Karen’s hope: A personal story of loss and the opioid epidemic

Karen Ford-Stein with her late son, Nikolas Goyke

When Karen Ford-Stein talks about her son, Nikolas Goyke, she describes him as funny, always laughing, smart, studious, compassionate…and a huge hockey fan! He was in college and thriving, surrounded by supportive and loving friends and family. His entire future was ahead of him.

Unfortunately, on March 8, 2018, at only 22 years old, he lost his battle with substance use disorder after an opioid overdose.  His death is one of countless that can be attributed to the drug crisis gripping our nation. In fact, in 2020, drug overdose deaths reached a record high of 93,331 – that’s 20,000 more than the previous high in 2019.

Karen and other family members will remember Nik by sharing his story on November 22, during the Jamie Daniels Foundation’s Celebrity Roast of Brett Hull.

Their goal: to bring awareness to substance use disorder, reduce stigma of the disease, and help raise funds for those struggling. 

Karen recently sat down with us to talk about her son and share why it was so important she supports the Jamie Daniels Foundation and participates in the televised event. Here’s what she had to say: 

How did you learn about Jamie Daniels Foundation?

In 2019, a friend of Nik’s from kindergarten decided to plan a fundraising event in his honor and the proceeds benefitted the Jamie Daniels Foundation. I had never heard of JDF before, but immediately threw my support behind it after learning about Jamie’s story. I felt connected to the organization’s mission and goals. Since Nik was such a hockey fan, this felt like a natural fit.

Why have you decided to support Jamie Daniels Foundation?

What struck me about JDF is their goal to build a supportive housing project for individuals with substance use disorder. Based on experience, Ken and Lisa know what individuals and families need during these uncertain times. Their perspective can help make sure individuals and families going through this get the proper care and counsel so lives can be saved.

There were a lot of unknowns as our family was going through the treatment and recovery experience. You don’t think something like this will ever happen to you so you’re unprepared and uninformed. You trust these facilities to help you make the right decisions and sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Recovery is an industry. We didn’t know how to navigate the situation and learned important lessons too late – this is an unfortunate reality for a lot of people.

Why do you feel it is important to share your family’s story during The Roast?

Losing a child like this brings pain that never goes away. The only way I can navigate the grief is by hopefully changing the outcome for someone else. It has been almost four years since Nik passed away. I’ve been searching for the right opportunity to make a difference for others, so when I was approached to be on the Roast, I immediately said yes.

If sharing my family’s story can stop one person, kid, or family from going through this kind of tragedy, it will be worth it to me. I will grieve my son for the rest of my life, but he didn’t die in vain, and I am determined to use our experience to create change.

What message do you want to share with readers about substance use disorder?

In his early teens, Nik was prescribed an opioid after having surgery. To me, it was a legal drug that the doctor advised he take for pain relief. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t realize how harmful it could be. But it is.

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, and everyone thinks they are invincible to it. We need to have the tough conversations and stop shaming and stigmatizing those suffering because then the problem just continues.

My kids are my favorite topic of conversation, and I will never be ashamed of Nik’s story. I want everyone to understand these risks so they can protect our loved ones.

What do you think Nikolas would be saying about what you are doing?

Nik was so fun and had such a big heart. He would be very happy we are talking about him and sharing our experience to help others. I can imagine him smiling down on us, laughing, and thinking how cool it is that his hockey buddies see him connected to this event. I know he’d never want to see anyone else go through this and would be proud we are sharing his story; he would hope this makes a real impact – we all do.

You can hear Karen and Nik’s father, David, share their story during the Celebrity Roast of Brett Hull on Monday, November 22. Tune into on Bally Sports Detroit at 8pm or visit our website to livestream the event.

If you’d like to make a gift in memory of Nikolas Goyke, click here.