By | 2018-04-07T23:19:18-04:00 December 23rd, 2016|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, gratitude, health, holiday, inspiration, Life, medicine, mental health, mind/body, motivation, recovery, stress, stress relief, surgeon, totems, travel, vacation|

I put my pants on ass backwards this morning. No, really, the ass was in the front, they’re not supposed to go on that way, but there I was walking my dog in my ass backwards pants and realizing that I could still put one foot in front of the other even if part of me was facing the wrong direction! I did try to put my hands in the pockets, but that didn’t work out so well. Point is, you never know what life will throw at you (or your country), and even though we can’t necessarily be prepared for every possibility, we can allow ourselves permission to just let it unfold.

Every Christmas, my kids go away with their Dad to see family upstate. They look forward to hanging out with their grandparents and their cousins and hopefully lots of soccer and football in the snow! Every year I convince myself that I am going to take a trip to some exotic location, or Miami, but those trips never quite seem to happen. This year, I was going to finally do it, and this past Monday I decided that I would head to my old stomping grounds in the 305 for a few days of warmth and visiting with friends. Monday night, my hernia, which has been close to me for quite a while, decided it didn’t want to go to Miami with me, so it’s begging to be shoved back from whence it came!

Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?!

Ok that’s not my image, and for all I know that could be a guy, I can’t tell what all those nooks and crannies really are, but at least you can see the hernia there where the arrow is pointing. Mine thankfully isn’t that bad, or big, but it’s a bitch nonetheless and needs to be handled. So why am I telling you all this? Did you know that more than a million hernia surgeries are performed every year in the US? Yeah, I didn’t either, but what that means in all likelihood, is that several of you have probably had the surgery yourself! Mine is umbilical, for information purposes, but no matter your hernia, abdominal laparoscopic surgical recovery is surely somewhat similar. The tips and suggestions those of you, who are now experts might have, is probably very valuable to someone like me! So bring em on! I want to hear what helped you, and what didn’t help you, and what you wish you had known but weren’t warned about. And no, don’t tell me the horror story of your Uncle Sal who ended up bleeding out on the bathroom floor when he tried to pull out a stray nose hair after hernia surgery. But definitely tell me the story about Aunty Sheila whose flatulence was so horrific no one could stay in the room with her while she recovered! Get the drift? Keep it light, keep it helpful, keep it informative, but for goodness sakes, don’t keep it to yourself! We all benefit from shared experiences, so in the interest of helping me stay calm (I’ll have my Totems), please bestow the wisdom of your experiences on me and anyone else who might need it! Thanks and happy holidays!

Stay well.

We are magically sold out of inventory from this holiday season, but restocking shortly!! Put your orders in for Totems now and have them to use and share in the new year! Visit our store and choose your Totem today!

You say you want a Revolution?

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:46-04:00 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.

Corned beef and pastrami on rye with a side of heroin.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:55-04:00 October 26th, 2015|addiction, anxiety, death, grief, harm reduction, heroin, Life, recovery|

12 years ago today I said goodbye to my brother, who after being in a coma for days following a drug overdose, finally let go and passed away. This date will always be difficult, though some years I manage it better than others. The first year was the most horrible, because as my mother and I had ended our evening celebrating my brother by dining on some of his favorite foods, we learned that his beautiful girlfriend Ashley, had overdosed earlier in the day. I can’t possibly communicate the devastation we felt yet again, and then basically had to have the same funeral all over again a year later. Ashley’s parents were in New York a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t seen them in 11 years and to be honest, I was dreading it. Sure, we are connected on Facebook, and “likes” here and there and words of love and support have been shared online, but I just couldn’t imagine sitting with them again, face to face. I met up with them and my mother, after allowing the parents to share some time between them, and it was hard, and easy at the same time. Ashley’s parents looked great, and they were so sweet and lovely. They asked after my children and we chatted about their son, and their business, and what restaurants they should eat at while they were in the city, and you wouldn’t have known there were ghosts sharing the table with us, but they were there. Jonathan and Ashley, remembered in life, vibrant and charismatic, and missed by all of us.

One of the themes that gets thrown around in the world of drug users and recovery, is powerlessness. It’s a tough word, and a word that sets me off, because I don’t like being powerless. That motivated me to change the word in my vocabulary, at least in this milieu, because I spent part of my day today, in honor of Jonathan and Ashley, gaining power. I am now officially trained and have the power to train others, in how to reverse an overdose. If you, or anyone you know, uses heroin or opioids (i.e. morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone), you need an Overdose Prevention Kit, and now I have the capability of getting you one, and training you in how to potentially save someone’s life. You don’t have to be powerless either. Feel free to reach out to me privately at julie@totemtamers.com if you have any questions. I am forever grateful to the amazing crew at http://harmreduction.org, for answering all my questions, teaching me, and helping me grieve in a powerful and productive way. Now, there’s a corned beef and pastrami on rye with my name on it, and my brother would have loved it!

You don't have to be powerless.

You don’t have to be powerless.

Stay well.

The most profound irony in all of this by the way, is that my stepfather, Jack Fishman, invented naloxone. In honoring my brother and Ashley, I also honor Jack’s legacy.