GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Stacy Peck watched Target 8’s searing portrait of heroin’s homeless, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
She recognized the desperate man in front of the camera.
“I said, ‘That’s a kid I went to school with, and he’s a good person,'” Peck said.
Tyler Trowbridge, 34 and homeless in Grand Rapids, had agreed to let Target 8 follow him as he begged for money and shot drugs in a restaurant bathroom.
Peck knew him as a member of her 2003 graduating class at Grant High School.
“He was just a nice guy,” recalled Peck.
She remembered the high school drummer as low-key but big-hearted.
“I don’t know really how else to describe it,” she said. “You just have a good feeling about someone, and I think everybody else we went to school with had that same feeling.”
Now, 15 years out of high school, Peck is a wife and mother living in Forest Hills.
“The fact that (Trowbridge) was homeless, the fact that he had frostbitten hands, just made me feel sick,” Peck said. “It was just like, he can’t go down like this. He’s going to die if he keeps doing this.”
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CLASSMATES: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?
That’s when Peck turned to social media and the Grant class of 2003.
“I shared the article on Facebook and I said, ‘Guys, this is Tyler,’ and everyone was like, ‘What are we going to do?'” Peck said.
They started with a GoFundMe account and called it the Tyler Trowbridge Kicks Heroin Fund.
“Tyler is fortunate to have the support of addiction specialists and local nonprofits,” Peck wrote on the fundraising site. “We cannot stress enough that no money or objects of value will be given directly to Tyler.”
In nine days, the site has raised more than $4,200 from 60 people, including members of Trowbridge’s graduating class.
But the money was just the beginning. The day Target 8’s investigation aired, Peck reached out to see if Trowbridge was ready for help.
“The whole thing seems so surreal,” Trowbridge said as he sat next to Peck during an interview at WOOD TV8 studios. “That someone I haven’t seen in so long, someone who has no obligation to me, is just so willing to give up so much time and effort and energy just to be there for me.”
“But we’re having fun,” Peck added.
“We’re good together,” Trowbridge agreed.
“We’re a badass team,” he added with a fist pump.
Indeed, the pair that never even hung out in high school clicked almost immediately.
WITHDRAWAL HITS: ‘THRASHING AND MOANING’
In the last week, Peck and Trowbridge worked together to get him off the street, into a hotel and back onto methadone, the drug that helps stabilize people, restoring chemical balance to their brains so they can work on rebuilding their lives without heroin.
Peck is even driving her old classmate to the methadone clinic.
“For me that first morning, when she came and picked me up for the clinic, it was terrible,” Trowbridge recalled. “I don’t know how we did it.”
Peck admitted she didn’t realize how bad the withdrawal would get.
“He was just thrashing and moaning and making these noises you don’t want to hear a human make,” she remembered. “It just breaks your heart. And through a bed sheet, a blanket, a comforter, he soaked those in sweat.”
Trowbridge likened his first days without heroin to the worst flu you’ve ever had.
“Can’t get off the toilet, vomiting, but then your legs are kicking and you just can’t be comfortable no matter what you do,” he described.
Trowbridge hopes he’s done with heroin, but all he can promise at this point is his best effort. Relapse is common in the chronic disease of addiction and Trowbridge has tried to get clean before.
“Been to rehab. Been to detox. Been to outpatient and it’s never worked,” he said. “It just feels so right this time. The last couple days I felt so terrible when before I would have gone out to get some dope, instead I went back to the room, hung out for a minute and then just tried to sleep it off.”
Peck says she’s well aware of the risks: relapse for him and heartbreaking disappointment for her.
“It is what it is,” she said. “If he totally ghosted me, and I couldn’t get a hold of him, I would feel devastated because I feel so positive about what we have going on and I want this so badly for him.”
But no matter what happens, Peck says she will never regret trying to give her old classmate the best chance possible at recovery.
PLEA FOR HELP: TROWBRIDGE NEEDS APARTMENT
Right now, Trowbridge’s biggest hurdle is finding permanent housing.
He’s looking for a one-bedroom or studio apartment in or near Grand Rapids. He has the money for a deposit, but he needs someone who’s willing to overlook his bad credit.
“We need someone who says I’m going to take a risk and I’m going to lease you this place,” Peck said.
Peck is hoping this report will prompt leads on an apartment for rent. If you have any suggestions, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.