Father shares heartache, experience with drugs

For years, Tom Carter smoked, injected and drank himself away from reality. Although the Fruitport man has since turned his life around, one of his sons didn’t choose recovery.
Krystle Wagner
Feb 2, 2013


In May 2012, Carter learned that his son, Austin Pacholski, died of a potential drug overdose.

Carter said his son had an enlarged heart at the time of his death, and authorities are unsure if that played a role in the 30-year-old man's death. Once a month, Carter calls the coroner’s office in California hoping they’ve determined a cause of death.

“Since he died, I don’t really have a joy in life anymore,” Carter said.

‘Shooting up everything’

From the time he was in high school, Carter drank alcohol and smoked marijuana to make dealing with his home life easier. When he moved from Rockford to Grand Haven nearly 30 years ago, he never expected his life to be anything other than partying.

On his first night in Grand Haven, Carter met a drug dealer and took cocaine. Throughout the years, his drug use expanded to LSD and heroin.

Carter, now 60, said using needles gave him instant gratification.

“I was shooting up everything,” he said.

Carter’s drug habits eventually cost him relationships, a job and more.

When his ex-wife and her husband took his son to California to live with them, Carter didn’t have money to fight it. All of his money went toward his next fix, he said.

Substance abuse affects a user’s whole being, their loved ones and the entire community, said Rich Thiemkey, a treatment services coordinator for the Lakeshore Coordinating Council.

“Family members suffer the emotional stress from the lies, abuse and action of the one addicted,” he explained.

Getting clean

For Carter, his sobering moment came when his other son, Chad, saw him at his worst.

Instead of spending a spring break vacation visiting Carter in Grand Haven, Chad went back to his mom’s house just a few days into his stay. Fearing he had lost his son, Carter sought help and didn’t look back.

Years later, Chad told his father his leaving related to the way he drove his motorcycle over the drawbridge.

Carter cleaned up his act and enrolled in school. He continues to attend meetings helping those who are in his shoes.

Carter said he had no idea how much his life would change after getting clean.

“I’m somebody I never thought I could be,” he said.

Since he had such a positive turnaround, Carter hoped he could convince Austin to do the same. Whenever Carter spoke to Austin, he tried to persuade him to get help — but the pleas fell on deaf ears.

“I was the 'crazy one' because I got sober,” Carter said.

Seeking help

The first step in seeking help is recognizing the individual wants to change, Thiemkey said. From there, he or she can receive assistance from area substance abuse centers, support groups and counselors, and have a friend hold them accountable for their changing ways.

“It’s changing a lifestyle,” Thiemkey said. “It’s thinking differently.”

One of the approaches Thiemkey encourages is a “take-off, put-on principle” —where he or she replaces a negative behavior with a positive one.

Thiemkey said people have to be willing to overcome the pain and discomfort that comes along the bumpy road to recovery.

“Addiction to substances isn’t a life sentence,” Thiemkey said. “There is hope.”

Local substance abuse services:

• Lakeshore Coordinating Council, in Grand Haven: 616-846-4662 or 866-846-7311

• Catholic Charities of West Michigan, in Muskegon and Holland: 877-359-6523

• Ottagan Addictions Recovery, in Grand Haven: 616-842-6710



Correction: Substance abuse affects (not effects) a user’s whole being - effect is a noun, as in Lake Effect; affect is usually a verb, but not always.

Walking Alive

Glad you noticed that also (and commented). I just scoffed after reading it earlier. Misuse of 'effect' is rampant, so it seems it is just accepted (not excepted, but possibly. lol).


The article is about what CAN and DOES happen with drug use. Austin doesn't have to deal with life anymore. HE'S DEAD. I don't believe he meant harm to those of us still here. The truth is, I choose to deal with life with a clear head AND now have to deal with missing my son. He got a "BUZZ" and I got to feel what it is like knowing I will never speak tdo him, again. About as selfish, on his part, as laughing an making jokes about someones pain and grief. Your GRAMMER lessons are nothing more childish. But then again one must protect their own belief system and selfish behavior. Right ?????


This is a sad and touching story. The point being this could be anyones family. And in the end who really cares how K. Wagner wrote affect. My hope is that Tom can find answers and have closer. And that in time he will find hope and happiness with the family he has left.


This is a sad story


My thanks to KRYSTLE and the GRAND HAVEN TRIBUNE for taking time and resources to print this article. I still haven't heard from the SACRAMENTO COUNTY CORONER about what actually killed my son. I was told by another person involved in my son's death that the coroner told him/her that it wasn't COCAINE found in his system but a new "DESIGNER" ( and LEGAL ) concoction that is refered to as "BATH SALTS". This stuff has it's own side EFFECTS. I was told AUSTIN had used large amounts of METH earlier in his short life (31 years old ). I was told by him. I have read that this can ENLARGE the human heart. The substance supposedly found in his autopsy causes the user and his body to behave much the way COCAINE and METH react on the human body. Only it is cheaper and can be bought on the internet legally. This hasn't been confirmed by the SACRAMENTO COUNTY CORONER, yet. I did the math and this is what I have. Anyway I add it up AUSTIN's death was caused by using drugs. The whole attitude, in our society, towards using drugs is out of hand. In my opinion. I'm not a licensed substance abuse counselor. I HAVE seen both sides of this equation. My experience is strickly HANDS ON. If you want to hear more my phone is (231) 286 - 8293 or WASCOWEYWABBIT@AOL.COM. I'm not selling anything but hope.


Let me rephrase that. I'm not SELLING anything. The HOPE is free.


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