Rick Badie's Gwinnett: Beloved son falls to drug demon

Annette Walters often talked about her son’s ability to inspire and how he’d make an impact on people’s lives.

In grade school, teachers raved about Chase Jones. He, they’d say, was a joy to have in the classroom. Sweet. Polite. Studious. An educator’s dream.

Then came middle school and, with it, the angst of adolescence, of finding oneself. Of trying to fit.

Chase started hanging with the party crowd. He smoked pot. He ’fessed up to his divorced parents — Jerry Jones of Lilburn and Walters of Johns Creek.

He lauded marijuana, called it a natural herb that grew in the ground. He assured them that he, not the weed, was in control.

And he told them he’d never — ever — try anything harder.

Still, his parents intervened. They shipped Chase to live with his grandparents in Auburn, Ala. He completed eighth grade at a private Christian school.

When he returned to his mother, he enrolled at Fulton County’s Northview High.

There, temptation proved strong. Chase returned to partying and messing with the wrong crowd.

Then he did what he said he’d never do. Lost control. He dabbled with what his mother calls “The Demon.”

At 18, he began snorting heroin. Three years later, he was shooting up.

“From that point to 21,” his mother said, “it’s been an up- and downhill battle.”

Sometimes, try as you might, you can’t change people. On a light note, the behavior sought may be as simple as getting a spouse to put the toilet seat down (or up). Or it might be as serious as trying to save a sin-sick, destructive soul. Regardless, change comes from within.

Chase’s parents tried dosages of tenderness coupled with tough love. His mother took him in; and on occasion she had to kick him out, call the cops and put him in rehab. Whatever they thought it would take.

Along the way, he lost his landscaping job and either crashed with friends or slept in his car. He stole to support his habit.

He spent nearly a year in the Fulton County jail when police, after a traffic stop, found stolen merchandise in his backpack.

In jail, he got a tattoo emblazoned across his shoulders: “God’s Chosen One.” In jail, he stayed clean, too. Out of it, he returned to chasing The Demon.

Recently, Chase had checked into a residential substance abuse program, a halfway house. Apparently, he wanted to party one more time, have a weekend binge on what he’d told his mother was “the most unbelievable feeling and place anybody could ever experience.”

On Feb. 8, the 21-year-old fitness buff was found facedown on his bed, dead from an apparent overdose. A needle was nearby. His parents wanted to publicize his demise to send a message that’s never too dated or trite.

“God, it’s sad,” his mother said, “but he made the choice. We hoped and prayed that he was going to beat the demon. God knew he couldn’t beat it, but his story and his message is going to go forth.”

Rick Badie, an Opinion columnist, is based in Gwinnett. Reach him at rbadie@ajc.com or 770-263-3875.