Captain Lee Rosbach is turning his pain into purpose. The Below Deck star lost his son, Joshua Lee Rosbach, to an accidental drug overdose in the summer of 2019 and now, he's bringing Josh's story to TV. The 70-year-old opens up about Josh's death during the show's latest charter, as the guests -- David and Jackie Siegel, also known as "The Queen of Versailles" -- share an all too familiar story. Jackie's then-18-year-old daughter, Victoria, also died of a drug overdose in 2015.
"Josh was the most caring kid in the world," Lee told ET over video chat back in October. "He was the kind of kid that -- and I still call him a kid, 'cause he's always gonna be that to me -- if somebody needed something, if somebody needed the shirt off his back, if he didn't have a shirt on his back, he would go borrow money to go buy a shirt to give it to somebody else. He just was such a giving person, and he just had demons that he couldn't control, and he fought them bravely for as long as he could. It was an accident, and that's one of the things that really bothers me about the whole situation with the alleged 'war on drugs' is that Josh didn't know what he bought. He thought he was getting one thing and he was getting something totally different, totally driven by profit for the dealers, and it was fentanyl mixed with half a dozen other things."
Josh, who was 42, died in his sleep after unknowingly taking the fentanyl mixture, a powerful synthetic opioid that's said to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
"He fell asleep and just didn't wake up, so it wasn't… he didn’t suffer," Lee says. "He cared about everyone and everything in his life. His nieces and nephews -- he didn't have any kids -- but they were just, they were the highlight of his life. And we look back on that now, there's nothing that's ever gonna replace the hole in your heart. I think the person that said time heals all wounds was just totally full of s**t, because it doesn't."
"What time will do is, hopefully, help you develop your coping abilities to deal with it and to move on," he adds. "Because those are the only alternatives that you really have, and eventually when I feel strong enough to start what I finish, I want to do something to try and help other people that are in similar situations. But I don't want to embark on that path until I feel like I'm able to complete it. And then, when I do, I'll go at it like I do everything else."
Lee is starting by sharing Josh’s story more often, hoping to change public perception of what a "drug addict" looks like.
"They mean no one no harm,” he notes. "Josh wasn't out there, you know, holding up 7-Elevens or anything like that. He worked every day and, yeah, all the money that he made, did it go to support his habit? Yeah, it did unfortunately. He paid his bills and then everything else went to feed his habit. So, it was hard and he struggled with it obviously, and it didn't have a good outcome."
Lee says he’s heard from "thousands and thousands and thousands" of people with similar stories of loss, so much so that he's pretty sure there's "anybody in this world that [drug addiction] hasn't touched."
"The response was just so overwhelming," he says. "I was truly blown away by how many people it's affected."
Last summer, Lee commemorated the one-year anniversary of Josh's death with a tattoo over his heart. It's a portrait of his son and the inscription, "Where’s Josh?"
"Anybody that has ever dealt with a family member, or a very close friend, or someone that they're totally aware of that they have an addiction problem, know that when you have Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas day, any family get together, just have all the kids over for dinner, and all of a sudden one of them goes missing," he explains of the choice of words. "It'd been this way for a long time with Josh. Like I said, he suffered with his demons for over 20 years, and we were always going at every family function, 'Where's Josh?' We all knew where he was. We all knew what he was doing. We were just powerless to stop it, and so now with the tattoo and the inscription under it, 'Where's Josh?' I know where he is. He's over my heart and that's where he will stay."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential, free help from public health agencies, and to find substance use treatment and information.