Courtesy Captain Lee
The Below Deck star appeared in front of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to urge lawmakers to take action. In an emotional testimony, Rosbach, 71, recalled his final days with son Joshua Lee Rosbach, who died in July 2019 after battling addiction for 20 years.
Rosbach said Josh first became addicted to "pills" after he was prescribed pain medication following an accident that left him with two broken feet and a broken leg. "He was in the hospital for a month, and came out with a love for the feeling he got from the opioids he was given in the hospital," Rosbach said. In the years that followed, Josh was in and out of rehab programs.
"I'm not here because I'm a doctor, a statistician, or psychologist. I'm simply a dad who's lived through the horrors that come from the opioid crisis that's devastating our nation," Rosbach said. "I didn't agree to be here today to make anyone feel all warm and fuzzy. When I'm done, it's my hope you'll have a very different view of this crisis that's so tremendously misunderstood."
After providing factual data about the alarmingly high number of deaths due to overdoses in the United States, Rosbach opened up about the day Josh died, saying it started like any "typical Sunday."
"I began my day like I usually do, off to the gym as my wife, Mary Anne, went for her morning walk. Later in the day, our son Josh was planning to come over and help me wash cars and hang out for a few hours, as he'd do more often than not," he recalled. "Shortly after I returned from the gym, I received a text from Josh saying he was going to pass on today, but that he'd be over first thing on Monday when I got back from the gym to hang out and help with the cars. This was not unusual for him, to sometimes change his mind last minute. Hell, it was the weekend, he was a 42-year-old guy with his own life outside spending every Sunday with his mom and me, so I didn't mind."
Captain Lee Rosbach/Instagram
But Rosbach said he began to worry after not hearing from Josh by Monday afternoon.
"It was around 3 p.m., when I headed over to Josh's house, which conveniently is only five blocks away," he said. "When I pulled into Josh's driveway, I noticed the drapes were drawn and as I walked to the front door, I knew in my heart of hearts I did not want to open that damn door. I felt I already knew what awaited me on the other side."
When he got inside, Rosbach said he said he could hear his son's dog barking from another room. He was immediately alarmed because the dog would normally run to greet him at the door, not wait for him in another room. He eventually found his son on the couch, next to his dog who refused to leave his side.
"I opened the door calling out for Josh, and saw that [his dog] Champ was off to the left of the door laying on the sofa curled up with his entire body pressed against my son Josh. Josh was sitting down on the sofa with his hat still on. Josh always had a hat on. Josh had his head between his hands with his elbows resting on his knees like he had dozed off," Rosbach said. "I felt a brief moment of relief, an incredibly short-lived moment of relief, because when I called out to Josh there was no reaction from him."
"I knew something was drastically wrong at that point, so I rushed over to where he was sitting and put my hand on his shoulder to wake him up. But there would be no more wake ups for my Josh. No more wake ups for my beautiful brown eyed boy. When I touched his shoulder, I felt no life. What I felt was cold and hard. My boy was gone. The man sitting peacefully on the couch was not my tall, handsome son anymore. Josh was gone."
Captain Lee Rosbach with his son Joshua
He continued: "I remember every second of that day, like a horrific, devastating movie scene playing over and over in my head. Except it's no movie, it's my reality. The sight of my son on the sofa is the first image I see every day when I wake up, and it's the last thing I picture every night before I fall asleep. This is how I've spent every night and every day for the last two years. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine finding someone you love more than your own life itself dead and cold on their couch?"
"I have crystal clear memory of that day. Josh was unique soul. There was no one who met him that didn't like him. Handsome, charming, all of the things that a parent can say with pride and a smile when they talk about their child. I could go on for hours about what a great person he was. But, that doesn't take away from the fact he had demons that eventually killed him. It's not a very nice story, his journey with the drug that took his life."
Rosbach concluded with a call to action, asking Congress to increase efforts to create better — and more — rehabilitation centers for addicts to get help.
"There is so much work to be done regarding the opioid crisis, and we need to act now," he said. "It's too late for Josh. It's too late for my family, but it's not too late for so many people out there who desperately need our help."
Since Josh's death, Rosbach and his family have continued to honor him in special ways. At the Awaken Recovery Center in Greenacres, Florida, a scholarship was created last year in Josh's name providing free in-house treatment to someone of Rosbach and his wife's choosing, so that they can have a chance to keep another family from suffering the same tragic loss.
Josh is survived by his parents, sister, brother, nieces and nephews and numerous aunts and uncles.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.