On April 5, 2002 the world lost one of its most beautiful voices with the passing of former Alice in Chains frontman, Layne Staley. After years of battling heroin addiction, the recluse grunge star succumbed to an overdose of ‘speedball’ a mix of cocaine and heroin injected in the system. His body wasn’t discovered for two weeks. On August 22, 2017, Staley should have been celebrating his 50th birthday.
Staley’s mother, Nancy McCallum gave an interview with the Seattle Times, where she opened up about the tragic life of her son, who she and others tried in vain to save. She also spoke about the ongoing opioid crises plaguing the country.
In the interview, McCallum shared, “That’s what his music was about. The life of an addict.”
“He was touring around the world, he was at home and he was in treatment. He was caught in a trap. I came to understand it too late.”
She continued, “Addiction is a disease like any other. Like a cancer, it can be treated, but it can also reoccur. We shouldn’t judge. The emphasis should be on research and treatment.”
Nancy McCallum revealed that Layne Staley was in treatment a total of ten times, and that his heart stopped beating at least five times, but he was revived because there were others around him at the time. Then one day, he was all alone, and his heart stopped for the final time.
McCallum says she was at the time, working front desk at a rehab centre. She was to meet with one of the supervisors and discuss a treatment plan for her son. She was a little too late.
Shortly after, Staley’s accountant informed her that the singer had made a significant withdrawal from his bank account. The last person to see him alive was his fellow Alice in Chains member, Mike Starr, who would also later die of an overdose.
When she reached his apartment building in University District, no one answered her. As another resident allowed her in, she raced to his third floor apartment. Outside, there were a pile of letters and mail, with Staley’s cat Sadie meowing from the other side of the door. After he didn’t respond to her calls, she phoned the police. They arrived, broke open the door and went in. When they came back out, it wasn’t good news. Her son had passed away.
They told her not to go in, but she wanted to see her son one last time. There he was, dead for what is believed to be two weeks, in front of the TV. He weighed only 86 pounds at the time of his death. As she sat next to his body, McCallum recalls, “I promised I would always be there for my children. I told him I was sorry this is how it turned out.”
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