I write to express my condolences to the Burger family on the tragic loss of their 28 year old son Thomas "TJ" Burger. TJ was a beloved son, sibling, uncle, and friend. As expressed in his death notice, he was a young man with the disease of a substance use disorder.
The Burger family also deserves our heartfelt appreciation for their tremendous courage and compassion for straightforwardly acknowledging TJ's battle to overcome his addiction. By including this in TJ's obituary, his family recognizes that by sharing his story, it might help other people and families better understand the disease and how it can devastate individuals and families.
It's important to note that TJ was a graduate from Archbishop Curley, Towson University, and was pursuing Master's degree. He came from a loving family, had close friends, healthy personal interests and was well-educated. TJ was not a person of weak character. He was not a moral failure. The drugs hijacked his brain and the non-stop cravings altered his sense of normal behavior.
TJ's story shows that substance use disorder can affect families in any neighborhood, faith, income level, family circumstances, and level of education. Politicians, especially those with medical training, need to publicly acknowledge that addiction is a public health emergency. Governor Hogan and County Executive Glassman already have done so.
TJ's passing is incredibly heart-breaking. May the public courage shown by his family be a message for all of us to more fully understand and reduce the scourge of addiction.
Havre de Grace
The writer is president of Addiction Connections Resource. An obituary for TJ Burger was published in the July 25 edition of The Aegis. Editor.