Death

January is for Homecomings & Anniversaries

Seven years ago, I was boarding a flight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida bound for Bradley Airport in Hartford, Connecticut. Bound for home. I had been in Florida for five months, two weeks and four days. I was about three months sober after a one time use in Florida, and I was more than ready to come home. What I wasn’t ready for, was to be sober, at home.

I had a connection in Charlotte and I waited anxiously for my next flight to board. Of course, it was delayed. It wasn’t the first time I made this round trip, and I remember distinctly sitting in my seat, stretched out across the empty row, thinking to myself that this would be the last time I would make this flight for this reason.

So far, I’ve been right.

What I wasn’t right about was that I could stay sober on my own. I arrived in Hartford to snow on the ground, which I could not have been more thrilled about. I love the snow, and I had missed several good storms while I was in Delray. We stopped home briefly for me to switch out my bathing suits and tank tops for snow boots and hoodies, and left again for my new home.

I arrived at the sober house in New Haven, which was inside of an old, partially restored mansion. My room was on the third floor, of course, and I never quite got used to those old, creaky, narrow stairs. I made it a few days in the sober house before I realized how to get what I really wanted, which was to use. I had started taking the bus in Florida, but had never ridden it here at home.

The system was completely different, but it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I could ride the bus for an hour and wind up right in the center of my universe, which at that time was Brooklyn, deep in the sick cesspool that is Waterbury, CT.

I knocked on my drug dealer’s door and there she was, right where I left her. She had a new phone number which I didn’t have since I had been gone, and there was no way for her to contact me because my mother had changed my phone number while I was in rehab. Phone numbers aside, I happened to know where she lived, which I guess no one accounted for. I was back in business.

Even though I had suffered a near fatal overdose before I left for Florida, that didn’t stop me from jumping back in with both feet. I made an early habit in the sober house of using in the bathroom prior to taking a shower, so no one was likely to bother me or see me nodding out. It wasn’t long before I hit my first speed bump and got arrested for possession.

When I got kicked out of the sober house for all of my many indiscretions, I went back home. My mother didn’t know what to do. Another failed attempt at rehab, and I was back to actively using. It was as a last resort that I agreed to get on the methadone program and give recovery another try.

I didn’t want to live that way, and I didn’t want to die that way either.

I was court ordered into an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and I chose to complete it at the closest facility to home which was the APT Foundation on State Street. That’s where I became exposed to the methadone program and chose to get on board. It was the best decision I believe I have ever made in my entire life.

Within a few months, I had completed IOP and I started to give clean urines. Not everytime, mind you, but some of the time. I had made a friend, who turned out to become my best friend to this day. Years later, I would meet my partner and love of my life in those very same group rooms.

I kept coming, and let the methadone do it’s job, while the program supported me and gave me the time to get my head screwed on straight. They didn’t expect me to get sober overnight, and I didn’t. It would be two whole years from the day that plane touched down to the day I got truly sober. I’m not even sure what day that was, I just know it was sometime in mid January.

This month, I will celebrate four years in long term recovery from heroin.

I still work hard at it every single day. I still think about using all the time, but today I am strong enough to resist that urge. My addiction doesn’t run my life anymore, it inspires it.

It inspires me to speak to students and share my story to help them make better choices. It inspires me to sit on the Substance Abuse Action Council in my town and inform policy and procedure as it relates to substance abuse. It inspires me to work hard at my job and continue to take on new projects and responsibilities.

Today I am dependable, I am collected, and I am sober. I walk through the world as a woman who has faced her own death and come out the other side. I am strong, I am powerful, and I am capable. There is nothing I can’t do or figure out today.

If it wasn’t for my family, none of this would be possible. If someone you love is in active addiction, I implore you not to give up. I implore you to support them each and every attempt they make at sobriety, because you never know when it’s going to be the attempt that actually works. We don’t recover easily, but we do recover.

I am literal living proof.

©Copyright 2019 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin

Dear Addiction: I See You.

I saw you yesterday.

I saw you in the eyes of a young girl. She was frail and her skin was red and erupting in anger. It’s easy to spot you inside of people when you know what to look for. I saw you under her fingernails, tangled into her dull, matted hair. I saw you in the hollows around her collarbones. I saw you trying to hide under the long sleeve shirt she wore despite the ninety degree heat that hung like heavy, wet laundry on an already overburdened line.

I saw you last week.

I saw you in the parking lot of the grocery store as I pulled into my parking space. There you were, hanging in the air between a car window and a pale, shaking hand. I saw you folded up in between the three crumpled twenty dollar bills. You didn’t even care that everyone could see you right there in the open, you weren’t even trying to hide. I saw you last week in that parking lot, but nobody else could see you creeping further into our community, seeping into every open space and into every vulnerable soul. Of course, people know you’re around. But they didn’t see you. I did.

I saw you last month.

I saw you hanging around outside the clinic where people go to get help. You’re just so insidious, sitting there waiting for the next person who isn’t quite ready yet, who is still a little vulnerable, who still listens when you call. I saw you there when the checkout girl from the gas station down the street approached my partner to ask for her clean urine. I saw you when a fist full of Xanax were passed from one shaking hand into another. I saw you as nurses and staff came sprinting outside with Narcan in hand to the car parked against the fence where a father of three was slumped over his steering wheel. I saw you too many times last month.

I saw you a few months ago.

I saw you in the long, snaking line outside the funeral home. I saw you in the eyes of mourners, offering their best sympathies to the parents who are burying their child, at the same time knowing they brought you as their guest to the service. I saw you in the burn hole in the pants of a former classmate, struggling to keep his eyes open, as he wonders to himself if he could be next. I saw you in the casket, in the dead body laying in front of me. That body used to be alive with purpose and promise. Now it’s just the two of you, tied together forever into eternity.

I see you everywhere, every day.

Not a moment passes without you trying to sneak your way in, lurking somewhere in the background, always watching and waiting for your chance to get back into my life. I see you in those texts that still come every once in a while when an old dealer gets a new phone number. They don’t care that they haven’t seen me in three years, because they know you will always be there and today might be the day I let you win. I see you in the scars on my skin from where you got inside me, those black and red splotches and blotches that just never seem to fully fade.

I see you in the clients I meet at my job, where I put my armor on and get ready to wage war against you. I use every weapon in my arsenal to try to fight you off, push you back, cast you out. There’s medicine and there’s therapy and there’s twelve step meetings and there’s friends and family who support us and all the while you hang in the air around us. Because our weapons are only enough to subdue you, enough for a daily reprieve, enough just for today. Because tomorrow you will be back, ready to fight another day, back to your ultimate mission.

Because I saw you yesterday.

I know what you want. You want me to come back to you. You want me to be your slave again, your partner, your lover, you want to be my only friend. You want to take everything from me that I love. You want me to remember the good times, the happy days, the warm blanket, the arms of the angel. You want to possess me, own me, control me, and then kill me.

I saw you yesterday, just like every other day.

But you didn’t see me.

©Copyright 2018 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin

The House That Addiction Built

Addiction is like the house on a nice street that used to look so beautiful on the outside. Over the past few years, it has become dilapidated, worn down, tarnished. The lawn and gardens are overgrown and full of weeds. The shutters have fallen off the windows, and if you think the outside is bad, you should see what’s going on inside. The family and friends of an addict are the neighboring homes. Their houses still look nice, put together, habitable, but by virtue of living next door to a war zone disguised as a house, their property values fall alongside it.

Addiction affects every single person who comes in contact with the addict. Just like no one wants to be a drug addict, no one sets out with that goal in mind, even more so the people who love that addict certainly never signed up for this life. We drag our friends and family into our uphill battle, and they become broken down, bruised, and worn out right along side us.

Worse still is what happens when one of us loses our battle with the disease. The city comes and knocks down the vacant house, but nobody is able to exorcize the ghosts that live there. Our family and friends will never escape the memories that haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Coming off of another overdose death of a friend, I am exasperated. I am horrified. I am distraught. I am powerless. I am frustrated that nothing I am doing is enough, or will ever be enough, to save everyone. And for every addict I reach, every person whose life is changed, there are thousands of people who will never recover. They will die before they ever have the chance to recover.

I am conflicted deeply about these deaths, as they continue to come like a train that’s off its schedule. We know they are coming, we just don’t know when the grim reaper will show up again to steal another soul away from us. On the one hand, if we weren’t losing all of these incredible sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, I don’t think anyone would even care about this epidemic. We’ve been talking about it for over a decade, and it’s only been in the most recent years that “good kids” are dying that suddenly people want to show concern. On the other hand, how many good people have to lose their lives before we see real change?

The opioids are killing us, but so is the stigma. The stigma is the station that the grim reaper’s train rolls into. If there were no stigma, I personally believe there would be significantly less death.

The stigma is what keeps me from reaching out to a struggling addict, because they won’t admit they are struggling. Even if I ask someone directly how are they doing, are they staying clean, they will lie. There is stigma even amongst ourselves, between who is clean, who is on methadone, who is doing it the “right way”. When someone has been doing well and they fall off, they are so ashamed to admit that they, again, need help. We are told not to associate with people who are using when we’re clean, so we cut them out and blacklist them instead of checking in and offering support. I get it, we all have to protect our own sobriety. But when I look at someone who is using, at this stage in my recovery, the last thing I want to do is join them.

My heart breaks for the desperation they are feeling. For the guilt and the shame, and the pain they are in. The struggle is very real and it never, ever, EVER goes away. No matter how much sober time we have, it never goes away. It’s not something you can put behind you and forget about. It’s not something you can pretend never happened. Some days it’s a tiny mouse on a wheel, turning in your brain in the background. Some days, it’s the elephant, its silence getting louder and louder while it takes up the entirety of your mind. You try to push it out. You try to send it back to the circus. But your life is the circus now. You are stuck in the middle of the center ring and some days the monkey is on your back, and some days you are the monkey.

I imagine that scene in the Little Mermaid where Ariel signs her voice away to Ursula, and then is forced to watch in painful silence as what should have been her life unfolds in front of her. That’s sort of what it’s like. You watch your friends and peers grow and find their way, while you drag yourself around the same worn and beaten path until you wind up in jail, an institution, or you lose the fight and you die.

And if addiction is the dilapidated house on a nice street, then heaven must be the most beautiful mansion any of us have ever seen. I imagine every soul that we have lost coming out on to the lawn, arms out stretched to greet the newest resident as they arrive. Tupac talked about “Thugs Mansion”, where he imagined all of the gang bangers and G’s would go when they died. “Ain’t no heaven for a thug”, he rapped. I picture Addict’s Mansion the same way.

“Dear Mama, don’t cry, your baby boy’s doing good. Tell the homies I’m in heaven and they ain’t got hoods.” -Tupac

Instead I imagine a place where they are no drugs, no needles, no earthly struggles. We don’t need to use because all of our problems evaporated the minute we left our old lives behind. We don’t have a void, that hole we talk about, that we need to constantly fill with narcotics, then food, then shopping, then gambling. That hole seems to always be there. I’ve been emptying mine out for years now, and it’s amazing how much shit can fit into that hole. People talk about finding good and positive things to fill it with. I picture it more like a stomach that stretches to accommodate all the garbage we shove inside it. And just like when someone has bariatric surgery, and their stomach is cut into a much smaller hole, I believe that the hole needs to shrink until there is nothing left. I don’t want to fill the hole with positive things, I want to eliminate the hole and never have to worry about how full it is and the quality of its contents.

I like to think when we arrive at Addict’s Mansion, that hole vanishes. We are finally free and at peace. Our addictions leave us and we don’t need to use drugs to feel whole and complete because in heaven there is nothing but wholeness and completion. That’s where my friends are today. Sitting around a bonfire, shooting the shit, remembering the good times and feeling free from all the bad times.

There are roads in my town that I stopped driving down after some friends passed away, because I couldn’t handle it. I learned to subconsciously reroute around town. I’m not going to do that anymore. It kills me to think I will never see any of those friends outside their houses again. I will never see Buckley on his skateboard, or Mat fixing his quad, or Marc kicking the soccer ball or washing his car. But I will drive by and I will remember them all so that I never forget.

My house today is still recovering from the time when addiction lived here. There are still some weeds in my lawn, a few shingles missing off my roof, but slowly and surely I repair the damage. My friends and family help to hand me the tools I need to rebuild. The program of recovery I work is the blueprint for construction. My sobriety is the currency that pays for all the supplies.

I don’t have to live that life anymore. My friends and family don’t need to watch me die. Standing in that funeral home, over and over again, for too many young lives lost, I know for sure that I don’t ever want my mother and my family to stand in that room for me. Not anytime soon.

Because I know for certain that we can rebuild. We can and do recover.

Just think of all the people that you knew in the past,
That passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last.
Picture a place that they exist, together.
There has to be a place better than this, in heaven.
So right before I sleep, dear God, what I’m askin’
Remember this face, save me a place, in [Addict’s] mansion.

©Copyright 2018 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin

Unpopular Opinions: Marijuana For Good

When it comes to the fight against substance abuse, especially geared towards students and young people, many communities are still wasting precious time and resources trying to fight against the inevitable legalization of medical, and eventually recreational, marijuana. While hundreds of people die every day due to heroin and other opioid related overdoses, we know that no one has ever, in the history of the world, died from an overdose of marijuana.

That doesn’t mean like with every single drug and/or medication out there that there are not risks. True that driving under the influence of any substance, marijuana included, is dangerous and can cause serious injury and death to not only the driver and passengers, but other innocent people on the road. It is true that we don’t fully understand the impact marijuana has on the growing and developing brain and body, so keeping individuals under the age of 18 from using this substance isn’t a bad idea. I certainly don’t object to efforts to keep kids from experimenting with marijuana until they are of legal age, just like we do with alcohol.

Fighting to keep marijuana illegal, whether it’s medical or recreational, is a complete waste of resources and it is a fight that will not be won by opponents of legalization.

Marijuana is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, mood and mind altering substances in the world. It has been used by humans for thousands of years for both medical and recreational purposes. We know that it is not a drug that causes fatalities. We know that less than ten percent of users develop an addiction to the drug, which is characterized not by regular use but by any negative consequences associated with that use. Smoking weed everyday, just like drinking a glass of wine everyday, does not make one an addict. Being unable to go to work or school because of the consumption of the substance, or financial issues resulting from money spent on the substance, or the ability to live a functional life due to the substance would indicate a possible addiction. This is extremely rare when we talk about marijuana, just like with alcoholic beverages. Many people consume alcohol on a regular basis, with about 70% of Americans reporting drinking within the past year.

However, just like with marijuana, less than 10% of individuals who drink have a problem with alcohol consumption.

So why is marijuana illegal while alcohol is not? Many people believe that it goes back to industries that lobbied to make hemp illegal because it would be a more cost effective alternative to their products. Hemp is an incredible resource that can be made into paper, textiles, and hundreds of other everyday products, so other industries vilified the drug itself to prevent it from harming their business and bottom lines. Other reasons trace back to early immigrants who used the drug, so just as we do today, the white people vilified the drug because it was linked to brown immigrants who they considered dirty, lazy, and undesirable. We are all familiar with the prohibition of alcohol, and the propaganda used against it. It has been much the same with the prohibition of marijuana.

Many people in the treatment industry believe that if one is sober, that they need to abstain from every mind altering substance out there. This is the way promoted by Twelve Step fellowships, and consequentially this is the philosophy held by the majority of those who work or live in recovery. Just like each person gets recovery in their own way, the parameters of what recovery means can be different for different people. Many people in recovery from drug use are able to drink alcohol without consequence, and the same is true of casual use of marijuana. It is up to each of us as individuals to decide what recovery means to us.

When it comes to opiates, marijuana has been used for decades, probably even longer, to help with the withdrawal effects. Historically, people who couldn’t afford to get on methadone or receive other kinds of treatment have turned to marijuana to help with both acute and post acute withdrawal. Many people use it just like methadone or Suboxone, as an unofficial maintenance program to help them cope with the long, years long process, of staying off opiates. If we can treat opiate dependence with marijuana instead of other opiates, then why shouldn’t we? Isn’t it a better alternative than staying dependent on methadone or Suboxone for years on end? Some states get this, and are trying to move forward with “marijuana maintenance” programs for those addicted to opiates.

In the same vein, isn’t it better to prescribe marijuana for various medical conditions than the alternative of prescribing dangerous opiates and benzodiazepines? The dependence and side effects of these drugs are so dangerous and even deadly, while the alternative of using marijuana is much safer. I’d rather see a chronic pain patient smoking weed or using CBD’s to treat their condition that spending their life dependent on an ever increasing dose of oxycodone.

We’ve all seen the videos online of people having seizures, or episodes of indescribable pain, and using marijuana almost instantly reverses the symptoms. It is inhumane to allow people, especially children, to suffer from pain, discomfort, or crippling anxiety when we have a drug that can be used to treat it with little to no side effects. There are countless strains of marijuana that can be used for all kinds of issues. Each strain has a unique set of traits that can be applied to almost any illness or condition.

Legalization would provide an incredible amount of tax revenue to our communities. It could solve a great deal of budget issues. Furthermore, it would drastically reduce the number of people that are incarcerated for possession or sale of marijuana. It would put a significant dent in our prison overcrowding problems. It would significantly lessen the traffic through our courts and drastically reduce the number of people who participate in diversion programs and who are on probation. It would lower the number of children who are placed into foster care, and parents who are trapped in DCF programs, simply because they use marijuana. This is basically the equivalent of taking the children of parents who drink alcohol, and since most adults in this country drink, everyone should be able to see how ridiculous this policy is.

When opponents of marijuana are asked to explain their argument, they have nothing but junk science and skewed studies to support their position. Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, and in all honestly probably less so. We are spending copious amounts of money to keep this drug illegal. We have to pay police, prosecutors, public defenders, advocates, court employees, treatment centers who run diversion programs, and an endless list of people and agencies. It costs a lot of money to keep this drug illegal, while legalizing it would actually GENERATE money. Dispensaries could bring jobs to our communities. Imagine the research that could get done on so many different diseases and medical conditions once we work to eliminate the stigma associated with marijuana.

Marijuana is just as valid of a medication as pain killing opioids, with a fraction of the risks associated with them. It is also just as safe of a recreational drug as alcohol, if not more so. The health risks are really in the ingestion method, which is typically smoking. However, using cannabinoids and marijuana itself in other ingestion methods would eliminate this one potential danger. We can do better when it comes to the ways we treat many different diseases and conditions, including the terrible issue we have with opioid dependent individuals. We need to focus our energies on the prevention of dangerous drug use, like that of opiates, and stop wasting our time and other resources fighting something that just isn’t worth the battle.

Rather than a danger to those in recovery, marijuana could be, and to many people already is and has always been, a blessing.

©Copyright 2017 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin

The Dressing Room & The Damage Done

It was late summer and I had a flight booked from Bradley Airport to Ft. Lauderdale. I was headed to treatment in Florida for the second time in as many years. A little more than a year prior, I had flown into the same airport and was picked up by a friendly Aussie from Sunrise Detox located in West Palm Beach. It is by far the best detox I have ever been to, and I could not possibly recommend it enough. When it was time to detox again, I knew I’d be back.

In a way, I was almost looking forward to it. A soft clean bed with freshly laundered white sheets, changed several times daily to keep up with the sweating and shedding of toxins the body goes through. Flat screen TV, vending machines full of candy and soda, and a chef on staff cooking three delicious meals a day. Unlimited peanut butter and jelly. What more could you ask for when you’re going through hell? They keep you more comfortable than anywhere else, and if you don’t know where your headed next they will find a place for you.

So I knew what to expect from detox, and I had spoken at length with Loren Seaman from the Orchid Recovery Center for Women and I had a decent idea of what treatment would be like. My main priorities for the coming week were to get as high as possible and not forget to pack my bathing suit.

My mother and I had been fighting over Naltrexone and I had been doing everything I could to dodge it and hide it and spit it out. Once I booked my flight and promised to go to treatment, she relented and I was free to finish using without having to use three times as much dope to overcome the pain in the ass opiate blocker she had been shoving down my throat.

I was trying to be smart, accounting for the effects of the Naltrexone wearing off, and taper down my use so that I wouldn’t overdose. I think if the dope hadn’t changed over to a new batch in the process of this taper, everything would’ve been fine. Except it wasn’t.

I’m in the last dressing room on the right hand side in the bathing suit section of the Macy’s in the Waterbury mall. I’ve got my spoon that I stole off the display in the housewares section, a belt that I borrowed from accessories, my bag of works and a six bags of dope that I counted off my bundle. In a miraculous departure from my normal habits, I left the remaining four bags in the car.

The previous day I had used eight bags, so I thought accounting for it being the third day off the Naltrexone that shaving two bags off the count would be perfect. I hadn’t gone on this trip to the city to pick up this batch, so I didn’t get to sample it in Harlem like I normally would have. I didn’t know how strong it was.

I stack my bags on top of each other and rip the tops off. I shake each one out into the spoon and draw up half a syringe of water from the water bottle I had purchased from the pretzel stand outside in the mall. I squirt it into the spoon and mix the dope up with the plunger from the syringe. Once I was satisfied, I draw it up into the barrel and begin the struggle of finding a vein. Since I had been using for awhile at this point, my already small and damaged veins were pretty much tapped out. I get lucky and I hit one. I remember flushing out the needle and capping it. I stood up. Everything after that is black.

I can faintly hear someone calling my name. Over and over again, I hear my name. I realize they are actually yelling. I am moving and there are bright lights over my head, I can see them through my closed eyelids that no matter how hard I try I cannot open. I cannot speak. I try to raise my hand to acknowledge that I am hearing them, because they are annoying me and I want them to stop yelling. I am paralyzed and I cannot move a single muscle, including those stubborn eyelids.

Finally I am able to make sounds from my mouth, but not words. I’m trying to say “I’m here” but whatever comes out is unintelligible. I continue to say it until the words eventually come together. I start to be able to open my eyes and I realize that I am in the hallway of a hospital and I am on a stretcher, and I am being pushed very, very fast.

Shit.

Once all the fun and games are over, I realize that I have been stripped of my clothing and possessions, and I am alone in the ER in a room behind a curtain. The doctor who eventually shows up to talk to me is very unpleasant. She immediately starts in with telling me that I cannot leave until she deems me sober enough and I gather that she intends to spend that entire time period trying to convince me to go to treatment.

I tell her that I am going to treatment in a few days, and that I even have a flight booked. She of course, does not believe me. I know all about treatment in Connecticut and there is no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to give up my Sundays on the beach and beautifully decorated apartment in Florida for a stripped down residential hell hole somewhere in the tri-state area. I tell her as much. She doesn’t give a shit, and she tells me as much.

We fight back and forth about this until I wear her out and she leaves me there to think it over. I beg her for my clothes. I eventually come to accept this woman is not going to let me leave until her shift ends and I pray that time is coming sooner rather than later.

During my time in the Emergency Room I am informed that I was dosed three times with Narcan before I came back to life. The rest of the story I put together myself during the time I spend trapped in the shitty hospital room. I must have fallen backwards into the locked dressing room door because I have a huge bump on the back of my head and it’s really painful. I wonder if I broke the door, or if I just made a lot of noise. Either way, some strange woman must have heard me fall and called 911. I don’t know who she was, she didn’t stick around to give her name or follow me to the hospital. I will never be able to thank her for what she did. I will never be able to thank her for not minding her business. My only hope is someday my story will be public enough that she will read it and recognize it and contact me.

It isn’t until I get to detox the following week and I am able to feel my body again that I realize I have a fractured rib from the CPR that was administered by the paramedics.

Eventually the evil doctor’s shift is over and she lets me go around midnight. Luckily, I am just a few blocks from the mall and I walk back to my car in the dark night through the dangerous streets of downtown Waterbury. My car is right where I left it, and my four bags of dope are still safely stashed inside. At that moment I’m glad for that because tomorrow I’ll be able to get high in the morning. At this moment I’m glad for that because if I had any drugs on me when I overdosed I might have gotten arrested for possession. Luckily all I had was paraphernalia and they must have decided to let that slide given the circumstances. Not everyone is so lucky. Imagine dying, and you come back to life only to find out that you’ve got a court date in the morning. Thanks for nothing.

I get home and I don’t tell my mother what has happened. I know that she will force me to fly out the very next day, and I still have a few days of using left to do. I still have a car left to total two days later when I fall asleep driving on the highway and drive straight into the guardrail on I691 at 80 miles per hour. I walk away from this too, alive and un-arrested.

Overdosing was one big ‘yet’ for me that I always thought I was too smart to ever have to deal with. I thought people that overdose were morons, unable to gauge their use properly or interpret the strength of their dope. I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. Very, dangerously, deadly wrong.

Because paramedics carry a drug called Narcan, generically known as naloxone, I am alive to tell this story. We keep a Narcan kit in our home just incase it’s ever needed. I carry one on me, just incase I ever happen to be the stranger in the dressing room who witnesses someone on their worst day. I only hope that I never get the chance to return the favor, and that I never need to use my Narcan kit. But if I do, I’m ready. If you overdose in my presence, you can rest assured that I will be there to try and save your life.

It is unfortunate that many fatal overdoses happen in the home. Because of the financial consequences of addiction, many addicts live at home with their parents. This can be a blessing in an overdose because it means someone is there to call for help. But often times, help doesn’t get there fast enough. When you are blue, not breathing, dead, there can be a matter of moments between you waking up again and getting buried under six feet of earth.

This is why it is not just important, but VITAL that we supply the families of addicts with Narcan for use in the home. It is VITAL that they are trained in CPR. It is VITAL that they know that Narcan is temporary, and that they must still call 911 to prevent the overdose from reoccurring when the medication wears off. We not only need to supply this medication, but we need to provide the training for it as well.

An addict’s doctor can write a prescription for Narcan and it can be picked up at your pharmacy. Your insurance may or may not cover it. Your doctor may or may not be willing to prescribe it in the first place. But that does not teach you how to use it or what to do during an overdose.

Because I owe my life to this medication, and I feel so strongly about it, my first priority with In Angel’s Arms is to hold an Overdose Workshop to teach anyone who is interested everything they need to know about Narcan. Our workshop will cover:

  • What Narcan is
  • How to access it
  • How to administer it
  • What will happen when it is administered
  • Calling 911
  • Preforming CPR

Admission to this event is only $20, so that we can cover our costs. If you cannot afford the $20, please come anyway. I will cover you. If you are living with or spend a lot of time with an addict, you should be there. If you are an addict, please feel free to attend as well. I encourage you to bring anyone who is close to you with you. Everyone is welcome.

Because of this medication, I am here to tell you this story. It is my job to make sure other addicts have the same opportunity to tell their own stories. If you would like to help us provide low cost Narcan kits to families who need them, please donate to our fundraiser. Because of the increased demand, these kits have become very expensive. With your donation, we can help families to afford kits at a reduced cost.

Please join us at the Knights of Columbus located at 22 Church Street in North Haven, CT from 6:30-8:30pm on Wednesday, February 1, 2017.

If you have any questions about the event please contact me at lauren@inangelsarms.com

©Copyright 2016 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin

Dead Celebrities

This year has been a rough one for many people. I’d wager that it’s been even rougher for the people who are dead, specifically, all of the celebrities who have died this year. There are memes all over the place blaming 2016 for being the year that stole our childhood icons and most loved famous people. But nobody is talking about the common thread amongst so many of these deaths, and that of course, is addiction.

The world mourned collectively when iconic musician Prince died from an accidental overdose back in April. People could not stop talking about Prince and his incredible music, and tributes came pouring out of the woodwork. But of course, no one seized the moment to talk about WHY this amazing human is no longer with us. Not just addiction, but OPIATE addiction. Fentanyl, specifically. Fentanyl is available as a hardcore painkiller, over 61 times the potency of morphine.

It is on the market in several preparations, including lollipops and patches which are often aimed at geriatric patients. The patches are designed for use over the course of 72 hours, but just like its cousin OxyContin, that time release can be easily defeated. By eating it. I ate half a fentanyl patch once during peak using and it knocked me on my ass so hard I couldn’t even comprehend it.

It was one of the highest experiences of my life, and it was actually frightening.

I witnessed a friend who was so high on fentanyl once that he was convinced he dropped a lit cigarette in my car while I was driving him home. I had watched him toss it out the window five minutes prior, but he wouldn’t relent. He made me pull over, and stop the car, so he could get out and search for the missing cigarette butt. He fell down on the side of the road, so fucked up, he couldn’t even pick his body back up to get back in the car. I was so afraid a cop was going to drive by, I got out of the car and actually hit him repeatedly to get him alert enough to put him back in the seat so we could get out of there. It was terrible.

This drug is the most common illicit additive in heroin these days, and it creates a very potent drug that heroin users tend to enjoy. A small amount allows those who cut drugs to elevate the quality of their product for little expense. This has been big in the news recently, but like every other aspect of the opioid epidemic, it has been going on for years.

I tested positive for fentanyl in detox in 2009, seven years ago, without having intentionally taken it. For many of us, it’s just another episode of old news on the front page of the We Know Already Gazette.

Prince is the man they invented the word “superstar” to describe. He was a musical genius, and he had the world in his hands. He lived in beautiful homes, he had every material possession he could desire, he was living his passion and creating his art, and there was no reason for him to be down and out dealing with addiction. Yet here he was. Living the dream, and dying by the disease. Addiction knows no prejudice. It will take you as you are, no matter who you are.

Beloved Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher died suddenly on Tuesday, December 27, of apparent cardiac arrest. It was reported that she had suffered a relapse recently under the weight of her tour. Carrie had talked more openly than anyone about her addiction and mental illness, and that is what made her so valuable to me as someone to look up to and admire. She was open that she may never have truly overcome her demons, and that she continued to fight them until her untimely death.

Carrie was outspoken and she just didn’t care what anyone thought of her and the things she said. She recently gave an interview about her affair with Harrison Ford a million years ago during the filming of Star Wars. It was a secret she could have and almost did take to her grave, but she decided to share it like the shared so much of herself. She didn’t believe in shame, it seemed, and she wanted to live openly and honestly instead of hiding behind the façade of success and greatness. She could’ve died as a pristine icon, Princess Leia, emulated in fandom for eternity. She could’ve died crystal clean if she had never chosen to bare her real self to the world. But instead she died as one of us, a real person, who was an addict. Overdoses aren’t the only way we die. Drugs, especially cocaine, cause significant damage to the heart. Regardless of her more recent use, its likely it only added to the strain of the years of addiction that preceded it.

George Michael also died due to heart related issues, likely caused by his years of drug use. Recent reports allege that he had been secretly battling a heroin addiction. Rick Parfitt suffered multiple heart attacks before his heart finally gave out. David Gest had reportedly been abusing sleeping pills and a variety of other prescription drugs, likely opiates as well, which we know are the world’s favorite prescription.

The year 2016 didn’t kill these people. DRUGS killed these people. Famous people, living the lives that many average people dream about, still victims of this deadly disease. Still unhappy, still struggling to live each day with the person who looks back at them through the mirror. Still lost to a disease with no cure and not enough treatment, that you can put into remission and still die from thirty years later.

It is always there, waiting for us. Lurking in the background, hoping that one little slip will lead to a relapse and that we’ll be back again, doing its bidding and living under its thumb. Even when we keep it at bay, fighting everyday against it, you just never know.

When addiction is done with you, you’re done with life. Can’t live with it, can’t die without it.

©Copyright 2016 In Angel’s A