By Guest Blogger Claudia Marini

My Worst Days Ever

December 29, 2016 will forever be the 1st worst day of my life. It is the day that every parent fears. Two phone calls happened that night. The 1st call saying that my daughter was found unconscious from an apparent overdose in the bathroom of the Taco Bell, where she was employed. Then came the 2nd horrifying call saying that they had done all they could, but that Madison had died.

It is a good thing that the body immediately goes into shock after getting such traumatic news. Had it not, I have no idea how I could have survived that moment. On December 31, 2016, I touched, held and kissed my daughter at the funeral home for the very last time and had to be pulled away from her body and made to let go of her. Knowing I would never see or touch her again, left me feeling paralyzed. This will forever be the 2nd worst day of my life. If that wasn’t enough destruction to my heart, then on January 4, 2017, I received my daughter’s ashes and gave her eulogy. This will forever be the 3rd worst day of my life. The 4th worst day of my life has been every single day after that.

The Life of a Grieving Mom

One of the many difficult things since Maddie died has been to try and explain to someone who hasn’t lost a child, what that grief and loss feels like. How do I possibly explain the most unbearable and indescribable pain I feel every day? It’s almost impossible to describe.

I wake up each morning and have to remind myself that she really is gone because I just don’t want to accept the truth. Some days, I convince myself that she is at her Nana’s house or out with friends, because it’s the only way I will make it through that day. Life without Maddie has been like losing all my limbs, my sight, my voice and my heart and yet still being expected to feel and function normally each day. Having to pretend that I am OK all day long, when really I am not, is emotionally exhausting.

There are so many moments of absolute desperation from wanting her back so badly. The sad realization is that no matter how hard I beg and plead, I can’t do anything to bring her back. I live each day with the “what ifs.” Constantly wondering and questioning things I did or didn’t do. What I do know, is that sharing Maddie’s story has helped give me a purpose, to be able to wake up each morning. Through that purpose, I have some hope, that her death wasn’t for no reason. Her death is the reason so many people struggling with addiction are reaching out and getting help. Her death is the reason communities are now collaborating on ways to help and offer support. Her death is the reason parents are now able to speak up and no longer feel ashamed or guilty for having a child struggling with addiction. Her death continues to be the reason that another mom or dad might not have to go through this horrendous pain and have to write their child’s eulogy.

Drugs, especially heroin, are evil and relentless and do not discriminate. If we don’t start changing the stigmas and mindset that exists surrounding addiction and mental health issues, then we are not going to fix this epidemic.

What Happened

Everyone wants to know what made Maddie turn to using drugs. How did an incredibly loved, full of opportunities, academically gifted, avid reader, star soccer player, singer, model, get addicted to drugs?

Maddie was adventuresome, unique, creative, and didn’t usually conform easily to the norms of her peers. Long story short, Maddie met two boys whom she dated. The first one who was abusive in every way, introduced her to narcotics, cocaine and methamphetamine. We started to notice a huge change in Maddie’s personality. She began to have erratic mood swings, her grades dropped and she was withdrawing from us. She eventually pressed charges against her ex-boyfriend for physical abuse, and we had hoped that was the end of her horrible struggles with him and drugs. She had promised and convinced us that she was ok and not using anymore.

Maddie then met another boy who was struggling with a heroin addiction and she was determined to help him. She succumbed to the pressures and he introduced her to the incredibly horrific and volatile life of heroin. We tried everything we knew to do, to get her the help she needed, ranging from short term treatment centers, mental health treatment, and counseling. We ran into so many obstacles and it seemed impossible to get the help she so desperately needed and wanted. Maddie didn’t fit the “typical stereotype” that most think someone addicted to drugs should look like or act. The harsh reality is that drugs do not discriminate, and addiction has no specific type. No one is immune!

My advice to those who have or think they might have a loved one struggling with addiction, would be to never take anything for face value or for granted. If you see changes in your child, even minor ones, or just have that feeling that something doesn’t feel right, then dig deeper. Trust your instincts! Yes, you could be wrong and I hope you are, but I would rather your child be upset with you for the accusation and concern you had, then for you to live with the regret and the “what ifs” and “should haves.” Constantly ask questions and seek answers from your child, their friends, your friends, school staff, anyone that might have a connection to your child. Sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us because we don’t want to believe that something so horrible could affect our own child. Every parent needs to stop assuming and having the mindset of “not my kid” and start thinking “maybe my kid” and what do I need to do.

The Facts

We all need to start talking about the facts. It takes just one use of heroin and you are addicted. Prescription drugs are usually where addiction issues start. By the third pill, the receptors in the brain are starting to change and convincing your body that it needs more and usually by the fifth pill, you are addicted. Some people will deny this and say that they have taken pain medication beyond five pills and didn’t become addicted. To them I say, count your blessings, because you are one of the rare few that hasn’t.

Statistically Speaking

  • In 1-year, drug overdoses killed more people than the entire Vietnam War.
  • President Trump shared with the nation that the statistics from this epidemic were similar to those of 9-11, (2,996 deaths), but this happens every 3 weeks. That’s 51,930 lives lost a year to addiction! Every life lost is someone’s child.
  • Opioid overdoses kill more people than guns or car accidents combined.

Barriers

  1. Most people addicted have no health coverage or insurance and cannot afford treatment. Several thousand addicts willingly sought out treatment but didn’t receive it because they couldn’t afford it.
  2. Most people addicted to drugs, don’t seek out help because of the stigma associated with addiction and their mental health issues and are self-medicating to feel better.
  3. Most people addicted don’t know where to go for help. When they do figure where to go, there are usually no beds available.

Now What and How can you help?

Share this blog on social media. Spread the word and educate!

We need to start accepting the fact that addiction is a medical problem and not a moral failure.

We need to educate people about addiction in hopes of preventing a new generation from ever using drugs.

We need to make treatment options easier to access and afford.

Make a donation to Phoenix Rising, which is a  local Non-Profit with a mission to battle addiction by supporting local drug courts in Forsyth County and the surrounding areas; funding treatment; and launching awareness campaigns.

I have also created Maddie’s LLC, in Maddie’s memory, which also raises money to help Phoenix Rising’s mission. Watch for upcoming events by visiting their FB page here.

My Promise-Maddie’s Mission

No one chooses to become addicted. Who would ever willingly choose to have to spend every waking moment thinking of how they will get their drug, so that they will be able to feel ok for a just a few minutes?

Please educate everyone around you and offer hope and help to those struggling with addiction. I made a promise that I would never let the world forget who Maddie was. In my heart, I believe that losing her life was the biggest sacrifice and gift she has given this world. Maddie wasn’t able to win this fight on earth but she will help the rest of us win it from Heaven.