There is only silence in the Soundgarden today.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:13+00:00 May 18th, 2017|anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, classic rock, death, depression, drug use, drugs, family, gratitude, grief, inspiration, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, Music, parenthood, parenting, rock and roll, rock n roll, sadness, stress, stress relief, suicide, suicide prevention|

I woke up this morning to the news that singer Chris Cornell had passed away last night. I was, and  continue to be, in total shock. Shock is one of those emotions that encompasses so many feelings, sadness, anger, surprise, confusion, and many others, that all get rolled in to one numbing category, shock. I immediately think of my kids, especially my two older ones, who rocked out with me at the Beacon Theater in 2015, to Chris and his magical voice. I am reminded of the moment Chris brought his daughter on stage to do a beautiful rendition of “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley.

“None but ourselves can free our minds.”

I remember loving that they could perform together, and I related to it because of moments I share with my children, when we are either at a concert together, or home singing and harmonizing with each other.  And now, now I would have to tell my kids that another musician, another rock star, another beautiful voice, has left us. I messaged their Dad because the boys were with him last night, and he decided that it would be best to let them get to school first, rather than upsetting them on their way to school. So I’ve been waiting for the texts that would inevitably come as they found out the news.

My oldest messaged first: “Chris Cornell, 52. I can’t believe it. I’m so angry.” Anger is good, anger is helpful and therapeutic, I still end up in tears because I know how affected he will be. I wait. My middle messages moments later in a group text to his brother, his Dad, and me: A link to the story followed by “This sucks so much. It’s sad.” I do my best to validate both of their feelings and share my own, and then I have to do the job of inspirational leader, which is not easy when you’re hurting, so best I can do is be honest. I write “I want to send you some positive, uplifting, inspirational text right now, but the only thing I can come up with is that I love you so very much and hope you will always be open and find strength in difficult moments and ask for help. Channel the anger and the sadness into creativity and hope. Easier said than done, but we go on.”

Always create together!

My boys, jamming together, creating together, making music together, being…together. They give me hope. They make sad news like this, shock like this, a little easier to manage, partly because I have to keep it together for them, but also because we have each other. I will hug them a little more tightly today, as we all process the passing of Chris Cornell, who impressed us with his vocal range, and his seeming ability to rise above. It’s not clear how he died, and I’m not sure that it really matters, I just find gratitude that he graced us for as long as he did and that he finds peace wherever he may be.

Stay well.

 

Just another Wednesday for most…..

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:20+00:00 October 26th, 2016|activist, addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, drug use, drugs, harm reduction, heroin, inspiration, Life, loss, love, medicine, mind/body, motivation, overdose, overdose prevention, stress, stress relief|

Ghosts of WARRIORS past.

Jon and Ashley.

Wednesday started in typical fashion, walk the dog, kids off to school, have some coffee, catch up on Facebook and emails and texts. For a little it feels like just another Wednesday, and then I remember that it isn’t. Once again, the memories come crushing back as they have every year for the past 13 years, and I have to say goodbye to my brother all over again. I write about him every year on this day, the anniversary (seems like such a strange word to use) of his passing, because it helps. It helps me, it helps the people who knew my brother, it helps the people who didn’t know my brother, it just helps. My brother Jonathan is a part of my everyday, not just because he was my brother, but because his death from an overdose is what propels me to “do good” wherever I can. Deaths from opiod overdose can be prevented, we have my stepdad Jack Fishman, to thank for that. Now it’s our job to get that information out in to the world and get naloxone into the hands of anyone that needs it, thinks they’re going to need it, or thinks they might know someone who needs it. Yeah, that basically means everyone. I have written about this subject so many times, that I will just link a few of those posts here for you to peruse when you have time.

https://totemtamers.com/corned-beef-and-pastrami-on-rye-with-a-side-of-heroin/

https://totemtamers.com/a-very-personal-warrior-wednesday/

https://totemtamers.com/would-you-know-what-to-do-if-someone-was-experiencing-an-overdose/

I could write so much more, but part of me wants to go back to this being just another Wednesday, at least until later when my mom and I will be together and drink a toast to my brother, his girlfriend Ashley, and all the others who have been lost. I hope it’s just another Wednesday for you, even for just a minute.

Stay well.

When reality doesn’t feel real…

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:28+00:00 June 5th, 2016|addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, childhood, children, death, drug use, drugs, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, loss, love, mental health, mind/body, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, sadness, sharing, siblings, story, storytelling|

My morning started off rather sweetly today. Sure I didn’t sleep well, sure I knew storms were predicted that were going to rain out a school fair I had hoped to attend with my Totems, but that wasn’t going to get me down. I did something I love to do this morning, I baked.

Healthy baking

Homebaked goodness.

That’s my zucchini oatmeal bread with a little twist of chocolate. You can see it’s a hit with my boys as half of one loaf was gone by midday. There’s something about mixing all those ingredients and having it come out into a delicious finished product that is deeply satisfying. The smell in the apartment doesn’t hurt either. I had already been emailing with a friend from the Harm Reduction Coalition about a very informal, and very hush-hush drug education conversation I am going to be having at one of my kids’ schools. Hush-hush because apparently the principal isn’t interested in keeping her student body safe, but that’s clearly for another blog post! In the midst of this emailing, my friend forwarded me a link to an article that is appearing this week in Newsweek magazine. She did this because I’m mentioned in the article, as is my mom, my stepdad, my brother, my stepbrother, her, the head of Drug Policy Alliance, and a young, incredibly aware and caring doctor in Miami, Dr. Hansel Tookes. This article is about my family and the course we have taken since my brother’s heroin overdose almost 13 years ago, and my stepfather’s ironic creation of the drug, naloxone, that could have saved my brother’s life. It’s bizarre to see your story in print, especially when it’s written by someone else, and their spin on it all. I have written about my story many times, just click on the blog page and search anything from overdose prevention, to harm reduction, to heroin, and you can find lots of stories I have written. It’s not the same when you see your own name in print in relation to an event that still makes your breath catch in your throat and your stomach drop out from under you. It’s not the same when someone is retelling the horror that you lived when you showed up at the hospital and witnessed your brother already in a coma because people he was using drugs with were too afraid to call 911 and instead dumped him on the hospital steps. It somehow feels like you’re reading someone else’s story. That’s exactly what my mom said when she called me sobbing this morning after reading the article. It’s a sadness for sure, but there’s also a sense of hope that comes along with it, which is bittersweet because it comes too late for my brother, but it’s not too late for so many others. That’s why so many people have shared the link to the article on Facebook, for example, because there’s power and courage in the telling of our story and there’s much work to be done, and many brave souls doing the work. My brother isn’t here and that’s devastating a lot of the time, but a sweetness happens when I show my mom a picture of one of my boys and she sees a resemblance that is sometimes too overwhelming for me to admit. Yes, my brother’s life ended many years ago, and sometimes it pisses me off that he’s not here for me as a brother should be, that he doesn’t get to enjoy my children and be their uncle as he should be, but I am doing my best to make sure his memory lives on in all that I do to prevent this tragedy from happening again and again, just as I should be.

brother, heroin, overdose

Jonathan in happy times

Stay well.

T(each) his own!

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:42+00:00 April 15th, 2016|addiction, anger management, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, bulldogs, childhood, children, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, education, family, harm reduction, health, heroin, Life, loss, mental health, mind/body, motherhood, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, school, sharing, stress, stress relief|

I am fortunate that I get to pick up my youngest kid from school most days. I love the look on his face when he sees me, it’s like an instant heart-warmer. I am also grateful that I can connect with other parents and check in with his teacher when necessary. There are those moments though, that I have to hold my breath. You know the ones I mean, when your child comes up to you and says “Mom, the teacher needs to see you.” Breathe. I always ask my children, and I highly recommend this technique for you, what they think the teacher might want to talk to me about. Sometimes they know, and they tell me right away, and other times, they don’t. Either way it helps me determine potential guilt or innocence. Yesterday afternoon, my sweet boy greets me at pickup and tells me the teacher needs to talk to me. I ask my question, and he has no clue why she wants to talk to me, and I believe him. Finally, most of the kids get dismissed and I approach the teacher. She’s magical by the way and engages children like I have never seen. A smile crosses her face as she sees me, but I can tell that it’s a heavy smile, like we are definitely going to talk about something of substance related to my child. She tells me she wanted to give me a heads up about the stuff my son is working on in class for their poetry unit. Immediate relief washes over me, because I actually already know what my son is working on because he told me. He’s writing poetry about addiction, substance use, overdose, overdose prevention, and family. My son is 9. I smile back at the teacher because I realize that she’s likely telling me because the poetry books will be revealed to all at an upcoming publishing party for the class that includes parents. I reassure her that this subject matter is regular conversation in my house, and that if she had any questions or need for clarification I would be happy to oblige. I did have a moment where I was concerned that it might be too much for the other kids and their parents, but that concern quickly turned into gumption and hope that my son being this open will spur his friends to ask questions and maybe even their parents to ask questions. It’s all about the conversation, and that my 9 year old is talking about Naloxone, “a life saving drug that his grampa made to help people who use drugs”, is miraculous. It’s also heartbreaking.

poetry and lyrics

My kid asked me for a journal the other day which is how I know about the poetry unit in class. He’s calling it a lyric book. He wrote his first poem and it’s called “Quit”. There’s a line in it about my brother who died of a heroin overdose a few years before my son was born. He refers to my brother as “the uncle he never had.” He also uses my regular statement of my brother’s death hopefully saving him from the same fate. I told him how beautiful the poem was and thanked him for sharing it with me. He seemed proud of himself and was eager to write more. This is how I know how important these conversations are with my kids, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. I am grateful that my son’s teacher didn’t freak out and didn’t tell him that he couldn’t write about this topic, instead she marveled at his depth and encouraged him along, and let me know what I can expect at the upcoming publishing party. I’m not too worried, I’m pretty good in a crowd, and who knows, maybe I’ll bring my overdose prevention kit for show and tell!

Stay well.

If you have questions, Harm Reduction Coalition and Drug Policy Alliance are wonderful resources. Feel free to email me, too: julie@totemtamers.com!

You say you want a Revolution?

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46+00:00 February 12th, 2016|addiction, adoption, AIDS, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brothers, drug use, drugs, family, gratitude, harm reduction, heroin, HIV, inspiration, Life, mental health, overdose, overdose prevention, recovery, sharing, story, strangers, stress, stress relief|

How about a Gary Revolution? That’s who I ended up in conversation with earlier this week while out walking my dog, and it’s stayed with me ever since. At first glance, Gary, also known as the Brooklyn Cowboy, seemed like a shady character. He was shuffling along with one shoe on, the other shoe in his hand, along with some newspapers and such. He wore a hat that covered most of his overly greasy hair, and the handful of teeth in his mouth that were visible, didn’t look like they’d be hanging around much longer. Normally, I might just give a nod and keep walking, but something made me slow down when Gary hollered to me. He said something about family and before I could answer, my pooch was saying hello. Dogs are great at sniffing out creepers, and my dog is super protective of me, so I know if he sensed anything “off”, he wouldn’t be wagging his tail looking for a petting.

Do you pass my sniff test?

Do you pass my sniff test?

We talked about the dog for a minute and then I asked Gary why he wasn’t wearing his shoe. He mentioned that his toe was hurting him, and with that the chat began. We walked down the block and within those 200 feet, Gary was telling me he has been sober for years and I was telling him I lost my brother to a drug overdose. He mentioned helping people in recovery, and I mentioned my work with overdose prevention. Common ground. We went on like this for a while, sharing our stories. Gary talked about being hospitalized and I asked if it was due to Hepatitis C. He looked at me incredulously and said “Hep C? Hardly! I have the full deal, the whole HIV/AIDS.” I was practically speechless, but I managed to utter a “holy s#*t”! Ever the ladies man, Gary quickly followed up with “I look good, don’t I?” Which frankly, for having HIV/AIDS as long as he has, he did look remarkably ok. He owed his health to his twin cousins who are doctors, he said. We talked a little more and it was clear Gary had a story to tell, and all I could do was urge him to write it and wish him well. Gary has told a little of his story to HIV Positive Magazine, and you can read it here.

Gary called me an angel during that conversation and with tears in his eyes he went on his way. I don’t know about an angel, but I do know that I might not normally have stopped to talk to this disheveled, gritty guy, but I am glad I did. A moment of humanity for me, and a chance for Gary to tell someone else his hopes and dreams.

Gary Revolution

Gary Revolution

So if you see Gary shuffling along, give him a “what’s up”, and you’ll feel good by making him feel good. For that matter, if you see anyone that looks like they could use a smile even, go ahead, it’s free and the return is amazing!

Stay well.

The day the music died…..again.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:51+00:00 December 4th, 2015|addiction, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, classic rock, creativity, death, drug use, drugs, family, harm reduction, heroin, loss, Music, overdose, overdose prevention, parenthood, parenting, prevention, rock and roll, rock n roll, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

Score another one for the Demons as we wake up today to the news that former lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland, was found dead on a tour bus yesterday. This one is devastating, well they’re all devastating really, but this one hits closer to home. We are a musical family, there’s always music happening in one form or another, whether it’s my two older boys jamming in their room, or my little one tapping out a rhythm or humming a tune. Stone Temple Pilots has been a band my kids have enjoyed a lot lately, plucking out acoustic versions, even my son and I harmonizing on some songs occasionally. Telling them this morning was hard, especially for my older one. It reminds me of when I had to tell them that Cory Montieth, of Glee, had passed away. That one wasn’t easy for my middle son, who was a big Glee fan. I talk about my brother often, he lost to the Demons as well, and as hard as it is to talk about him, it’s important. So this morning when I told my boys about Weiland, I could only offer them my hope that Weiland’s death, like my brother’s, like Monteith’s, would somehow help them make better choices in their lives. I could only feel the frustration that the life-saving drug Naloxone, invented by my step-dad, isn’t more widely available and easily accessible. So I talk about it, and I talk about it some more, and hope that people will be shocked to hear that overdose deaths topped deaths from car accidents in 2013, because that is shocking and a lot of those deaths, likely preventable.

Scott Weiland earlier this year. wrkr.com

Scott Weiland earlier this year. wrkr.com

This image of Weiland gives me shivers because I see my sons in it, and my brother, who also played guitar and sang and loved Stone Temple Pilots. This image gives me shivers because it’s another ghost added to the horror story of drug users who couldn’t be saved. This image gives me shivers because until we realize that the “War on Drugs” has only created casualty after casualty, we will continue to lose more and more beautiful people, like Scott Weiland. I hope he finds peace and that the Demons are satisfied, for at least a little while.

Stay well.

PS:If you are a drug user, or know someone who is, and you would like access to an overdose prevention kit, email me at julie@totetmtamers.com

We are all siblings!

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:40+00:00 April 12th, 2015|addiction, childhood, drug use, family, Life, overdose, parenting|

When I looked up the definition of the word sibling, (yes, of course I know what it means) I was pleased to find the second listing that reads: one of two or more things related by a common tie or characteristic. With that definition, we are all siblings. We all have a common tie or characteristic with someone, right?! I ended up on this path because of all the beautiful posts over the last couple days about National Sibling Day. It made me sad a lot of the time, grateful the rest of the time. I kept thinking, I don’t have a sibling anymore, but in reality, even though my brother is no longer here to tease me, make me laugh, or sing with me, he is still and will always be my brother.

How cute are we?!

How cute are we?!

I will never forget a conversation I had with my ex-husband after my brother passed away. He comes from a family of four boys, and at the time we had two boys of our own. I had my brother, who had just succumbed to the demons of drug addiction, and now it was just me. My ex looked at me and said “We need to have another baby.” Of course, I was taken aback because that was certainly the last thing on my mind, but when he explained himself, it all made sense. He went on, “If heaven forbid, one of my brothers were to die, I still have two more. We need to have a third kid so that if heaven forbid something happens to one, the other one won’t be left alone.” No one wants to think in terms of “what if”, but in that moment, it was hard not to. Three years later, we welcomed our third little angel, who has my brother’s eyes, and reminds me that I am still a sibling, no matter what.

My three sons!!

My three sons!!

By virtue of reading this, we now have a common tie, so we are siblings, too!! Thank you.

Stay well.

Totem Tamers are here to help keep you calm in any potentially overwhelming situation, if you need one, get one! Just click on any Totem on the side of the page and order yours today.

Of love and loss.

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:53+00:00 October 26th, 2014|death, drug use, family, health, Life, loss|

I have been wanting to write this post for days, but it makes sense that today is the day I find the strength to sit down and actually do it. I started thinking about this post a few days ago, even when my alarm went off at 4:45 am to get me up to catch a train to Baltimore. I was asked by my friends at the Harm Reduction Coalition if I wanted to come to their national conference, where hundreds would gather for four days to learn, share, educate, understand and “promote the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use.” Of course I said yes, though I only had a couple hours to give, I knew this was not an experience to miss, and one that I needed to have. I met a couple of the amazing people from HRC last year, when they came to my mom’s house to do a Naloxone training. Naloxone is an antidote to overdose, and it happened to be created by my stepfather, Jack Fishman. Sharon and Bill from HRC, showed up and shared some of their knowledge and armed anyone who wanted it, with an overdose prevention kit. I wrote about that evening here and even though it was almost a year ago, the shivers still remain. Here was a group of people being given an answer, a cure so to speak, a tool that can help save thousands of lives and has helped countless already. Sadly, it didn’t help my brother, who didn’t have access to Naloxone, who we said goodbye to 11 years ago today. It didn’t help his girlfriend Ashley either, when on this same day ten years ago, we lost her, too.That’s why today was the day for me to get this out.

Mr. Michael Botticelli, ONDCP

Mr. Michael Botticelli, ONDCP

When I first arrived, Sharon was eagerly waiting for me and excited to introduce me to Michael Botticelli, the Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He was there to give us all hope that the government is finally grasping that overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury-related fatalities in people aged 35-54, and the second leading cause of death for young people. Botticelli talked about Naloxone, heck, everyone was talking about Naloxone, and I sat there so proud of my stepfather and inspired by all these people who showed up at this conference. I met one man who had used Naloxone to reverse 27 overdoses! That’s 27 lives that were saved, by one person!!! Then I met another man who called my stepfather a hero. Wow, this was overwhelming, then a man walked by me with a t-shirt on, that stopped me in my tracks.

Keep calm and carry Naloxone!

Keep calm and carry Naloxone!

I asked if I could take a picture of the shirt, and he kindly obliged and walked away. My HRC friend Sharon, hopped up and ran after him to whisper in his ear who I was and why I was there. Next thing I knew, this man was crouched down at my side, his big arms around me, shaking, as he whispered in my ear “Your family is so important to me, Naloxone saved my life….twice.” He thanked me and quickly walked away. I started to lose my composure a bit at this point, but truly lost it moments later when the room took a moment of meditation to remember those who had been lost. One by one, names were called out from all corners of the room, and I was done for, no longer in control of the tears. This was also the moment I was informed that I was supposed to get up and say a few words. WHAT?! I did my best to pull it together while this lovely young lady introduced me as a special guest. There I was, standing in front of hundreds of people, some former drug users, some active drug users, many that have been saved by Naloxone or that have used Naloxone to save someone, and many that have lost loved ones, just like me. I was a stranger until I explained that my Stepdad created Naloxone, and then in an instant, I became family. In that instant, the room erupted in hoots and hollers and applause, and people were on their feet and the smiles and the tears enveloped me. Then I told them about my brother Jonathan, and I got the chance to thank them for all the work they are doing to help make sure that not another person has to die from overdose. Needless to say, it was incredible. During a break, I walked around to see the exhibits, and of course to meet a ton of people that Sharon kept wanting me to say hello to. That guy with the t-shirt was there, too.

Mark, a blessing in a t-shirt.

Mark, a blessing in a t-shirt.

The few hours I was able to be there, have changed me forever. I know I will go to the next conference, and I know I will stay longer. I know that I will continue on the mission, like all of these dedicated people, to make sure Naloxone is more accessible to those who need it most. I know that in doing so, the memory of my stepfather lives on, and the memory of my brother and his girlfriend will as well. There was one exhibit that was the hardest for me to visit, but one I knew I had to visit. It was the memorial corner where people could put the names of loved ones they have lost on a board. There were so many names, so many boards, and now, I had to add two more.

For Jonathan and Ashley..

For Jonathan and Ashley…

The hope is that the names will stop adding up, that people who need access to Naloxone can get it, that we are not powerless anymore. There is a lot that you can do and if you’d like to help, visit the Harm Reduction site, or the Drug Policy Alliance site, and take action. No one else needs to die from a drug overdose, no one.

Stay well.