After Profound Loss, New Canaan Dad Launches Support Group To Help Parents of Kids Struggling with Addiction


In retrospect, New Canaan resident Paul Reinhardt traces the start of a deeply painful four-year journey to May 2011, the moment he found Suboxone—a drug that can be used to treat addiction to narcotic painkillers—in his son’s nightstand drawer.

Paul Reinhardt of New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

Paul Reinhardt of New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

It had been nine months since his son, Evan, was prescribed 30 opioid pills after getting his wisdom teeth out. The following spring, as Evan’s sophomore year at Miami University drew to a close, the young New Canaan High School graduate appeared suddenly disheveled and pale to his father, and back home that same month, local police during a traffic stop found pot and Xanax on him.

“Because you as a parent are feeling his feelings in a lot of different ways, you have denial: ‘How could this really be happening?’ You have fear,” Reinhardt recalled on a recent morning.

“You have loneliness. You have frustration and anger. You have all of these emotions that the person who is addicted has. So when he is doing better you are doing better. It’s so hard to separate from how your child is doing. It’s that way in New Canaan anyway, in the competitive world we are in. We all kind of feel that way as parents: When your kid is doing well, you feel good. But in this case, when you have someone who is an opioid addict, the lows can be pretty low. Through that journey, I would have loved to have taken more advantage of parent support groups.”

A gregarious young man and multi-sport athlete in New Canaan who graduated from NCHS in 2009, Evan Reinhardt died July 15, 2015 of a heroin overdose following a long battle with addiction. He was 24.

One year later, Reinhardt hit on a way that he could help parents going through the same pain he experienced in isolation through the final years of his own son’s life: Two months ago, he launched a confidential support group for local parents whose children are struggling with addiction or are in early recovery.

“By opening up and talking to other people, I would have likely just encountered other people that could relate,” Reinhardt told “As much as I was embarrassed to talk to people and mention what my son was going through, when I felt like—‘How could these people possibly understand what it’s like?’—addiction is so prevalent now through our society that these people I was talking to could say, ‘Yeah, you know, my brother had a problem in his family with his daughter’ and ‘You know what my brother did?’ Or, ‘I heard about a good counselor that so-and-so used when he had a problem like this.’ And that is only If you have an open conversation with other people about what you are going through.”

Safe, confidential and run by a professionally trained and licensed facilitator, the New Canaan Parents Support Group runs 7 to 8:30 p.m. every Thursday at Congregational Church of New Canaan. Reinhardt asked that those interested contact him by phone or email (information here).

To this point, up to 10 people have come to the regular group session, Reinhardt said.

Police and human services providers say that the prevalence and use of opioids, including heroin, among New Canaanites have seen steep increases in recent years. Two months ago, another 2009 NCHS graduate, Chris Lynch, died of a heroin overdose in New Canaan. Experts say that heroin use in New Canaan often starts with use of prescribed opioid-based painkillers—for example, teens experimenting with Oxycodone pills found in a parent’s medicine cabinet.

The rise in heroin use, arrest and mortality “is no longer limited to a population that was ‘overlooked’ or ‘marginalized’ in past decades,” according to Meg Domino, executive director of New Canaan CARES, a locally based nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the health and well-being of youth and families.

“It is here and now a real issue with kids and young adults of all socio-economic and academic backgrounds due to its availability, high addiction rate, social acceptance and inexpensive nature,” she said.

“In my 30 years in prevention, no one has ever started by shooting heroin, but many share that overuse of a gateway drug—alcohol or marijuana, in particular—in high school or college was the turning point to their love affair with getting high.”

Support groups for parents such as the one Reinhardt has developed “are particularly important when considering the difficulty of asking for help when it feels that we are alone in our plight, embarrassed to reach out when others around us appear to be doing ‘wonderfully,’ ” Domino said.

“Efforts that raise the bar on awareness and offer opportunities for non-judgmental support and sharing are imperative if we are to stem the tide, and offer real help here in New Canaan.”

The New Canaan Parent Support Group facilitator is Jim Hodel, a Wilton resident who studied mental health counseling following a 30-year financial services career and has spent that last six years in the addiction recovery field.

The group emphasizes confidentiality, Hodel said.

“Who you see and what you hear should be kept strictly confidential,” Hodel said.

“We are looking to provide a safe, confidential space for people to share what they’re struggling with, to share what they are dealing with and to perhaps recognize that they are not alone and identify useful coping strategies.”

For Reinhardt, part of what held him back from seeking out a support group of people going through similar ordeals as parents of addicted kids was simple embarrassment.

“You are assuming that you have a dream for your child, or a goal, and the goal might be a lot like you had—I graduated from high school and went to college, did really well and got the whole college experience out of it and got out of college, worked for three years, went to graduate school, found a good company to work for and have been working there ever since,” he said. “And looking out in the future, I have that dream. Maybe it’s a little bit ignorant on my part. It’s becoming more open, where you can do gap years. Especially for boys, who sometimes don’t mature fast enough or they maybe do not go to college or find another way to go on their journey.”

In the last year of his life, Evan worked hard on his recovery following his graduation from the Turning Point program in New Haven and continued to work there as a cook, according to his obituary.

Reinhardt said publicity marking the first anniversary of Evan’s passing yielded outreach from area parents whose own children were struggling with addiction, and led him to the idea of creating the support group. In researching how to set it up, Reinhardt said he learned that trained meeting facilitators were key.

“You never know what information or insight you might find to be helpful to your own recovery,” Reinhardt said. “Because addiction is a family disease. We, as parents, need healing. Not just our loved ones.”

3 thoughts on “After Profound Loss, New Canaan Dad Launches Support Group To Help Parents of Kids Struggling with Addiction

  1. There is a support group for parents of addicts and alcoholics on Wednesday evenings at Silver Hill here in New Canaan that has been in existence for a number of years. It is called Alanon.

  2. Based on my personal experience, if your children get their wisdom teeth out, request that no opioid painkillers be subscribed. In most cases Ibuprofen is sufficient. In my opinion, oversubscription by dentists is common and there is a thriving market for teenagers to onsell their pills, or worse get addicted themselves.

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