What to do after a loved one dies from substance addiction

Do Not:

  • Hide; we are everywhere and want to connect with you.
  • Avoid the topic; we need to get people involved in finding solutions.
  • Feel responsible; this problem is too big for one person to shoulder.
  • Feel ashamed; addiction is not a moral choice, so it should not shame anyone.
  • Lie about cause of death; your loved one deserves a medal for fighting an enormous enemy even though the battle was lost.
  • Hate: if your loved one was addicted for a long period, he or she probably introduced someone to drugs, sold drugs, and lied to get drugs. Others involved in the first or final blow are just as likely to die, and more death is not the answer. Love and forgiveness will open a way for you to heal.


  • Inform the Public
  • Ask local media to headline the tragedy.
  • Highlight this person’s real (before addiction) personality.
  • Tell people what this person would like others to understand.
  • Explain how the addiction first began and then progressed.
  • Warn others that addictive substances kill valuable people.
  • Describe how you feel, what you learned the hard way, and what you would like changed.


  • Connect people in need with people who are supportive and informed
  • Point out when others use insulting or simplistic terms for a complicated problem: junkie, loser, scumbag, tested dirty, etc.
  • Work to redefine the problem using words that accurately link addictive substances together, not just drugs given by doctors versus drugs sought out illegally.
  • Defend people with addictions so that others will approach them with support and not an egotistical attitude.
  • Connect with the friends of the deceased person because they might be the next to die, and they are just as human, trapped, hurting, and scared.
  • Befriend people with addictions by asking and listening without judging or lecturing because they need to feel accepted, loved, understood.
  • Reach out to other families who are trying to save their loved ones; you know how alone they feel, and you might be able to help them avoid the pain you are feeling.


  • Campaign for change
  • Write to anyone you can find in power and demand policy change.
  • Explain how the system made getting help difficult or impossible.
  • Explain how judging substance addiction is the real problem.


  • Grieve
  • Reach out, join groups, and find support.
  • Cry. You didn’t deserve this!

If you the reader can add to this list please do. I have been rethinking my son’s death for 4 years, and I made many mistakes in what I should and should not have done. Looking back I wish someone told me what to do, but instead I felt numbed by the singularity of my experience. Part of the numbness was due to the lack of any discussion by those who had lost someone due to overdose. Another big reason for my tendency to grieve alone was the stigma of addiction and death by an illegal substance. Once I started reaching out, the people with addictions themselves were my saviors. So, don’t make the mistakes I made, and add anything you learned  so I can update this list for the next poor soul who stumbles upon this post.

Is substance addiction a disease? I say no!

I would like to throw a wrench into this disease definition machine. I am one of the few you will hear that cringes when addiction is explained as a “disease”. This term or definition is erroneous, simplistic, and undignified in my Aristotelian  formed opinion. On one hand, the definition is needed so that people can receive insurance benefits for treatment, so in that it is pragmatic. However, if we continue to define how people suffer in current evolutionary terms, we will never truly arrive at the fully understood solution. Addiction is not a simple disease, and we cannot approach it with a medical cure or vaccine. The idea that everything has a medical solution, and that being a chemical or genetic cause, is archaic and harmful to the advance of human health initiatives. Not only is this term negating the cause and affect of addictive substance reaction, the term is allowing for more of these substances to enter into profit margins and sales campaigns.

People who are experiencing addiction did not catch a virus, do not have faulted DNA, and do not have abnormally growing cells; they have been poisoned. They were formed and progressed normally through childhood. When they experienced a substance that affected their system more profoundly than in the other 80% of the population, they experienced a euphoria that others may not comprehend. Without the poisonous substance, they would not be in bondage to a feeling that others do not experience.

The definition of ‘diseased’ adds to the stigma of imperfection and in need of medical intervention pervasive in modern society. The medical system is to blame for placing these substances on the market, yet they blame the victims for being diseased. People with substance addictions are in bondage to medicine, chemicals, or whatever else enters their systems, and they were unaware of the risks because pharmaceutical companies hide or disregard the euphoric feeling a large portion of our population experiences. Once this feeling is experienced, the individual cannot find anything in life so pleasing. Some individuals are wired with different endorphin receptors, it is that simple. By calling this phenomenon a disease, we are allowing society to label a reaction to poison as the fault of the individual who ingested it due to a diseased system. This “epidemic” (another disease reference used to describe the death rate from opioid overdose) is not so simplistic as saying someone’s system is not operating correctly. This is a rewiring of their whole system. Addiction is a form of bondage, and the companies who produce and market this poison should not be allowed to blame the consumer for putting heroin, a known and banned substance, in our general population.

Consider this: Heroin and opium were banned because of the damage they do to a population (i.e. China). Pharmaceutical companies are selling more heroin and opium under the pseudonym “opioid pain relievers” without any blame. How do they do this? They blame the consumer for being diseased and keep many in bondage by providing more chemicals to ease the long recovery period, around 2 years on more opioids.

Consider this: Someone who deals heroin on the street can receive years in jail, yet any doctor can prescribe the same doses without a court order. Someone who accepts heroin on the street will be entered into the penal system with a searchable record, yet this same record will make finding employment or housing almost impossible. Most medical professionals have employment and comfortable housing.

This is not a diseased individual but a diseased system: American sells heroin with the properly signed documentation, becomes disgusted when individuals experience total loss of facilities to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, penalizes individuals for trying to avoid the pain of withdrawal, gives more heroin for pain avoidance to individuals with bouts of pain, and then defines anyone who cannot stand face to face with heroin/opiates/opioids/Vicodin/Oxytocin/oxycodone/etc. and win as diseased.

Expedition and the Business of Addiction

“The stronger this faculty is, the more necessary it is for it to be combined with integrity and supreme wisdom, and if we bestow fluency of speech on persons devoid of those virtues, we shall not have made orators of them, but shall have put weapons into the hands of madmen”-Cicero, De Oratore III: xiv. 55.

* * * Geheime Reichssache (Secret Reich Business) Berlin, June 5, 1942

Changes for special vehicles now in service at Kulmhof (Chelmno) and for those now being built

Since December 1941, ninety-seven thousand have been processed [verarbeitet in German] by the three vehicles in service, with no major incidents. In the light of observations made so far, however, the following technical changes are needed:

[l.] The vans’ normal load is usually nine per square yard. In Saurer vehicles, which are very spacious, maximum use of space is impossible, not because of any possible overload, but because loading to full capacity would affect the vehicle’s stability. So reduction of the load space seems necessary. It must absolutely be reduced by a yard, in­ stead of trying to solve the problem, as hitherto, by reducing the number of pieces loaded. Besides, this extends the operating time, as the empty void must also be filled with carbon monoxide. On the other hand, if the load space is reduced, and the vehicle is packed solid, the operating time can be considerably shortened. The manufacturers told us during a discussion that reducing the size of the van’s rear would throw it badly off balance. The front axle, they claim, would be over­ loaded. In fact, the balance is automatically restored, because the merchandise aboard displays during the operation a natural tendency to rush to the rear doors, and is mainly found lying there at the end of the operation. So the front axle is not overloaded.

2.The lighting must be better protected than now. The lamps must be enclosed in a steel grid to prevent their being damaged. Lights could be eliminated, since they apparently are never used . However, it has been observed that when the doors are shut, the load always presses hard against them as soon as darkness sets in. This is because the load naturally rushes toward the light when darkness sets in, which makes closing the doors difficult. Also, because of the alarming nature of darkness, screaming always occurs when the doors are closed. It would therefore be useful to light the lamp before and during the first moments of the operation .

3.For easy cleaning of the vehicle , there must be a sealed drain in the middle of the floor. The drainage hole’s cover, eight to twelve inches in diameter, would be equipped with a slanting trap, so that fluid liquids can drain off during the operation. During cleaning, the drain can be used to evacuate large pieces of dirt.

The aforementioned technical changes are to be made to vehicles in service only when they come in for repairs. As for the ten vehicles ordered from Saurer, they must be equipped with all innovations and changes shown by use and experience to be necessary.

Submitted for decision to Gruppenleiter II D,

SS-Obersturmbannfiihrer Walter Rauff .

Signed: Just

Excerpts taken from The Ethic of Expediency by Steven B. Katz, College English, Volume 54, Number 3, March 1992, 255:

We have seen that Just’s memo is based purely on expediency; the memo itself is a technical instrument (like the vans themselves) for carrying out the organizational “task.” I have also already pointed out how in Aristotle’s conception of deliberative rhetoric, expediency seems to be the primary virtue. Deliberative rhetoric is expedient when it serves its end, that is, political persuasion. The test of success in Aristotelian rhetoric is in the persuasion of the audience (the so-called “audience criterion”). As “the art or faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion” (Rhetoric I. ii. 1355 b26), then, rhetoric could be considered a means to an end, an expedient, a techne.

Hitler takes the ethic of expediency underlying deliberative rhetoric to its logical extreme. For Hitler, propaganda, the truest form of “technical rhetoric,” replaced deliberative discourse as the preferred mode of communicating with the masses:

The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. (Mein Kampf, page 46)

Based on the ethic of expediency, rhetoric for Hitler was pure technique, de­signed not to encourage debate, but rather to indoctrinate: “all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan”; the reason, Hitler adds, is that “As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and the end entirely cancelled out.”

The ethic of expediency in extremis and combined with technology underlies the rhetoric of Just’s memo to the SS and the holocaust in general. But to some extent, technological (i.e., economic) expediency is the “moral” basis of many decisions/actions in our society that sometimes harm human welfare or imperil human life. A recent example would be the decision not to notify the public of the bomb threat to Pan Am Airlines to keep the airlines operating; in December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York exploded over Locherbee, Scotland, killing all two hundred and seventy people on board. Ethically speaking, the difference is only one of degree, not kind. The decision not to notify the public was a “systems decision,” concerned more with the “efficient” operation of the transportation system than with the people the system is supposed to serve. In any highly bureaucratic, technological, capitalistic society, it is often the human being who must adapt to the system which has been developed to perform a specific function, and which is thus always necessarily geared toward the continuance of its own efficient operation.

Michel Foucault, French Philosopher:

‘Truth’ is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements.

‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it. A ‘regime’ of truth.

In reference to the above literature on power, truth making, and expedition in our work, I would like to pose a few questions to readers:

  1. How can people redefine certain individuals as addicts? I believe this is a dehumanizing term, one filled with semantic technique that is designed to reduce humans to a single characteristic: weak-minded. Those with addictions are so much more than this simplistic term.
  2. Why are highly addictive drugs given out without an repercussions for the harm they do? I believe this expedites a system we all believe is based on scientific reason: life should never include pain of any kind, and we should trust the system engineers overseeing pharmaceutical science.
  3. What would change if addiction were not a crime? I believe those suffering would speak up and not run in fear: giving over one’s whole body to be controlled and monitored in locked facilities make people afraid to talk.
  4. What are the terms used by technical professionals concerning addiction? Disease, rehabilitation, patients, beds, treatment facilities, mental illness, and impulsivity.
  5. How much money is involved in making, incarcerating, and treating people with addictions? If addiction was completely gone tomorrow, our economy would plummet. Pharmaceutical companies, lawyers, law enforcers, prison guards, counseling center staff, in patient facility employees and investors, and anyone who makes a profit off making or controlling humans with addictions would be out of an income.
  6. Why are those with addictions so uninvolved in this system? I believe they would make sure they were not boxed without lights, were not transported without being the driver, were not defined by unfeeling scientists, and were not tattooed with a criminal record.
  7. Why do addiction treatment facilities advertise so heavily yet so exclusively? They are tied to profit. They are business-minded. So, their rhetoric must be designed to get people with insurance into their beds and paying their therapists.
  8. Do addiction businesses pay to lobby against pharmaceutical companies? I doubt it.
  9. Do addiction businesses donate to addiction charities? No, they typically don’t.
  10. Do you want to help humans suffering with addictions?

I believe we need to redefine ourselves, our loved ones, and the terms used to describe what is happening.

I refuse to say addiction is a diseasea disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance. I don’t have a simple term because the whole problem isn’t simple. We need to let people define themselves.

I believe we need to stop expediting how we deal with addiction. Expedition: useful for effecting a desired result; suited to the circumstances or the occasion; advantageous; convenient; based on or offering what is of use or advantage rather than what is right or just; guided by self-interest.

I believe we need to hear the voices of people battling addiction more than professionals. Addicts will tell us how it all began, what is keeping them down, how they really feel, and why they are turning to something besides other people to feel good. The professional community argues opinions based on observations, and only those with backing get published. This muddies the rhetoric being published. The addicts already know, but they are not published unless they are rich, famous, or somehow going to make someone a profit. We need to ask for, listen to, and value their opinions more often.

I believe all the rhetoric surrounding addiction is associated with power through humiliation. Humility toward the power of the addictive substance is quite different from walking naked through a crowd of onlookers. The whole “I am stronger than you, so do what I do” message needs to change to “I am the same as you in my humanness, but I really don’t understand how you must feel trying to fight this alone.” This should be followed by handing the person the power to cover their nakedness.

Do you agree?

Matt’s mom, Jane

Christmas 2009, depressing.

Photo: Matt age 3

December 21, Monday, 2009 (5/10)

Boring day, except that I made my way to Cindy’s because I was so depressed.  She took pity on me and gave me 5 perks, which changed and brightened my day.

I’m coming to discover how deeply addicted to opiates I am, no matter how many sober days I put together I always end up falling apart and moving backwards.  I need to approach it from a better direction I think.  Somehow I really need out.

The winter is so very cold.  I cannot wait until it ends.

Intake: 50 mg oxyco oral

December 22, Tuesday, 2009 (5.5/10)

Today, shot down on I raise at work.  I asked for a raise a week ago, and today I was told “No, economy is bad. Obama will kill us with healthcare taxes.” Bullshit!!!  They have more than enough money to pay me $9/ hour like they should for running that damn kitchen.

John has been in a good mood lately, but I have been “hiding” from him nonetheless.  Don’t really know why I have been avoiding him, but I do, and it isn’t very healthy.

And Christmas will be depressing this year.  I’m thinking about the end of the decade, and I’ve damned near wasted the whole thing!!!

Intake: Ø day 1

December 23, Wednesday, 2009 (6/10)

Found my red pen!!  Great for journal entries that find me using opiates.  I hope to use it not as much in the coming months and years.

Cindy gave me quite a scare today.  I was supposed to go to do her floors for her today; when I called Lenny answered and told me he was rushing Cindy to the hospital because he thought she was having a stroke.  I got super worried, but it turned out later that she merely had a bad reaction to a new medication she was given for headaches, Topamax, or something like that.

The other day Cindy told me that April had been arrested and would be in jail for a while.  From what I’ve gathered she got all fu**ed up (opiates) and missed a corner, took her car into the ditch.  It seems she wasn’t injured too badly, but police arrived and she was arrested.  She most likely has new charges as well as they sign a revocation and going back to prison for some more of her sons.  It’s really a damn shame; she is too beautiful to be such a horrible junkie.  She already has done two years in prison, and she is facing a lot more time.  I bet that she will be sitting in county for a long time, and if they don’t send her back to prison, she will most likely be transferred to a very secure in-patient treatment for more than a few months.  Sad, sad tale.  I’ve rarely met anyone with this bad of a habit as she has.  It’s just such a severe drug problem, incredible.

I hope that my fate is never the same. I run the same risks for fucking around with dope like I do, but right now my habit barely compares with anything “problematic”, at least not socially, not yet anyways.  I wish I had never tasted opiates, that I could simply put down the needle forever, but it’s proving to be so very hard; still I fight, still a struggle, one day I will win!

I got my vikes filled today, probably the last refill I’ll get on those until my doctor comes back from Florida, which I don’t know when that will be.  I have a very powerful lust for opiates lately, more than is normal for the past few months.  I was (and still am) furiously trying to find something that I can inject, that’s what I’m looking for tonight and all day tomorrow.  I have the cash.  It’s only a matter of time now until someone connects with some “shotgun shells,” as I like to call them.  Still don’t know what I’m doing for Christmas.  It’s either with Cindy and her family or alone with my pills.  I’d almost rather be fucked up alone, we’ll see.

Intake: 1(95 mg hydroco, smoked)

Do you feel like Matt? Why?

(I remember calling Matt this year, but never did he mention any of these thoughts. I imagine we often do not tell people how we really are feeling when asked, “So, how you doing?” I would like to change that canned phrase by telling people that I ‘really’ want to know, and I have to time to discuss the depth such a question entails. Matt’s mom)

Can we talk about addiction?

Remember when we couldn’t talk about ‘certain’ topics: br**st cancer, homos**uality, relig**n? Well, lately I have been talking about a sickness that has to do with the search for love and meaning. After I saw all the guys wearing the pink breast support T-shirts, everyone now has a rainbow on their bumpers, and my afterlife philosophy is based on love not judgement, I decided to start talking openly about addiction. I don’t clear the room anymore.

I still do get those sad eyes and uncomfortably long periods of silence while others are thinking. Then, the one old stoner guy in the crowd opens up and everyone joins in.

People want to talk about their losses, fears, and questions. Too long our culture languished in polite, super short conversations about addicts, which only meant someone else’s kid (who was a rotten degenerate) and a chart of statistics on poor people. Addicts’ lives were too real and immediate for anyone to really understand the relationships, the relief, and the reality associated with an addiction. Now everyone knows an addict, is an addict, or lost an addict. We are everywhere, and they can no longer hide us in caskets devoted to a singular tragedy.

Finally, Helen is Reddy and roaring, but the tune is “I am addiction hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore, and I know too much to go back and pretend.” They can’t ignore our losses, and they are startint to ask us to be a part of the conversation. At some point addicts and their loved ones need to speak up, but many are still afraid to tell the truth. They can’t always find someone who understands, and many still are hiding the truth due to the reactions. Just like Helen Reddy’s hit single, we want this single to hit the charts and change the reaction to our engendered group. Addicts and their loved ones are under-respected, and the stereotype needs to get rewritten to include who we are, what we are, and why we are.


Sit awhile and talk with Matt Edwards. He died at age 25, but he is still talking. Please join your voice to Matt’s and show the world that addicts are worth loving, understanding, and saving by putting a few dollars toward getting this film to production. We need to change the conversation to include us, the addicts and the ones who love them.



Junkies! Addicts! Pill Heads! and all you who don’t have a voice!

A gathering of voices is beginning!

Please add your voice, your story, your spirit (no matter how broken) to this project. In 2010 my wonderful son died of his addiction. He wasn’t a degenerate, but the world has labeled him one. He was valuable. They wrote him off and put him in jail although he never hurt another human being, only himself.

I want you all to have your stories told and the dignity of these men, women, and children reinstated.

Please visit this film project and add your story!


After you add your voice, watch the beginnings of a film. It isn’t complete, so please add your story to this independent film project. We need to tell the WHOLE story.