Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jan 2005
Source: Eagle-Tribune, The (MA)
Copyright: 2005 The Eagle-Tribune
Author: Sean Corcoran
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MARBLEHEAD - Robert Bradley sent his son to the best schools, went to his 
soccer games, and bought his family a $1.4 million house on Marblehead Neck 
with a basketball hoop in the driveway.

In the end, it didn't matter. Bradley watched his son lose weight, lose 
friends and lose interest in everything that ever excited him. St. John's 
Prep couldn't save him, and neither could drug testing, counselors, nor an 
Outward Bound retreat to the woods of Maryland. Bradley's son Robert died 
of a drug overdose. He was 18. Now Bradley can't stop looking back, 
wondering what else he might have done to save his son.

On Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003, Robert overdosed on an opiate-based prescription 
drug, most likely OxyContin. His girlfriend told police the two had gone to 
a movie and then parked her car outside her stepsister's house at about 
12:30 a.m.  and fell asleep. She could not wake him in the morning. "His 
heart just stopped, stopped beating, and he just drifted off," Bradley 
said. In the weeks before his death, Bradley said, Robert was sickly and 
thin. The coordination that gave him an edge on the soccer field was gone, 
and he rebuffed  his parents when they tried to talk to him. The Saturday 
before he died was especially bad.

Robert told his parents he was dropping out of Marblehead High School, 
where he had transferred from St. John's Prep, and heading to Florida with 
his girlfriend. He broke windows in the house and on his mother's car. He 
tried to steal his mom's ATM card. Bradley and his wife told him he wasn't 
welcome back home for a while.

"When I last saw him alive, he was in a bad place," Bradley said. "And we 
were in a bad place as parents."

Bradley said both he and his wife knew their son used drugs. When Robert 
was 12, they transferred him out of Marblehead Middle School because he was 
caught drinking and trying drugs. When he was about 16, Robert asked his 
parents if he could work for a group lobbying to legalize marijuana. They 
said no. On his bedroom walls were posters of marijuana plants. Bradley 
suspected Robert was "a major seller of drugs in Marblehead" during the 
summer before his junior year.

"It's just that he had a lot of cash. And it wasn't from working a regular 
job." Bradley didn't approve, but his son told him that if he didn't sell 
drugs, someone else would.

"We had discussions about that, some very serious discussions about that," 
said Bradley, a 55-year-old attorney. "I essentially said to Robert and his 
mother that if I became aware of the fact he was still selling drugs, I 
would ask him to leave the community."

That same month, Bradley sent Robert to an Outward Bound program in 
Maryland. He didn't graduate. A day before the trip ended, counselors 
caught Robert with  marijuana.

The Bradleys knew about marijuana, but the drug they knew little about was 
OxyContin. "I think I am like a lot of parents," Bradley said. "I think if 
you suspect your son or daughter has been taking some drugs, you are 
thinking, 'Well, maybe  they went out to a beach and had a few beers with 
some friends, and maybe they  had a joint of marijuana.' I think that is 
what most people default to." Bradley gave the eulogy at Robert's funeral, 
and much of Marblehead High School was there. He did not know at the time 
if Robert had died of an overdose. But he suspected it, and the coroner's 
report later confirmed it. "In theory, Robert had the ideal life. He had a 
lovely home to live in, you know," he said. "But sometimes I think maybe we 
all should have gone to Montana  and lived in the mountains, done the home 
schooling and everything else." With his younger son gone, Bradley spends 
private moments each day fantasizing about trips in time machines, and 
wishing he could be like actor  Bill Murray in the movie "Groundhog Day," 
where he wakes up to the same 24 hours  over and over again, until he 
finally gets everything perfect. "If I could turn the time clock, I would 
go back. I think it would have been helpful to my son to do things 
differently, and possibly he might be still alive  today. I would like to 
have that chance, but I  don't."
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