As told by her father
Taylor Grzybinski was born on January 29, 1999. Growing up, she loved school, makeup, music, reading books, baking, and dogs. But she struggled throughout parts of her teen years. Her mother and I divorced when she was 10, which had an impact on her outlook on life. Taylor battled anxiety in her adolescent years and later depression and would see counselors or therapists on and off for the rest of her life.
This is her story.
Fall 2013 to Winter 2016
Taylor was a normal, typical teenage girl. She liked boys, hanging with friends, and was a lead singer in her middle school church band. Her freshman year of high school she was a cheerleader and had a large group of friends.
Taylor was an intelligent and tenacious student. She chose to attend summer school to take additional classes, while most of the other students there were required to go. This allowed her to complete high school in only three years. She was determined to grow up and be an “adult” as fast as possible.
Similar to many teenage females, Taylor felt the need to be wanted and accepted. Events throughout her high school years would lead Taylor to start experimenting with alcohol and drugs.
Her first real relationship with a boy was filled with dishonesty and disrespect but Taylor trusted this boy. She ended up losing her virginity to him, only to have him break up with her shortly after. This was a devastating event for Taylor, and there was an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression shortly following this event. This poor relationship caused her to struggle with other relationships, including friendships.
As she was in her last year of high school, Taylor had a few instances with alcohol, which included friends having to drive her home or her calling home to say she had too much to drink and shouldn’t drive. She got caught with alcohol by police a time or two as well. You would not think too much of it at the time, but this behavior would eventually lead to the usage of marijuana and other drugs.
Spring 2016 to Fall 2017
Taylor graduated a year early in 2016 and enrolled in Lindenwood University in the fall of that year, living on campus in a dorm with a roommate. Taylor excelled at college and was taking up to 20 credit hours per semester.
In the summer of 2017, she continued with summer classes at Lindenwood but was resistant to returning in the fall. She had started a new job watching and caring for mentally handicapped adults. With its demanding hours that would cause irregular sleep patterns, Taylor transitioned from using marijuana to now using amphetamines and cocaine.
She realized that the job and now the cocaine use was too much, so she decided in the fall of 2017 to take a few classes at a community college and focus on herself getting better. However, things only got worse.
In an effort to get herself clean, Taylor attended an outpatient care facility with group therapy sessions for drug use and depression. The outpatient facility gave Taylor access to doctors and at any given time a patient could see a doctor, describe his or her symptoms, and get a prescription. This was a critical downturn in Taylor’s mental health.
At any one time while attending this outpatient facility, Taylor received at least a half-dozen different drugs to help with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and any number of mental health conditions. At this point, I took a more active role in her treatment.
Winter and Spring 2018
In January 2018, Taylor and I decided to throw all drugs away, no longer attend the outpatient facility, and return to her counselor to get a fresh start on treating Taylor’s symptoms. After a few weeks, we agreed to try another outpatient facility — one that did not hand out prescriptions every time Taylor would complain of a symptom.
The first few weeks at the new outpatient facility was beneficial. Although Taylor still occasionally used marijuana, she was no longer abusing cocaine or taking prescription drugs. However, Taylor met a young man at this outpatient facility named Jacob* and began seeing him on a consistent basis. She was soon back on prescription drugs and fighting depression.
In March 2018, Taylor had a friend take her to the hospital as she was complaining of stomach pains and was having difficulty with constipation, which is a side effect of the prescription drugs she was using. She was treated and released.
She continued seeing Jacob. On one occasion Taylor had asked Jacob if he had any prescription drugs that she could take. He gave her a pill and assured her it was just like the prescription drugs she had been taking. Taylor snorted the pill, much like she snorted other prescription drugs in the past, however, this was not a prescribed drug. Taylor had just snorted heroin for the first time and had no idea.
After the “high” wore off from the drug, Taylor fell incredibly ill and had her aunt take her to the hospital. Taylor admitted to the doctors that she had taken prescription drugs earlier, but since she did not know it was heroin, she did not inform the hospital of this. Taylor spent three days in the hospital and was released without any determination of what was wrong.
After leaving the hospital, Taylor only had one thing on her mind: to get more of whatever she took so she could feel better.
Jacob gave Taylor another pill and told her it was heroin. At this point Taylor didn’t care what it was — she just needed the drug to feel better. The heroin use went on through the spring of 2018. Because Taylor began to use more and more, she needed to find cheaper forms of heroin, so she began to purchase lower grades of the drug, some of which was cut or laced with fentanyl.
Taylor was using up to eight pills a day — and this was for her to just feel normal. During this time Taylor was still able to hold down a job as well as take several credit hours of college courses. Outside of her mood swings, you would not expect her to be a heroin user.
Taylor realized that she was in trouble and that if she continued on this path, she would either end up living on the streets, in jail or dead. And she didn’t want any of those things to happen. She said she knew she needed help. She checked herself into Bridgeway Behavioral Center, a 24-hour care facility, on July 1, 2018.
After just two weeks in the facility, Taylor was doing great. She was completely clean, prescribed the correct anxiety and depression medication, and on a strict regimen. Two more weeks past and Taylor was able to come home in August 2018. She was scared but ready.
We had a plan on what her schedule would be, what meetings she would attend, her outpatient schedule, etc. She was back to being the beautiful, smart loving girl that we remembered. We got a puppy and named it IvyLu, who Taylor loved more than anything.
Taylor still struggled with cravings as it was very difficult for her mind to tell her she didn’t need the drugs anymore, but she would fight through it with the help of her friends she had met through the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings.
Taylor had talked about relapsing, and almost seemed determined to do so, however she did the right thing and called her sponsor every time she felt a craving.
It was the beginning of September, and at 60 days clean, Taylor relapsed. She didn’t know why. Maybe she was feeling down, maybe she thought she could use once and be done, but whatever the reason she decided to use. Taylor admitted at the time she couldn’t get a hold of her sponsor and did not want to contact me for fear she would make me upset.
Taylor confessed that she relapsed, so we developed a new plan and we started over. Taylor, again, struggled with cravings through the month of September but was doing great attending meetings, checking in and working toward sobriety.
Friday, October 12
Taylor woke up 31 days clean and sober since her relapse in September. She took care of our bulldog, Ivy, then attended her NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting at 11 a.m., returning home a couple of hours later.
I returned home from work early that day around 3 p.m. to find Taylor playing with Ivy on the floor with the TV on. We talked about her day and what her plans were for the evening. She seemed normal, a little sad, but nothing that would concern me.
I left around 3:30 p.m. and Taylor left an hour after me as she was going to go hang out with her friend, Julie*, where they watched YouTube videos and did facial masks. Taylor was supposed to attend another NA meeting that night and then be home at roughly 9:30 p.m.
Taylor left Julie’s house at 7:30 p.m. but something clicked. Instead of going to her NA meeting, she was on her way to a drug dealer’s house. She arrived at the house a half-hour later and bought five heroin pills for 20 dollars. At this point, she had missed her meeting and did not want to come home, so she went to her aunt’s house. She still had not taken the drugs.
Taylor texted home to ask permission to sleep over at her aunt’s house, and I let her know that it was fine. She spoke with her aunt around 9 p.m. that she relapsed and how disappointed I would be. Taylor’s aunt assured her that the plan was already in place if she relapsed again: that she would go back into Bridgeway Behavioral Center.
Taylor, having already told her aunt she had relapsed, had actually not snorted anything yet and still had the pills on her. As Taylor left her Aunt’s bedroom she looked back and one more time asked if she was disappointment in her. Her Aunt said she was not disappointed in her and that they will figure it all out tomorrow. At that point, Taylor decided to go into the bathroom to snort one of the pills. She later told her sponsor that she did it because she already felt bad and had disappointed everyone and she went through so much anxiety to get the pills that she had to do it. She wasn’t going to go through all that and not use.
It was 10:15 p.m. and Taylor was in her aunt’s kitchen with her cousins eating strawberries and talking as if nothing has happened. At 10:44 p.m., she texted her drug dealer letting him know that the drugs were good. She and her cousin headed to bed soon after.
Taylor’s sponsor called her at 11:30 p.m. and was disappointed in Taylor but let her know it would be OK. She asked Taylor if she had any more pills. When Taylor told her she had four more, the sponsor asked her to flush them. Taylor resisted doing so because she spent money on them. The sponsor offered to come over and give Taylor the money if she would flush them. Taylor would not. The sponsor asked Taylor to wake up her aunt so that she could help, but she did not want to wake anyone up. The sponsor continued to plead with Taylor, who showed resistance. Her sponsor told her that she loved her and that they’d talk in the morning. The call ended at 11:54 p.m.
Saturday, October 13
12 a.m. – Taylor found her way back downstairs and crawled into bed with her cousin. As the girls slept, her cousin was awoken by Taylor’s heavy breathing and snoring.
1:30 a.m. – Her cousin woke Taylor up, during which time Taylor was responsive. The two girls talked for several minutes and then Taylor pleaded to go back to sleep.
9 a.m. – Taylor’s cousin awoke and looked over at Taylor, who was sleeping soundly. Her cousin went upstairs and allowed Taylor to continue sleeping.
11:15 a.m. – I texted Taylor to remember to be home by 2:15 p.m., as we were going to her stepmother’s parents’ farm in Mexico, MO for the rest of the weekend. Taylor loved to attend NA meetings in Columbia, which is close to Mexico, so she was excited about the trip.
1:34 p.m. – I texted Taylor again and asked if she was going with us. Again, no response.
1:52 p.m. – I texted again but no response. I was scared at this point and texted my sister (Taylor’s aunt) who had her daughter check on her. Taylor moved from the last position when her cousin left her but was not moving and was non-responsive. All my sister told me was, “Get here.”
So, what happened between 9 a.m. and 1:52 p.m.? It is suggested that Taylor got up at some point shortly after 9 a.m., snorted another pill and died instantly. The police found three pills left over.
It was later determined that the pills she took had lethal doses of Fentanyl, and due to the fact that Taylor had been relatively clean at the time, the amount of fentanyl was too much for her system to sustain.
There are a million questions, a ton of guilt, and grief that never goes away. We understand it was Taylor’s choice to use heroin — she knew the dangers of the drug and what could be in the drug — but she didn’t want to die. She feared dying.
We are determined through this tragedy, and Taylor’s amazing spirit of wanting to help others, to help individuals afflicted with the disease of addiction, specifically heroin and fentanyl. We want to remove the stigma that parents feel like they are failures because their children are addicts. And we will work toward changing legislation to make drug dealers bear responsibility for contributing to the death of addicts.
We’re following the legal case against Taylor’s dealer. You can read the latest news here.
A letter to a guy
The following letter was written on 7/25/18 by Taylor, while in recovery, to a guy that gave her heroin without her knowledge.
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