"Mommy died last night." That was the news Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark delivered to his 8-year-old son, Cameron, on October 9, as a friend recorded the conversation in Youngstown, Ohio. The following day, Bickerstaff-Clark shared the gut-wrenching two-and-a-half-minute video to his Facebook page, with the caption, “This is for any and every addict with children … My son has no mother of because of heroin.”
The agonizing scene, which shows a wailing Cameron clinging to his grandmother, has been shared more than 741,000 times and received more than 104,000 comments since October 10. And while many have praised Bickerstaff-Clark for spreading awareness, the 29-year-old has also faced tremendous backlash. "Why in the world would you film the worst moment of your child’s life? Wow,” wrote one person, while another seethed: “This was not for public awareness. You wanted attention … It’s distasteful and disturbing.”
Bickerstaff-Clark tells Us Weekly he’s struggling to understand the negativity. “I wanted to help people,” he says. “I said, let me record this whole event so maybe someone sees it and says, ‘I don’t want somebody to have to tell my child I’m dead.' I did it to try and wake people up.” And he accomplished that. “I had a girl the other day message me that she was driving in her car on her way to go relapse, but then she watched my video, pulled over to the side of the road, cried and went back home.”
He understands the struggle. A former addict himself, Bickerstaff-Clark is 99 days clean and attending intensive outpatient treatment three times a week. “When I was using, it was horrible. I looked like the walking dead. I weighed 130 pounds. I wore the same clothes for a week,” he tells Us. “I wasn’t showering for two months. I was sleeping in porta potties and on people’s floors. I would get $20 and then instead of getting something to eat, I would go get high because I was so dope-sick.”
“You lose everything. Heroin takes everything away,” the pizza maker at Uptown Pizza explains. “You lose your dignity, your self-respect, your whole reason for being alive. There are addicts out there probably doing a shot right now and hoping it’ll be their last. It’s not a way to live, it’s a way to die.”
Though Bickerstaff-Clark is currently residing in a sober house, he hopes to find a place where he can live with Cameron. For now, his son is staying in a homeless shelter with his paternal grandmother, Denise Clark-Dezee. “I would love to actually be there and be a dad and put him to bed at night and get him on the school bus,” Bickerstaff-Clark says. “My son lost his mother, I can’t let my son lose his father.”
Clark-Dezee set up a GoFundMe to raise money for a place for Cameron to call home.
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