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.

Do:

  • 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.

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.

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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.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1928235665/written-off-the-short-sad-beautiful-life-of-matt-e

 

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!

https://www.facebook.com/mattsjournals

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.

Documentary Film, Matt can rewrite addiction to include Love!


Please watch the film’s trailer to see some of the footage already created.

Matt’s story, journal, and sadly beautiful life has a chance to touch and change the hearts of millions. The people who knew Matt best want to help narrate his journals and life in an independent film project, which will reach those millions. Matt loved his journals for a reason, they tell the Truth. Your help can get this truth to the general public.

Please place this link on your social media, and please consider supporting this independent film project. We all should have our names on the credits. Imagine all the names we can add! So many of us are unheard. This is your opportunity to make our voices loud. Join the struggle to remove the stigma!
In other words, please show your love to Matt and all addicts like him by simply reposting.
Together, we can change the stigma, the reaction, the approach, the rhetoric, the whole stupid mess prescription drug addictions cause in our country, families, and lives!
Sincere thanks for reposting,
Matt’s Mom

October 31, Halloween, Saturday 2009 rated 4.75

I was in a sour mood all night at work; didn’t really say anything to anybody all night long.  People were dressed up, and everyone had plans to go out and party somewhere.  I came home, smoked a bowl and listened to music by myself–went to bed early.  Hell of a night.  I could have gone out and done something with Pat. I hadn’t the motivation to do so.

I take these breaks every two weeks or so, breaks from my antidepressants.  I really notice the depression creep back in, especially if I’m smoking weed.  I go off of it because if I partied my vicodin with my TCA, I wouldn’t be able to wake up  in the mornings!!! I’ve thankfully been able to reserve myself to just my vikes this week and only $36 cost–half of last paycheck’s total.  I’m just itching to go to Ukraine and do something worth bragging about.  I have a plan and now I am moving more steadily towards it.  I need to  be proud of who I am once again, need to be worthy once again of a woman’s love.

Intake: 3(50 mg hydroco oral, smoked)