Tonight I finished the checking of the interior proof of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. As I said in an earlier post, the interior design of the book is so beautiful it still makes my throat tighten with emotion every time I look at it.
It seems fitting that I would finish proofing a book about losing someone to an overdose on International Overdose Awareness Day — although that was never my plan. Every single day, thousands of lives are lost to overdoses — the CDC estimates that more than 72,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2017.
Let that number sink in for a moment. More than 72,000 people. 72,000 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Husbands and wives. Best friends. Cousins.
More than 63,000 died in 2016. More than 72,000 in 2017, and the projections are that more than that will die in 2018. These numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing. If
We continue to have this idea that overdoses only happen in dark alleys or flop houses, and only to the homeless, the unloved, the outcasts of society. Yes, people die of overdoses in flop houses and in dark alleys. They also die of overdoses in mansions, cottages, apartments. They die loved and mourned (even as they live), as their families and loved ones agonize over them. Many of them wait, begging for support and services of mental health organizations, in a system overwhelmed by need, and bogged down by insurance and payment red-tape.
Every single one of those more than 72,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 was someone’s daughter or son, a child born into this world full of promise and potential, and no matter what, that promise and potential was taken from this world.
So today, as everyday, I live my life as a mother who lost one of the lights of her life to an overdose. Sam did not die in a flop house unloved, he died in his grandparents’ house, surrounded by absolute love and acceptance. Sam was not an outcast of society, he had a job, had incredible friends and a loving family, and showed love and light to everyone he met.
And an overdose still took him from us, and we can’t change that.
So I ask you, no, beg you to stop and think about how you view those struggling with addiction. Do you talk down about them? Think of them as weak or unable to control themselves? Would you feel the same if instead they were diabetic?
This is the face of an overdose in the United States. This beloved, joy-filled face — and today, as I finished proofing the book, I pledge again to not hide from how Sam died, nor to shun or vilify others who have died or who are struggling with addiction.