TW: this post talks about drug addiction and losing a loved one
I want to start off by saying I’m really proud of how we *vaguely gestures to surroundings* have shifted our views on talking about mental health and addiction. Until recently it was so taboo and weird and disgraceful that it was always just swept under the rug and ignored. For example, I created a blog about my life with OCD (which has evolved into struggling with anxiety, depression, and loss) that I share on social media without worrying about backlash, which is pretty cool.
But I feel like one of the best ways I can help with this platform is to share my experience, and unfortunately it isn’t a great one. If this is your first time reading then you can read up on my background and why I started this blog because things have taken a pretty massive change since then. If you’re still on board then here we go…
On Thursday, November 28th, 2019 my husband, Taylor, passed away from addiction. Taylor was incredibly successful and excelled at everything he did. He was fun and outgoing and never met a stranger. He was also the last person anyone would expect to be struggling with addiction. Over the course of a few months I, along with our family and friends, witnessed how addiction takes every aspect of someone’s life. I know for a fact that the motivated, driven, life of the party man I married was still there but the motivation, drive, and life had dwindled. I hate thinking about the weeks leading up to his passing. I have a lot of regrets, and I’m sure he would too, about how we acted and how we handled things. We would argue but we would apologize. He would promise to quit tomorrow and I would promise to stop nagging him about quitting. Everything came to a head the night of Wednesday, November 27th. I fell asleep watching tv in our spare bedroom and woke up to him yelling for help. I ran into the bedroom and talked to him, assured him it would be ok, and called 911. After the dispatcher had medical help on the way she said “they will be there in 5 minutes. If things get worse, call us back immediately”. We hung up, I put the dogs in the spare room, and went back into the room to wait with T. He wasn’t breathing. I absolutely panicked. When I called 911 back they told me the paramedics, fire department, and police were at the gate to our apartment complex and walked me through CPR but it was unsuccessful. I knew I hadn’t been able to revive him and he was gone. The following few hours were a complete whirlwind. I remember getting to the hospital in the front of the ambulance and seeing my brother. I remember the doctor coming in and telling me that my husband had not survived. I remember Atlanta Police detectives coming to ask me about the circumstances and going to search my house, then coming back and confirming the accidental overdose. I remember just wanting to go home and be with my animals, laying in bed for what felt like a few minutes, then immediately needing to leave. We packed up the essentials and I never went back. I sobbed in the car the entire ride back to my parents house while on the phone with family and close friends having to confirm this was actually happening. It was a true nightmare but it was a nightmare that I somehow survived after three years thanks to our incredible family and friends and even complete strangers. I am forever grateful for you all.
I’m finally sharing because, up until fairly recently, I avoided talking about the entire situation. My preferred method of coping is to ignore and isolate so that is exactly what I did. But if sharing my experience or sharing what I found helpful during my grieving process helps someone else then it is absolutely, 100% worth it. And, honestly, it helps with my grief too.
So now that I have successfully made everyone sad, here are three (and a half) things I found most helpful. They helped in the days and weeks after Taylor died and they still help now, 992 days later.
(quick disclaimer: I am not a professional. I brew beer and have a degree in geography so this is all based on my personal experience, not any sort of training or education on the subject ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
- No need to apologize. And this one is hard because it is instinct. I do it, we all do it. When someone is telling us something traumatizing our gut instinct is to apologize. Not because we had any involvement in what happened but because we hate seeing anyone struggling with something so shitty. It wasn’t until Taylor died that I really understood why that’s the first thing that pops into my brain when I’m talking to someone about their trauma. I have always genuinely appreciated the I’m Sorry response because I know it is heartfelt. We hate knowing someone has been through something awful. I still catch myself apologizing but I try to follow up with understanding, even if it isn’t something I’ve experienced. Luckily we don’t all have to live out nightmare situations but we all understand the impact they have. This isn’t a comparison thing. Everyone experiences these things in a different way so there’s no need to undermine how someone else feels and reacts
- Listen. Just listen. I’m a problem solver so this is equally hard trying not to apologize (fwiw I apologize about EVERYTHING. Walking behind someone at work? “Oops sorry just need to squeeze past ya!”, need to ask somebody a question? “Sorry, don’t mean to bother ya…” you know the drill). Talking about the way Taylor died is a lot, not just for me but for whoever I’m talking to, and it’s taken me a while (almost 3 years) to accept that some people don’t want to hear the details. That’s understandable and I like to think I can sense it preeeetty well
- Share/enjoy/laugh about all of the good. This is the most important one. Because, no exaggeration, every time I find myself talking about the night Taylor died the conversation naturally turns to me laughing and reminiscing about all of the great times we had while he was still here, even if I’m talking to someone who never got the chance to meet him (which is a huge bummer because he was a truly incredible person). Sharing those stories has probably been one of the biggest reasons I’ve made it this far. To anyone who has listened and shared (there’s a lot of y’all!), I really can’t thank you enough
- Know that all of these things take time. I’ve had three years to try and navigate it and there are still days where it all seems impossible. But it will get easier (this was the half thing)
So yeah this post was kind of a huge bummer but I know I’m not the only one struggling with these things and I hope it can be helpful, whether you are in it or trying to support someone who is. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. Yesterday, August 15th, was Taylor’s birthday. I hope sharing our story gives anyone struggling with addiction or loss some comfort knowing they are not alone.
Lastly, the inspiration for today’s title. I didn’t want to include it at the beginning of this post, like usual, for obvious reasons.