Peter Michael Angelone was the type of young man a mother loves to gush about.
When he was in elementary school at St. Joseph’s in West Warwick, Peter only got in trouble for helping other people with assignments when he should have been doing his own work. And when his mother, Deborah Parente, picked him up from friends’ houses, other parents always told her what a pleasure Peter was to have over.
Like any good Italian boy, Peter enjoyed spending time with his family. He loved his mother’s cooking and watching movies (especially horror films) with his maternal grandmother.
Peter wasn’t just caring with his friends and family. He also loved animals and got along well with even the most shy or unfriendly among them. As a little boy, he dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but Peter had lots of other interests he also wanted to pursue.
For most of his life, Peter played basketball. His mother cheered for him from the stands while he was at Prout School, then in a travel league after he graduated in 2008.
After high school, Peter studied criminal justice at the Community College of Rhode Island. He had wanted to find a job in law enforcement not because of the power it yields, his mother said, but the opportunity it creates for helping people.
While in high school and college, Peter usually worked two jobs, one of which was at Dave’s Fresh Marketplace, in Cranston. And when Peter wasn’t working or studying, he could often be found at his mother’s home playing his drum set or one of his many video games.
Parente still has all of the games Peter used to play, the computer that he built himself and a basketball signed by Allen Iverson, her son’s favorite athlete.
Parente discovered Peter’s opioid addiction when she was doing his laundry. At the time, he was 19 years old.
Finding out was an accident. Parente usually washed and folded Peter’s clothes before leaving them on a table in his room.
“But on this particular day, I put it in his drawers, and I found syringes,” she said. “That day changed my life forever.”
She confronted Peter. Like always, he was honest, and told her the truth about his addiction. He’d first tried Vicodin at a party at Rhode Island College, where he attended school before transferring to CCRI. The addiction evolved from there, and eventually Peter turned to illicit drugs, like heroin.
After learning of her son’s addiction, Parente drove her son to Butler Hospital so he could detox. Over the next six years, she tried to guide him through different treatments, including suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Once, he overdosed in her basement and she had to revive him with naloxone. After that, she sent him to an in-patient rehab in Florida. He was there a month before coming home.
“Short of handcuffing him to me, I tried every single thing I could” to support his recovery, she said.
But it wasn’t enough. On Nov. 25, 2015, Peter overdosed on heroin at the Flood Ford car dealership where he worked. No one had naloxone on hand, and Peter died at Rhode Island Hospital.
“Some people just can’t shake it,” Parente said.
Five years after his death, she still sometimes dreams about him and when she wakes up in the morning, the loss hits her hard. On holidays, she re-reads the cards her son gave her on birthdays, Mother’s Day and Christmas.
To honor him, she gives talks in schools around the state about opioid addiction. Recently, she wrote a children’s book about self-esteem, something she worries Peter lacked and might have led him to try drugs in the first place.
“I was always proud of him, anything he did,” she said. “I was just proud of the young man he became. Because he was such a warm, caring individual.”