Some of you might be familiar with that indescribable pain of regret. I felt it when my adult daughter Marin became a casualty of the opioid epidemic. Since her passing, the regret has slowly faded, and I’ve made it my mission to advocate for open communication so that families might be spared the heartache we’ve endured.
Marin had her whole life ahead of her. Did she push boundaries? Sure she did, but she was always accountable for her actions. She was smart, caring, and funny. She loved basketball. And she had a smile that lit up the room. Everything you could ask for.
When she first started using opioids, our trust in her made it easy for her to hide what was happening. We realized later that the signs were there, but my husband and I didn’t see them. We made excuses for her changing appearance and behavior, chalking it up to a mood or phase. We had no idea it was due to her opioid use.
Once we understood from her healthcare professional that she had this chronic brain disease, we couldn’t stand the idea of friends or family judging or excluding our adult daughter for something we’d come to realize was largely out of her control. I went from believing I needed to save face about the details of Marin’s illness, to thinking that the silence surrounding this chronic brain disease needs to end.
When we lost Marin, most of our family didn’t even know she had been in and out of rehab because we had felt the need to hide what was really happening. Our culture of silence took away their chance to talk to her about her opioid addiction, to spend more time with her, to be a part of the support system.
All this hiding was only one aspect of the communication problems I discovered around opioid addiction. Another big one was how to find and take advantage of the information that seemed to be all around me. For me, and for other caregivers, education on all treatment options is critical.
So when I started advocating for other parents after Marin passed away, one mother mentioned VIVITROL® (naltrexone for extended-release injectable suspension). Honestly, it shocked me that there was a treatment I’d never heard about.
I think all caregivers and their loved ones should reach out to healthcare professionals for information on all available treatment options. Communication and information is important in making a difference for a loved one. Try to involve trusted friends and family, advocates like myself, and of course, healthcare professionals. And don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask for the information you want. Find the support you need.
As we’ve put our lives back together, I try to focus on happy memories with Marin, and take comfort in helping others navigate their own roles as caregivers. I hope you can find the joy in each accomplishment, no matter how small. And I pray with all my heart that you and your loved one find information and support that can help you along this journey.
Healthcare Professional Discussion Guide
Wondering how to get the most out of an appointment with a healthcare professional?