The Nightmare of Who My Dad Was

I had a nightmare last night of who my dad really was, and knowing that I’ll never have time with him again broke my heart this morning.

When I think of the man my dad was I think of an intelligent, gentle, kind, and caring dad. He was so organized, clean, and down to earth. He couldn’t stand a speck of dirt on his white shoes. He spoke with sweetness and curiosity. Because of the disease he suffered with, he sat on the couch slumped, half asleep, with food spilling from his mouth all over his shirt he had been sleeping in for days. His eyes were glossed and he slurred his sentences. I couldn’t stand the sight, and he couldn’t stand himself.


When I think of the man with the disease I understand why it was his time to go. He was very sick, hurting physically and mentally. You could hear it in his voice, you could see it from his frail body.

When I think of the dad that raised me into who I am, I feel robbed of so much time. From the time he relapsed to the time he spent in prison for crimes he committed under the influence. The times where the disease controlled him. All that time, where my real dad, the one that gave me countless lessons on how we should help others, that time was so short. So today I woke up after a nightmare.

In my nightmare my dad and I were going for a ride, probably to Boston from our home because we loved to take that trip for a fun adventure in the city when I was young. In the nightmare I remember so vividly resting my head on my dad’s shoulder and him telling me he loved me. We sang in the dream, like we always did together, and I giggled and so did he. A car suddenly jammed on their breaks in front of me and my dad tried to swerve. In the nightmare the part where we were flying through the air from the impact into the guardrail lasted what felt like 3 minutes although I’m sure in a real accident it would last 5 seconds. While in the air my dad looked at me with fear and regret. I looked at him back love and acceptance. Finally after what felt like those 3 minutes the car landed into an empty lot and we were both okay. He looked at me in the eyes and said I’m sorry.

At this part of my nightmare I started coming to. I started opening my eyes lightly to reality. But you know when you’re in that part of your dream where you know you’re self but you still don’t know what’s real? I said to myself, “Wow! That was scary, I have to call my dad tomorrow, I really miss him.” Then in a panic I really jolted awake. Have I not talked to my dad in that long of time or is he really gone? Is he really gone? This can’t be. How can this be?

I have nightmares almost every night. Usually there much more violent. Usually my dad is so high he can’t talk and I try to get him to come with me but he can’t move. They take place in our old house in Carver and someone is always chasing us and trying to kill us. Usually my dad is sick in my dreams. I wake up with a bad feeling but no heartache.

Today I woke up with a heartache that I haven’t felt before. Because of my dads disease I wasn’t able to see him as often as I’d liked. So sometimes we wouldn’t talk for a week or two and still I felt it in my heart that he was with me. I woke up yearning for that call. But the moments when we could talk were so beautiful and up-lifting. I can’t explain to you how wonderful of a man my dad really was. He was so funny and sweet and always spoke his mind. He didn’t tolerate talking bad about others and he always was honest. He would sing and repeat you to be funny, even if he knew it got on your nerves. He’d pinch my ear and make fun of my tiny size. And then he’d hold my hand and tell me how lucky he is that I’m alive. He was everything to me. When we’d talk my energy would rise from a 1 to a 11. If I had a bad day or something on my mind he’d ease all my worries.

All I want today was to talk to my dad. Today I am remembering the man my dad really was and not about his disease and today I have cried a lot and it’s only 8:30am.


I miss you dad. One day I’ll tell my children about the man that you were: a smart, intelligent, kind, protective, funny, and slightly annoying (on purpose) dad. There’s a lot of people, including me, working to change the way we view this disease and to show others that this disease isn’t who the person is. Although it’s hard pill to swallow that behind the disease I lost the greatest man in my life, I will continue to remember who you truly were and that that is the person I lost years before you passed away and I’m so sorry we didn’t have a solution for you.

Shatterproof Boston 5k Rise Up Against Addiction

Today I was able to participate in the Shatterproof 5k in Boston to rise up against addiction. The event was special in every single way. I began volunteering with Shatterproof as an ambassador a month after my dad passed away. I wanted to find a nonprofit that I could learn from, meet others who have gone through what I have, and most importantly that I believed in their cause. Shatterproof name says it all, it’s tagline even more. Stronger than addiction. Although my dad passed from the disease, he was stronger than addiction. After 9 months of volunteering with the wonderful Erin Barfield, Community Engagement Manager, I was at the big event with the love of my life beside me.

The Event

We arrived at 8am. It was a true fall day, the air was crisp but the sky was blue. The fog was beginning to break and there were about 50 people in the open fields next to the Franklin Park Zoo. Most people had on an orange t-shirt that said “Shatterproof Volunteer”. As we got our t-shirts and race bibs, more and more people began flowing in. A lot of people had custom shirts made with their loved ones names on it. Shirts had sayings on them too like, “Above the Stigma,” and “Recovery,” and one that I loved, “Boston Medical Center vs. Addiction.”

We were all their for someone and everyone had a smile on their face and a look of compassion for one another. We wanted to hear others stories just as much as we wanted to share ours. The beautiful thing is that everyone did so without guilt, embarrassment or judgement. Shatterproof created a community of people who were compassionate, caring, and supportive.

As the sun began to break behind the fog music began playing. At first it was upbeat and energizing music. People across the field broke out in dance, especially the little kids. I noticed a beautiful long red haired woman radiating with a big white smile dancing who looked oddly familiar to a fellow ambassador, but I knew it wasn’t her. I thought, “maybe they’re related.”

As the event was a half an hour away from race time a familiar but slower song began to play.

When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you

I was choked up with a knot in my throat as the words made so much sense to why all of us were here and what this race meant to us. A woman behind me crying made it harder not to cry. I then noticed we weren’t the only two who were moved by the song.

The Speakers

Then came the incredible speeches by Darshak Sanghavi (@darshaksanghavi), Michael Botticelli (@MBotticelliBMC), Brendan Little (@blittle86), Dr. Mallika Marshall (@MallikaMarshall) and many more.

The CEO and founder of Shatterproof, Gary Mendell (LinkedIn), spoke about his son.  It was familiar the way he described the last visit his son had at his house. He told his dad he wanted to be better and he was really trying but that it was really hard. All he wanted to do was make his dad proud. “Even more tragic it wasn’t just addiction that took my sons life, it was the feeling of shame he felt everyday when he opened his eyes.”

Gary Mendell felt his sons pain the same way I felt my dads pain. In my dads last phone call you can hear the pain and shame in his voice. He told me, he wish he hadn’t been a failure to me. What I wanted my dad to know and what I want everyone who is struggling to know is that he is not a failure because he had a disease. You are not a failure because of the disease you have and we all want you to not only hear that but feel it in your hearts. That day with all 1,800 people standing in front of the Shatterproof stage, we could all feel it. I wish my dad could’ve been there to see how far we’ve come. I wish Gary Mendell’s son could be there too, and all the other children, parents, grandparents, and friends who lost a love one to addiction.

Brendan Little shared his incredible story as well. At the age of 11 he struggled with addiction and by the time he was 15, he was in a recovery program. Now Brendan is Policy Director at Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services. He spoke on Mayor @marty_walsh‘s and told the story of when they were trying to get permits for addiction services in a Greater Boston town. The staff member said something along the lines of “We don’t want those people in this part of town.”  To which he responded, “Those people you’re talking about are me and mayor Walsh, so you might want to reconsider.” As hurtful as that statement could be, that comeback was a grand slam out the park.

Michael Botticelli gave a compelling speech on addiction and health care, a topic that was brought to my attention as a big issue in the last two years of my dads life. You can read more about my experience with my dad on health care policies for addiction here. Botticelli gave me hope with his passion and desire for change as well as his examples of walking the walk.



Remember that girl I saw dancing and having a great time that I thought looked like my fellow ambassador? Dr. Mallika Marshall began introducing a woman, a Shatterproof Ambassador, that had struggled with addiction and now is sober. When I looked to my right there she was. I met her the first time at a tabling event at the International Overdose Awareness event hosted by Heroin is Killing my Town. I didn’t know she had struggled herself with addiction.

As she spoke about her story, she shared how lonely and scary it was to struggle and how in order to forget the pain and embarrassment it fueled the addiction more. Then she said  bravely she knew if she didn’t stop, she would die and she was ready for help. She looked up towards the crowd of 1800 people and then down towards the front, she said “I was so relieved that I had my friends and family there.” She was looking at the woman that I saw dancing earlier. I noticed she was with others too, both older and younger. Her family looked at her so proudly and suddenly I was overcome with emotions.

It was so beautiful to see her speak proudly about her sobriety. She ended her speech with a message to those who were struggling. “Look around you,” she said. “Addiction is so lonely even when people are around. But today 1,800 people are here as a community. Together.” I once again felt so proud to be a Shatterproof ambassador and to have the privilege to meet her and hear her story.

It truly was a beautiful day. Thank you so much to the people that donated to Shatterproof. The donations are going to amazing work being done for the opioid epidemic. Rynnie Cotter, Misti Cain, Hayden Voss, Richard Knox, Ryan Hana, Alex Ciullo, Eric Leone, Ryan Cook, and Nick. Thank you.

Join My Shatterproof Team Next Year, 2019.

Next year I want to get a big team together and make it bigger and better than this year. If you’d like to join my team, Rising Hope, in honor of your loved one email me at It’s a walk/run so even if you’re not a runner you can participate. I’d love for you to be apart of this wonderful event with me. If you’re reading from out of state, there are races all over the nation. Find out more here.





Inspired: Letter to Kanye West

I wrote an email to Kanye West and I’m not sure he’ll ever read it. When I get inspired by someone, no matter how famous or not they are, I have to write to them. I feel the burning in my heart and the passion. I know they may never read it, but I have to put it out there just in case. I’ve never had luck with reaching back, not surprisingly, but that’s okay! I got it out on paper, or the screen, so I’m happy to share with others too. I recently listened to Kanye West’s Jimmy Kimmel Interview. If you haven’t listened yet, do it. It’s awesome. Obviously everyone has their own interpretations of things but I felt he spoke to me on another level with everything he said. I’m not going to share the full email I wrote him, but I did share the story of my dad, of course, and I want to share it because I was able to paint our story in a new way. It’s kind of beautiful. What happens in the story of course never changes but the landscape of how to look at it changes with every new perspective someone can give me from it. Isn’t life beautiful like that. It’s also a reminder to form your own happy story about your life, or else no matter what happens in life, you’ll turn it into a bad one instead of a good one. 🙂


Kanye West.

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I was listening to your interview on YouTube with Jimmy Kimmel and you mentioned that someone emailed you about committing suicide and you read it. SO.. since I might only get one shot at having this dialogue with you it might be long. And in case you only read this first part the most important thing I want to say is thank you for being the voice that a lot of people are afraid to have. I want to share what I took from what you said and I hope that you do read this and that you know that you really touched my heart.

My dad died this year from opioid addiction. At the end of the interview you said “I don’t know anyone who has f**ked up as much as I have and still be successful so I want to prove that you can get fat you can say the wrong things you can piss off a whole city…”. My dad relapsed when I was 13 and it was really hard because we were best friends and when I say that I mean it. We hung out together more than I hung out with friends and he was the one that took me to go bra shopping, learn how to do makeup, Britney Spears concerts etc. I never would’ve known in my first 13 years he had this struggle because he did so much for me and took me everywhere with him. When he was at the methadone clinic everyday, I didn’t think twice about it. He told me he was sick but this made him feel better and he’d be ok. Ever since his relapsed he struggled. From 13 to 16 he was in and out of jail, switching from crack cocaine to heroin to eventually doctor prescribed pain meds. At 17 he was arrested for a really big crime he did under the influence. I graduated high school and it killed him to not be there. He kept a binder full of my awards LAMINATED and showed it off to his friends like I won an Emmy before he went to prison. Then I went to college and that was tough because I didn’t relate to the kids there. I really wanted him to be there. When I graduated it really crushed him because he missed those 4 years of my life and another milestone. As his pride and joy and the reason for me going to college, he hated he couldn’t be there. In  October of 2015, a few months after my graduation he was released. We both romanticized it. We wanted to take over the world. We wanted to spend every day together. But after 5 years, no way to get a job, and a lot of bills to catch up on, he became severely depressed. He couldn’t get a job with his record and his health condition. He had to be in the streets to make money. He was so scared of ‘messing up’ that I think it really drove him to relapse. I would too if I felt the weight he did on his shoulders. I loved him everyday and we still had that friendship, but he learned to hate himself instead of feel the love I had for him. He only lived for 2 years after he got out. He overdosed 6 times and survived. I’d call the hospital to talk to him afterwards just to tell him I loved him and he’d refuse the phone calls because he thought he was failing me. The love was there but the possibility of being ‘normal’ wasn’t.The last phone call we had, that I recorded and you can listen to on my website, he says he’s sorry he failed me as a father and he hates himself, but he felt like he was the luckiest guy in the world to be on this planet… My dad was 53. He wanted to die every single day. And he told me that. And for a best friend who you care the most about and would give up your entire world for to tell you they no longer want to be on this earth… that’s the hardest thing in the world to hear. And you just cant save people. I wish I could’ve prevented it. I wish I could go back to his childhood, coming to America and being bullied, growing up around the wrong crowd. I wish I could show him the way people remember him now. That he is so loved and has so much to live for.  So when you talked about being strong after being hated, that spoke to me. Because I saw my dad feel so hated and looked down upon by society that I wish everyone felt strength in people telling them they aren’t good enough. To me my dad was successful and I really wish he is looking down, seeing what I’m doing, know it’s because of him and for him, and feel as successful as he was. 



Health Care Policy Change for Opioid Addiction

My dad overdosed and was brought to the hospital 6 times before his fatal visit. I must’ve spent over 30 hrs in total on the phone with nurses, doctors, but primarily case workers. The calls with doctors and nurses were often cut short. Because of policies put into place to protect peoples privacy, anything I wanted to find out about my dad was denied. Me providing information on my dads history with addiction, suicide attempts, and my dads severe depression were not acknowledged well. It wasn’t the nurses fault and I knew they could hear the frustration in my voice, but they knew they had to follow policy. It made it very clear that policy changes were needed and quickly.

One of the last times my dad was in the hospital, he didn’t wake for 2 weeks. When he finally awoke I called and begged to talk to him. Because of his embarrassment of what had happened, he denied my calls and told the nurses not to release any information. Even after explaining that he was at high risk for suicide, I was told that I had two choices. Call and get him sectioned or let him make his own choices. He was finally in the place where he could get the help he needed, but there wasn’t a system in place for him to get that proper, specific care.

I’m sure that my dads case isn’t the only one either.

I was visiting a friend at the restaurant I used to work at and there was a couple sitting at the bar. They were visiting from Indiana for their anniversary and looked so in love. I began chatting with them and I discovered they were in the business of saving peoples lives. She was a nurse and he was an EMT. I went to High School and prom with the EMT that saved my dad’s life on multiple of his overdoses and his wife is also a nurse. I knew that both jobs were extremely difficult. I thanked the couple at the bar, mentioning the couple from High School that I admire, and our conversation got deeper. I told them about my dad. The woman said something very true to me. She said, “As a nurse, we get a lot of people who come in from overdoses. It’s really hard for some of the nurses to feel obligated to help them. A lot of them think, ‘if they don’t want to help themselves why should I want to help them?’, or ‘they’ll just be back again.’ They don’t get the same care as other patients do and it’s true a lot of them are back sometimes even in the same day. But what I like to think anytime I see someone who is struggling with addiction is what kind of pain this person must’ve gone through to be where they are right now. I think about how broken and hurt they must be and that every single person has a story. It makes me try harder to be a better nurse and I know these people are really strong for what they must’ve gone through.”

She was an amazing human and an incredible nurse, but what about the people who don’t have that experience or outlook like her?  What if a nurse really doesn’t connect to someone struggling with addiction? It doesn’t mean they’re not as good of a nurse or as good of a human. It really just takes proper training and a bit of understanding. Even after talking to nurses who were tired from my taking care of my dad, (trust me he is a handful!) once I explained a little more about our situation and explained how good of a dad he really was they were always a little bit more patient and responsive.

Being a nurse is the most honorable job I’ve ever seen. Over the summer I lived with a roommate who was a nurse. She always had a smile on her face and no matter what she was always in a great mood and asked me about my day. She probably had 100 things going on at work and in her own life, but she cared about people more than herself. I think that’s a quality of nurses that make them superheroes. So to ask of a nurse to give another 100% to people that try to refuse the help or on the other hand demand medication, it’s really hard. But with the proper training and policy changes, I have no doubt these compassionate, super-human healers would absolutely be wonderful at helping improve conditions of the epidemic and help in the fight to end the stigma.

My dad was really open about his recovery, despite his privacy in the hospital. When he was sober he told me about a specific doctor that he loved seeing. He said to me, “I just love that she doesn’t look at me different. I just feel like I can be honest and open with her and she won’t talk to me like I’m any less of a human. It gives me hope.” I love that Doctor for the work that she is doing and I wish I knew her name. Doctors are brilliant humans as well. It’s hard for anyone to have an open and nonjudgemental conversation when it’s not something they’re comfortable talking about.

Once doctors, nurses, and policy makers understand why they should care and what impact it’ll have on the epidemic and quite frankly the nation, I think we’ll be in a much better place. We all want to be better humans and better at our jobs, and sometimes we just need someone to show us why.

I’m happy to see so much progress by nonprofits like Shatterproof making change to the health care policies. After the Shatterproof 5k in Boston, I was inspired by Michael Botticelli, Executive Director of The Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction and Darshak Sanghavi, CMO of Optum Labs for their commitment to change. I am especially proud of Shatterproof CEO, Mendell, for nationally advocating for this change and partnering with such people who walk the walk.

If you have a story about healthcare and addiction and you’d like to share please do so in the comments below or email me privately at I’m always here to talk.

September 2018 Opioid Addiction Research + News

Since I subscribe to news and updates on opioid addiction research and events, I’ll be using my blog to share them with my readers as well. I only publish one blog post per month but each day I’ll update the post with new articles and events. I will keep this as unbiased as possible while summarizing the articles. Rising Hope is a safe place for discussions and talking about experiences with addiction. We are not research based and all information below is not associated with our beliefs. We’ll provide the article, a short summary, and discussion questions and ideas in italics.


Using the immune system to combat addiction by Medical News Today

An estimated 100 people per day die from drug overdose, a figure that has tripled in the past 2 decades. Addiction is a complex topic, involving interplay between neuroscience, psychology, and sociology. Erin Calipari, a researcher at the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research in Nashville, TN, and team showed that by manipulating G-CSF levels, they could alter motivation for cocaine without changing motivation toward other rewards.From this, they concluded that G-CSF might be useful in understanding — and perhaps even intervening in — addiction. G-CSF is a protein that the immune system produces that can affect changes in other cells — and is known to influence motivation and decision-making. This is FDA approved and Calipari is now working with Drew Kiraly at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City to bring this to human trials.
Research on a protein is showing that using the immune system can be influencing cravings and Calipari is on a mission to get this kind of targeted addiction treatment to human testing. Are cravings only one part of addiction and if so what would this mean for addiction if the cravings could stop? 

States watching Illinois’ use of marijuana to fight opioid crisis by Medical News Today.

The Illinois legislature has become the first state to give doctors the ability to prescribe marijuana instead of opiates in an effort to fight the opioid epidemic, with other states looking to follow. “If you look at states that allow medical cannabis, there are fewer people dying from opioid overdoses,” said Chris Lindsey, the senior legal counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “And it’s a significant number.” “This is a harm reduction strategy,” Hockenberry said. “It allows patients to substitute one drug for another that is causing severe harm. By substituting marijuana, we’re trying to reduce opioid overdose deaths.”
Do you believe other states will follow Illinois? 

Trends and Predictors of Mortality for US Opioid Overdoses from 2003 to 2014 by Clinical Pain Advisor.
The following information is part of conference coverage from the IASP 2018 conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

  • 149,220 patients were admitted for opioid overdose. 2.6% died.
  • The median age of these overdose patients was 47 years old, and 81.1% were Caucasian.
  • Most opioid overdose patients were male and lived in the Southern United States (39.3%)
  • The Northeast had 17.5% of opioid overdose cases, compared with 21.3% in the West and 21.9% in the Midwest.

City of Boston sues drugmakers over opioid epidemic by BizJournals

The city, along with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Boston Housing Authority, filed a complaint in Suffolk County Superior Court Thursday afternoon against several drugmakers, including Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), and Insys Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: INSY). Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the lawsuit at a press conference.”This lawsuit is not about money. It’s about lives,” said Walsh as, just steps away, a man moved from his spot sleeping against the shelter. “This lawsuit is about ending the problems we have and people acknowledging what they did wrong.”

What will come from the lawsuit? 


Depression May Partially Mediate the Relationship Between PTSD and Opioid Misuse by Clinical Pain Advisory.

A health survey was administered to patients filling opioid prescriptions at 4 community pharmacies. 16% reported misusing opioid medications, of whom 33% and 29% were diagnosed with PTSD and depression, respectively.

How has depression played a part in your loved ones opioid addiction? 


A play coming to Northeast Ohio is helping children and adults learn about opioid addiction by News5Cleveland.

The goal is to make sure they know they can and need to reach out. “[Students think] I either can’t talk about it or I need to take it on myself,’ and we let them know that’s not possible,” said Snyder. Snyder says it’s not just another school assembly, because every actor in the performance is battling addiction to drugs or alcohol, and is in recovery themselves.”To me, we’re not talking down to the kids,” said Snyder. “We’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve been through this and you’re not alone and you can get help.”

What do you think of the play? 


Addiction Center At Boston Medical Unveils New Tool To Help Employers Struggling In The Opioid Epidemic by WBUR.

Michael Botticelli, who runs the Grayken Center at Boston Medical, says fear of an employer’s response is one key reason workers don’t seek care.”We know that employers have a considerable role to play in not only providing good care but also creating a climate where employees feel freer to ask for help,” he said. Shaun Carvalho, the safety director for Shawmut Design & Construction, says rates are so high because of the physical demands of the job, so his company has “mobilized a cross-functional team to enlist the proper resources to safeguard our employees and partners, and establish support systems for anyone affected by a substance use disorder.” He spoke about how addressing the opioid crisis has affected employees at a Boston Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday morning.

How can your workplace implement resources and show employers that they can be open and honest about their struggles with addiction? 


Koch-Funded Gyms Help Opioid Addicts Recover by Wall Street Journal 

“The Phoenix,” is a Denver-based string of fitness centers and programs for recovering drug abusers. It is spreading nationally with the help of management coaching and a multimillion-dollar investment from an arm of a donor network founded by the billionaire Koch brothers. The network is better known for seeking to advance conservative politics and policies.

Do you know someone to recommend this gym to? Is there one in your area? 

Opioid users could benefit from meth-relapse prevention strategy, study finds by Science Daily

New research raises the possibility that a wider group of people battling substance use disorders may benefit from a Scripps Research-developed relapse-prevention compound than previously thought. The potential medication, a modified form of the compound blebbistatin, works by breaking down methamphetamine-linked memories that can trigger craving and relapse. Studies show that encountering intense stress during that sensitive recovery period can boost relapse risk. “There is data in humans that social stress — combined with using a small amount of meth — can drive a much stronger craving for the drug,” Miller says. “We found we can recapitulate that in an animal model” – Ashley Blouin, PhD.


Facebook cracks down on Opioids Sold on its Platform

TechCrunch has released an article, “Facebook cracks down on Opioid dealers after years of neglect.” Recent information from the Center for Disease Control, Facebook plays a role in the opioid crisis.  Xanax, OxyContin and other painkillers are often bought online, with dealers promoting themselves on social media including Facebook.




  • Drug dealers were using Facebook (and IG) pages, FB marketplace, and hashtags to sell drugs.
  • Once the CDC released statistics about the number of opioid overdose deaths in 2017, Facebook took action.
  • You can no longer hashtag drugs like heroin or fentanyl thanks to Eileen Carey.
  • If you search to buy drugs you’ll be taken to resources for recovery on the SAMHSA site.
  • It is believed that Facebook contributed to 72,000 deaths last year. That’s about 20% of all opioid deaths last year.


  • DISCUSSION: Do you think with Facebook’s new policies there will be a big impact on the opioid epidemic? Why or why not?
  • DISCUSSION: Is Facebook the problem? Why or why not?
  • DISCUSSION: Do you have any examples of times where you saw something on Facebook that you wanted to report but it didn’t have a policy?
  • DISCUSSION: How do you envision Facebook having the biggest impact on the epidemic?
  • DISCUSSION: Would you consider Facebook to be neglectful? Why or why not?

Statistics on Opioid Overdose Deaths from CDC

Estimated 30,000 synthetic opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017

There were roughly 20,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016.


Once the statistics were released, Facebook removed groups, pages, hashtags and marketplace ads that were illuding to selling drugs.

 facebook opioids sold

facebook fentanyl sold page

People are changing their name to appear in the search for fentanyl.



If you try to search to buy drugs on Facebook, it’ll now bring you to resources for addiction. I tested this out and here’s what happens.



Eileen Carey

eileen carey.jpg
PC: diversitybestpractices



Eileen Carey is the hero here as she is the woman that got the policy on opioid sales to change on Instagram in April 2018.

She used Social Media and got the attention of  Facebook VP Guy Rosen.

Read the full article HERE






Mark Zuckerberg

In April 2018, Mark Zuckerberg sat down with caregivers of the opioid crisis and was shocked to hear the news that so many families are struggling with this epidemic.





He was under hot water when Representative David B. McKinley of West Virginia put the pressure on him to make a change.

“With all due respect, Facebook is actually enabling an illegal activity, and in so doing, you are hurting people. Would you agree with that statement?”





This is a great change, and it’s so easy to reflect and say, of course, you shouldn’t be able to create a hashtag promoting the use or selling of illegal drugs. However, I see a problem more about how desperate people are to sell and get drugs in any way possible.

Personally, I am apart of a lot of addiction groups that don’t encourage drug use or sell drugs but offer a safe community for people struggling with addiction to share their experiences and struggles. It’s heart-wrenching to see parents posting photos of drugs and asking the community in desperation if it’s what they think it is. Together the community comforts one another and sends words of encouragement.

With all good things come the bad as well. I don’t think it’s ethically right to blame a social networking problem on being the causation of hurting people. This TechCrunch article seemed to have a tone of blame, which is a dangerous mindset to have when talking about addiction. I would argue that the issue was not neglected for a long time. Hashtags of #heroin or posts about selling drugs are something that unless you’re searching for it or see it close to home, it isn’t top of mind. This isn’t just the case for Facebook, this translates into everyday life. The opioid epidemic effects so many families and we really need to be compassionate to those struggling but also patient with those who don’t understand it.

Another critique of TechCrunch’s article was the number 72,000. Where did the statistic that 72,000 of the opioid overdoses have a correlation with Facebook. If there is an article or a statistical graph that shows what source the overdose came from, I’d be very interested to see it!

Read the full article HERE

Facebook was reactive and not proactive with the removal of drug content and that’s a part of having a product/ecosystem bigger than yourself. The outcome we all agree on is helping those who are struggling and reducing the number of those affected in the future.

What if we saw the solution to ban the selling of drugs and buying them on social networks an issue of out of sight out of mind? Imagine if instead of disabling the ability to search or sell drugs online, we take action on those who participate in the activity. What if the DEA catfished the sellers?

What are some different viewpoints on the issue? Let me know!










7 Stages of Addiction Grieving: Opioid and heroin death grieving

How can we handle the death of a loved one that has passed away from opioid or heroin or any drug addiction?

The truth is it’s almost impossible because unfortunately, we’ve been watching our loved one die repeatedly probably for years.

The 7 stages of grieving give us clarity on emotions we feel when a loved one passes. When my dad passed away from addiction, I found that I experienced different emotions that I wasn’t sure I should feel guilty about. Below are the steps of grieving I have taken after watching my dad struggle with addiction throughout his life.

7 Stages of Grieving an Addiction Death

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Anxiety | Initially, all the built-up fear in anticipation for a fatal overdose or accident is now a reality. An anxiety that has built up for years will take over. 

The first feeling is anxiety. All the built-up fear in anticipation for something to go wrong hits you like a ton of bricks. This is it. This is the time you’ve really feared the most and now you’re facing your fear. Everyone reacts differently to anxiety. I screamed in my tears, I was trembling, bent over at the waste looking out the window trying to catch my breath. I paced my little apartment and after 10 minutes, I put myself in an uber to the hospital.

Tip: Turn on auto-pilot. 


Relief | It’s common to feel relieved in weeks following the loss of a loved one. You are no longer constantly worrying about your loved one’s safety.

It’s not uncommon to secondly feel relieved. You never know when the next time will be the last time and suddenly that anxious feeling escapes you and is filled with a new feeling of disbelief that this is over. Maybe you’re used to your loved one in and out of jail or on the streets, and your mind may convince you that this is like one of these times and it will take a few months, even years, to realize this isn’t the case.

Tip: Don’t feel guilty. Your body and mind need the rest. Don’t fight it.

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Trauma | The last moments with your loved one’s body are extremely traumatizing. TV shows, movies, or seeing addiction in person can cause strong emotions. 

The third feeling is experiencing sudden realizations of what happened. If you were the one to find your loved one unconscious or if you saw them in the hospital trying to revive, you’ll be brought back to that place. It’ll feel like free falling. A pit in your stomach that you can’t explain and a dark place that you’ll need to be careful not to stay in. The last moments with your loved one’s body are extremely traumatizing because you want to believe so badly that they could’ve or should’ve been revived one last time.

Tip: Breath in and breath out slowly. Remember your loved one is no longer in pain and that’s most important. 

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Regret/Guilt | Regretting the weeks leading up before the death is common. We question whether we did the right thing and if our final decisions caused the death. We take the blame. 

Along with the third feeling comes a form of regret. We put addiction aside and wish that we should’ve been there more and we envision if we had just been their things would’ve been different. We take self-blame and ownership of the addiction. Confidence in all the decisions we made throughout our loved one’s life is key. These feelings will come but you can control if they stay.

Tip: Remember, our loved ones never wanted us to take on their problems as our own.

note from dad before he passed away


Misunderstanding | We’ve mourned the loss of the soul before. Now we are connecting the loss of the soul with the loss of the physical person. It can be complicated to explain or experience.

Fifth is a feeling of others not understanding our grief. We’ve mourned the loss of the soul far before the passing of the body on and off and no one will ever understand that. Others may not understand that the soul was harder to grieve than the body and now the combination is nearly incomprehensible. We’ll feel that people just don’t get it and feel alone and a bit frustrated. When we say we miss our loved ones, we miss them in ever since of the word. While when our loved one was alive, we missed who their spirit made them. Now we’re experiencing the desire to have any form of our loved one back.

Tip: Talk with loved ones. Try to be vulnerable and open.

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Calmness | We’re not used to feeling calm. Our bodies had become used to chaos. Now we’re adjusting to more predictability in our lives.

Six is the feeling of loneliness and a calm we weren’t ready for. Loving someone who is struggling with addiction makes us hyper-aware of everything. Every phone call, every time you hear an ambulance, you’re not sure if it’s for your loved one. Every time you walk in the door, you don’t know what version of your loved one you’ll get. Suddenly, you have to get used to not having those worries, and that makes us feel calm but at the same time lonely. Our bodies aren’t used to the chaos that addiction brings, but over time we adapt to the constant worrying.  Our bodies begin to function in chaos.

Now, we suddenly don’t have to worry about the ambulance on its way to give Narcan to your loved one. Now you walk in the door and it’s more predictable of what you’ll see. At the same time, this creates an unsettling feeling of emptiness and your body and mind are searching for something to fill the void. For a while, you may be extremely high strung, emotional, and feel out of place in a normal setting.

Tip: Let out your chaotic energy with a hobby, exercise, or something that is transcendent.


Letting go | In time, letting go of pain and remembering the good memories and the spirit of our loved one is possible. 

Seven is the most wonderful feeling of them all. Letting go of your role as a constant worrier for your loved one. The feeling that your loved one is no longer in pain and that there is hope. Whether you’re religious or not, we all hope that our loved one is drug-free looking out for us. Now is the time to realize our strength and theirs throughout the years. Letting go of pain and remembering the good memories and the spirit of our loved one (without the all the memories of the disease clouding judgment) is relieving. We tell friends, family, and acquaintances stories about our loved one that show who they were as a person and not how the disease of addiction made them appear. It’s not easy to get to this step and it may take time. This is healing.

Tip: Keep a journal for when you remember memories.

The best thing to do is tell stories of your loved one often and keep their spirit alive. Cry when you need to. Get angry when you need to. Feel regret when you need to. But only as long as you remind yourself that you’re strong. You experienced pain that no one else can ever understand. It’s an excruciating pain to watch someones spirit leave and come back multiple times before actually dying. You made it through and that makes you one of the strongest people I know. If you’re alive, focusing on your health, and improving your life for yourself and others, you have no reason to have any regrets. We do all we can for our loved ones struggling with addiction, all in different ways.

Our loved ones want and need us to move on because the greatest feeling they feel is guilt. Wake up and tell your loved one out loud:

“You didn’t fail me. Your disease taught me strength. I go on today to make my life and other lives better because of you. You shaped me and I accept you for all that you were in my life. I will remember you always, NAME” 

7 stages of grief: addiction grieving

In memory of Steven Olbinsky, my best friend, my dad, my everything. March 23, 1964 – October 26th, 2017. As the years go by, there will be less time spent with you. Your spirit will continue to thrive because I’ll share the memory of you with others that never got the pleasure. Addiction is a disease that deserves more love and understanding. I believe that if you, dad, were able to love so deeply despite your disease, others can too. I have hope that together you and I will give a chance for healthy relationships, forgiveness, and love despite the disease of addiction. To learn more visit my website 

Demi Lovato’s Addiction

IrDemi Lovato released “Sober” on June 21st, 2018 which was an apology for relapsing. On July 24th Demi was hospitalized for an overdose. She was sober for 6 years. There’s not a word strong enough that can describe the shame of a relapse.


After my dad would overdose, all I wanted to do was call him and act like it never happened and that’s what I did. You just can’t ask why. No matter how badly we want to know the reason why- to be in the head of someone struggling with addiction and control the impulse like a joystick- we just can’t.

Owned by Getty Images demi lovato
Owned by Getty Images

I wouldn’t let him know that I knew he overdosed or relapsed. He’d call and I’d tell him I loved him. I’d repeat it. I’d ask how he was mentally and skip over the fact that I knew he was hanging by a thread of hope that it’d be okay.

I saw my dad struggle more with depression and guilt than with the addiction itself. To hear that he felt like a failure to me. No matter how many times you tell him he’s your hero he denied that it could ever be a possibility to be a hero from the pain he caused me.

Demi Lovato is a hero to a lot of people who are struggling with addiction. Like her song said she is only human. And what she is going through is in the public eye. Her song, Sober, reminded me of that pain in the most vulnerable and caring way.

It’s hard to accept love, forgiveness, and hope after a relapse. 

My hope is that she see’s the side of addiction she is shedding light on and that it gives her the strength to get sober. But even more so than getting sober again, I hope that her and people struggling just like her, and like my dad, find peace in not being perfect. I hope that she and people like her find a way to continue to say I’m sorry like she bravely did and continues to forgive herself.

Even when I forgave my dad, he never forgave himself. People that understand Demi Lovato’s struggle forgive her. Life is not meant to be living in guilt and shame.

If I could have one moment back with my dad I’d tell him one last time that he is my hero and my inspiration and life and for him to hear it, accept it and feel it.

If you’re struggling with addiction… you’re meant to be an inspiration. You’re as deserving of happiness and love as anyone else. There’s hope and we want you to forgive yourself. I accept you for who you are.




The Face of Addiction



205 people are first time users of opioids per day. Whatever the reason is of the start, addiction is a lifelong disease that brings a lot of pain to oneself and loved ones.

As I know too well, the face of addiction can be someone with the purest heart. The face of addiction was my very handsome, superhero-like dad who has lost more than half his weight at the time he passed away.

If 205 people start using opioids a day- there is bound to be someone, 20 years old like my dad was, not thinking that one day he’d have a family that he just wants to fight for and not have to have a forceful disease hanging over him that inserts heroin into their veins. Escaping from something that eventually they’ll die to escape.

Read my more in-depth opioid statistics here.  Read about my very amazing dad (and mom) here.

The face of addiction can really be anyone you love, although I hope it’s not- but maybe that’s why you’re here. If so I feel your pain. 


The Book I’m Writing on my Dad’s Addiction

While my dad sat in a cage to think about all the scary things that could happen upon his release and his fear of being deported, he wrote it all down and sent it to me.

He wrote the pain he felt every time he thought of how he would ever be able to find a job, how he hated himself for not seeing either of my graduations and how he hated addiction.

Then he’d write his dreams. To get out and conquer the world with me. How he wanted to just travel and laugh and be able to call me without being cut off after 5 minutes and paying $50 each time.

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ICE Kept my dad in prison longer than his sentence, and two years after his release I no longer get to conquer the world alongside him. BUT that doesn’t mean he isn’t watching. He’s making sure that my pain and love to brings awareness to a disease that took his life. This book of letters is the most precious thing I own. I bring it with me almost everywhere.

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It holds every piece of advice my dad gave me from the time I was a senior in high school until my first year out of college. I’m going to publish our story because it’s a beautiful thing to share my treasure with others. To know that I’ll have copies made so that these thoughts are never lost gives me hope for others that this will be a part of history. You can sign up for my book release here.