Addiction can ruin or end a life at any age.
Paul Sorokas was 75 when he died on April 1, 2017, the oldest person to die from a drug overdose in Luzerne County last year.
Sorokas, a fun-loving but hard-working man known as “Bobo” who lived in Wilkes-Barre most of his life, did physical work, including a long tenure at the manufacturing company InterMetro. He suffered a serious back injury on the job about 25 years ago, according to his younger brother, Richard Sorokas.
Surgeries failed to repair the damage, so doctors prescribed painkillers, his brother said.
“The surgery never fixed it,” Richard Sorokas said. “They prescribed opioids. … They put him on pain medication.”
That started Paul Sorokas on a path that ended with him lying in a hospital bed in early 2017, his system shutting down from the damage inflicted by years of heavy drug use, according to his brother.
Shortly before Paul Sorokas died, the medical team trying to save his life told Richard Sorokas, “Your brother has so much stuff in him, it’s unbelievable.”
Richard Sorokas believed it, after watching his brother struggle with addiction for many years, he said.
After Paul Sorokas died, Richard Sorokas gathered up all the drugs and medication his brother had stockpiled.
“It filled a 30-gallon bag with all different pills,” he said. “I found speed, OxyContin … everything you can think of. He still had morphine stashed away.”
Richard Sorokas said his brother’s problems grew more severe five or six years before he died, when Veterans Affairs doctors “cut him off” from pain medication after they determined he had grown addicted.
The grinding effect of the opioid painkillers, sometimes mixed with alcohol, eventually took such a toll on Paul Sorokas that he moved into a nursing home for his final days.
The drugs ground down his brother’s mind and soul as well as his body, Richard Sorokas said.
“For the last six months before he passed away he got suicidal tendencies, partly from withdrawal,” he said.
Paul Sorokas, who was divorced, lived alone as he battled addiction in his later years, his brother said.
Despite the tough end to Paul Sorokas’ life, Richard Sorokas remembers his brother as a good man who cared about his family and tried to help people.
He was a standout athlete at Coughlin High School in the late 1950s and served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. In later years he enjoyed cooking, bowling, playing softball and rooting for the New York Yankees.
Richard Sorokas said he has no problem discussing the addiction that took his brother’s life, and the searing pain it caused. He said he hopes that sharing his brother’s story might help someone else.
“There is a crisis out there,” he said.
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