Rickey Smiley Reveals Son, 32, Struggled With Substance Abuse Before Death: ‘We Thought He Was Doing Better

A month after Rickey Smiley lost his son, the radio host said he made 'several attempts' to get his boy 'the help he needed' for his addiction issues.

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Brandon Smiley, the 32-year-old son of radio personality and comedian Rickey Smiley, passed away on Jan. 29. In his first interview since that heartbreaking tragedy, Rickey, 54, shared that his son grappled with substance abuse problems. “He was struggling with that,” Rickey said on the Mar. 2 episode of Today. “His mother [Rickey’s ex, Brenda Morris] and I made several attempts to try and send him to get the help he needed, send him to rehab. And we thought that he was doing better.”

“He had just joined a church, and he had just gotten baptized, probably a month before he passed away,” added Rickey. “He used, and it killed him.” However, Rickey noted that the official cause of death hadn’t been revealed. “We haven’t got a toxicology report yet,” he said. “But this is just what we are speculating, according to his girlfriend, who found him unresponsive.”

While on the Today show, Rickey shared what happened when he got the call. “I was in Dallas at my apartment, getting ready to watch the [NFL] playoff. His girlfriend called. She said, ‘text Brandon at this number or call him.’ So I called, nobody answered, I called her back and said, ‘is everything okay?’ She was crying. She said, in her words, that he had OD’d.” Rickey said that this interaction happed at 10, and there was a flight leaving Dallas to Birmingham, Alabama – where Brandon lived – in two hours. “I just grabbed my backpack and jumped on the plane.” However, as Rickey was going “out the door” to the airport, he got a call from Brandon’s younger sister, informing him that his son had passed.

Rickey in 2012 (John Shearer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Rickey used his appearance on the Today show to talk about discussing substance abuse with those who may need help. ” “We have to have a conversation,” he said. “I think the parents are having the conversation. The problem is getting the kids to listen to these conversations.”

“We just assume that if you’re in a good school district, or you’re in a gated community, or that everything is going good, that these kids are not doing drugs,” Rickey added. “You don’t have to be in the hood to succumb to drug abuse.”

“When it happens you can never be prepared because that’s your child,” he concluded. “If anything makes me cry, it’s God’s goodness to be able to get out of the bed, to be able to  do my morning show, to be able to protect the rest of my kids.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. 

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