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

The-face-of-opioid-pill-addiction-Who-uses-opioid-painkillers-2-707x1024.png

 

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.

addiction book

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.

Opioid Addiction Statistics and Facts In 2017

Heroin overdoses outnumber the number of gun homicides. Addiction is a disease that has been devastating to families and loved ones across the US. In October 2017, I lost my dad, my best friend, my everything to the disease. Spreading awareness is as important as realizing none of us has the right answers. The following statistics raise huge issues that are debated frequently. The following information is not based on my opinion.

There was a lack of statistics for the year 2017, most likely because of the time it takes to gather the information, however, I tried my best to get the most recent and most accurate information.

If you have more information please share. In honour of my dad and the battles he faced and to those who will face similar challenges in the year 2018.

Summary of Opioid Facts

  • Approximately 20.1 million Americans are addicted to opioids. That’s equivalent to the population of Florida.
  • 66,324 people died of an overdose from January-May 2017
  • Delaware, Washington DC, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw the highest increases in opioid overdoses in 2017
  • There are upwards of 1.9 million nonfatal opioid overdoses in 2017
  • Narcan reversed the effects of opioids for 27,000 people in 2015. No total data for 2016 or 2017 were found.
  • There were 1.3 million hospital visits due to overdoses in 2014. No data for the following years were found
  • There are upwards of 1.9 million nonfatal opioid overdoses in 2017
  • Approximately 180 people die of opioid addiction every day.

 

The Statistics: Opioid Overdoses In 2017

As shown below the issue of opioid addiction is at it’s highest in the United States.

percentage of deaths classified as drug-related
Photo Credit: Josh Katz NYTimes

According to the CDC, the 12 Month-ending Provisional Counts of Drug Overdose Deaths, Percent Change Over Previous 12-month Period, and Data Quality Metric shows that 66,324 people died of an overdose in 2017 by May.

An important note at the bottom: “Deaths are classified by the reporting jurisdiction in which the death occurred.” This number could be unreliable due to the number of deaths that are not initially determined as an overdose.

Due to the lengthy process of investigating the cause of death for an overdose, deaths are ruled as “no cause of death”.

66,324 people is a tragedy nonetheless. That is almost the equivalent number of people Gilette Stadium can hold with 66,829 seats.

The data from the CDC has the percentage of change from 2016’s overdose deaths. Let’s break it down by the state who has seen reduced numbers of overdose deaths.

Important questions are answered here in this article by Josh Katz on short answers to hard questions about opioid addiction.

Top US States that Have Reduced Overdoses in 2017 from 2016:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

What’s interesting is most of these states, besides California, have under 500 overdoses. There are a few states that have a very steep increase in overdoses. Let’s take a look at those.

Top US States that Have had an Increase in Overdoses in 2017 from 2016: 

  • Delaware 44% increase
  • Washington DC 78% increase
  • Maryland 43% increase
  • New Jersey 31% increase
  • Ohio 41% increase
  • Pennsylvania 44% increase

Number of Nonfatal Overdoses in 2017

There is very limited information on the number of overdoses in 2017 that don’t result in death but an article published by NPR in August 2017 claims, “for every fatal overdose, there are believed to be roughly 30 nonfatal overdoses.”

If this is true this would mean the number of nonfatal overdoses is 1.9 million in 2017 roughly speaking. Just in Massachusetts alone “Nonfatal overdoses recorded by emergency medical services (EMS), hospitals, and bystander interventions increased [about] 200% between 2011 and 2015.

The total number of nonfatal overdoses between 2011 and 2015 exceeded 65,000.” which you can the full legislature report here. We can suspect that in the past two years that number has grown. We also have to assume that with how easily accessible Narcan is now in the community that this number may be even double.

Narcan

What is Narcan?

Narcan is one form of Naloxone and the most recognized. There are three FDA-approved formulations of naloxone. One is Narcan, a nasal spray, one is an injectable, and one is Evsio an auto-injectable.

The injectable is least popular but all three have the same effect: They bring a human who has overdosed back to life. “81.6 percent of reported naloxone reversals involved heroin. Prescription opioids were involved in 14.1 percent of cases” (addictioncenter.com). If you’d like to learn more about how much Narcan to use, how Narcan works, and what happens when you use Narcan, visit NCADA for a full list of FAQ.

Dailymail posted a video of a woman coming back to life with Naloxone. If you can make it through the video, you’ll recognize her friends bring her back to life with an injectable. As she comes back to life her friend says, “You went out.”

Overdose narcan injection

Where is Narcan Available?

In 2015, Narcan saved approximately 27,000 lives. Naloxone is available without a prescription in 41 states. You can pick up Naloxone at a local CVS except for the states listed below.  Depending on your locations, you can sign up for training to learn how to use Naloxone. In Boston, The Boston Public Health Commision holds free In-house overdose prevention and naloxone training Monday afternoons and Tuesday evenings on specific days in 2018.

narcan availability naloxone
Photo Credit: CVS.com

You can go through the opioid overdose interactive prevention, recognition and response for additional personal education.

Opioid Overdose Prevention, Recognition and Response

 

States you need a prescription for Naloxone:

  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Wyoming

 

Narcan Fentanyl
https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/59ppqx/new-strain-of-fentanyl-acrylfentanyl-is-resistant-to-overdose-antidote-naloxone-narcan

In April 2017, a strain of Fentanyl that was  Narcan-resistant hit Western Pennsylvania along with Georgia, Indiana, and more.  This strain is considered, “50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine,” according to vice.com.

Hospital Protocol on Opioid-related Visits

The number of hospital visits due to opioid-related inpatient stays and emergency room visits is not provided for the year 2017. The latest data is from 2014 from the Homeland Security Department which states, 1.3 million patients needed hospital care due to opioids.

Good Samaritan Law for addiction

As stated by the NCSL, a Samaritan who calls 911 due to an overdose, will be provided immunity from arrest or prosecution. “To encourage people to seek out medical attention for an overdose or for follow-up care after naloxone has been administered, 40 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of a Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law.

These laws generally provide immunity from arrest, charge or prosecution for certain controlled substance possession and paraphernalia offenses when a person who is either experiencing an opiate-related overdose or observing one calls 911 for assistance or seeks medical attention. State laws are also increasingly providing immunity from violations of pretrial, probation or parole conditions and violations of protection or restraining orders.”

The Lack of Follow Up in Hospitals is being acknowledged in Massachusetts and Other States

NPR article states we could be doing more for patients that come in with an opioid addiction. “Donohue says many hospital emergency departments are not adequately set up to serve or even screen patients with addiction. ‘They may not have strong connections to treatment providers. So they, at best, may leave patients with a list, but then there is no active follow-up,’ Donohue says. ‘People who are quite vulnerable and are at great risk for future overdoses are falling through the cracks.’

If a patient is revived and asks to leave the same day as their overdose they are allowed to check themselves out. “It’s safe to characterize it as a missed opportunity for the health system to respond.”

Massachusetts Governor Baker has recently passed legislation to help assist in the lack of medical follow up. “It requires hospitals to engage patients to connect them to voluntary treatment and requires doctors to record overdoses and evaluations in a patient’s electronic medical records.” Read more about Governor Bakers Opioid Plan here.

As you can read here from USA Today, families are seeking involuntary commitment laws to help the fight with addiction. There is still legislation that finds it difficult to move forward due to civil rights concerns. Others find that it is not a solution and won’t contribute to change in behaviour or relapse.

On the contrary, people believe, ” it’s a vital, last-resort option at a time when the opioid crisis is killing more than 90 Americans every day.”

Currently, if a family member you know is in the hospital due to drug overdose and you call to get your loved one help, you are advised to order a section 35.

Rehabilitation

2.4 million addicted people seek treatment through specialized rehab centers every year.

According to NPR, In Massachusetts, courts civilly committed more than 6,500 people to treatment last year. Massachusetts Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Fallon estimates that 40 percent of those civilly committed to the center will be court-ordered to treatment again but believes a correctional setting makes sense (npr.org).

Here is a full list of every licenced substance abuse providers by city.

Recently Google has taken the initiative to disable the ability to advertise for rehabilitation companies as many were misleading. “Addiction recovery during the worst drug epidemic in American history is expected to generate $42 billion in business by 2020.”

“Insurers are required to cover substance abuse treatment under the Affordable Care Act, and some stays can cost up to $60,000 a month, making every patient extremely lucrative. And the majority of addicts or their parents — 61 percent, according to Google’s internal statistics — use the internet to find help.”

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehabs

  • 28 days to six months
  • Intensive
  • Residential treatment programs
  • Family members can contact loved ones in residential treatment. Each facility is different for visitation rights
  • A typical day in residential treatment is carefully scheduled and accounted for

Outpatient rehabs

  • 10 to 12 hours a week – The average outpatient detox period lasts 6.5 days
  • Part-time programs
  • Recovering patient can go to work or school during the day
  • Sessions focus on drug abuse education, individual and group counseling, and teaching addicted people how to cope without their drug

Prison Sentences Due to Drug Addiction

Substance abuse is a large part of correctional facilities and the NCADD reported that crimes are typically found to have a correlation to drug use.

“Approximately 95% of inmates return to alcohol and drug use after release from prison, and 60 – 80% of drug abusers commit a new crime (typically a drug-driven crime) after release from prison” (NCADD).

  • 80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted.
  • Approximately 60% of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illegal drugs at arrest.

Opioid Addiction in 2018

What can we expect in 2018? I am optimistic. I believe there are different ways to look at addiction. I look forward to sharing my dad’s letters he sent to me while in prison due to addiction. While I wrote this blog post with the purpose of sharing statistics, addicts are not just statistics, they’re not just people that have a disease. They’re the faces of our parents, our children- the people we love and the people who need our support. I created Rising Hope as an initiative to give a face to what some people have trouble understanding.

A New Look at Addiction to Consider

Maybe we’re looking at addiction wrong. Would it be insulting or hurtful to the addict if I said I am anticipating their relapse? Maybe not anticipating but maybe I’m sort of expecting it, but not in the way that I am wishing bad things or not believing in the person to fight the battle full force.

Steve Olbinsky Sobriety

In the last months of my dad’s life, I no longer felt a pit in my stomach that my dad was using drugs. I anticipated he was. The scariest part of his addiction wasn’t the drug use anymore, it was his desire to die. He was using drugs not to get high but to feel like he could hold on for just one more day. Physically he was down to almost 100 pounds, and mentally he couldn’t stand himself. I recorded our last conversation we had where he painfully told me his desire to close his eyes while weeping for my forgiveness. He said, “I tried to like lay down and I started to stop taking all the pills and everything.”

I anticipated that my dad would use drugs again but is that really even the issue? Because an addiction is the disease but is the drug use even the day to day issue? We’re all living to find a reason to continue living. With this disease, living becomes a dependency to a substance. So to fight that dependency it takes giving up something that you depend on and that takes a kind of power that we shouldn’t put so much pressure on to achieve unless we’ve been in those shoes before. Why can’t you just stay sober? It’s only like holding your breath from the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep. And good luck catching your breath and have a pleasant dream at the same time.

I had 5 years to decide how I was going to handle my dad’s release from prison and his freedom to make good or bad choices with the tough task of re-entering society. We wrote to each other every week just about and we talked about the things we wanted to do and the way we loved each other so full we could take over the world if we wanted to. In a way, I think that’s why it didn’t work out. Our love was way too powerful.

While he was in prison I wrote this blog post, why I won’t be upset if my dad relapses. It was my eternalized emancipation to his addiction. I wrote about the realities. A drug addiction shouldn’t ruin a bond like the one my dad and I had. I knew I couldn’t enable him. I wrote about the emotions. I understood I’d feel a bit heartbroken inside if he were to relapse. But most importantly I wrote what I would hold on as a truth. I would never let his addiction measure how much he loves me and the chapter doesn’t end until the day that I give up. And here I am continuing to write about my dad even after his passing.

I loved and love my dad more than anything in this world. I don’t even fear death anymore. That’s how our strong our bond was. He fulfilled my life and he gave me my riches- his love, his advice, his heart. I hold onto his letters, photos, and notes like treasured artifacts.

Despite this crazy love, I can confidently tell you that I anticipated his relapse. And to be honest, it made my life so much easier- and maybe his too. It wasn’t something I ever said to him. It should really go as an unspoken truism if you choose to adopt. I no longer had the ups and downs and celebrations with every day that passed that he wasn’t using. I also didn’t have the disappointments either.

When my dad and I went to Bruno Mars, he was excitedly choosing which outfit he should wear for his big night. He had on one shirt but when he decided he wanted to wear something Bruins related, he threw on another over. His frail body looked as though the shirt was weighing him down, but he was so excited to be back in TD Garden it didn’t seem to bother him much. He went over to his pills and he said, “Leanna should I take my pills?” I didn’t know what to say. My heart was beating fast and I had to take a big deep breath. He was looking at me so deeply and so desperately and yet I didn’t know the answer he wanted to hear. I really think he wanted to hear that if he didn’t take the pills everything would be okay and he wouldn’t be in pain but we both knew that wasn’t true. I calmly, with a choke in my throat, said, “Daddy, take what you need so that you’re comfortable at the concert.” It was such a scary feeling to know that if he didn’t take those pills he could’ve been in agonizing pain. He could’ve had a heart attack or a breakdown.

The day after the concert, he was so happy. The happiest I had heard him since he lost his license and totaled his car. He was singing, celebrating, and appreciating how beautiful life can be. He said, “This is what life is about, Leanna.” About 2 days later, I tried calling and didn’t get an answer. I knew that he was using again because if he wasn’t I would’ve had a text back instantly. Regardless, I continued to text him, “I love you, daddy!” I didn’t feel an ounce of regret, anger, or disappointment. I just wanted my dad to be okay, and I was waiting for his next call.

I was my dad’s reason for living. I gave his life as much meaning as I could. I would’ve given him my life. I would’ve traded my beautiful apartment, all my possessions, all my confidence and learned skills to let help him understand how much he meant to me. I tried articulating it in every way possible. The last letter I sent him I said if I could have the richest, smartest, dad that was a Doctor I wouldn’t trade him for you for even one second.

So what if we all stop putting so much pressure on sobriety as the solution? Could it potentially give loved ones more sleep at night? And more importantly, can it help an addict to feel like it’s as rare as it really is to not relapse? I just think it’s crazy that we ask so much. We think our love is enough to make a person want to be sober. Sobriety is desired by all addicts who’ve seen the pain they’ve caused. Your love is not a measurement of sobriety. Your support is, however, a measurement of love. But maybe we redefine support. Maybe we can accept that helping our loved one find meaning is more of the mission rather than helping an addict be sober. 

In the hospital when my dad was pronounced brain dead, my grandpa with tears streaming down his face said, Leanna. You saw dad different. I never thought he would die, I thought every time he was sober it’d be the last time and he would stay. But you accepted him and loved him for who he was.

Here is another glimpse of the last call my dad and I had. One day you’ll hear the pain and see my reaction as I accepted this nightmare but until I’m ready, read our words and please understand that addiction is more than using drugs. It takes away your life and puts you in a prison of depression.

Steve Olbinsky Last Phone Call

[Dad] I’m just so tired. I’m so… They took my f***ing license. Without a license, I’m like a fish out of water. I have no way of even attempting to even get a job. I don’t know how I’m going to get anything with the way my arm is. I’m… I don’t want to do drugs. I don’t want to have relapses anymore. I don’t want to have nothing anymore. I just like. I was really sick in bed for days. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t do anything. I just like…

[Leanna] It’s okay daddy I’m here for you

[Dad] if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t even want to live. I can’t do that to you. I just can’t leave you. That’s the only thing that’s stopping me from… from just … it’d be so nice to just go to sleep and not worry about nothing anymore. Not have any more problems. Not have any more letdowns. Not have any more you know?

My dad is at peace now

 

Last Thursday my dad called me and said he was tired. He said he was ready to close his eyes and be with grandma. It wasn’t a desperate call for attention, I could tell he felt his body getting tired and he was letting me know that right then on the phone. He said he was tired of being an addict, tired of feeling the way he did, and tired of the guilt he felt. I wanted to take away all of his pain but he told me that he felt like the luckiest man in the world. He talked about Lou Gehrig and how he had ended his career and was in pain and said, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

This is only a week after the most amazing concert of our lives, Bruno Mars. I didn’t think it’d be possible to get him to the concert with all the factors standing in my way but my dad has never asked me for anything and a few days before the concert he asked me to go with him. With the help and support of my loved ones, I was able to dance and sing and smile and laugh one last time with my daddy.

He was in so much pain. He was skinny as a rail, could barely stay awake, but the way his eyes lit up when we danced together really showed me that love is the most powerful thing in this world.

My dad and I have a love that’ll continue to keep me going because even now I hear my daddy saying I love you, helping me make right decisions, and encouraging me to be a good person to others. My dad believed whole-heartedly that giving to those who cannot give back is a true testament of a person’s character. I know people will continue to tell me that I gave my dad a purpose for living, but to be honest he has given me so much more than that and I’ll never be able to repay him. He gave me the things in life that are invaluable. I will carry with me his spirit, I’ll share all of his love, and I’ll live with his name on lips for the rest of my life. That is the best way that I can make up for what he has given me.

To my grandpa, mom, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends, I will love you so much. I will always be there for you just as my dad was always there for me. And I will give and give and give, and I know it’ll make my dad the proudest. Thank you for being here with me to celebrate the life of the man that’ll keep my fire burning. If you ever are wondering “how I do it,” it’s because Steven Olbinsky, my dad, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Love in a Time of Heroin — carolineshonesty

This story is written by a woman named Caroline about her relationship with her husband who she found out was addicted to pain killers and eventually heroin. It’s quite beautiful and portrays the truth about drug addicts. They’re good people. They are amazing dads, sons, daughters, mothers who are caught in a terrible disease and sometimes can’t escape. I’m not sure if Caroline will see this message but I’d thought I’d share.

———-

This story is beautifully written and shows the truth about loving someone with addiction. As you said, “You can’t just simply walk away from the person you love the most.” and that is absolutely true. You can’t. Love is way stronger than an addiction and we as strong women see past the disease and know that deep down our loved ones are fighting the hardest battle of their lives. You know that Jacob would never want to put you or your son in jeopardy but heroin has a greater control over action than what’s right. Thank you for sharing this. I write about my relationship with my dad. I’m very lucky he hasn’t lost his life to addiction but everyday I think I’m going to get the phone call. He is my best friend and I would never ever disown him for the disease he has to bare. He is the most loving father and has taught me how to be a strong, independent and caring woman.

A lot of things you talked about are similar to my dad. My dad was working in the hospital and got caught with drugs. Soon enough I’d find spoons and needles. I was only 13. It was the most frightening feeling to think you were losing someone that was right in front of you.

Caroline, thank you. Thank you for writing this and for sending the right message- that heroin addicts are not junkies, they’re not bad people. They are amazing fathers, daughters, mothers, sons, with a really bad disease.

 

I submitted this essay to the New York Times column, “Modern Love” with the hope that I could reach a whole new audience with a very important message. Although they did not find the essay right for their needs, I still want to share it. I was positive I had met the man I would […]

via Love in a Time of Heroin — carolineshonesty