'I'm A Good Person With A Bad Disease': Oklahoma Dad's Emotional Testimony On Son's Opioid Addiction
CLEVELAND COUNTY, Oklahoma - Tuesday is day 16 of the state’s opioid trial. And it was an emotional day as a successful businessman turned activist talked about his son’s death because of addiction.
Gary Mindell had it all. He started a multi-billion dollar hotel business, had a good family and good friends. But the secret he kept from those closest to him was his son, Brian’s addiction.
"Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that your son Brian could become addicted? It never went through my mind. I knew very little about addiction." Mindell said, "The problem escalated. It got worse versus getting better. His use went from marijuana to Xanax to OxyContin, Vicodin and ultimately heroin."
Mindell said his son was clean for a year when the pressure of addiction led him to kill himself. He left a note.
"As loving as you could possibly write a suicide note. A paragraph for each of us. He then lit a candle and took his own life. Alone,” said Mindell.
Mindell started a non-profit organization called “Shatterproof” in the wake of his son’s death, to fund research into addiction, change public policy, eliminate the stigma of addiction and promote care. As an expert in addiction, he was asked whether the state’s plan to stem addiction would be effective.
"I absolutely 100 percent agree that each of those line items are needed and necessary,” said Mindell.
The attorney for Johnson & Johnson argued the state hasn’t done enough to stem addiction and questioned whether Mindell’s son received prescriptions for opioids or obtained them illegally.
"Those Vicodin and OxyContin were not prescribed to him as far as you know?”
Johnson & Johnson Attorney Larry Ottaway asked.
“Well, that’s not true,” Mindell replied. “When he had wisdom teeth pulled, he was prescribed a prescription opioid."
Mindell said his son should have never been prescribed any opioids as a known addict.
He still remembers his last conversation with his son.
“He looked at me and said, 'Dad, I wish, I wish someday people would realize I'm not a bad person. I'm a good person with a bad disease, and I swear to you I am trying my absolute hardest,” said Mindell.