PINE RIVER, Minn - When an Andover couple lost their son to a prescription drug addiction, they could have focused on their sorrow, but instead they moved forward by fulfilling his lifelong dream.
"I think the hardest part of losing your child is you'll never see them have all the things you knew they dreamt of having," said Kim Sawyer. "I think only someone that has lost a child could understand the emptiness that you don't know how you will ever, ever fill again."
Kim Sawyer could find no blueprint for rebuilding a life after the loss of her only son, so she turned to the plans he left behind.
"He was always going to build his house," said Kim Sawyer.
Grant Sawyer died December 3, 2011 at age of 23, from a methadone overdose. His experimentation with prescription drugs started just socially in high school, and slowly progressed, putting him through rehab four times. He was a popular athlete, beloved by many in his Andover neighborhood.
In his last fight, Grant had been sober eight months before relapsing on methadone. The drug once helped him with his addiction, but after eight months of sobriety, the dose was too much for his system to handle.
"He would have never wanted our family to have to go through this. He didn't want this. But I am proud to say that he was a fighter," said his sister, Karmin Hoang.
An investigation showed Grant had conducted online searches for rehab facilities just hours before he died. And just one week before, he applied to go to school for architecture. He'd worked as a carpenter, and wanted to turn his passion into a career.
Grant told his parents and three older sisters he would one day build his dream home on a postcard plot of land in Pine River, Minnesota. The land had been in the family four generations.
"I was always going to give it to my son," said Steve Sawyer, through tears. "Obviously he can't enjoy it, but we are building his dream for him."
Steve broke ground not long after Grant's death, after his son spoke to him in a dream.
"The phone rang and I answered it. I said, who is this? It's Grant. And he said, when are we going to build my house up there? I said, don't worry about your house. We're building it. Then I woke up and he wasn't there, no phone in my hand," said Steve Sawyer.
So, he first sketched out the home Grant often described in detail. Nearly every weekend, he made the three hour drive to work around the clock, often with a crew of family. They called it Grant's Place.
The Sawyers detailed the project's progress online, with a blog part of their recovery. The family owns a photography business, and used their talents with pictures and words to offer a window to addiction, and warn other families about a disease that does not discriminate.
"He didn't fit that stereotype of what you think about a junkie or something. He came from a loving family that lives in the suburbs, he was involved in sports, it's not like he fell into this category of what people think addiction is and for the most part, a lot of people didn't even know he struggled," said Hoang.
"I thought I could fix it. I thought I could discipline him out of this disease," said Kim Sawyer. "I think of the quote, I loved him to death. And maybe I tried too hard," said Kim Sawyer.
But after a year and a half into the grieving process, the family's love brought a breakthrough. Grant finally got his wish, on what would have been his 25th birthday. His home was complete, with every corner showing the craftsmanship from a carpenter above.
Grant's Place brought the serenity their son long searched for.
"I come to the door and I almost think he is going to come and greet me. I believe he's here," said Steve Sawyer.
The family will give sixteen keys to Grant's closest friends and relatives, so they can use the house as a getaway on weekends.
A Twin Cities drug abuse trend report, published in June of 2013, found 20 percent people entering treatment have a problem with prescription drugs, and 40 percent of that population is made up of young men between the ages 18 to 25.
Author and state drug expert Carol Falkowski say it's an unprecedented increase, with prescription drug abuse a growing epidemic in the Twin Cities and across the country.
Falkowski says from 2011 to 2012, approximately 130 people died from opiate overdoses in Ramsey and Hennepin County alone, a slight increase from the prior year.
For more information on treatment centers for addiction in Minnesota, go to http://www.minnesotarecovery.info/Treatment.htm
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