Another holiday, another drug overdose. It never ceases to amaze me how many people fall prey or victim to the wonderful thing they call holidays.
Every year on New Year’s Eve I get to think about the year my brother died of an accidental drug overdose. I guess they’re all accidental. That year, I decided to stay in. I thought about visiting my brother but decided not to at the last-minute; and never saw him again. He died that night. He was sitting on his couch watching television late at night. I was sadly reminded that on Christmas Day I found him sleeping and simply dropped off a fruit cake. I had not spoken to him since a few days earlier when he got drunk and visited me at my house. I find comfort in telling myself that he remembers that visit.
But this year on New Year`s Eve, my friend Jane died in ICU. She had been on life support for a couple of days. They said that if she did survive she would have been in a vegetative state. I am actually glad it was New Year`s Eve due to the reference of parties and happier times. She lost her only son to an overdose many years ago. I didn`t know her then; but she told me that she never recovered. I can barely imagine such pain.
She had cancer and was in a lot of pain. She had also been doing drugs since the 70`s and no medical team would accept the liability to help her with pain management. Old school heroin addicts are usually shunned by the medical community. So I guess she continued to self medicate with increasingly larger doses of whatever she could find. She told me that she didn`t want to suffer and she wanted to “go out high”. (Well, congratulations, girl, ya did it!)
Even though she was terminal, she didn’t qualify for SSI. She didn’t qualify for any kind of help at all. I am often surprised by the ignorance of educated Americans when they assume that our government just jumps in to rescue our sick people. Who are these people who are so privileged that they actually believe that the terminally ill automatically get a “check” or free healthcare? NOT true. Sadly, for the disabled or dysfunctional that cannot jump through all of the hoops; there is often no help at all.
You can’t be sick and collect unemployment because you have to be able to work. There’s so many vicious Catch-22`s out there and you don’t always find them until you stumble across them yourself when you’re looking for help. She had hospitalization insurance that basically didn’t pay off even though it had been paid and documented. Last time I talked to her she told me she was still fighting with them. At least she owned her own home or else she would have been homeless throughout the entire time she was ill.
It`s a long story how we met. She had a few friends and family, but her addiction had strained those relationships. When she was first diagnosed we talked about it almost every day. We went on a “bucket list” trip to New Orleans and had a blast. For the places we could not go, I introduced her to Google Earth and we spent hours looking up her favorite places. She truly went down her memory lane and told me the stories about each place we looked up. I moved away, and only saw her once in the last year. We talked on the phone a few days before her overdose.
I have known several people who have died of an overdose. It is truly an epidemic. Do I have an answer? No. Whether you understand addiction or not; understand that drug addicts are people, too. They have friends and families that are affected by their addiction. Anyone can at least be kind. Pappy and I don`t use drugs, but we understand addiction. We drink alcohol and make a lot of jokes about it. Alcohol is at least legal, and if marijuana was legal maybe there would be fewer heroin addicts dying in jail.
I will miss my little brother forever. Now, I will miss my friend Jane, too. You never know when it’s going to be the last time that you talk to someone. May we all be mindful with our words and actions.
Happy New Year
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