Learn from my regrets

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Robby's Voice, Support, Talking to kids,

REGRETS, I’VE HAD A FEW….

I was listening to my iPod the other day, and “My Way” by Frank Sinatra played. This verse always grabbed me;regretwoman

“regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…”

I always wanted to live life that way – going for it. Maybe I swung and missed a few times, but no regrets.  I’d rather swing and miss than not swing at all.  I know Robby lived life that way and his favorite phrase, Carpe Diem, was tattooed from armpit to hip.  He lived his way with very few regrets.  In his short 20 years, he did so much. More importantly, with this short time, he lived his dream which was to be a United States soldier.

Unfortunately, as a parent that has lost a child to an overdose, I am not able to live without regret. Regret is now sewn into the fabric of my life, and as my mind wanders back over the years, I think of every time that I was not the best Dad I could be, and it hurts.  How did I make him feel in that moment?  Did that contribute to his need to use?  Why did I act that way?

As he battled his addiction, I remember those frustrations and times when anger overtook me and things were said. Did that push him to use?  Did that trigger a relapse?  These memories just seem to pop up every now and then, and when they do, they are so hard to shake.

Things that trigger regret many parents understand

There are triggers as well (not exclusive to addicts). There is the bus station where he parked his motorcycle when the engine froze from lack of oil.  Where I let my anger deal with it in a way that was less than how I, as his Dad, should have handled it.  There was the day when we dealt with relapse and I was frustrated and he looked at me and said “don’t give up on me Dad…”  How could I have made him feel like that?  There was the day we spent at Padua this year speaking.  Robby wanted to look at Padua for school, but we discounted that based on a lot of things that as parents you have to consider.  What if he went there?  Would he have avoided the addiction?  Would he still be with us today?  WHY DID WE NOT LET HIM GO THERE?

These are the things that run through my head constantly. These are the inescapable thoughts driven by guilt and loss that cloud my mind constantly.  These are the fears that this disease preys upon when parents are faced with this disease and the difficult decisions that come with the journey through addiction; decisions that are counterintuitive for parents, decisions that hurt us more than they hurt them.

ROBBY’S VOICE exists, in part, because we do not want any parent to live with “this.” It is the ultimate groundhogs day, repeating itself as vividly as it was when it happened.  Only now, there is loss tied to it; a consequence if you will that can’t ever be rectified.  “I’m sorry” is not enough because forgiveness is trumped by the questions and the permanency of death.

The only advice I can give

If you have lost a child, and you struggle with these same thoughts, I have no answers. Just know that you are either not crazy, or we are both crazy, but we can be crazy together.  If you have a child struggling with addiction, don’t hide from it. Face it.  Use every tool there is because there are no guarantees.  Every decision may be right or wrong and that is the quandary.  Find a strong family group and surround yourself with those that will understand and will stand with you.  If you have a child not addicted, learn, be aware, know this can happen in any home, and talk to your kids early, often and right.

REGRETS,  yes, I’ve had a few, and that few are too long to list. My son passed away. We lost him. I use these words because I can’t say the words “my son is dead.”  For some reason, that phrase is a gut punch that covers me in darkness when I even think it.  For me, passed and lost are not as final. They shield me a bit from the reality that my son is dead and I did not do what needed to be done to protect him, to save him.

You don’t want to live with that and all that comes with it. So do something, today.


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Affordable Care Act Boosts Pharma Profits at Human Loss

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Affordable Care Act, Big Pharma, Opiates, Prescription Drug Abuse, Tags: ,

barack

4 of 5 heroin users started with prescription medication. So why are we afraid to put the arrow in the center of the target?

The problems relative to the opiate epidemic may be complex but there are several simple steps that we appear to be afraid to take which may have a significant impact. We have been talking about these things for a while here at RV, and they were part of my testimony at the Homeland Security hearing.

Pain, prescribing and big Pharma: Where Mr. Obama’s fraud is hidden

  1. Pain is not a vital sign and until we quit treating it as one rather than a symptom we will continue to treat it with pills. Vital signs are objective indicators that tell us something and lead us to action (heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, temperature). Pain is subjective; it tells us something is wrong, but it is unique to each of us. The defining of pain as a vital sign in the late 90s is directly correlated to the increase in prescribing, and the epidemic of death we face today.
  2. Until we separate pain and payment, the medical profession will be forced to prescribe. (Yes, on this issue, I think the President is acting fraudulently and Congress is either ignorant, playing along or scared! Otherwise, why is this country so afraid to address this core cause? Could it have anything to do with the big Pharma lobby and all their money?)

How The Affordable Care Act forces the hands of medicine

The Affordable Care Act brought severe penalties for doctors and hospitals that score below average on satisfaction surveys. One of the top drivers is pain. Until we take pain out of the equation and get our hands out of their pockets, they will continue to prescribe. They have little choice. I discussed this with a member of Congress and was assured by one of them (D), that as soon as the President was out of office, this would be addressed. What? We know it and yet we need to wait for the President to leave office while people keeping dying?

The President doesn’t want his Affordable Care Act touched so while he talks about addiction and appears with Macklemore to talk about opiate addiction, in the background he is more concerned about his legislation than people dying. If the President were a true leader and really engaged with this issue, he would take action and make the change to the Affordable Care Act. It seems obvious to me he is more concerned about appearance and “his legislation” than doing the right thing. And any time President Obama would like to discuss this, I will personally pay for my own trip to Washington and share my thoughts in person. I AM NOT AFRAID!

I have regularly had this discussion with those in government, and they tell me all about CARA and the wonderful things it will do. How it will address certain issues and provide for treatment and extended care.  All true, and CARA is a great first step. But, it does not strike at the core of the issue. It does not attack the cause, and as such, still leaves room for this disease to breathe.

I recently spent some time with Senator Portman discussing this issue. I was sincerely impressed with his depth of knowledge and understanding (and I believe Senator Brown gets it as well, just didn’t get time with him). But I also understand how Congress works and how those that are less educated or apathetic will drive compromise to protect their interests. This has to change, and we should not be sitting quietly by until it does.

I asked this question once before in a public forum. I shall ask it again now and direct it to the Presidecustomersnt. However,  I won’t address it to Mr. and Mrs. Obama, President and First Lady, but as a Mom and Dad. The same with Congress.

How many have to die, or who close to them, before they take the action and strike at the heart of this issue?

Would you act if Malia or Sasha were impacted or do you believe that this could never happen to you? You say you care about all citizens. Then why would you marginalize the lives of every other child while you operate with the same sense of false security that so many of us did… until it was too late.

We are fighting for you Mr. President, for your kids, and their kids. And just like every other battle, we need leadership from the top. Over the past 10 years we have lost over 400,000 Americans to this disease. If any terrorist group had claimed that many lives, we would be pulling every resource to stop them.

This epidemic is terrorizing our nation. It is stealing lives. We need leadership at the top that is willing to get right to the central issues.


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Learning to Hope through Cornerstone

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements, Grief, Robby's Voice, Tags:

I don’t like the word hope.hope

To me, when we hope, we give control to someone or something other than ourselves.  It’s a weak word. I prefer faith. Faith means I believe, I know it will happen.  It means I am in control.  It’s a strong word.

Then I learned about grief.  Not just any kind of grief, but the most devastating, heart wrenching, crippling kind of grief that exists.  The kind of grief that makes you wish for the end, your end. The kind of grief that is forever.  I learned about faith and I learned about hope.

I remember it clearly on that late Friday morning, October 21st, 2011.  We just returned from the high school where we told Jaclyn and Nolan about their brother. Where we ripped their world apart.  I stood in my house as it filled with people.  Family and friends. The support was amazing.  But it didn’t matter as nobody could help me.  I was broken, numb, confused.  I had no idea what to do.  How do you move, how do you recover, how do you live?  I had no answers, and worse, I knew in that moment that if I had no answers for myself, I had no capacity to help my family.

My faith in God did not waiver. My faith in myself was gone.  I was helpless.  I was hopeless.

Herein enters Hope

A year earlier, I had been introduced to Cornerstone of Hope  by a friend who did volunteer work for them (This is a story for a different day…a story about how God put all the pieces in place).  But I remembered.  After the funeral and things got quiet and life returned to normal for those that had carried us each day, we were left to face our life.  We would have to face all the firsts, and they were coming fast.  Halloween, Robby’s favorite day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, his birthday. All would be upon us within the first 60 days.  How do we do this?  I looked at my family and they looked to me; I had no answers for them.

Tattered, beaten, humbled, I turned, we turned to Cornerstone, and in that very dark moment, we saw a light.

Carla and I attended counseling together while Cornerstone sent counselors to the high school each week to meet with Nolan and Jaclyn.  We had been given a lifeline, an angel that would help us deal with what we were now in the middle of.  We survived the holidays.  Group counseling followed for all of us, and slowly but surely we started to walk forward, learning how to adapt to our new normal.

Mark and Christi Tripodi are the founders of Cornerstone of Hope.  They are selfless givers.  They are heroes that have built an organization that catches us in our darkest moments.  As we fall into the depths, they say we are here, we will catch you, we will hold you, and we will help you find the light in the absolute darkness.

Cornerstone of Hope saved us.

There is no other way to say it.  We continue to rely on what they taught us, and each year in December, we head back for the candle ceremony where we share tears and memories with others that have been lost in their loss, and saved by this group.

I hate the word hope, but I learned that in loss and in grief, it is all we have.  We are not in control. We don’t have all the answers and we are at our weakest.  My faith in God never wavered, but I needed hope.  I needed to count on someone else to do what I could not. I needed to hand control over to someone else.

At the lowest moment of my life, they were there.  They gave me hope and that hope turned back into faith… the belief that I could move forward. That I could live again…that I could find a new normal.

Cornerstone did for my family what I could not.  They were the rock for Carla, Jaclyn and Nolan.

They saved me, they saved my family, and they continue to be a cornerstone of our ability to move forward each day.  They are THE CORNERSTONE OF HOPE.


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Yes, “these lives” are worth saving!

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements, NarCan, Recovery, Stigma,

Drug-Addiction-642x336What is a life worth. What is your child’s life worth. These are questions that I ask when I hear people question the value of Narcan (Naloxone). There is nothing I wouldn’t do to have Robby back with us. So when people question the value of Narcan it does, well, piss-me-off.

At a meeting last summer, I even had a Police Officer tell me he struggled saving “their” lives.

Really? Their Lives?

Are we talking about kids like Robby who was so full of compassion as he dealt with the residents at the nursing home he worked at or when he chose to serve his country? Are we talking about kids like my friend Aaron who now, in recovery, is rising through the ranks of his company, is recently married, and who is a leader in the battle to stop this epidemic? Are we talking about our friend Stephanie who battled addiction, and now has dedicated her life to making a difference for young women in need?

Just whose lives are we talking about

Who gets to decide which ones live or die, which ones will make a difference in the lives of others or which family should have to live with the loss of that loved one?

Maybe we need a new movement called  Addicts Lives Matter to get the point across.

Every addict was once a child full of hopes, dreams and potential. Somewhere along the line they got derailed; overtaken with a disease they did not understand and have no ability to control. A disease that drives desperation and behavior that is simply, at times, reprehensible. But inside, under the weight of that disease, they are still those same kids that were once so full of life and hope.

Narcan saves lives. Narcan has proven, in communities where it is deployed, to reduce the incidence of use and addiction because it allows help to get to those that need it. Will some abuse it, play the Lazarus game? Probably. But should we condemn the majority of addicts who would trade every possession to be free of the monster that chases them daily for the actions of those under the influence of the devil himself?

Every addict is someone’s kid. It is never your kid until it is; then what? I believe that every addict deserves the opportunity to turn it around, to become that person God created them to be. You may not, but ask yourself this; “If it were my kid, would I want them to have that chance.”

For more information on Project Dawn, Narcan and distribution sites, please click on the links below:

Ohio Project Dawn

Cleveland Project Dawn


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Stigma of Addiction is our Greatest Enemy

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Grief, Robby's Voice, Stigma, Tags:

Have you ever had your child look at you and say “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this,” with fear and pain in their eyes?  I have, and there how-did-the-stigma-of-addiction-begin-532935_180x180was nothing I could do to save him.  I could be talking about cancer or any diabetes or any other chronic or life threatening disease, and actually, I am.  I am talking about drug addiction.

As a society, we put a stigma on addicts because we believe there is something dirty about them. Maybe it’s because drugs are illegal or we call it their choice.  Maybe it’s because we don’t understand addiction, and why would we.  We don’t get educated on it until after we are impacted.  As a result, we have an epidemic that continues to grow, and a disease that impacts virtually every family in this country in some way.  You say not you. I say you’re either not being honest or you just have not figured out who yet.  I say this because I know.  I have lived this.  I have had to face it.  I have had to witness the pain and devastation. And now, because of my ignorance, I have to live with the loss.

Old stigmas are stealing lives

What we say about addicts we would never think to say to a person with a “real disease.”

  • We say it’s their choice.
  • We say just quit.
  • We say they deserve what they get.
  • We say they know better.

 

We say these things about addicts, but yet we have compassion for cancer patients and diabetics.  We feel badly for them even when maybe their choice to smoke or have poor eating habits led to their diseases.  We have empathy for them because we understand these diseases, we have been educated, and yes, killing yourself through cigarettes or food is perfectly legal.

With addiction, even though we have failed to educate kids and families, we hold them in disdain. Our healthcare system doesn’t want to pay for the proper care, the same care any other chronic disease would get.  There are no fund raisers or national foundations, only the dark black hole of addiction and its stigma.

Learn from parents like us

There was a day, a time in my life when I held many of these beliefs. There was a time in my life I was ignorant.  I did not understand the disease or its impact.  There was a day that I would cast a stigma down upon the addict because they did it to themselves.  Then I learned, and I learned the hard way.  I learned about the disease.  I learned about the pain.  I learned about the desperation and hopelessness.

I learned too late. I learned after my son became an addict, a victim of a disease, that neither he nor we were ever really educated about.  I learned too late.  I learned after my son died and there was nothing I could ever do to fix it.   Because I learned to late, my family will live with a loss that will forever leave a hole in our hearts and souls.

I learned too late, but you don’t have to. I know, it’s never your kid…until it is.  Then what? 

 


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