What happens when a news story hits close to home? Angela, a news anchor from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had been reporting on stories about the opioid epidemic when she found herself living every parent’s worst nightmare: her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, died of a drug overdose caused by fentanyl in May 2018.
The numbers are heartbreaking — 67,367 people died from a drug overdose in 2018. That’s 185 needless deaths every single day — like a plane crash every day in America.
Emily’s story, her life, puts a human face to the numbers. Her mom shares, “Emily was a beautiful girl who deserved to live and she also deserved a chance to get help. Even if she engaged in risky behavior, it doesn’t mean she deserved to die.”
“As parents, we will never get over losing Emily to a treatable disease such as this,” says Angela. “But, by sharing her story, if we save just one family from a similar experience it will have been worth it.” Emily’s story is part of Addiction Policy Forum’s 185aDay awareness campaign, which aims to raise awareness about addiction and connect families and individuals struggling with support.
Jessica Hulsey, Addiction Policy Forum’s founder, explains: “Grief doesn’t have an expiration date, but sharing stories honors those we have lost and brings the disease of addiction out of the shadows. It lets others know they are not alone.”
It’s been over 30 years since Lorraine lost Larry, her best friend and twin brother, to a drug overdose. Since Larry’s passing, Lorraine has become a tireless advocate for addiction treatment and prevention resources — even helping create national public awareness campaigns on addiction including “Above the Influence” by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the 2000s.
For Lorraine, raising awareness around addiction and sharing Larry’s story with the 185aDay campaign is one way in which she memorializes her relationship with her twin brother and prevents other families from experiencing a similar tragedy.
“Any opportunity to honor Larry and share his story with the public is so important to me and my family,” shares Lorraine. “Larry was not his disease; he was a person with hopes and dreams whose life was cut tragically short, and we can only imagine the person he could have become if help was available to him.”
More resources are readily available today than 30 years ago. Addiction Policy Forum’s resource database and helpline connects visitors to local treatment and recovery resources, or they can call or text 1-833-301-HELP (4357) to speak with a trained counselor.
“When Larry was struggling with his heroin addiction, none of us knew how to help him and we all felt so powerless,” says Lorraine. “Thankfully there are more resources available today for families, but very few people know about them — that’s why we decided to participate in the 185aDay campaign.”
If you, or someone you know, would like to share a story of a loved one lost to addiction and substance use with the 185aDay campaign, please visit www.185aDay.org.