Renewing the fight in the new year

Visiting my brother Pat’s grave on New Year’s Day, I wished for two things. First, for resolution, a sense of peace with Pat’s death. And second, for a sign from him that he would want me to continue the fight.

On both counts, I came away empty-handed.

As I mentioned in Oxy Watchdog’s most recent weekly newsletter (if you haven’t signed up already, you can do so by clicking the link below our video on the right), the end of 2012 saw signs of progress in the fight against prescription drug addiction. But the battle is far from over. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the feeling that all of this is just a drop in the bucket – that even with the wonderful efforts of advocacy organizations like the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids (to mention just two) and stellar investigative reporting from major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and CNN, the addiction and deaths continue to mount. On average, one person dies every 19 minutes from an accidental prescription drug overdose, and heroin abuse is on the rise.

I get upset, too, when I receive accusatory emails from people who think Oxy Watchdog’s mission is to deprive pain sufferers of relief – or, even worse, from those who say that addicts like my brother deserved to die because they were worthless junkies. I’m all about broadening the discussion, but these types of arguments only muddy the waters, and I never respond to them. Anyone who loved Pat knows that he was so much more than his addiction. He was funny in a way that was so self-deprecating and silly that you couldn’t help but laugh. He loved adventure and skateboarding and music. He wrote little love notes to me and my sister on rolled-up pieces of torn lunch bags. I found one the other day: You are a goddess to me. I love you sooooooooo-times-infinity much!!! I will be your Bunny forever, even when I am 90 and you are 100. Anyone can tell that you are the most beautiful girl in the world. It made me so sad, to have such love gone from the world.

But I worry sometimes: would Pat want his story broadcast? I am doing so because I believe he deserves a legacy beyond his addiction. That he should be remembered; that he won’t be just another tragic and uncomfortable sidenote to be whispered about: Pat, the Daly kid who died of a heroin overdose. That his death will have some broader impact.

Who knows if any of this is possible? For now, I’m going to go with my gut feeling that if Pat were given the choice, he would tell me to keep going. I’m also taking a hint from people like Jodi Barber, who lost her son Jarrod and relentlessly spreads the word about painkiller addiction through her Overtaken documentary and by posting every new overdose death on her Facebook page, as well as Amy Graves of the Get Prescription Drugs Off the Streets blog, who recently wrote a beautiful post about the 656th day since losing her brother Josh, and why she continues the fight. And I’m going to remember that hope is possible; that I’ve seen it in the eyes of so many young people I’ve interviewed who have lived Pat’s life, and made it.

This year, I had to count: one, two, three, four New Years without Pat. I miss him deeply, but even in my mind, he is starting to fade. It’s the natural process of human grieving, I know, but it’s still a terrible feeling to know that my brother is slipping away.

My New Year’s resolution: to keep up the fight.

I think – hope – that Pat would want it that way.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
This entry was posted in Personal Stories, Tributes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Renewing the fight in the new year

  1. betty says:

    I think you are correct Erin, that Pat would want you to continue. Working in the addiction field, I know what you are doing is immeasurably needed and so important both on a grander level and personal one.

  2. John says:

    What you’re doing is amazing. Please keep up all the good work. Ignore the hate trolls who are incapable of adding value to this world.

  3. Rose says:

    You are doing wonderful and important work in the name of your brother. He would be very proud of his “goddess”. Ignore the haters. You will never change them. There are many kind and compassionate people who do not understand the problem but have open minds, and you are educating them on this important issue. Keep up the great work!

  4. Jodi says:

    Erin, I KNOW your brother is very proud of you and his legacy will live on. Your brother is smiling down and God took him and Jarrod for us to stop the madness!!! I am honored to know you and always here for you!! You are a beautiful sister and person inside and out!! God bless you friend!! <3

  5. Sylvia Melkonian says:

    You are doing great work, and I think that Pat is very proud of you and would want you to continue to fight this fight! There are so many young people struggling with the same issues that Pat faced. Pat’s story is powerful and needs to be told and repeated, over and over again. It will save lives. We never know how Gods plan works or when it will impact someone….but it will. What you are doing by speaking and spreading awareness is not only a Good idea… it’s a God idea. Keep it up!! Our youth needs you!!!

  6. Patricia Persico says:

    Thank you for keeping the fight going. So many of us have lost their children to prescription drug abuse and heroin. It is an epidemic that needs to be exposed. This is the year to fight all the harder. I lost my beautiful 19 year old daughter. She had it all going for her, and came from a good stable family. I live on Cape Cod and,it has been rampant down here. Articles in the Cape Cod Times called Pills That Kill got the ball rolling down here. My daughter is Alicia in the series. Keep beating the drum !!!

  7. Deb Archambault says:

    Hi Erin ! Great blog sight! You know what scares me the most is that your story and my story and thousands of other families stories are the exact same story … I am lucky though I do still have my son and I wanted you to know that your brother is looking down on you with a smile. My son has been clean for 6 months now and has been sharing his story to students at his old High school he was asked to do an interview for a local paper and he was torn because he thought that he would sound like an egomaniac and that 6 months was not long enough to talk about recovery, he was convinced by many friends and his sponsor that he should do it. I know he should do it because as an addicts mom I will never know how long I will have him so spreading the word while he is well is very worth while… Not to be a Debbie Downer but I can’t allow myself to be completely happy because if I have my heart broken one more time I may not recover! I have a new facebook page if you would like to see it it is called Poppies are for Pretty not Poison. Lastly the even scarier thing about this epidemic is that we talk so freely about which on one hand is fabulous but on the other it is crazy to think that the problem has become so widespread that is like talking about your child getting the common cold!
    Take care and keep up the great work! …deb

  8. Sandra Milton says:

    Hi Erin, I lost my 23 year old son, Stephen, to a heroin overdose on 08/09/08. I know how it feels when people pass judgement and dish out words of hate. I did a story on Stephen with the editor of a local paper to share his story. The story is “Heaven, Hell Heroin” and can be found on the website under “special reports”. You can also google the title, or my son’s full name, Stephen Pacheco. There were many reasons why I wanted to do this, but the main reason was to help people that were fighting addiction, to help their families. People need to know that they are not alone. I wanted to put a face on addiction. We need to make people understand that this can happen to you. I wanted to spark conversations at the dinner table between parents and their children. I wanted people to see the real Stephen. To know that his addiction was a very small part of who he was. Over 300 people came to his wake and I don’t think that would’ve happen if he wasn’t a good person. For some reason people think that if you are fighting an addiction then your not a good person and that’s just not true. I live in Massachusetts and the number one cause of death among young people is accidental overdose. Addiction does not discriminate and the kids that are struggling come from all walks of life. Good homes with loving parents. Cheerleader’s, captain of varsity hockey teams, collage students that are working to pay for school. There were a lot of hurtful comments left on that story but it doesn’t stop me from talking about the issue because it needs to be talked about.

    I have found that of all the holidays, new years is the hardest. It’s a reminder of just how long it’s been since I hugged my son, one, two, three, four years. Like you…..I feel the memories fading as well and that’s scary to me. I know that I will never forget him, but the sound of his laugh, the way he smiled at me when we saw each other that made me smile right back…..I miss these things so bad. Stephen always made me feel special and I miss that….nobody could ever fill his shoes. My advice to you is…let the Love you have inside of you for Pat fuel you. Keep fighting because it’s worth it!!! If one life is saved because of what you do than the fight is worth the effort. I think Pat would be soooo proud of you and all the work you’ve done. We need more people in the world like you Erin. God Bless

  9. Sherri Dauphinais says:

    Thank you for all that you do. If it wasn’t for people like you who fight hard for what they believe in nothing would be accomplished. There is a national crisis out there and it is not being talked about enough. The government spent all this money on anti-cigarette commercials, to me prescription drug abuse and the availability of these drugs to our young children at 13 on up is far more of a priority than cigarettes. What happened to the war on drugs……..where is the outrage? I’ve seen way to much on how kids are overdosing from opiates and destroying their precious lives. My son age 20 now is almost a year clean has presently pulled out of this addiction to opiates/herion. He went to a rehab for six months, then sober living 2500 miles away with intense education that was key and we are so fortunate today because of this. I pray everyday we do not return to those dark days ever again. He sponsors other kids now and is going back to school.
    Again thank you for being the messenger and helping the cause to fight this evil monster.

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