By Josh Johnson, WSFA 12 News Chief Meteorologist
My younger brother Chris Johnson's smile lit up every room, and his laughter filled the next room over. He was tall, funny, intelligent and athletic. He loved his sweet Melissa, and he loved their 2-year-old son, Parker.
Chris hurt his knee, which led to surgery, then Oxycontin. Chris became addicted to painkillers. Over the following decade, we helplessly watched him sink deeper and deeper into the pit of addiction.
One year ago Saturday night, they found Chris dead in a dark, dirty alley behind a movie theater from a heroin overdose. The people with him called 911 as they left him - cold, alone and afraid - to die.
Heroin doesn't cost as much as pain pills, so some people call it a "cheaper alternative."
It cost young, innocent Parker the chance to grow up knowing his Dad.
It cost my parents their youngest son.
It cost me my only brother and my best friend.
It cost my infinitely clever and always laughing brother Chris his life.
Heroin isn't cheap. It sure cost our family a lot.
Heroin did give us one thing, though - an empty chair.
Halloween is almost here, then Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon follow. At each holiday, forever, my family and I will look around the room for Chris. But, he will never, ever be there. All we will see is an empty chair. From Parker's first day of school to his wedding day, he won't see dad, only an empty chair.
Right now, heroin is being transported into our state, sold to our people and shot into their veins. And it's getting worse every day.
Chris' fight is over. We didn't find an answer in time. Don't let someone in your family leave an empty chair. If you've never tried drugs, DON'T DO IT. If you're fighting addiction, don't fight alone. Get professional help.
If you love someone who is fighting this battle, encourage them to seek professional help. Love them unconditionally and let them know you're in their corner, before it's too late.