A Knoxville mother is sharing an emotional message after losing her son to an overdose to hopefully help more people struggling with addiction.
Sharon Hajko's son Justin Hajko was one of 23 people who died from a suspected drug overdose in Knox County in January 2017.
Already, so far this January, 26 people in Knox County have died from a suspected overdose.
Local prosecutors who keep the count expect we may see even larger overdose counts this year, suggesting this epidemic will get worse before it gets better.
"They are not just addicts, they are loved ones," Sharon Hajko said about people struggling with an opioid addiction.
She said her son was not a stranger to drugs.
"We had tried many times to get him into rehab and you would be on your way and he would jump out of the car," she said.
At one point, he was stealing from her to fuel his habit.
"I had to file charges against him when he stole from me and that was hard. He answered for that and went through probation and he had been clean for about six years until I got that knock on the door," Sharon Hajko said. "That was one of the hardest days of my life."
Justin Hajko died Jan. 27, 2017, and that month, 22 other families lost a loved one to the opioid crisis.
"This is an epidemic that is not challenging one particular sect of our society. This is an equal opportunity destroyer," said Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.
Allen's office tracks the suspected overdose deaths, which shows a growing statistic.
"As long as we continue to see that upward trend, unfortunately, I think it is going to continue to get worse," Allen said.
Sharon Hajko now shares son's story, goes to support groups and reaches out when she needs help.
"It may help others it also helps me and I've decided that I'm not going to be the quiet person that I was and people need to know that these young people aren't junkies and addicts, they are someone's loved ones and that's very important to me," she said.
Hajko is one of several mothers who attends a support group for families who have lost a loved one to an overdose.
The next meeting is Friday, Feb. 9, at the Knoxville Police Department at 6 p.m.