If you think the Opioid/Opiate Epidemic hasn’t affected you, think again.

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Anyone who is stupid enough to put a needle in their vein deserves what they get is a sentiment we are reading/hearing all too often lately. Many people think addiction is not their problem if it hasn’t touched their families or loved ones. Whether you realize it or not, we are all caught in the ripple of this epidemic – so it is your problem.

A few examples:

  • Obviously it is touching the lives of anyone who has a loved one with Substance Use Disorder. This equates to time lost at work, or certainly distracted employees.  If the person is in active addiction and is employed, you can bet they are not working to capacity.
  • Our court system is jammed with people suffering SUD. The dollars cost on policing, jailing, probation oversight, court costs…………the list could go on…. is enourmous.
  • Child Protective Services cannot keep up with the amount of children in the system due to this epidemic. These children are growing up in chaos.
  • Police, firefighters, paramedics, and hospitals are all overwhelmed with overdoses and other health issues related to constant drug use.
  • Unscrupulous treatment facilities are falsifying claims and overcharging insurance companies ($1500 for a urine test?!?!?) which are paying out for the wrong kind of treatment while those in accredited hospital facilities where the billing is true and accurate cannot get coverage. All of our insurance rates increase.

Our tax dollars are spent putting out the fires caused by this epidemic. We need to put our dollars to use with a multi-pronged and organized response. The ground work has been laid by many who fought for CARA to be passed. Continue reading “If you think the Opioid/Opiate Epidemic hasn’t affected you, think again.”

The Mess You’ll Leave Behind

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Dear active drug user,

I know you believe it’s your life and you’re only hurting yourself. You’re wrong. I know you believe you’re indestructible, that what you’ve witnessed happen to so many of your friends won’t happen to you. You’re wrong again. Sooner or later it will.

Here’s what will happen after you die.

First, someone will find your body. Maybe you’ll die at home and your Mom will find you and start screaming. Maybe you’ll die in your bedroom; maybe in the basement that your Dad rebuilt so you and your friends would have a place to chill. 911 will be called and first responders will come. Paramedics will cut off your shirt, put the paddles on your chest and try to shock your ass back to life, but it won’t work and one of them will turn to your Mom or Dad and say, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.”

Your family will be ushered outside, the police will string up that yellow “crime scene” tape and start their investigation. Your cell phone will be confiscated and your parents will probably never see it again. Hours later, while neighbors start gathering on the front lawn, they’ll put your body in a bag, put the bag on a stretcher and wheel it out to a coroner’s van and take you to the morgue. Maybe they’ll cut you open, take out all your organs, weigh and measure them and them stuff them back inside you and sew you up. More likely, they’ll just draw some blood and urine to do a toxicology screen.

Hopefully, you won’t die in your car. If you do, I hope you’re not driving at the time. I hope the last thing you do on this earth isn’t crashing into and killing someone else, maybe more than one person. I pray that’s not your legacy. If you don’t die at home, your parents will get a visit from the local cops and a ride down to the coroner’s office so they can identify your body.

That first week after you die will be a busy time for your parents. They will need to figure out who in what was your life needs to be notified; the rest of the family, your friends – that will be difficult because the cops have your cell phone so all they’ll be able to do is tell one or two of your closest friends; most of the rest will hear about it pretty quickly, but some won’t learn for weeks — your employer, your school. Lots of tearful phone calls will be made.

Your parents will have to pick a funeral home, arrange for your body to be shipped from the coroner’s office to the funeral home, pick out a casket, find a cemetery, one close by, so your Mom can visit you every day; pick out a nice four by eight foot plot, maybe beside a tree, and buy the only piece of real estate you will ever own. Your Mom will have to pick out the suit you’ll be buried in and deliver it to the funeral home. Your parents will need to decide what your obituary should say; should they acknowledge that you lost your battle with addiction or simply say that you died quietly at home.

Your Mom will go through all of this in a fog because she will be out of her mind with grief. Maybe she’ll carry one of your unwashed shirts around with her for the entire week, holding it to her face so she can smell you. Maybe she’ll sleep in your bed with your shirt and a framed photograph. And she won’t stop crying. Everywhere she turns something else will remind her of you. The leftovers from the last food you bought; the stale remnants of the last soda you ever drank.

One of the women in the neighborhood will organize folks to deliver casseroles and other food to your parents and neighbors will stop by once or twice a day for a week or so bringing food. Preparations will need to be made for your funeral. The church or hall will have to be decorated. Your Mom will want lots of pictures of you and each one she picks out will cause her to cry again. Eulogies will be written and delivered, maybe by your father, maybe by your little brother, maybe both. Your family will stand in a receiving line and will have to hear, “Sorry for your loss” and say, “Thank you for coming.”

After the service, your coffin will be carried outside to a hearse; maybe your little brother will be one of the pallbearers. The hearse will lead a procession of cars, all with their lights on, to the cemetery where there will be more tears, and a prayer will be said before your casket is lowered into the ground. Not everyone will have gone to the cemetery. Someone will volunteer to go to your parent’s house directly after the funeral to set out the food your neighbors have brought for the mourners who will come over after the funeral.

In the weeks after your funeral there will still be more matters to attend to. Your parents will have to wait for the toxicology report to be sent to the coroner’s office so that final death certificate can be prepared. Your parents will need lots of copies so they can notify your creditors, close your bank account, cancel your auto insurance, maybe notify your parole officer.

In the months and years that follow, things won’t get any better. Every holiday will be a time of sadness instead of joy, because it will remind your parents that you’re gone. And now they have another anniversary to make them sad, the anniversary of your death.

I can tell you for a fact that your Mom will never be the same. Some things she used to do joyfully she will no longer be able to do because they are too painful. Remember how she used to like to surprise you with special treats she bought at the food store? Well now she can’t go food shopping because everywhere she turns in the store she sees something she remembers you liked to eat. Those gardens she was so proud of in the front lawn. They’re forgotten now. The only garden she cares about is the tiny one around your grave that she tends almost every day.

So don’t think, and don’t say, that it’s your life and you’re only hurting yourself because that is simple not true. Your actions have consequences and they can be irreversible for you and can destroy the lives of people who love and care about you. Please, please, please, get clean, if not for yourself, then do it for them.

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Cris Fiore lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Valerie are working tirelessly to help save other people’s children in the name of their beloved son Anthony. The Fiores ask that you PLEASE sign and share the petition for Anthony’s Act , a request that the Affordable Care Act be amended to provide for a minimum of Ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment up to a maximum of One Hundred Eighty (180) days per year at a facility certified to provide such care by the Secretary of Health of the state in which it is located.

Facebook page – Anthony’s Act.

Please click on this link to sign the petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act

 



Dear judgy lady on Facebook- I hope you never learn about addiction the way I have.

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Dear judgy lady on Facebook,

I read the article you shared on narcan. Your opinion and commentary made my pulse pound and my face flush. I was angry, but after a few minutes passed I didn’t want to punch you in the face anymore. My heart softened towards you, because I know you just don’t get it. You are so lucky and I am envious of that. I wish more than anything else that I didn’t get it either. I never wanted to and As much as I think you suck for saying what you did,I hope you never have to.

You see, I know something you don’t know. I have lived it, walked it and most importantly survived it, while you sit on the other end of a computer content in your ignorance. I hear that it is bliss. Continue reading “Dear judgy lady on Facebook- I hope you never learn about addiction the way I have.”

Lost in Plain Sight

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The need, the compulsion that overcame any self respect, principles, and morals; that could never be me. I have too much to lose, I am only doing this for him, I am not addicted – I don’t even like the feeling. At 16 years old I believed I was the greatest power in the world. Nothing could ever gain control of my entire life. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how wrong I was. If only I were born with a warning for my parents, that I came with this mental disease called addiction. Not that anyone in the world could have saved me from what I had to go through to be where I am today.

I’m not even sure why I drank the first time, I wasn’t really sure what alcohol was at that age. I was 12 years old and found a bottle of gin at my grandparents. My friend and I thought it would be cool, after all – adults drink! Well, a half a bottle of gin and two shots of orange juice later; my friend didn’t like the taste. So without any warning I felt the need to not waste any of it and drank both glasses. I only remember the very beginning of that night. I woke up in the middle of the living room floor with my father sitting next to me crying. I had alcohol poisoning. My parents were afraid to get me in trouble for drinking, so my Dad sat up all night taking care of me and saved my life. I had no control over how much I consumed, I couldn’t stop. I waited years before I picked up my next drink sometime in early high school. Everyone was drinking, I didn’t think I was any different from all of my friends. I was an honor roll student, started working in a daycare and I was in control. Continue reading “Lost in Plain Sight”

Disease or not, he always said if it was any other health issue he would be treated with respect.

 

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Below are the last words a sister posted for her brother who passed April 29th, 2016 from a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Just three years apart, they were not only brother and sister, but best friends.  After battling addiction for years and becoming sober, her brother passed into eternal life after a recent relapse. She’s shared her last words to the public in hopes to not only honor her brother, but to speak truth to how addiction does not discriminate.  Tara hopes to continue sharing her story to shed light on the problems behind addiction and to remind others that we need to spend less time judging and stereotyping, and more time working together to understanding this epidemic that is taking away so many of our loved ones.  

 

I’ve held off on writing my last words or making a speech in front of everyone about my brother, because I still cannot believe this is real. But it has finally hit me just how real this all is. That I will never laugh with him or see him again. But I’ve felt the need to share these words. How do you go on to write about the greatest person you have ever known, and get it right? As he would say.. Here comes the Novel!

I think it’s fair to say Jeff was one of the most unique human beings we have ever had the chance to know. His sense of humor, loyalty, huge heart, protectiveness, patience and craziness is what attracted so many people to his life. He was probably the only one calm enough to deal with half of his family/friends. As he would say,

“This is my family?”

“These are my friends?”

He was always the voice of reason, diffusing any situation with love and laughter. For those that know the real Jeff, you know he was one of the most selfless people. He would drop anything to be there for someone he cared about, no matter if the circumstances were in his favor or not. He always told me I did too much for those who didn’t appreciate me,  but to never lose that about myself because that is what made me special -to always know my worth. He was someone who always had the right intentions and knew what he wanted in life and who he wanted to be …. naturally smart and socially inept….always the biggest heart, a dreamer with a deep crazy soul and an undeniable love for music. I have always admired the person he was. Continue reading “Disease or not, he always said if it was any other health issue he would be treated with respect.”

For Mandy

 

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Why do we hide, cover up, and refuse to acknowledge addictions in our loved ones’ lives? I have seen over and over, ‘the family requests to keep this private’ in a Facebook post, email or obituary.

There isn’t anything about heroin addiction that should be kept private. It is a terrible disease. When we choose to keep quiet, who benefits?  Are we protecting our loved one? If they are alive and seeking help, maybe, so they wont be judged if they pull through this awful illness. If their disease beats them and takes them from us, how does privacy help? Are we protecting them or our own reputation and fear of judgement? Continue reading “For Mandy”

Relief – A Recovery Story

 

Cassie MugshotI had been addicted to Heroin for a while by the time I wound up in prison. It wasn’t like I planned it, nobody wants to waste a year of their life behind bars. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel relief my first night there. It wasn’t the first time I had felt relief this way. The first time I felt this kind of relief was the first time I used heroin, 2 years prior.

 The little girl I had been raising for several years was taken from me by her father. I was left with nothing, feeling broken and confused, helpless. My husband at the time was an addict. Strung out on heroin for years. I had given up hope of him ever quitting and by this time, I knew he was using and chose to ignore it. At least with me, I knew he was safe. Laying in my daughter’s bed crying my eyes out, I knew I would hurt forever. My husband would join in on my sorrow for a while, but eventually he would get up to ‘use’. I saw the way the drug changed him from a grief stricken man to a normal person going about his business. His tears would dry up and in their place came a desire to do normal habits like showering and eating. His transformation was intriguing. As I lay down, still in pain, he could take care of business, and I was still useless. Continue reading “Relief – A Recovery Story”