from law enforcement in the case of an overdose.

Zach's family believes that if the people he was with called 9-1-1 immediately when realizing he was unconscious, instead of moving him and dumping his body on the side of the road, Zach might still be alive.



 
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