Chance, 18, felt better than he ever had when he got back to the family’s home near Dolores, said his mother, Laurel Davidson. He was excited about getting clean, and he told all his friends he had quit doing drugs.
He planned to move to Atlanta, where he had a job lined up and where his oldest brother, Cameron, a minister, lived. He liked his brother’s church and youth group, and he had good friends in the city.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, just days before Chance was set to move, Laurel found her son crumpled against a door in their guesthouse, a used syringe by his side. He was covered in vomit, and blood dripped from his nose. He had been dead for an hour or more.
The life that Laurel had known had left his eyes.
“No mother should find her child like that,” Laurel said. “But more than the way I found him was realizing he was gone, and there was no way he was coming back.”
‘I couldn’t stop screaming’Earlier that Tuesday, Chance was preparing for the move to Atlanta, and Laurel had taken him to a few medical appointments. Chance had been back from rehab for less than two weeks.
The two came back about 4 p.m. to their home, a spacious property with a bucolic, wooden house, a red barn with an attached guesthouse and livestock grazing in pastures. Chance went outside to feed the animals, including Murphy, the 2,500-pound steer he had raised.
About two hours later, as Laurel worked in the yard, she realized she hadn’t seen or heard Chance in a while. She searched the buildings and horse stalls, shouting his name. She drove around the property in an ATV looking for him.
Unable to find Chance, Laurel knew something was wrong. She telephoned her husband, Randy, an emergency room doctor at Southwest Memorial Hospital. Using a tracking app to find Chance’s phone, they determined he was somewhere on the property.
“I felt like somebody hit me with a sledgehammer in the chest,” Laurel said. “I knew.”
She found him in the laundry room in the guesthouse. The faucet was still running.
When Laurel called Randy back, he only heard her screams. Finally, she got the words out — “It’s Chance, he’s gone.”
Randy immediately left for home. Police and paramedics followed, and the driveway filled with red and blue lights.
Minutes later, Randy pronounced Chance dead.
“It felt like hours that I was here with my dead 18-year-old boy,” Laurel said.
‘His addiction wasn’t who he was’Laurel and Randy met Chance when he was 2 months old and adopted him when he was about 3 years old. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where the family lived for many years.
From the time he was a little boy, Chance had wanted to be a pilot.
He loved flying and took lessons in Durango. He wasn’t interested in commercial flying, but wanted to be a scout pilot for hunters.
“We never saw him happier than when he would come home from flight lessons,” Laurel said.
A smart child with an analytical mind, Chance’s version of playing with toys was to take them apart and figure out how they worked. He would show his mom the different parts of his toys, telling her how the pieces moved together. He never had a toy that was in one piece.
Chance loved adventure sports such as swimming, kayaking and climbing — typical interests for a teenager in Southwest Colorado. He was an excellent rider, although horses weren’t his favorite. He worked on the farm for his family and helped with practically everything around the house.
He was a foodie and loved to cook. He sometimes helped Laurel with meals. Stonefish Sushi in Cortez was his favorite restaurant.
“He made the best steaks we ever tasted,” Laurel said.
Students, teachers and administrators at Dolores High School told Laurel that Chance was caring and funny. At his funeral, people told her that Chance always made you feel like you were the only one in the room.
“He was trying so hard to get clean,” Laurel said. “His addiction wasn’t who he was. He was a kid who would help anybody, and he was so funny.”
Struggling to fit inThough he was smart, Chance always struggled in school. He had a learning disability and sometimes had trouble interpreting the written word.
The family moved to Montezuma County before Chance’s junior year of high school. He enrolled in classes at Dolores High School, but he was an outsider there and was bullied by some of his classmates.
In rehab, Chance told Laurel a friend first gave him marijuana when he was 12 years old. He was 14 or 15 when Randy and Laurel found out, and they “came unglued,” Laurel said.
They punished Chance by grounding him, by giving him extra work, by taking away his driving privileges. They tried everything to get Chance to stop using drugs.
“I couldn’t tell you how many times we talked around the table with him,” Laurel said.
Laurel and Randy didn’t become aware that Chance was using harder drugs until this year, on Father’s Day. Chance was in Atlanta with his brother Cameron.
Cameron noticed that Chance was behaving strangely, so he tested Chance for drugs. The test came back positive for meth and cocaine, Laurel said.
“(Cameron) said it was the hardest Father’s Day of his life, because he loved his brother a lot,” Laurel said.
Two versions of ChanceSometimes, it was as if there were two Chances, Laurel said.
There was the Chance that was smart, funny and kind, and the Chance who was struggling with addiction.
“We know that had to really bother him, to be those two people,” Laurel said.
Chance hated feeling sad, and getting high was his way of dealing with that feeling, she said.
Looking back, Laurel said there were signs she should have addressed sooner, like the spoon she found in Chance’s bathroom drawer. But she was in denial, not wanting to believe that her son was using.
“I would do anything to be able to go back and do things differently,” she said. “I just wish I’d been smarter. We thought we did everything we could, but we look back and see things we should have done differently.”
‘It could happen to anyone’Some people might think if they’re in a good, educated family, nothing like Chance’s death could ever happen to them, Laurel said. But if it can happen to the Davidsons — a family with an ER doctor, a paramedic and a minister — it could happen to anyone, she said.
If you think a loved one might be using drugs, do whatever you have to do to find out, Laurel said. Even if it’s just a passing thought, find out until you have absolutely no doubt. Sometimes, you have to go against your child’s privacy for their sake, she said.
The thought of your child using drugs might be so scary that it’s too much to face, she said. But it’s better to have your kids be angry with you than it is to bury them, she said.
The first time a person uses a hard drug, it’s a choice. But they will struggle with that drug for the rest of their lives, Laurel said.
That’s what Chance went through. Laurel didn’t know what to do while Chance was struggling, but she hopes sharing his story might help others who are fighting an addiction.
“His death can’t be for nothing,” Laurel said. “People have to find out. Parents, kids — they have to get it. They have to realize how dangerous this is.”
firstname.lastname@example.orgLaurel Davidson talked with The Journal in an hourlong interview on Sept. 20. She shared intimate details about Chance’s life and the events of Tuesday, Aug. 16.Editor’s note: This story was edited on Sept. 26, 2016, to correct the day of Chance Davidson’s death.