Always meant to be

It’s been over a year since I first started this page. Over a year since I was staring at my ceiling, trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with my life, and how I am supposed to have a life with such a gaping hole in my heart.

It has been awhile since my last post, but it has not been a second since I have last thought about Anna. It’s not that I stopped posting because I don’t think about her, or because I have nothing else to say- I have plenty to say- but something has been holding me back from writing about it. I would have an idea here and there, but it would quickly disappear. I would try to write down the ideas, but I found that I could no longer recall what it was that had popped into my head less than 45 seconds ago. As usual, I put the blame on ADHD and assumed I would think of it later when I was trying to do 13 tasks at once. People would stop me and ask why I haven’t been writing, tell me I should keep writing, and there were times I felt bad about not writing more often. I brushed the disappointment to the side, and  just kept moving forward. I never really thought about why the ideas never came back.

But now…

Looking back…

What was it that was holding me back? I could’ve sat at my computer, forced myself to keep going and ranting and writing and writing and writing.. But where would I be now if I had spent the last six months only writing and not talking to anyone about Anna’s death, staring at pictures of us together and creating a false reality of us still being together? It is possible that I would be exactly where I am today, but it is also possible that I would be stuck in the same place I was six months ago. I would be idle in my life with no direction, no happiness, no sadness, and no real emotions to get me back into the real world. Anna was always the one telling me to “get over it, life is too short,” and to, “live a little.”

And I have.

In the past six months, I have been doing things I had never done before, doing things I never wanted to do, doing things I have always wanted to do, and have found myself thinking, “Anna would be so proud,” after each new encounter.

Right now, today, is the happiest I have been in the last sixteen months.

I was browsing Facebook today, and I saw the video I made after Anna passed. I played the video, listened to the songs, watched the pictures fade away, and that’s when I realized the last six months of my life were meant to be spent living life. The experiences I have had, the friends I have made, the stories I have heard, have all brought me to the peaceful place I am in now. I am not angry at the entire world anymore, now I want to go out and fix the world. I don’t hate people that make rude, hateful comments about junkies, I simply correct them… Publicly. With facts. In front of their friends. Emphasizing their incompetence and ignorance towards the subject. Okay, I might still hate them. BUT at least I respond using a nonviolent approach, unlike the wishful approach I currently I have developing in my head. 😉 I’m kidding. Sort of.

Moving on, the point is… I am finally in a peaceful place. A place where I can freely, happily, and constructively address Anna’s death. I miss her just the same as I did sixteen months ago, but I am so, so proud to be her best friend. The looks people would give me when I told them my best friend over dosed and died on heroin, used to break my heart. I was so hurt that they were judging such an amazing person based on the manner in which they died.

Now, I love seeing the look on their faces when I tell them how my best friend died. Because the look on their face when I tell them how many people she has saved from overdosing on heroin is priceless.


 

Author’s note: Congratulations again, Sam, on 9 months clean! I am so proud to call you my friend. Even though Anna is gone, my heart hurts a little less every day knowing that she has been on your mind during your time battling sobriety. I love seeing you around town and seeing your smile explode when you get to tell me you’ve made it another day, week, or month. I can’t wait to see your one year! Life is short, my love! Stay strong. 

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Stories of Reality

This semester I’m taking a creative writing class. We are supposed to be writing ‘short stories’ that we will be turning in at the end of the semester. However, I don’t want to write short stories. I don’t want to make stuff up in order to have an affect on people. I want to tell people the harsh reality of life, the way things really are, and how easy all of your lives are compared to the man sitting next to you, and the woman next to him, so on and so forth.

Our assignment today was to read a short story titled Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. It is a good read, but requires that you have a very strong stomach and a mind open to acceptance. During our conversation about the story, my professor read off some of his favorite quotes. One of them being something about if your writing doesn’t offend someone, than there really is no point to your work, it is more important to have someone absolutely hate your writing, than for them to just put it on the shelf and never remember it. He also mentioned that some of the best works come from authors that talk about the one topic that no one wants to hear about, talk about, or even know about- just as Going to Meet the Man had done. When I was talking about my feelings on the story I had just mentioned how much I felt that the best part of the story was the fact that he was so openly speaking of such a harsh, hidden topic. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, this blog and the responses I have got from people jumped into my head.


 

I have had people thanking me for writing, appreciative for giving others a different outlook on addicts, and just thanking me for the information they otherwise wouldn’t have known. The information on my blog isn’t new information, I didn’t find these statistics or feelings or create any of this. Everything I am writing are things that have been felt by several other people, statistics that were found by someone else– I am simply putting the information out there since no one else has. If I hadn’t lost Anna, I wouldn’t have learned this statistics. I wouldn’t be able to share this information if my best friend didn’t die. Heroin use was nothing I ever wanted to talk about, know about, and a death by overdose was absolutely something I never wanted to experience in my life. It is not something I would ever wish for any other person to experience in their life, however, it is absolutely something I love writing about. I love writing about it, in hopes that none of you do have to experience it in your life. In hopes that you will all see that pain, hurt, and disaster that is created from this monster. If you can stop one person in your life, if you can give one person any sort of information on how to help their loved one- I have succeeded. Although my posts are kind of all over the place- sad here, happy here, REALLY sad there- all in all, I hope you all can find something to share with another person, one thing that will help one person.


 

I have had a couple people message me with their personal thoughts on my writing (which I love hearing!! hint, hint), but the messages I have received are amazing. One of the first messages I received, an old high school classmate shared her experience with alcohol and pain killer addiction. First of all,  I can only imagine the amount of strength it takes from someone suffering from an addiction to share that with someone who she was never super close with, so I was already impressed. She continued to share her story, and by the end I read, “So thank you for talking about it, and telling people what it’s like. My family won’t even talk to me anymore because of it.” I couldn’t believe it. She just told me some of her most intimate thoughts, and then thanked me?! To me, hearing her story and how she related to my posts was plenty enough. That is all I ever wanted from this, was to effect one person and to help them in their recovery, overcoming their addiction, anything. I just wanted one person to listen.

So you can imagine my reaction when I then received another message from another high school classmate. This time, she thanked me for being friends with Bryant. Thanked me for being friends with Bry, and thanked me for talking about how amazing he was and just telling his story. The next sentence I read, “I don’t know where I would be without that eye opener, so I probably owe him (and you) my life.” Wow. I had to read the message about four times before I could actually process what I was reading, and afterwards, I had no words. I could not believe it. “I probably owe Bryant my lifeMY LIFE.” Bryant is gone and he is still here. He saved this persons life. I can’t stop repeating it in my head. I can’t tell you the happiness, the sadness, the joy, and just the overall overwhelming feeling I got from reading that message. I could not have been more proud to be his friend in my life.

Both of these messages I received were things no one wants to talk openly about, most people don’t want to hear about, and the person on the other side absolutely does not (but needs to) speak about. They are very personal, very real, and very hard to tell another person. That’s what makes it so important. That’s why we need to share these things. That’s what makes each and every one of us so important- the stuff that we don’t want to tell people, is the stuff we need to tell people. I never would have thought of myself as ‘a writer.’ I remember in high school, my parents would always get so frustrated that I had a better grade in German than I did in English! “You speak english! How does that happen?!” It was because I hated to read and write! So I have no idea how this blog comes out, I just know that it is important for other to hear it. This is my reality. This is happening. This happened to me. Everyone needs to know, just as much as you need to share your story. You never know who will be effected.

Funny, isn’t it?

Last night as I was chatting with an old friend of mine, I was telling her Anna’s whole story and my struggles that came along with it. When I was finished, she said to me, “It just makes me so mad. Like, my uncle is 38- he’s been using heroin his whole life, he will go to prison for a year, get out and be clean for a few months before he’s using again, and he really doesn’t even want to get clean. Why did it have to be Anna, so young and wanting so badly to get clean, instead of someone like my uncle who doesn’t even care to stop using and care about getting clean at all. He barely has anything going for him anymore, why did it have to be her?”

 

And for the first time, I actually believed what I was saying when I replied, “You know, I used to wonder the same thing- but now, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it was Anna for a reason. If someone like your uncle had passed- not as many people would be affected by it, people would almost expect it to happen at this point. If it was him, it would just confirm the alledged stereotype of drug addicts. Before all this, if you asked me what a heroin addicted looked like I would say- an old man, lots of wrinkles, long hair, sitting next to a dumpster on Skid Rowe shooting up- that’s just the image that came to my head. I would have always kept that vision of a heroin addict, and I would continue not to give a crap about those people. I, and many others, needed a punch in the stomach before we realized that addicts are people, they are deserving, and they need my help. Which is why it was Anna, who knew and loved everyone she met- so that it would affect so many people, and people would start realizing what is happening. It was an eye opening experience for hundreds of people, and those hundreds of people wouldn’t be able to help another hundred people if it wasn’t Anna that passed away.”

 

Everyone has that feeling after losing someone. The thought of, “Why couldn’t it have been me? Take me don’t take them.” I can’t tell you how many countless times I have yelled at God for taking Anna away when she had so much going for her, and so much life inside of her- that why couldn’t he have taken me? I looked up to Anna in such a way that I saw her life to be more important than mine even. THAT’s how important and special she was. She was not just an ordinary girl- which is why so many people were so devastated to hear the news. It took me days, months, just to get over the shock of her death. To this day I can still stay that I have yet to fully accept her death, but I can say that I have a small idea of why it was her death. I would not be as motivated for my future goals, my future career, and the rest of my life if I hadn’t lost her. I would have never given addiction the time of day or even a small glimpse of a thought. I would have continued on my original career path, with a little motivation but not much, and not really knowing what the meaning of my life was. Now I know, I know I’m meant to be doing this. I meant to do DEA or drug rehab work, and there is nothing that could have motivated me more than losing my best friend.

I know so many other people have gained so much more insight since she has passed as well. People are learning about addiction, learning about heroin, and watching so many young people being judged because of their wrong choice, and eventually losing their lives due to the wrong choice. Anna was a child when she passed. She was twenty-one years old. Statistically she had lived just over one-fourth of her life before it abruptly ended. She was still dependent on her parents, who raised her her entire life, she was still in the process of making bad choices and learning from them- just like all twenty-one year old children do. How many children does the world need to lose before you step up to help save them? Not every twenty-one year old child is lucky enough to have parents that love and care for them as much as Anna did- and those children can potentially lose their lives a lot sooner, or stay here a lot longer being completely miserable, living in hell, with no bright light at the end of the tunnel- no way for them to get help because they have no one left to care for them. Without help from our society, more and more children are going to lose their lives to addiction because there is no one there to stand behind them and  give them a chance to get the help they are longing for. Twenty-one year olds who’s family has given up on them, refuses to care for them any longer don’t have $30,000 to get rid of the monster that is eating away at them. They shouldn’t have to have $30,000 in order to be themselves again. All in all- more and more children are going to keep losing their lives, until more and more parents have to suffer through the worst experience they could even imagine- or we can put an end to it all now, and stand up against it before it gets to that point. We can’t do it alone, and the more people who know that this is happening- the more people that will help. Stop hiding it under a rug and being ashamed of who your family members are or were- speak out and help save someone else’s family member. Stop being selfish and thinking your reputation is more important than another person’s life.

The Recovering Addict

After getting to spend the last couple weekends home, it’s amazing how much I have learned.. about everything! We were so lucky that Anna’s best friends from Nevada were able to come visit and stay with Carla, and I was able to spend a lot of my time over there catching up with the girls.

We had our share of ups and downs during the trip, but I soon learned it was all part of Anna’s plan. Nancy and Kathryn have been such a help in explaining to me how the mind of an addict and addict in recovery works. They have allowed me to ask nosey questions in order to pick their brains as an attempt to understand. They explained the details of addiction in a ‘dumbed’ down version, so that my (very innocent to addiction) self could better understand what they meant. Everything, good and bad, that happens now seems to always relate back to something Anna said before or some scheme she’s up to in heaven. I, personally, over the last couple weeks have learned a very hands on approach to what addictive behaviors look like. How the behaviors and mind of an addict are truly warped from this world and so far out of their control. After explaining all of the occurrences to Carla, she said to me, “Can you imagine Anna being that way?” That’s when I knew that Anna was trying to show me what it was like for her and how hard she struggled without any control over what she was doing, so that I can share that with you and help you to also understand what goes on.

Not every addict is exactly the same- some steal, some don’t. some manipulate with tears, some manipulate with pity, some feed off the people that love them most, some feed off of the helpful people who don’t know them at all, some are incredibly mean, some overly nice in order to receive care and affection, some push their families and friends away, some keep them close and use them as a crutch. Now matter the form in which the behaviors are being done, they are still doing them one way or another.

For me to really see it hands on was quite the experience! I fell into the trap as quickly as I’m sure most parents and close friends would. When I saw the way people that had previously dealt with addicts could spot these behaviors, their reactions to the behaviors, and observations the could make almost instantly- I was amazed! Even just saying something a different way, would change the behavior of the addict. If I were to say, “Don’t worry, I can lend you $5 for toothpaste and a soda.” The response would be, “Well, I actually need $10 because I really want to stop and get McDonald’s too.” But when someone can spot the behaviors of an addict, their response is, “Let’s go get you what you need, and nothing more. No you’re not going in alone I’m going with you.” and suddenly, that was the end of it. No more manipulation to suck more out of someone. When an addict says, “I’m going to a meeting now.” You can’t just hand them the keys and off they go. The correct behavior is for you to drop them off, walk them in, and pick them up afterwards. (Or have your sneaky friends with connections check up on who is attending the meeting that day.) Many parents have no idea how to respond to the behaviors of an addict. Even when their child is clean for days, weeks, months- the behaviors still tend to come out on occasion. As a friend, I would have no idea how to deal with the behaviors. That is a scary thought to know that we are allowing them to continue these behaviors without making a change, simply because we don’t know how to respond. We don’t want our child/friend to think that we don’t love them, don’t trust them even though they did make such a big life change, or that we don’t want to help them now that they’ve been sober. So what do we do?? When it seems like they are suffering so badly, do we just let them suffer? No, you get them proper help and care. Take them to a professional who knows what they are doing.  Unfortunately, many financial means do not allow for everyone to get immediate, professional care. There are resources to help for free! Check out this link for a list of centers around you.

Addiction is truly, truly not something that one can control on their own. Most of the time, the addict doesn’t even realize what they’re doing until someone snaps them out of it. They don’t catch onto their behaviors because everyone is feeding into them and not telling them they are wrong. We don’t want to cause any pain to our loved one, or send them into a place where they are contemplating relapse, so instead we just go along with the behaviors and allow them to treat us poorly. That is not the right thing to do. People who have friends that are addicts or family members that are addicts should have a class or resource for online lessons that will teach them how to cope and behavior with recovering addicts in the home (another one of my personal issues with addiction facilities and treatment centers). Right now, we are sending the addict home from rehab, family thinking they are perfectly healed and can go about business as usual, but that is not the case. The need boundaries. In rehab, they have a set time to wake up, a set time for lunch, group meetings at certain times- a very strict schedule. In order for the recovery process to continue working so well, these things need to continue to be implemented when they leave the center. Giving them a free schedule with plenty of free time allows the addict to pick up old behaviors and friends almost immediately. The recovering addict also cannot be stuck in a little box while trying to figure out how to live life while being clean. It can lead to depression, causing another psychological issue that needs to be treated, and again leading to a relapse.

Living with an addict very closely resembles living with a handicap that can function alone, but needs to be monitored for the half of the day. It is not an easy task. I applaud any family that is willing to take their child back in and give them the help and stability they need because it is not easy for them to do. I can imagine it would be very frustrating having to babysit your thirty-year-old son the same way you did when he was thirteen- but it has to be done for a least the first few months post inpatient rehab. They need to get back on their feet, meet new people that aren’t triggers, and create a schedule for themselves that includes commitments they simply cannot miss (i.e. a close knit AA group that counts on their arrival, exercising with their sponsor who picks them up from home, a concrete work schedule, volunteering in places they enjoy and want to be, etc.) Anything to keep them busy and on track, without suffocating them completely from normal life. I can imagine it would be hard as the addict to do come home and have to do all of these things that they are not accustomed to, and I’m sure they often fight back- causing more stress and tension between family members, but it is so necessary. It’s not as easy as it seems, and people don’t understand the stress and difficulty behind it for the friends and family involved. Families and friends need to be educated on these things; only educating the addict and putting them right back into their trigger city is not going to keep them clean forever- some people, yes, but many young people need more motivation and supervision than only relying on themselves.

Humor me, please.

I have a riddle for you all, and a lot of my personal thoughts and research to back it.

If you have ever had surgery, you know that you are prescribed two to four weeks of pain medication to help ease the pain. If you need more, it’s not too entirely difficult to get it. I mean, the doctor doesn’t know what you’re feeling, so if you say you hurt- here’s another month of pills for ya, buddy!

Almost everyone says, it’s up to the patient to decide how much meds they need, when to stop, and when the pain is unbearable. What people don’t understand is that, just like heroin, pain pills and all other opioids are a disease of the brain. Taking opioids repeatedly for an extended period of time changes the structure and the biochemistry of the brain. Many people, including myself, follow the doctors orders to a T. They are the professional, so I should trust them, right? When they prescribe me a months worth of pain killers and tell me to take one or daily as needed, and to come back if I run out or the pain is unbearable, I am going to do just that. Following the doctors order in this way, can change my the biochemistry of brain to then think that my pain is still there, even when it is not- just because of the addiction that has started in my brain and my need for the medication in order to function.

So, why is it that the doctor continues to prescribe us such a large dose of pain pills, knowing the chance for addiction is so high and that the rate of opioid abuse in the United States has sky rocketed year after year? How is it that when one doctor prescribes you medication and you run out, your are able to go to another doctor with the excuse of, “I’m still having pain here from this incident, I ran out of pills. Can I have more?” and there ya go, a brand new script for your addict brain! How do we not have enough technology to fix these issues? Why do doctors continue to create more addictions that we don’t need?

How many of you have heard about TakeAway: Iowa? My guess is very few. I didn’t even know about TakeAway. You probably still have no idea what I’m talking about! TakeAway is a twice a year, nation-wide event started by the DEA and put on in Iowa by the Iowa Pharmacy Association as a way for citizens to safely dispose of prescription drugs that are either old or left over, in order to create safer households and less addictions. (Learn more about TakeAway: Iowa) A large majority of teens that begin using prescription drugs, stared that they had originally found the pills in their home medicine cabinets or from a friend who had easy access to the medications. Even worse, many kids who start by using prescription pills, turn to heroin because of the ‘better’ high and one-eight the price. Almost everyone I know, that had been addicted to heroin, all started by using prescription pills. There have been 7 days of the nation-wide take back event put on by the DEA in the past four years. In these seven days, over the past four years, a total of 780,158 pounds or 390 tons of old or expired prescription pills were returned. Many people had no idea how to dispose of old medications, and would result to either flushing them (contaminating the water) or throwing them away (potentially handing them out to rubbage searchers). As soon as someone searching through trash finds the address, name, and type of medication prescribed- it makes that house a very easy target for robbery and theft. Many people don’t realize how dangerous prescription pills are. On the streets, a single oxy pill sells for $20. If you don’t use all of your pills and just throw them away- you just gave a dealer $200 and helped cause a death by overdose. See more prices of drugs on the streets.

No one is thinking about the consequences of their very mild actions. I mean, who in their right mind goes digging through trash for old pills? A LOT OF PEOPLE. That is some of the quickest and easiest money for people to come by. With the increase in opioid and prescription pill addictions we are facing today, it’s time for us to open our minds and think about things in a different light. You can help stop all of this, you can make a difference. You can help save a life, even by the smallest steps.

You can start today.

Find a safe place to dispose of your medications HERE.

Rehab

I have a very strong opinion about our current rehabilitation centers around the country, and most people probably won’t like it.

The fact is,hate our current drug rehabilitation facilities. HATE.

I will gladly tell you why.

First of all, google “heroin rehab,” and the first 10 things that pop up are different rehab facilities. I clicked on every single page, and not one single page tells you the cost up front. Instead, they tell you to ‘contact us right away for help!’ Well, once you contact them they make it sound like this is your only option, you have to do this, and there is no better place for you to go. Not only to have to go to this rehab facility, but you have to go to this facility- on the other side of the country. They claim it’s best for you to get out of the current state you are living in, and completely uproot somewhere else without having any of the people you have left to support you around. What they don’t tell you is that some of the cheapest, low-end facilities still cost $7,500 PER MONTH all the way up to high-end places charging $120,000 per month. The average ‘good’ but not great facility costs about $18,000 to $35,000 a month. The average rehab facilities include amenities such as a room for detoxing, a calm environment, medical services, parks, a gym, counseling services, and many other helpful tools. According to rehabs.com, they way an addict should pay for these services is as follows:

  • Get loans from friends or family: Yeah because someone who is addicted to heroin and seeking help for themselves by searching online is going to have PLENTY of friends and family left. Heroin addiction, and all addictions, drive loved ones away from the person. How could you just sit and watch your child, friend, brother do that to themselves? No matter how badly you want to help them, you can not help them until they want help. Heroin addicts are typically great liars as well. When they ask you for $7,500 a month for rehab- chances are you probably don’t believe them considering they called you 6 months ago asking for an extra $200 to help pay for the rehab costs… when they were never in rehab. Not only that– who the hell has $7,500 laying around!? It’s a freaking recession!!! Great idea, rehabs.com.
  • Rehab Program Financing: Supposedly many rehab facilities offer financing options for the addict to pay back costs once they are out of rehab in a timely fashion. This would be a good idea, except for the fact that someone just walking out of a rehab addiction facility (most likely still living in a sober home- since they have no money for rent) is probably going to have a pretty hard job finding a new job, that pays well enough for them to pay back the $22,500 that they owe for 3 months in the cheapest treatment they could find. Since they are more than likely in a sober home, it’s pretty easy for an employer to look at the address and see that it is a sober home, and because this world has no hope for people and no sympathy for addicts- there goes their chance at getting a decent job. If you can’t get a job to pay for the financing option- rehabs.com suggests for the addict to take out a bank loan or a credit card with a low interest rate. Because plenty of heroin addicts can walk into a bank, without being judged, and take out a $10,000 loan. The bank teller will probably allow that. It’s also really easy to open up a credit card that has a low interest rate without having any past credit at all. Wait- NO IT’S NOT. Again, great idea rehabs.com.
  • Savings: They want the addict to dump out their entire savings account into paying for rehab. The website literally says, “…you may be concerned about having nothing left over after you finish treatment. If your treatment is successful, you will have made one of the best financial decisions of your life.” Okay- great it’s successful and they have their life back… BUT THEY STILL HAVE NOTHING AND ARE NOW ON ROCK BOTTOM AGAIN! How do you expect them to stop living on the streets when they don’t have any money left to get them off the streets? You’re dumb, rehabs.com
  • Sell Assets: I quote from the website “If you have any assets like a car or a boat, you may want to consider selling some of these… this may be less than ideal because they have a personal attachment to their belongings.” Do you really think a heroin addict owns a boat? Seriously? Don’t you think they probably would have been forced to sell all of these things in the midst of their addiction to pay for food, shelter, etc? It is very unlikely for someone with a heroin addiction to get help within the first month of their addiction. Usually, they don’t even realize they have an addiction until it gets too far. That’s why it is called an addiction… because they can’t stop. They. Are. Addicted. If they could stop they would. Once again, another intelligent idea from rehabs.com.
  • Insurance/Medicaid: I am twenty years old, enrolled in college and I still have to pay $130 a month for my health insurance. I was on medicaid for 4 years, but they decided I make $36 too much per month for me to be on medicaid anymore. Applying for medicaid requires a computer, internet, a lot of annoying questions, and then a long 2 week waiting process. Then you get a phone call, are asked to mail in pay stubs for the past 2 weeks. They look over your information, and 2 weeks later decide how much coverage you are allowed to receive. In the meantime, the addict waiting for their medicaid request be approve has had 4 more weeks to overdose and die- when all they wanted was help. Many kids on their parents insurance plans must be either living in the home or be enrolled in school in order for your child to get your coverage until age 25. Well, what about the addicts who are over the age of 25 and can’t keep a job because of their addiction? The addicts that are scared to apply for insurance online for fear of not being able to pay and then later being fined when their insurance is cancelled, thanks to Obama’s great health care plan- more people are just being scared away from even trying to get health insurance. I didn’t have health insurance from ages 13-18 because it was too expensive for me to pay for. Thank God I wasn’t a heroin addict because I would have been screwed. So yes, if you have insurance there is a CHANCE they will partially cover your rehab, but if you don’t… go sell your boat.

Why should an addict have to pay thousands of dollars when they are already in the worst place of their lives? Don’t you think they have suffered enough? They want the help, they want to get rid of the monster that has ruined them, they want to be normal again, so why are we forcing them into a deeper hell by taking away the one thing they need in this world to survive once they are clean-money. Why are we making it so hard for them to get clean?

Everyone sits around bagging on drug addicts for being stupid people for making that choice, worthless people who can’t do anything for us in the world anyway, psychos for being able to stick that needle in their arm… My best friend was not stupid, she was not worthless, and she was not a psycho. She was working towards a degree in event planning, which she would have been AMAZING at. She could have given you the best wedding of your life, and would have done anything for you to make it that way. She taught me more than I could ever thank her for in life. She might have been hyper, but she was not a psycho. She deserved help. She deserved for someone at the rehab facility for care for her as much as she cared for everyone else. She deserved for someone to put her before themselves, and do whatever they could to make sure that little angel got what she so badly wanted- to be clean.

Instead, the great rehab facility was too under-staffed and decided to allow a woman, who had been detoxing for less than 48 hours, to be in the same, unsupervised room as my best friend, and allowed this woman’s addiction to get in my best friend’s 30-day clean brain and kill her. This rehab facility killed my best friend. It was the rehabs job to keep the detoxing individuals, who’s brains are racing and will do anything to get the drug, away from clean individuals who have already begun to reconstruct their brains. A detoxing individual knows exactly what to say to light up that old pathway in an addicts brain and get them to crave the drug just as bad as they are. That is why my best friend died, because these rehab centers are sucking families dry of their money and still not having enough staff to keep these people safe.

This is why something needs to be done. Someone needs to speak out and do something. Thanks to Anna’s family, they are speaking out. They are doing something, and it is time for everyone to listen to their heart, put a stand against discriminating addicts, and help them get the help the want and deserve. No one deserves to be treated the way we treat drug addicts, no one deserves to pay thousands of dollars for one bad choice that they have already suffered from in the worst way possible. They have paid their dues for that bad choice, they know it was a bad choice, and they want to change. Let them change, help them change. You can’t bring back my best friend, Carla and Mark’s daughter, Ryan, Katie, and Julia’s sister, but you can save someone else’s best friend, daughter, and sister.

SPEAK UP.

You don’t know

With as much research, books, and articles I have read, I still don’t understand the drug. I don’t understand addiction, because I have not been faced with the disease. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are a completely different addiction than a drug addiction. A drug addiction is completely different from a heroin addiction. From speaking with other addicts, listening to Carla tell me how badly Anna hated her addiction, I have come to understand one thing- heroin is not just a mental addiction. It is a physical addiction. Someone trying to quit smoking after smoking for 15 years is typically going to be very irritable, annoyed, uncomfortable, and distracted. Someone who is addicted to heroin and hasn’t had their hit for the day- can’t get out of bed, can’t eat, can’t function. Even if they wanted to move, if they were hungry, if they wanted to go lay on the couch instead of bed- they physically can not do anything without the drug. It’s not a little voice in their brain or a little itch on their leg that they can just block out and keep living normally. The receptors in their brain have been re-formed and their neurotransmitters have created new pathways that will not allow their body to preform without first having the drug. They no longer have the same pathways as you and me. They have a whole new way of thinking, after just one hit.

Part of rehabilitation process is attempting to once again, create more new pathways, so that the body no longer has to function with drug. It is always a constant battle for someone with a previous heroin addiction. For the rest of their lives, they will be labeled as ‘an addict in recovery.’ Heroin addiction is so strong that every single day is a constant fight against the neurotransmitters in their brain. How many of you are strong enough to over come the thoughts about your financial stress, problems at work, the things you forgot on your to-do list that keep you up for hours when you’re trying to fall asleep? Imagine those thoughts, times ten, every second of the day. That is what an addict in recovery is going through. Eventually, these thoughts become less and less, until something triggers the old pathway in their brain to light up. There they are again, trying to fight back against their brain. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what they are going through? I don’t care if they chose to shoot up in the beginning- they did not chose to be living a constant battle, every day, against the most powerful thing on this earth: their own brain. Honestly, (before learning more about it) I would think that if I were to do it one time- I would be able to fight the urge to do it again. I’m strong enough to fight back. Yeah, well, that is how I think before my normal brain pathways are completely reconfigured. The brain I have now is not the brain I would have after using heroin.

Stop looking at addicts like it’s their own fault they got there. Stop judging them by what you think you know. You don’t know. You know nothing. Many addicts in recovery are one hundred times stronger than you will ever be. Stop treating them as worthless people. They were just like you- until a monster took over everything they have ever known. Yes, it was their choice to use, but the consequences were not their fault. That is the world we live in that offered them the drug in the first place, us doing nothing to get these drugs off the streets, the rest of us treating them scum, doing nothing to help them, and watching them suffer a battle that none of us could ever fight ourselves.

Brian, Anna’s uncle, shared with me  what a previous addicted shared with him:

What do you do when you really have to pee? You hold it.

What do you do when you’ve held it for 3 hours and you can’t hold it anymore? You pee yourself.

That’s what a heroin addiction is. It becomes an involuntary bodily function. They hold back from using as long as possible, but there comes a point when they can’t hold it anymore. The addiction takes over their brain and it is no longer their choice, they can’t fight it any longer.


I truly believe that is why God gave me Anna. I was a very judgmental person to drugs and addicts before Anna’s death. Anna never told me about her addiction because she knew I would freak out and start running in circles like a chicken with it’s head cut off without a clue on what I was supposed to do. I would have probably laughed and prayed that she was joking.. and then poop myself because of the fact that my best friend is driving me around in her jeep high on heroin. I don’t associate with heroin- how could this happen to me? Anna’s two best friends are criminology majors in college- how is she addicted to heroin, doesn’t she know better? I was just like everyone else who has never known what an addict goes through. I believe part of the reason God gave me Anna, the most beautiful person I have ever known, was to show me the truth- and so I can share that truth with the rest of the world, to give a bigger inspiration to follow my criminology track and fight back against the jerks selling this crap. People can be so ignorant and heartless. Until you walk a mile in their shoes, shut your mouth- shame on you. You don’t know. You don’t want to know.

Heroin

What is heroin? I don’t know.

Who does heroin? I don’t know.

When did heroin come to Iowa? I don’t know.

What does heroin look like? I don’t know.

Where do you get heroin? I don’t know.

How much is heroin? I don’t know.

What do you do with heroin? I don’t know.

What does heroin do to you? I don’t know.

Why was my best friend addicted to heroin? I don’t know.

Being a senior at the number one party University in the Nation, I have seen my fair share of drugs. From people snorting lines at parties, kids throwing around ecstasy and “raging” all night, people hitting acid at concerts, to putting ‘magic mushrooms’ on pizzas at 3am. I can say, proudly, that I have not tried these drugs for fear of jeopardizing my future in the justice system or the government, so I don’t know how these drugs effect the body or brain. I do know, however, how people act and what they look like on multiple drugs. Heroin though? No clue. In my little pea sized world, heroin didn’t exist. Until I found out my best friend was an addict for over a year without me knowing and later died from a heroin overdose.

Since her death, I have done plenty of research trying to figure out what this drug is all about, how it works, who does it, and why my best friend was taken from me because of heroin. Although I am still learning, the information I have found is unbelievable.

Our state neighbor, Illinois, has seen a sharp increase in heroin use in the Chicago suburbs. The number of heroin overdoses doubled from 2011 to 2012, and increased AGAIN from 2012 to 2013. The youngest heroin overdose death was 15 years old. Heroin is easier for kids to buy than beer- and it’s just as available on the streets. Heroin is simple to hide, and no- heroin users do not always have track marks. There is plenty of places you will never see. (Between fingers, between toes- when was the last time you looked in between your 21-year-old child’s fingers and toes?) Pharmaceuticals still remain to be the drug causing the most overdoses in the United States. However, prescription drugs are expensive. Heroin is the same high, for 1/8 of the the price. One ‘balloon’ of heroin (essentially 3 ‘hits,’ which is enough for a decent high for most of the day), usually costs $5-6. Give your kid $10 to go to the mall and hang out with his friends, he buys 5 chicken nuggets for $1, even gets a medium soda- and still has enough to walk outside, sit on the bench and be offered this stuff that you sniff, the big guy was doing it and he looked like a boss- who wouldn’t want to be like this dude? Drug overdose rates in the United States have increased 102% from 1999 to 2010. The government has now called the drug overdose situation an epidemic. Overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle accidents in 29 states in the US just last year.

Still think it’s not your neighbor?

51,045 people were admitted for drug abuse treatment in Iowa in 2013. In 2011 1 case with 112 grams of heroin was seized by police, in 2013 14 cases with 290 grams were seized. The heroin overdose death rate increased by 700% in Iowa from 2003 to 2012. Iowa is one of the top 3 states in the fight against drug abuse. THESE ARE THE SOME OF THE LOWEST NUMBERS IN THE NATION.


IT IS YOUR NEIGHBOR. IT IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. IT IS THE KID CHECKING OUT YOUR GROCERIES. STOP DENYING IT. Do something about it.

Please share this post with your family and friends. You never know who will see it, or what they’ve been doing.

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Throughout my life I will have times of strong faith in God, times of weak faith, and times of complete doubts, so I am absolutely not one to be preaching. However, this time is different. Some of you will understand when I ask- have you ever gotten that feeling after someone passes that their whole life was planned out for an exact reason? Like the time they told you to “live a little,” and put your convertible top down in 36 degree weather- was actually a sign that life would eventually be taken too short? That the only way any of the things that can be happening around you is because God is continuing to put them there, at exactly the right time, exactly when you need it, without anyone else even knowing? 

Thinking back on Anna’s life.. It’s crazy how many things have happened since she passed that prove to me she is with God in Heaven, but that her time here was done for a reason and God had a plan the entire time, and we never even noticed it.

After sorting through 81 entries on Anna’s obituary guestbook I finally found the one I was looking for:

“I am a total stranger to Anna and her family, and have no knowledge of the circumstances of her death. Her obituary in the Des Moines Register just happened to catch my eye. What an eloquent, beautiful, and moving statement about who was apparently a very special young woman. The fourth and fifth paragraphs of the obituary, which I am taking at face value, describe a person who only comes into our lives once or twice, if we are lucky. Cherish your memories. -Gary Norby”

Even still reading that comment brings tears to my eyes. Mr. Norby is so very right. You really do only meet one or two people in the world with life like Anna. What if this was really the plan all along? What if this is what was supposed to happen, so that Anna’s story can change the world and the way people treat addicts? What if THIS girl starts an epidemic? What if God planned this entire time for Anna’s death and the start of the non-profit, “Anna’s Warriors,” to change drug rehabilitation completely? What if, ten years from now, our world is completely different, because God sent us this little earth bound Angel. I mean, that is why I’m here, writing this, because God sends Anna to me (in various ways- yelling at me in my head, dropping lighters everywhere, speaking to me in my dreams about who’s 3 weeks pregnant and they still don’t know yet…) to tell me whatever she wants, and this time- she told me to write this blog, to share her story and my story of losing a beautiful best friend to a heroin overdose. Although she also told me this blog was going to explode, and everyone would hear my story (she went as far as showing me a picture in a dream of ME on the today show, sharing her story) and that this would somehow turn into a world wide publicized thing– I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. If ONE person hears Anna’s story, makes a difference, or changes the way they look at people- I can rest happily.