The Tragedy Jon Bon Jovi Calls His Worst Moment As A Father

It's almost a cliché of rock star life stories that their relationships end up a mess, at least for a time. It's a script Jon Bon Jovi managed not to follow where romance was concerned; he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Bongiovi (Bon Jovi's given last name), in 1989 and they've been together ever since. "She let me cheat off her in history," Bon Jovi joked of their first meeting (via People), but the two have remained committed to each other and work to navigate the stresses a musician's life can put on a family.

That family includes four children, born between 1993 and 2004: daughter Stephanie and sons Jesse, Jacob, and Romeo. They've maintained a close-knit family unit over the years, one that sought to shield the kids as much as possible from their father's celebrity as they were growing up. Dorothea rarely pointed out Bon Jovi's televised exploits, the kids were only occasionally brought along to events, and Bon Jovi not only didn't push his music on his kids — they turned down the chance to go to his concerts. "That'll keep you humble," he told People, laughing.

But there was little levity for the Bongiovis in 2012, when they went through an experience Bon Jovi has called his "worst moment as a father" (via the Daily Mirror). That year, he got a 2 a.m. phone call one night from his daughter Stephanie, the inspiration behind his hit "I've Got the Girl." She was calling from a hospital to tell him she had overdosed on heroin and faced multiple drug-related charges.

Stephanie Bongiovi's drug experience did not start at home

Unlike a good number of his peers, Jon Bon Jovi had very limited experience with drugs. He pulled out of the drug scene at a young age when he found it taking up too much of his mental space, and he later told the Daily Mirror, "I was never attracted to [drugs]." So he was shocked to hear about his daughter Stephanie's drug overdose; it was completely out of their home life experience.

Stephanie, who was living in a dormitory at Hamilton College at the time of her overdose, was found unresponsive when police and paramedics responded to a 911 call. Besides the heroin she had taken, drug paraphernalia and marijuana were found in the dorm. Another student, Ian Grant, was arrested in connection with the incident, and Stephanie was charged with "criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, [and] criminally using drug paraphernalia" per a police press statement (via NBC News).

Bon Jovi was sympathetic to his daughter and her peers after the overdose. "There's many more pressures on kids," he said to the Mirror. "'What is this college degree going to do for me, what am I going to be when I grow up, will I be able to accomplish things?'" He felt that such pressures put his daughter's generation's world leagues apart from his. "I feel it was a terrible tragic lesson of life ... I know personally people whose sons and daughters, where it was a lot, lot worse. That could have been Stephanie."

Stephanie recovered and faced no charges

Soon after her admittance to a hospital, Stephanie Bongiovi recovered enough to let her father know what had happened. She was discharged from the hospital and released from police custody on appearance tickets, with a court date for her drug charges to follow. That date never came; due to a New York state Good Samaritan law, those who overdose on drugs can't face charges over possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. The same law protects those who come to the aid of overdose victims, which relieved Stephanie's classmate Ian Grant from facing charges as well. 

Jon Bon Jovi told People that his daughter's episode didn't bring the family closer together, but only because "we couldn't get any closer." He and his wife Dorothea hurried to their daughter's side and dealt with the situation together. Stephanie went on to make a full recovery and currently works as a television camera operator. While she's maintained a much lower profile than her father, she did appear with Bon Jovi in a father-daughter dance for a Las Vegas performance of "I've Got the Girl" in 2017.