My late son and I are featured in this Halton article that was front page news in all of the Halton newspapers on Thursday. Pete died 19 years ago of his opioid overdose (Dec 23 2001). He was only 25 years old. As you can tell from the picture, my grief, loss, trauma and pain is still quite noticeable in my eyes. My heart is still broken. I believe my grief and loss is growing because every time I hear of another overdose my heart shatters again for the loss of another person, and all the family & friends impacted. 19 years later and the opioid overdose deaths and opioid harms continue to spiral out of control. We MUST do better. Addiction is a health care issue!!
Here is the link to the article:
I also decided to add an excerpt to a speech I did for the launch of Roadmap to Wellness Mar 2020 just before the world shut down due to COVID.
A Mother, Her Son & the Impact of Stigma:
Both my late son and I struggled with substance use/addiction and mental health issues. Pete died Dec 23 2001, at age 25, from an accidental mixed drug overdose. Oxycontin medication mixed with psychiatric medication. That is how he ‘technically died’....but in fact he died from loss of hope and the pervasive feeling that the world did not care about him. That he was an ‘addict’. That it was his fault. No matter what I did, I could not love my son back to wellness or restore his dignity. In large part because I did not have any self worth myself. That had been stripped from me too- An indelible stain that was left over from when I too was considered a useless addict.
Care providers could not get us out of the room fast enough. We, at separate times in our journeys became the ‘elephant in the room’. We were not wanted. We were considered to be hard to manage. We were dismissed as non-compliant because of our relapses. We were blamed, shamed and often told that others who really wanted to get better needed the space that we were taking up. That is how it felt.....and on top of all of that....society dismissed us as drug using misfits who ‘choose that lifestyle’.
Pete and I were both impacted by so many layers of STIGMA at so many intersections of our collective journeys. Stigma contributes to the destruction of life. It is a barrier to care and is culpable in many deaths. It is inherently dangerous to any vulnerable demographic because it is a bully and it breeds loud bullies that define, limit and restrict choice.....particularly harm reduction choices. It has this innate ability to de-humanize us.
To me, as a person with lived experience who received care but very little actual ‘caring’- and as a bereaved mother who watched her haunted son turn into a ghost that nobody seemed to care about; it is all about the foundational layer of caring about each other. It is about the human connection. It is about all of us being treated humanely. We all need to feel valued, respected and treated in a decent, dignified and empowering way. That is what nurtures hope and healing.