Christine Ortega, the author of this post, was one of Tina’s best friends starting around the 4th grade, and she is a close friend of the Dailey family. We’re honored that she shared her memories of Tina with us as well as her perspective about early warning signs and early intervention.
Thoughts of who we were as kids flood my mind. As I entered the third grade at Key Biscayne elementary school, I remember this tan-skinned girl with big glasses, and her name was Tina. We instantly clicked. She was sweet, kind-hearted, and had an amazing sense of humor. In 4th, 5th and 6th, we grew closer as soccer practice and games took over our afternoons and weekends. We also shared a love for pranks and started daring each other to get into some trouble. Sleepovers, prank calls, and scary movies were always on the agenda. We came up with the great idea to have my sister and I switch classes. Nonetheless, we made our days a little more exciting to say the least.
Ahhh, Junior High, to me these could have been considered a few of the best years of my life, although, I’m pretty sure the teachers didn’t agree. At this point, Tina and I were inseparable. We were determined to always find a seat next to each other, whether it was in art class, church, or during morning announcements. As I drove by St. Agnes one day on my way to work, I couldn’t help but notice all the children gathered for Morning Prayer and announcements. The first thing that came to my mind was how much we laughed and horsed around during this time. It was our social hour.
As I recall, I didn’t like school, I had a hard time focusing. Tina made school better. I looked forward to going because we found a way to make it fun. We weren’t into drugs or alcohol at this point, but we seemed to look for the challenges and ways to find a high through risky behavior. Perhaps these are warning signs, but who is to know. We were just “typical” kids looking for fun. We were good kids, from great families. Families that would bend over backwards for us, families that showed endless amounts of unconditional love, families that sat down at dinner every night, and shared stories from our day. We were families just like yours.
During high school, we went our separate ways, she went to Gulliver and I went to Coral Gables. I still remember the tears rolling down our face from 8th grade graduation, listening to ‘Wind beneath my wings’. We knew times would be different, but we managed to keep in touch. Our soccer games brought us together, and we managed to laugh again on the field as we were guarding each other. The parties started to come along. Hobie beach was a hot spot, where we found our ways to drinking and smoking. Life was good with friends. As the time continued, so did the partying. This was part of the “norm”, all the cool kids were doing it, or so we thought.
College came, we moved on to FSU and UF. We made our occasional weekend visits to see each other, but they started to become shorter. We graduated and moved back to Miami. A few years later, we saw each other at one of our best friends from 3rd grade’s funeral. Someone who also struggled with addiction. We cried about it and said how could this happen? Addiction…
Addiction is a terrible disease that takes the lives of too many people, and hurts so many around them. It happens in all walks of life. Children think they are invincible, and there is little to do to change their minds. Education is so important. Educate children at a young age about the dangers of addiction. Educate parents on mental health, so they can see signs of their child’s depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc. They are suppressing their feelings by allowing a substance to take over their mind. If they can learn other strategies to cope with these issues, they perhaps, will have a better chance of survival.