PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia restaurateur who founded a famous cheesesteak franchise told his heartfelt personal story at a “No More Silence, No More Shame” forum on the impact of drug addiction. The aim is to end the negative stigma attached to the disease.
Tony Luke, Jr.’s son, Tony Luke III, died of a heroin overdose at the age of 35.
“A thousand times they fall,” Luke said, “1001 times you pick them up.”
He says sharing stories of addiction will “change the conversation,” and help the families affected by the opioid epidemic cope with their losses.
“You think what could I have done? Could I have made a difference? Did I enable them too much? Was I not tough enough? Was I not loving enough? All these things go through your head.”
He says too often, their loved ones become statistics when families remain silent about real people who are unable to beat heroin.
“The truth is no one speaks about it,” Luke said. “So no one knows.”
Luke says he son was “absolutely responsible for his actions,” but the opioid “Monster tears away the choices of a rational, thinking person.”
He is pushing a public awareness campaign using the hashtag #BrownAndWhite – representing the colors of heroin – to humanize the victims of heroin addiction.
“Let’s bring a real face and name to addiction,” Luke said. “I wanted families to stop being ashamed.”
Tony Luke, Jr. urges those who suffered a similar loss to wear brown and white, and post photos on social media.
“What if every single person who lost a loved one put their picture in the window with a brown and white ribbon, up and down every street?”
He and others shared their personal stories during a PECO Employee Resource Groups’ sponsored event called “Stomping the Stigma.”