To the Butler County Sheriff: We agree.

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

We agree with the sheriff from yesterday’s post. It makes perfect sense.

After all, we all see the addict. This person that did it to themselves and is such a drag on society, a menace to their family, and a problem for those that get paid to serve and protect.

So, let them die, and after they are gone, we can sit around and talk about lives that we knew nothing about when WE made the decision that they were not worth saving.  We can talk about the child that was sexually abused and tried to hide the pain in substances.  We can talk about the youth that was physically abused and wanted to escape the pain and thought substances would help.  We can talk about the teen that was just a bit different, and as a result was chastised, bullied and belittled, and thought that the drug was actually a friend.  We can talk about the kid that was prescribed medication, and because WE did not educate them appropriately, found themselves addicted.  And yes, we can talk about the kid that made a “kids” decision to use something, not image.phprealizing the hell that waited them, and found themselves overwhelmed by the power of addiction.

Why stop there

Once we finish talking about the stories we didn’t know, then we can move on to the next target.  Do you know what we spend annually on diabetes care?  Holy cow, maybe those diabetics should just stay out of the donut store.  And cancer, OMG, the amount of money spent on cancer care, surgeries, and hospice; WOW, if they just didn’t smoke.  Think of the time and money we can save by just letting them die as well.  And old people; talk about a drain…

This is getting fun!  I think law enforcement could then sit back and decide what to respond to.  After all, if you leave a door open, you deserve to get robbed, and if you go to an ATM, you deserve to get robbed; we could save Police time and money by just allowing law enforcement to determine what is or is not acceptable.  After all, I understand the burden of the oath to serve and protect.  Hey, why don’t we add the term “selectively” to the oath – now that works!!!

There’s a reason we’re taught not to judge

Enough sarcasm for one sitting.  So many thoughts cross my mind but the last thought in my head is this. The Sheriff (who appears to be the picture of health): what happens when he drops over from a heart attack? Should we just let him die because he is overweight?  I guess for me that isn’t my decision to make because in my mind, every life matters.


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The Picture that will Never Be

Posted by Anne Browning, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements,

jaclyn nolanWe had a big month with Nolan being sworn is as a Police Officer.  We celebrate his accomplishment and his choice to serve and protect –  putting his life in harm’s way for others.  It was a very proud moment for all of us as we watched him in his dress blues, the gold striping on his sleeve, shoes shined to a mirror-like finish. He took his oath and then Mom pinned his badge on his chest. In one moment, a college graduate was now a Police Officer.

As I was driving to work a few days later, my mind wandered to another swearing in ceremony about seven years earlier. It was Robby’s ceremony when he was sworn into the United States Army right after basic training.  Again, we were so proud in his royal blue pants, navy jacket lined with brass buttons, shoes shined to a mirror-like finish.  His beret tilted on his head revealing the brow of a soldier.

Then it hit me. The picture that would never be.  The picture that would never be was that of the older brother, the example, the inspiration, dressed in that same Army dress uniform, only now more decorated, standing proudly next to the younger brother dressed in his Police dress uniform, newly adorned with that shiny silver badge.

One brother’s influence

Robby was Nolan’s inspiration.  Set to pursue business in college, I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday; “Dad…would you be upset if I did not pursue business?”  You see, Robby taught me to follow my dreams, and my dream is to go into law enforcement.”  And so it began.

The picture we of two brothers standing side-by-side, each in their respective dress uniforms will never be.    There are thousands of pictures we should have that we will never see. Reflections, reminders of family celebrations, accomplishments, moments meant to be perfect that are, and will always be, incomplete.  No matter how special, how jubilant, how joyful, there will always be that one thing missing.

So for me, I can only imagine the picture that should have been.  I can only imagine the pride of a brother that would have glowed in that moment.  I can see it, I can feel it, but I just can’t live it because it exists only in my mind where it will live as fiction forever.  So instead, I just wipe the tears from my cheeks, take a deep breath and wait for the next picture that will never be.

Ask yourself

What will it take?  What will it take for parents to do what is needed to make sure they never have to deal with that one picture; the picture that will never be?


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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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