Joseph Michael Lavin was born on August 26, 1986 in Newton, among the rolling hills of Sussex County, New Jersey. He spent his entire childhood in Wantage, N.J. and was one of six children, second to the youngest. He suffered from clinical depression from the tender age of 8 years old. He was on medication when he entered high school but it did not eliminate all of his symptoms. Joe was about 16 when he took his first drink and he discovered that alcohol did eliminate all symptoms of depression. He had said he was hooked the first time he drank because he finally felt happy and it had given him the ability to be himself. It wasn’t until his addiction took hold did he realize the price he would pay for those artificial moments of temporary relief. Joe attended Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta NJ for almost three years of his high school education. He transferred to High Point Regional in Wantage when his addiction to alcohol became evident. He was 17 years old when alcoholism became his second diagnosis.
Joe was unusual in that he always wanted help and was willing to accept any treatment recommended to him. He attended a program at Sunrise House in Lafayette when he was a senior at High Point High School. Joe was always grateful for that experience as he learned so much about himself, his depression and its effect on his childhood and his feelings of loneliness and isolation. Due to his depression, Joe did not feel the love of his family or his friends past the age of the onset of the disorder. His experience at Sunrise House changed that for him and he ultimately formed very close relationships with each member of his family.
For nearly seven years, Joey valiantly fought this disease with every fiber of his being. In September of 2008, he was in a car accident that made him realize he had to leave Sussex County if he wanted to remain sober. In early October, he admitted himself to Sunrise House for the second time in 4 years. After completing the 28 days, Joey moved to Boca Raton, Florida to start a new life, a sober life. He secured a position at Fedex Office in Boca Raton, acquired his own apartment and discovered the love of his life, all in his first year. Joe managed to stay sober for the majority of that first year in Florida. He began to relapse in November of 2009. To complicate his addiction further, Joe would take any drug available once he was under the influence of alcohol. He had lost all impulse control once alcohol was in his system.
On March 19, 2010 Joe entered a rehab in Deerfield Beach, Florida. His stay lasted 40 days. When he was informed that he would be discharged on April 26th, Joey was panic-stricken. He did not feel that he was ready to be on his own yet and requested a little more time. That time was not afforded to him as his insurance company would not cover any further in-patient care. Joey was discharged and dropped back at his apartment on the evening of April 26, 2010. By 9 pm on April 27th, Joe had relapsed. He called home the following day requesting advice. As advised, he returned to the rehab seeking assistance. Joe was still extremely intoxicated when he arrived at the rehab center. He was transported to a detox center as his alcohol level was so very high. That evening, he was dropped back home to his apartment. On April 29th, Joe called the rehab and asked if he could sign himself into the 6 month in-patient program. He was willing to give up his job, his apartment, anything to get well. Sadly, he was turned away due to lack of insurance coverage. Joseph Michael Lavin passed away 64 days later on July 2, 2010. The cause of death was determined to be acute alcohol intoxication coupled with the interaction of the consumption of oxycodone tablets. No one wanted help more than Joe yet he was denied the help and care he so desperately needed. Joey’s story is a compelling one that needs to be told in order to effect change for so many others like him!
Joe’s life was abruptly cut short but he led a substantive one. All who truly knew Joe would attest to his character. He was the personification of integrity, honesty, and loyalty. He possessed a phenomenal work ethic. His family was awed by the response to Joe’s passing by all who loved him here in New Jersey. If you were fortunate enough to be his friend, you knew you had found a “true” one.
Joey was not a saint. He was a flawed individual as we all are but he left a positive impact on so many people in his 23 years of life. He is loved and missed by hundreds who knew him. Joe was known for his passion for life, his giant heart, his warm sense of humor, and his contagious laughter. Above all, he was a loyal friend, hard worker, and a young man who loved and cherished his family.
Addiction is a very treatable disease and every person who seeks to be well, deserves the opportunity to obtain treatment.