Burnet community joins the journey to fight drug abuse

33rd/424th Judicial District Attorney Sonny McAfee addresses a crowd gathered at the Burnet Community Center on May 15 regarding Join the Journey. Organizers held the event to build awareness of the drug-prevention program but pledge this was only the beginning. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BURNET — Several hundred Burnet community members listened as Janet Christiansen spoke about her late son, 21-year-old Caleb Christiansen.

“December 14, 2011, was our family’s personal 9/11 tragedy,” she said with tears in her eyes. “That was the day I lost my son Caleb, and our family would never be the same. The enemy was drugs and the people that promote them.

“I was naive in recognizing the signs and unprepared to rescue Caleb from drugs.”

The mother vowed she would do whatever she could so other families wouldn’t go through what she and her family did. On May 15, Christiansen along with Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett and Burnet County District Attorney Sonny McAfee unveiled the latest program to stem the tide of drugs and drug abuse: Join the Journey.

“The problem with drugs is a multi-faceted problem,” McAfee told the crowd. “There is no one clear solution. That’s why it takes the entire community. We have to look at every tool we have available.”

Identifying those tools is one of the goals of “Join the Journey,” Christiansen said. As a mother, she realized her son had a problem.

Eventually, Caleb accepted he needed help and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. But somewhere along the line, he began slipping.

“I was aware there was a problem (with Caleb), and we were working through it,” she said about her son’s battles with drugs. “He was going to AA. He recognized he had a big issue. But then, he started saying he was past that and hid it. He wanted to hide or diminish the problem.”

The reality of Caleb’s problem hit full force that December morning when she received a call that her son was unconscious and wasn’t responding to attempts to wake him. As she raced to her son’s residence, she prayed he was OK.

In the end, Caleb wasn’t. He died of a methadone overdose, according to a Travis County Medical Examiner’s report. Burnet police eventually charged another man with providing the drug to Caleb. In April, the man pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance that subsequently led to the young man’s death.

Though Janet Christiansen could have turned away from the community, she embraced it. She became a voice against the drug problem plaguing Burnet.

And she pledged to do something about it.

“She’s so courageous,” McAfee said. “Why I think this program is going to work and it’s not going to go away is because Janet cares so much. And the community has embraced it.”

Christiansen said she wants Join the Journey to serve the entire community — youth and adults. While the May 15 kickoff event was designed to create awareness about Join the Journey, she said it’s only a first step. Now, the organization will begin identifying resources available in the community and linking them to people who need help.

“I want people to recognize the things that I missed,” she said. “The kids are not prepared for the dangers. They have this, ‘nothing’s-going-to-hurt-me’ attitude. There has to be awareness for family and kids. One mistake can cost (youth) their lives.”

Officials also hope residents, businesses and organization will support Join the Journey by signing the “I Will Join the Journey” resolution.

McBurnett said he wants to create a community that all works together on ridding Burnet of drugs.

The idea, he said was “to create a network of people all pulling in the same direction.”

For more information on Join the Journey, go to www.btxjourney.net.

“I don’t want any other family to have to go through what my family had to go through,” Christiansen said.

daniel@thepicayune.com