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 leanna@risinghope.co. 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. 

 

 

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.