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.

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.



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 21, Wednesday 2009 rated 5 (strange thing happened–realization about the world)

Today was busy for a Wednesday at work.  I finally convinced them to put a third man on Wednesday night.  I’m really starting to get burned out with the routine.  It’s been quite the struggle at that place lately, so much for 2 people to get accomplished.  Other than that, I’m happy there.  I don’t dread going to work anymore; I get along well with the people there; it beats the shit out of Subway, so I always remember that at least.

Something quite strange happened today; Leah, a girl I was friends with back in my Subway days, called me at 1:30 in the morning.  That in itself isn’t outrageously strange, but when she started asking me if I knew where to get any cocaine it became strange.  I haven’t spoken to or seen this girl in months, probably 3 months, so it caught me really off guard.  Of course, I told her that I didn’t know where to get anything (I really don’t; I don’t mess with coke; it’s really no fun). Anyways, I saw today that she had called me on my caller ID while I was at work.  I called her back to discover that she thought she had OD’d on coke.  She had been smoking it, and she thought that she had a tad too much.  I told her to find some Valium and if she couldn’t that she should go to the E.R.  Damn, I’ve been departing from drugs lately.  I notice, it seems a lot more, how messed up that whole world is, just sickening to me more and more.  Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Intake: Ø day 3, a little alcohol

Wed. Oct. 14, 2009 rated 4 (I sold April out, uhrgh, want to save her life)

Page 100 of journal! Weird, but this is the 100th post too.

Today at work I had a conference with _______ and Elta for about an hour, all about April and what happened last night.  I had to out her, had no other choice.  I told them all about April and the heroin she had and all the lies.  We called my P.O.  and I told her the whole story was well.  That was tought, breaking the cold of silence, but it was absolutely necessary.  April is a danger to herself and everyone around her.  She would end up dead if someone didn’t intervene.  She will be in a world of shit now.  I feel like I sold her out! but I felt a force inside that pushed me towards it, inexplicable.  I just hope I don’t get caught up in all of this and go down with her too.

April called me today trying to convince me that she could fix everything by telling some more lies. This time she wants to tell everyone she’s pregnant–just sick.  I don’t think I’ll be seeing April much anymore; we’re not going to be friends, I don’t think.

Intake:  heroin 1 shot IV

(For anyone reading this, just imagine what this was like reading this as Matt’s mom. I was so thankful to receive these journals, but really felt so guilt ridden. Any parent out there reading needs to realize this: If your child had a drug problem ever, look closer at the now. Look really close and listen like you are on trial, because you are. I listened like a rock skipped across the water, like listening to the neighbor’s dog, like I listened at meetings that were not about me. I just didn’t pick up on the little hints, the inconsistencies. Either that or when I heard these inconsistencies I pounced like a panther on his throat. I was thinking that I could treat him like he was 14 or something. Well, he did act like it… Problem was that he needed to be treated like he was 24. He needed to hear, “Oh, wow, really? So, let’s look at this for what it is. Isn’t life hard? You know what happened to me once….” If I had been less like the whip and more like the cooling towel he may have told me this story, and I wouldn’t have had to wait until after he was dead a year to read it. Upon reading this I was dumb (not able to speak). Thankfully I am now a bit less dumb (able to hear and speak). I listen much better now. I even smile when I listen now. Actually, I don’t even force my advice! I give it, but I also make sure to let the other listener know that I really don’t know it all, like I thought when I did know it all….

So, what would you tell someone who told you this? Would you give advice? I am struggling with what I would have said to Matt if he had told me this episode in his short life. I am actually still wondering what someone can/should/ could say to turn this situation around for Matt.

Matt’s mom)”