Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

At vigil, Clearwater woman will relate drug abuse's devastation of her family

CLEARWATER — Coni Pappas is not and never was a drug addict. But for years, she suffered from the effects.

She lost her marriage to cocaine. Later, she would lose a son.

Pappas, 59, now waits for her surviving son to get out of rehab and prays that her grandson, born with an opiate addiction, will grow up drug-free.

Tonight, Pappas will share her story at the Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education, or NOPE, vigil at Largo Central Park. The event is held every year to remember the many who have died and the many still struggling with addiction. She says she hopes to reach someone with her words.

"If I could do something to help others heal," she said, "then I believe it's going to help me heal as well."

• • •

Pappas married Nicholas Karaphillis in 1981. They owned a house in Tarpon Springs, had two boys, and he ran a car dealership.

About a decade into their marriage, her husband tried cocaine, Pappas said. His occasional drug use spiraled into an addiction.

"It was the '80s. There was a lot of Hollywood movies. There was a lot of glamorization of drug use and no one really understood the addiction," Pappas said. "We had these kids. We had this life. We had all this stuff."

She begged him to stop. After their arguments, he would disappear. Pappas lied to her sons about their father's whereabouts.

"Daddy's on a business trip," Pappas would tell them.

Before their 20th wedding anniversary, she filed for divorce.

She tried to keep her sons away from their father as his addiction intensified, eventually including abuse of crack and prescription pills. But Pappas said she couldn't keep them away all the time. As teenagers, they visited their dad, and he offered them drugs, she said.

In April 2005, her eldest son, Nicholas Karaphillis, decided to stay at his dad's house one weekend. The following Monday, Pappas' ex-husband, who died in 2008 from a tumor, called her. Nicholas was dead. He was 23, just one month from graduating from the University of South Florida with a marketing degree.

An autopsy later revealed the cause of death: cardiac arrest due to severe cocaine toxicity.

"The single most challenging, horrendous thing that can happen to a human being," she said through tears, "is to bury your child."

Pappas had her other son committed to rehab four times, starting when he was 17, but his addiction expanded to prescription drugs.

In 2010 he had a son. When Pappas visited the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at Mease Countryside Hospital, doctors told her the baby was addicted to opiates. He was in detox the first nine weeks of his life.

When the child was 7 months old, Pappas asked her son if she could raise the boy while he sought drug treatment. She formally adopted him when he was about 1 year old.

His name is Nicholas.

• • •

Her son, now 28, is almost finished with rehab. For Thanksgiving, he will stay at her Clearwater Beach home until he finds his own place.

It will be the first time in years that mother and son have spent the holidays together.

Pappas often takes her grandson, now 3, to the beach, the aquarium, Disney World.

"He's given me a level of joy that I haven't experienced in a very long time," she said.

Pappas said she also found comfort from her grief in the practice of yoga. She opened White Orchid Yoga in Dunedin in 2008, and later moved the studio to Clearwater. She named it after the flower her deceased son, Nicholas, often gave her on holidays.

On Wednesday, she sat barefoot atop a colorful cushion on the wooden floor of her studio.

"This has been so much help to me," she said. "Brings me out of such a place of despair and darkness."

 
Comments
Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

Carlton: That snake-like thing living under your refrigerator? It’s a skink. Welcome to Florida

At first I thought it was a snake.Because wouldn’t it be typically Florida to come home and find a snake poking its nose out from under your stove? Which wouldn’t be a problem or anything. I would just have to move out is all.But no, the creature tha...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Friend of Darby’s says Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

Friend of Darby’s says Jameis Winston got into second Uber ride alone

New details have emerged about the Uber ride in Arizona in March 2016 that led to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension to start the upcoming season, including the fact that Winston was in a car that night with a former Vanderbilt f...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

Man, 78, proposes to newfound love at ‘senior’ prom in Riverview

RIVERVIEWJaime Rodriguez, 78, popped the question Friday morning but skipped the "getting down on one knee" part."If I get on my knee, you’d have to help me," he told the emcee a moment before asking Luz Rivera to marry him.Rivera, 69, smiled and sai...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

Tampa boy, 14, shot on bike, police asking for help

TAMPA — De’Nico Thomas, 14, isn’t a bad kid, police say, but he was the victim of a terrible shooting.Thomas had played video games with a friend Wednesday night and was likely bicycling home when someone fired a gun, critically wounding him in the a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: You better hope I’m wrong about flood insurance

Romano: You better hope I’m wrong about flood insurance

Chances are, I’ll go down as the Boy Who Cried Flood.You might have noticed, I’ve been shouting about the imminent calamity of flood waters for quite a few years now. If I wasn’t trying to frighten you into buying flood insurance, I was worrying you ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Delta bans pit bulls as service dogs, sparks backlash

Delta bans pit bulls as service dogs, sparks backlash

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines says it’s no longer allowing passengers to fly with "pit bull type" dogs as service or support animals, a policy that’s being met with criticism by groups that train service dogs and the people who use them.The Atlanta-based...
Updated: 2 hours ago