Why We Need to Stop Comparing Addiction to Cancer

First, I think we need to acknowledge there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse. Some people can use substances recreationally, not everyone can. People are hardwired differently. I don’t know why some people don’t have an issue with having one glass of wine at dinner, while others struggle.

I’ve been noticing the growing argument for “addiction is not a disease” along with some form of an analogy about a kid with cancer. “That five-year-old didn’t ask for cancer”. Ok, I get it. I do.

And I think it’s a poor comparison.

Whichever side of the disease vs willpower side of the controversy you’re on, please know that addicts don’t choose to be addicts either. I understand no one “held a gun to a drug users head and made them inject drugs”. On the other hand, do you understand that when you’re cancer free, you don’t have to work every day to stay cancer free. You don’t have the temptations surrounding you or when the stress builds up or a family member dies and you need that relief, you don’t think “man, I could really use some cancer right now”.

I once heard someone say that if there was a cure for cancer half way around the world, nothing would stop that person from getting their treatment but if there was a pill that could cure depression sitting on the table across from someone who is depressed, they might not be able to get up off the couch to get it.

Depression is a chemical thing. Addiction is a chemical thing. How terrible is it that the affliction some people deal with destroys the mind to logic out? It doesn’t seem like a matter of willpower to me. It’s more believable to me that there’s a glitch in the brain.

Comparing addiction to cancer doesn’t make any sense. They are not the same thing.

It’d be a little easier to compare it with diabetes. Type two diabetes can be passed on genetically or a person can live a lifestyle that leads to diabetes. That person wasn’t asking to get sick. Sometimes it’s possible to make lifestyle changes that will help get blood sugars under control but that person has to be very aware of everything they put in their body.

I know firsthand what it’s like to have unmanaged blood sugars. I have made many changes and in turn, my sugars are lower and I am getting healthier. I also know how difficult it is to maintain those changes. Sometimes I just want handfuls of chocolate. Or cheesecake. Or pasta. Sometimes I indulge. A lot of times I don’t.

Addiction runs rampant in my family and I lost a sister to a lethal mix of rx drugs and heroin. Four days before she died, we had an intervention for her. She looked into our eyes and told us she was done. She wanted to be clean (and had recently celebrated 9 months of sobriety before this last relapse). She knew her lifestyle could kill her. She did it anyway. I don’t believe it was simply a matter of willpower. It’s not right to think that had someone stayed with her that night, everything would’ve been ok. She needed 24- hour supervision. Sometimes it’s not a “day at a time” it’s a minute or a second at a time. Do you think anyone in their “right” or healthy mind would conspire and lie to loved ones just to be able to essentially kill themselves?

Addiction at the very least is powerful, can we all agree on that? It’s killing people and it needs to stop.

Can we stop comparing it to cancer? Trying to claim there are no “victims of addiction”? I’ve never done heroin and it’s ruined my life. Because the bottom line is, blaming people doesn’t help anything.

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6 Month Anniversary, part 1: Washburn-McReavy

Yesterday was the “Service of Remembrance”, I believe it was called, at the same Washburn-McReavy where Natalie’s viewing/wake was held. I’d been dreading it, as I’m sure we all were, but the fact that it was on the 19th, the six month mark exactly, made it a must attend event. I’d expected it would be hard. I wasn’t looking forward to walking back into Washburn-McReavy and I drug my feet on the way in.

The first thing that surprised me was how full the parking lot was. I guess I’d imagined it was going to be a small, intimate gathering. We almost didn’t have room to park (maybe I was hoping for that? Oh, nowhere to park? I guess we’d better just go home…). But, we found a spot. The cold wind forced me to hug myself tight on the way in.

Right inside the doorway was a fountain. Behind that was a set of double doors. Behind those white doors, was the viewing room where everyone else saw her for the first time. I’d driven to Minneapolis with my friend Shar earlier to possibly help with Natalie’s makeup. They didn’t need my help they told me but I could go in and see her if I wanted…

*If you want to hear more about that part of the experience, check the blog posts right after the 19th, I don’t think I can do it again now and still finish this post.*

Suffice it to say, once I realize which room was directly in front of us, I got sick to my stomach. Fortunately, in front of those doors was a long table filled with Christmas ornaments with the names of loved ones lost. We collected our ornament and were led to the chapel. There was a singer/piano player in the hallway. She sang/played “Amazing Grace” and I mentally cussed her out because I could feel the tears start to burn.

Since the parking lot was full, it should’ve come as no surprise that the chapel was also almost at capacity. For a few seconds, it reminded me of high school or riding the bus. All the cool kids were in the back… The further away from the teacher/event speaker, the better. So, imagine my elation when I sat myself in the very front row… I probably could’ve fit in the second row with my family but I felt strongly about sitting as close as I could (read: I am not a cool kid, ha!). I went for the spot on the far end of the pew, the corner. That way I could prop myself up with the bench and the wall.

I faced forward, looking at this…

 

wb-chapel

The only difference was there was a single candle in the center of the open space and a pastor in the chair near the podium. I think there was also a water fountain somewhere… I heard running water, I guess it was probably from the fountain in the front, now that I think about it. Man, the acoustics in that place… my full bladder was going crazy!

I digress.

The sermon?, the speech? I don’t know what it was called… was very moving. I took notes, honestly! He had a soothing voice and the words of God. I almost missed going to church. He talked about his brother-in-law who was a grief counselor and the three main things to focus on after losing someone.

Number 1. Ask yourself “What have I really lost?”

Number 2. Ask yourself “What do I have left?”

Number 3. Ask yourself “What are the possibilities?”

We closed with a prayer and rose to leave. The woman next to me, who’d been reaching for the tissues about as often as I was had a big button pinned to her purse and it took me by surprise. “Does your button say ‘I love Gaga’?” Her face lit up with a smile and she said “Yes, my son calls my mother that!” I tried to find words, I guess “Gaga” isn’t all that original, but still, I was surprised to see it anywhere outside of Tayla and Mary’s relationship.

“Who did you lose?” She asked, her face returning to a somber expression.

“My sister” I said.

“Me too! She was young, wasn’t she?”

She reached for me and we hugged each other so tight, I imagined she thought I was her sister and she was mine.

“Yes, 36”

“Well my sister was 59…”

“Still too young” I said.

She nodded.

“Can I ask what happened?”

Before y’all start… I know that I *can* ask and I should’ve said *may* but grammar be damned! (in this situation)

“Cancer”

For the first time, since I can remember, I struggled with telling someone how Natalie passed. I don’t know what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t find the words but it was several seconds before I was able to spit out the word addiction.

“She must have been in a lot of pain…”

I nodded, so grateful to not have this woman recoil away from me in horror and question my right to be there and be grieving. I don’t even know where those thoughts came from!

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of” she continued.

I kept nodding.

Finally, I was able to speak. “She was going on 10 months of sobriety. That heroin… it’s a kind of monster I don’t think too many people understand. I don’t understand it but I know that recovery from it,  it’s not like any other drug I’ve ever heard about…” I had been staring at the carpet for most of my comment. Finally, I looked up and asked her

“How long has it been?”

“May 20th”

“Wow. Natalie was May 19th. Six month ago, today.”

She gave me another hug and said “We’ll get through it”.

I hoped to myself that she was right.

As she was about to walk away, she said “Oh, by the way, thanks for bawling and making a scene, it made me feel like I could cry too…”

I think I smiled and said something like anytime.

“Bawling and making a scene”?!?!?! Ha. Lady, you have NO IDEA how much restraint I was using. I thought I was doing a fairly decent job, actually but… maybe not quite as good as I thought? All I know is I was making sure to focus on my breath and not dry heave in front of the entire chapel.

 

 

End the Epidemic Expo- Recap

Oh shiitake mushrooms… (My way of saying I messed up on Sunday and I’m sorry, see how much shorter it can be?)

I started this blog six months ago and have written faithfully, twice a week. I did it when Noah died. On Mother’s Day. Right after Natalie died. What could have possibly kept me from the practice that I hold so dear?

Disappointment. Sounds pretty lackluster but I assure you, it was a SPECTACULAR disappointment.

I’ve spent the past several days looking for my spin doctors. After spending the better part of three months pushing myself to get this “End the Epidemic” Expo going, I’d expected big things. Or, at least bigger things.

Here’s how the day played out:

Saturday a.m. I am up and moving by 6:00. I type out a very rough draft of the timeline for the days’ events. I am a little panicky about the open slot from 4:00-6:00 but overall, impressed by how much came together.

Call from dad.

“Can you swing by the shop and pick up the little table and chairs that sit outside? Mom wants them for her tarot reading.”

There is some finalizing of details and the enlightenment that we don’t have to wait until 10:00 or 10:30 to start setting up.

“Great! I’ll see if Justin can help with that part then.”

A little time goes by and there is a follow up call.

“Ang has got a ton of stuff. My car is packed. I can’t fit one more thing inside. Can you find out if someone is coming over to help haul the rest of the stuff? I think Barb was going to help out…”

I call Barb. Voicemail.

I nervously hope she’s not answering because she’s driving.

I send a text, not realizing that’s probably worse.

I call my mom. Voicemail.

Text. No reply.

I’m supposed to pick up Shar at 9:30 and I still have to make copies at Kinko’s.

She can meet me at Kinko’s.

I forget to make the fucking copies.

I sit in the car, not knowing if I should go to Minneapolis to help the set up or head towards Eden Prairie for the rest of the display stuff.

I figured since I hadn’t heard anything… things had gotten figured out.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Just as we’re pulling into the church parking lot (a little after 10:30, expo starts at 11) the phone rings.

Honestly at this point? I don’t even remembered who called. The just of the convo was there was too much stuff to fit everyone in the vehicle and Mary Grace (17 year old cousin in from TN, super sweet & incredibly talented) needs a ride.

I turn the car around. I look at the time and it’s 10:45. I start laughing. A big, full, hearty laugh. Tears were not far behind, I was laughing that hard. Shar and Tayla look at me with a mixture of curiosity, amusement and a little bit of fear.

“What is so funny?” one of them asked.

I coughed the words out like a cat with a hairball. Between bouts and new waves of laughter, I say “It’s 15 minutes until show time and we’re driving AWAY from the church.” It reminded me of the time Don and I took a road trip to see my grandma. The nine hour drive ended up closer to 14 hours because we got lost in Iowa. Seriously? How do you get lost in IOWA? Anyway, the was an electric blue house that we’d passed several times before. Once we rounded the corner and saw the white trim of that fucking blue house… Don started to laugh. Hysterically. “We’re never going to find it” he said. “We’re never going to get there. May as well get comfy in the car, we live here now.” So, it was THAT kind of laughter. The laugh of desperation.

I pull into my parents driveway and see a large SUV with all the doors and trunk open. The two little wiener dogs come outside and spill down the steps, anxious to greet us.

Barb is inside, sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, shaking her head.

I start to call for mom.

“There’s still two more crates downstairs that need to go…”

I pack the two containers in the back and that’s all I can take. I can’t put the backseats down because I’ve got two kiddos in the back.

So I floor it, go as fast as I can (within the legal speed limit, of course) and we make it back to the church by about 11:30. My only saving grace is that the itinerary I posted earlier didn’t show much of anything scheduled until noon.

Finally through the Sanctuary doors to find things… looking pretty good. A lot of stuff is set up. I grab a card table, tablecloth and set up my own stuff while trying to slow my breathing and reminding myself I didn’t need to rush anymore.

The first speaker is scheduled from 12:30-1:00. By 12:20, I haven’t seen or heard anyone come into the church. I’m starting to get nervous.

Instead of Natalie’s music playing, it’s some kind of religious muzak. The 14 foot (approx) big screen is still rolled up (instead of a slideshow of photos of Natalie or the music video for Soldiers of Love by Sade).

There are people in the church, maybe a dozen? They are all here to help us set up, offer services or be emotional support (or all three)

“It’s five minutes until the first speaker is scheduled to go on… where the hell are they?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s here. He’s here. He uh, locked his presentation and notes in his car. The locksmith will be about 20 minutes.”

FanFuckingTastic.

I had someone else scheduled to go on from 1:00-2:00, so my stomach is knotting up. In a weird way, not having anyone there was a saving grace. There was a lot of flexibility.

Locksmith shows up, speakers grabs his stuff and does his thang. He was from Progress Valley and knowledgeable with how the brain reacts differently to opioids than other drugs. It was fun! As odd as that sounds, it was interactive, informative, engaging, so interesting. I learned a ton! He spoke to our small group, which may have been smaller than 12 as people rotated smoke breaks…

The next presenter, from Valhalla Place, I was so excited to have come. I’d only met her once before and it was very brief but she is so good at what she does! So much to offer and share. She had to be somewhere at 2:30. I don’t remember what time it was, but it wasn’t looking good. Until a couple of coworkers showed up and were unwittingly volunteered to take her place. Because the day got off to a rocky start and we didn’t start on schedule, time slots were running into other time slots.

Jesse Seward, the musician who came to perform (and later I found out, actually knew Natalie) had also come early to help us set up. I had him down to sing from 3:30-4:00, he thought it was 3:00-3:30. There is a minor hysteria as I’m searching the church for the pianist (whom I hadn’t met, didn’t have a name so how would I know him/her if I saw her?).

The volunteers heard they got bumped back to 4:00 and had to leave. I wanted them to stay but there still wasn’t anyone there, not who didn’t come with us… I told them I appreciated their willingness to come and apologized for the confusion. He told me he felt bad and told him (in part to reassure myself) that this is merely a learning experience. It’s not going to run perfectly the first time out on the floor…

Jesse sang. It was beautiful. My phone ran out of memory and I didn’t get any of it.

 

“If anyone needs me, I’m going to my car to cry for five minutes, have a cigarette and come back in.”

There were a lot of sympathetic nods.

Tayla asked if she could come with. I told her of course. It’d been a long day in those few hours.

I get to the bottom of the stairs and start to push on the door when I heard a sickening crack and a thud from behind me.

Tayla had fallen down the stairs. She didn’t get up right away and she seemed very, out of it. She kept falling asleep. She didn’t look good. Someone suggested I take her to the E.R., sadly, this was the high point of the day for me. I was ready to change the name from End the Epidemic to End the Expo!

We drove to Fairview Southdale hospital where we received the fastest visit in history. Seriously, it was so fast, I considered pushing her down a bigger flight of stairs. Just kidding. Mostly.

I dreaded going back to the church. To dealing with the emptiness. The deep well of sadness that was threatening to overflow.

We were pulling into the parking lot just before 6:00 and almost everything was packed up. People were leaving, the people who came with us. “There just wasn’t anybody there” someone said in response to the question I didn’t ask.

I dropped my head back and saw through the partly dark clouds, a rainbow. A rainbow that I saw both end of. It felt right, to see it but not in response to how the day went.

It wasn’t just how much time I spent making the flier or how many people got them, it’s that almost everyone was EXCITED to come. “I’ll for sure be there!”, “Oh man, I’ve got a couple of friends who NEED this, we’ll be there”, “This is a wonderful thing you’re doing, see you Saturday” … it just didn’t make sense that from 11:00-6:00 no one. showed. up.

In the car on the way home, Tayla asked me if the day was a complete failure.

“Ya know honey, it kinda looks that way doesn’t it? But we don’t always (in fact, rarely) see how our actions or words might affect someone. At the very least, there are now seven more people who have Naloxone and can possibly save a life. I personally got a lot out of the first speaker. Who knows what someone else may get out of having gotten a flier? They didn’t make it this time, but maybe it planted a seed… maybe they acknowledged on a very small scale that they have a problem and need help… You just don’t know.”

So that’s the story I’m sticking with…

Sometimes I’m a Judgmental Asshole

Sometimes I’m a judgmental asshole. Not always but sometimes…

Most of the time I consider myself an open minded and non-judgmental person.

Last night was not one of those times.

At the Overdose Awareness vigil last night, I was really paying attention to my body sensations… they’re usually the hint I get for when a big emotion is about to take over.

One of the first people I heard speak was a woman from Valhalla Place. They specialize in addiction and mental health treatment. Reasonable goals are set and they offer harm reduction options and medication assisted recovery among many other things to aid in the attainable goals set. What caught my attention was her piece on their needle exchange program. The purpose of these programs are to stop the spread of infection and disease caused by sharing needles. The needle exchange program is just what it sounds like. You bring in your used needles, where they can dispose of them properly and in exchange, give you clean (new) needles.

There was a knot in my stomach.

I understand the premise of the project… I do. It was the same logic I used when I gave Natalie some of my needles. (For those of you who don’t know me, I am an insulin dependant diabetic and receive a ton of sterile syringes, about 100 a month) Initially she told me she had a friend who was diabetic and he didn’t have insurance. I believed her, for the most part, at first. After a few times, it didn’t make sense why her friend wasn’t getting these needle prescribed himself… I knew she was using them for herself but I hid behind plausible deniability. Finally, I figured if she got them from me, I knew they were clean. After awhile someone asked me (probably my therapist, it sounds therapist-y) “How would you feel if Natalie died using a needle you gave her?” I told her that was it. Her *friend* would have to find another supplier.

Before I had my daughter, I always kinda figured I’d be the kind of parent who’d let her kids and their friends party at my house. At least I can keep an eye on them here. At least I know they’re not driving or riding around with someone under the influence… But now? That sounds insane. No fucking way she’s going to get the ok from me to do that shit. I know she’s probably going to experiment and I will be there for her but she’s not going to do it in front of me. How irresponsible is that? Sounds kind of like giving away free needles to drug users…

But most addicts are not my children. Though some of them are practically babies, they have an addiction. They need a way to get help, either through treatment, AA, NA or harm reduction. And because this is not a 13 year old experimenting with drugs or alcohol for the first time but rather serious users with an addiction, I support the needle exchange programs. As well as people who need Suboxone, Methadone or whatever medication will help with withdrawals, cravings and block the opiate receptors. I was sorry to learn that a lot of people don’t consider addicts who use these methods as “truly clean” or totally “drug free” by not only the general population but by others in the addiction and recovery field!

At one point during the speakers last night, I burst out laughing. Not because anything was funny but because someone had said something so ridiculous, there was no other reaction appropriate. I don’t even remember who was talking now. I thought it was a mother talking about her son, Don said it was a man talking about his brother. Anyway, the statement uttered was “we just thought he was doing crack”!

OMFG. How do you do anything but laugh at that? Cry, I guess.

I’m going to reiterate, I didn’t laugh because it was funny. It was sad. I laughed because I understood. Hey, it’s not heroin. How bad is a heroin addiction when your family is holding onto the idea you’re “just using crack”?

Finally, the part I’ve been putting off… (the part where my judgy self shows through) there were overdose victims themselves who spoke.

At first I was glad to hear they’d survived. I was grateful that the people they were with had Narcan or Naloxone and knew how to administer it when it was needed. I noticed a little sadness as I’d wished Natalie… had it? Was with someone else who had it? Was saved by it, I guess. Then I noticed my jaw tightening. My breathing was getting shallow and my hands were balled into fists.

“I am a three time survivor of overdose. Naloxone saves lives, it saved mine three times.”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

You didn’t learn your lesson after the first or even first TWO times? Fuck you. I’m not learning how to do this so you can have fun on a Saturday night. You obviously don’t value your life, why should I?

The ferociousness surprised me.

“Whoa. Where’d that come from?”

Yes, that is how part of me felt. How I still kinda feel… the other part, the bigger part of me says how powerful is that addiction that you almost died two times and you STILL went back for more?

So powerful we need an army. We need warriors. We need not just a day dedicated to overdose and recovery but a lifetime.

Every story is important. Every voice counts. Shame and stigma only serve to keep people sick and using…

Let’s End the Epidemic.

NOW.

So, that’s the end of my rant and the end of my judgment. I know critism won’t help anyone yet I felt I had to be honest about how I felt. Everybody judges. It’s human nature and sometimes you have to judge- to keep yourself safe.

In any event, I’m sorry if it came out as harsh.

me-sorry-me-apologize

Ok?

It’s Complicated

The word of the day is complicated. Is that ever an understatement! Life has always been complicated, hasn’t it? I mean, always as in, after kindergarten? Post high chair, I think it’s safe to say. Then you had to start making choices. Decisions. Even if it’s not about anything important. What should I eat for lunch? Some days that question is enough to send me to my room, bury me under the covers and just avoid food altogether… Stupid food, demanding I choose… The nerve. That reminds me, actually, of the million dollar breakfast idea I had this morning. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich only the build would be: strawberry jelly, peanut butter, grape jelly! Aha! I’d call it the peanut BETTER and jelly!

But anyway. I’m avoiding. I’m avoiding because it’s complicated! What is it you ask? Well, today it is money. Money and addiction. More addiction than money but both are in play.

Most of you know by now that I have started a GoFundMe campaign. I started it in my sisters name, Natalie, to help combat heroin use. To raise awareness that opioid use is on the rise and the effects are deadly. Three months ago, it was being cut with fentenyl. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin.

!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I remember in highschool, heroin was *the worst* drug. Ever. Only people who wanted to die, used heroin. It was the end of the line.

To learn that it is being cut with a drug 100 times more potent? And that was three months ago. More recently, THREE DAYS AGO, the Washington Post reports the latest trend in heroin: carfentanil. An elephant tranquilizer. Ten THOUSAND times stronger.

The fatalities are skyrocketing. Because, unfortunately, addicts are addicts. What I mean by that, being in recovery myself, is that when I heard there was something stronger than fentanyl? My gut reaction was “Oh my God, where can I get some?”. Immediately I snapped out of it and was thinking “WTF? Where did that come from?” The addict in me. The “I feel fucking miserable and I will do whatever it takes to NOT feel like this” in me. That thankfully does not rear its head too often, but more often in these past three months than in quite a while, if ever.

I guess my point is, I understand. I don’t know how many people understand addiction. Up until about two months ago, my daughter thought it was a matter of choice. Of willpower. She’s a teenager. There are plenty of adults who think the same way… To that I say:

If poker is a sport? Addiction is a disease. No, wait… Did I just make my point or undermine it? I don’t know…

Who knows, to the people who don’t understand, maybe they don’t want to understand. It would sure make life a lot easier to think addicts could just stop using if they REALLY wanted to…

But I know better. A lot of people know better. Which brings me back to my other point, money.

I started this campaign to raise money to host a fundraiser. To make products that advertise “Hey, heroin is a PROBLEM! Shame, is a PROBLEM” Let’s get it out into the open and stop the stigma! I’ve been updating the GoFundMe page daily. Here’s where the complicated part comes in. I hate talking about money. Did I already say that? Even if I did, I hate it strongly enough to warrant another mention. So everyday, my friends on Facebook get another update and … I guess I’m worried about annoying people. I don’t want to badger people. I get that money is tight. I really do. AND on GoFundMe’s homepage, people have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for sports, honeymoons, getting out of debt etc. and I guess I kinda feel like I must be doing something wrong. Did I piss someone off? Do people in general not care about this epidemic? Is everyone I know as broke as I am? I guess that last one is plausible…

I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing. That campaign is like this blog to me. Come Hell or high water, it’s getting done.

Anyway, that’s my rant for Sunday.

What causes are close to your heart?

It’s Time

I’ve been sitting on an idea. For years, it’s been in the back of my mind. Natalie’s passing has brought it to the forefront and it seems with each passing day, it gains more energy.

Today, all that momentum has come to a head. Today is the day to let my “baby” out into the world… because I need help. I can’t do it alone and I don’t want to.

The daily word prompt today is muse. One of the dictionary definitions for the word is: “The goddess or power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like.”

I remember the moment with crystal clarity. We were driving home, (the old place) down McAndrews Road. As we approached the stoplight, I saw in my mind’s eye, a vision. A flash. An image… It was shortly after Natalie passed and I was drowning in a sea of my own thoughts and grief.

In 2015, police in MN seized 18 pounds of heroin. That is equivalent to 8,200 doses and heroin has been steadily on the rise.

“This HAS GOT to stop” I thought.

Then I saw it.

FullSizeRender (5)

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it but it has been one of a handful of times where I was sure I was merely the instrument for some higher purpose.

A month or so goes by and I am realizing how much shame plays a part in addiction. “We’re as sick as the secrets we keep”. If people can’t talk about it? They aren’t getting help for it. Addiction has been scientifically proven to be a medical illness. Even if it wasn’t, I still don’t see the good or the point of shaming anyone because of it… if they are talking about it, it’s because they want help.

Anyway, I was reminded of a very low point in my life. I had a lot of shame. A ton of it. So much so, I figured the word shame and my name could be interchangeable. “It even SAYS me in the word” I thought. A minute later, I realized the “me” in shame is at the end. Shame ENDS with me.

This is what we need to realize to stop the stigma.

FullSizeRender (9)
Sample of a cell phone case.

People are dying everyday from this shit. We can not afford to pretend this isn’t a problem or that this doesn’t affect us. My life, my world was shattered nearly three months ago from heroin I never touched…

I keep hearing the mediums voice in my head.

“She says she doesn’t want to be just a number”

The only number Natalie will ever be to me is number one.

I am (hopefully soon) starting a line of products, cell phone cases, t-shirts, magnets etc. to raise money and awareness. A percentage of the proceeds will go to Progress Valley, the treatment center where Natalie stayed and The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation who is committed to ending the problem here in MN. I’ve included links to both organizations, check them out!

We do better together… It doesn’t have to be this hard.

Please, help us?

Steve Rummler Hope Foundation

Progress Valley

 

 

Feelings

That dirty little “F” word. I hate it. I hate feeling right now… and not feeling later. How is it possible to be SO FULL of empty? I don’t understand. Maybe I’m not supposed to.

A lot of my rage has died down with the results of the toxicology report. I don’t know WHY it matters so much whether or not the heroin had fentanyl in it or not, just that hearing  there was no indication of it… Took some of the energy away. The outcome would’ve been the same either way but I wanted so badly to blame someone else. She was a smart girl. So smart. She couldn’t have misjudged how much heroin was “safe”, she knew her tolerance. Right? GOD, somebody PLEASE tell me this wasn’t just the result of a careless mistake! A bad gamble, a lapse in rational thinking… but that’s exactly what it was.

The news about Christina Grimmie (season six contestant, she finished in 3rd place on The Voice) was upsetting. Initially just because it was so tragic and senseless. Then later, I felt a little jaded. No matter what happens from here on out, Christina will be perfect. So much talent, beautiful, gone too soon- taken, too soon. No one will ever know if she would’ve been a big success. She’ll never have poor choices scrutinized or get caught in controversy.

She had a lot in common with Natalie. I felt slighted, even by the news. Natalie made a bad choice and paid for it with her life. I’m so afraid that’s all people will remember about her… Again, this is something that *shouldn’t matter. The people who knew her and loved her are the ones who matter and everyone else … fuck ’em.

Today and yesterday were extra hard. I’m not sure why. I guess a lot of the immediate things have been taken care of, Tayla is done with school, we’re mostly moved into our new place and it’s so quiet. Empty. Lonely. And I start thinking.

About how she’s dead. She’s gone. She’s not coming back. About how now the only time I’ll see her is on the face of a photograph. An untouchable memory. A dream too good to be true.

I think about how I can still hear her but there will never be anything original again. Her laughter, the way she sometimes snorted when she was really belly laughing…the way her face sometimes froze because she was laughing so hard, no noise was coming out at all.

I can feel her, kinda. I have a stuffed dog that wears headphones. The headphones are actually stereo speakers and there’s a pocket where I can plug in my phone and zip it up safe. I can listen to her sing me to sleep while cuddling something.

It feels like I got the news yesterday and like an eternity has gone by already.