August 31st is Overdose Awareness day. It is an international day to remember those lost to drug overdose, to erase the stigma associated with drug addiction, and to help those still struggling with addiction. It is also a day to acknowledge the grieving families left behind. Often they’re blamed or judged for the loss of their loved one, making the loss that much harder.
The drug crisis keeps growing and it has proven to be progressively fatal each year. According to the most recent article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dated July 16, 2020, drug overdose deaths in the United States rose to 70,980 in 2019; in 2018, there were 67,367 deaths. Initially approved to treat serious pain for cancer patients, Fentanyl is a very potent opioid but its illicit form has been responsible for most of these deaths. It has been on the rise due to its growing availability outside of a medical setting. It can be easily made, distributed, and mixed in with other drugs such as cocaine or heroin, with or without the user’s knowledge, because it is cheaper and creates a strong high leading to an increase in fatal overdoses. Because of this crisis, many restrictions have been put in place for prescribed opioids for patients with chronic pain, and when these individuals are unable to afford their medication and/or suddenly do not have access to their medication, many will buy pills from the street and oftentimes the pills are counterfeit and contain illicit Fentanyl. The lives lost to drug addiction are likely people in your community; it could be your co-worker or your neighbor. It could be your friend, your spouse, your sibling, or your child.
To honor those lives lost, there are many things you can do:
Share a memory or story and photograph of your loved one to be posted on our Rage Against Addiction Facebook page on August 31st. Please email Wendy@RageAgainstAddiction.com before August 30th to be included in our organization’s observance. (By submitting a story and photo, you are giving RAA permission to post on our Facebook and Instagram pages.)
Wear purple and decorate your business with purple lights to help spread awareness about drug addiction and drug overdoses.
Donate to an organization that specializes in helping those struggling with addiction. (Please consider donating to Rage Against Addiction.)
Research the signs of an overdose.
Learn about Narcan and how you can save a life during an active overdose. Please also check out the Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation for more information on proper Naxolone training and overdose prevention resources.
Properly dispose of all expired and unused medication. Check with your local police station or hospital to find out how to properly do this in your area.
Talk with and listen to someone you know who has lost a loved one to an overdose.
Our country still has a long way to go to end this drug epidemic, but it all starts with your support in your community. One life lost and one family left behind is one too many.
We Do Recover
August 31st is an odd date for me. It doesn’t mark a date that I got clean or entered rehab. It’s going to be a date to remind me of what happened and what could have happened.
I am 26 years old and live in New Jersey. I work for a construction company. I have been free of drugs and alcohol for 74 days (as of August 2, 2020 when I submitted this) and I plan to continue down the road of recovery but it’s been a new kind of hell for me, honestly. Though I have a great support system that consists of a loving family, an encouraging therapist, and an amazing sponsor, and I regularly attend NA meetings, it’s been hard for me to live substance-free.
I used drugs to feel good about myself. It began when I was 16 and was at a party. It started with weed but escalated to the pills we’d find in my friends’ parents’ medicine cabinet. We would take them “just for fun”, not realizing the awful problems it would cause us. Before I knew it, I was addicted to Percocet, Vicodin, Valium…whatever I could find, but my anxiety and low self esteem were gone. I felt normal. I felt good. But my situation was not good.
I lost 2 friends to overdoses. My good friend Jacob, who I knew since we were on the same baseball team at 8 years old, died from his first overdose. He was just 19. You would think this was my Wake Up Call to get myself straightened out but it just caused me more emotional pain so what did I do? I turned to using more. About 10 months after Jacob died, I overdosed in a friend’s basement. They called 911 but left me before help arrived. I overdosed again about 4 months after that in a hotel room. Help was called again. But I was left alone. Again. Another friend of mine, who I knew from about age 14, overdosed 2 times before he passed away. His name was Nick and he was 21. At this point, I knew things were looking grim for me but I had no idea what to do. I was lost. I was hurt. I needed help. But I didn’t actively get it. Instead, I overdosed AGAIN but thankfully it was in a busy park (I guess the people who witnessed it aren’t thankful for it) and a complete stranger immediately called 911 and gave me some Narcan she had in her purse. We were strangers before this but she visited me in the hospital and prayed for me. She found out where I lived, and would send me letters in the mail a few times a week and even got in touch with my mom. I was using again at this point but agreed to talk to her and my mom, and I ended up going to a rehab facility the next day. I was terrified out of my mind but promised I’d stay. And I did. The day I walked in there was the first day I became substance-free.
August 31st had small meaning to me in the past since I knew many people who have overdosed and since I lost 2 good buddies to it. I never applied the day to myself though. I guess I was in denial? August 31, 2020 will be the first Overdose Awareness Day that I will participate in; I will say a prayer for my friends’ families and reflect on their lives. I have already mailed a long Thank You to the woman who literally saved my life in the park that day, who showed up at the hospital, and who encouraged me to get help. I also plan to make a nice dinner for my parents – I know it’s not nearly enough - and honestly talk with them about this whole ordeal. I also wrote them a VERY long letter. I know I put them through the ringer.
If there’s more I can do for this month, it is to remind those out there that you’re not a failure if you OD’ed. You’re not worthless. Don’t become a statistic. There’s plenty of them out there and we don’t need more. God bless.
-Adem Wilkersin (New Jersey)
*Please be aware that some policies, locations, programs, and contact information have changed due to COVID-19 protocols. Maryland's current orders by Governor Hogan are located here. *
Ashley Addiction Treatment: An inpatient treatment center that personalizes clinical programs based on individual need. Located in Havre De Grace, MD. Please visit here or call 800-799-4673 for information about online and in-person meeting services.
Celebrate Recovery: A local support group for those with addictive behaviors. Located in Bel Air, MD and Joppa, MD. *Online meetings are still available.*
Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD: Contact email@example.com.
Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, MD: Please register here to join.
(Postponed: The group is usually held at Mt. Zion Church at 5:45pm on Thursdays and at Mountain Christian Church at 6pm on Fridays.)
Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation: A non-profit organization that provides drug overdose awareness and prevention, and offers Naxolone training. Located in Timonium, MD. Please visit here or call 443-554-6150 for more information.
GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing): A local support group for those who have lost someone to addiction. Located in Bel Air, MD. *Online meetings are still available.*
(Postponed: The group usually meets at 7pm on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD.)
The private national Facebook group is still available. Please visit here to ask to join.
The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center: A clinic that provides immediate care for mental health and addiction. Located in Bel Air, MD. Please visit here or call 410-874-0711 for information about online and in-person meeting services.
Loving An Addict: A local support group for family and friends of those in active addiction. *Online meetings are still available.*
(Postponed: The group usually meets every Saturday at 7pm at Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD.)
We serve locally but think globally. For counseling, or for addiction, substance abuse disorder, or mental illness treatment, please contact your area’s health department, county government, hospital, or law enforcement agency.
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Get in Touch!
General volunteering information:
To provide meals for our sober living houses:
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To submit a story of loss or recovery for our newsletter:
Rage Against Addiction Programs
Daughter's House: A local sober living house designed to assist women who are transitioning from substance abuse treatment. Click here to visit the Facebook page.
HALO (How to Live Without Our Addicted Loved One): An online grief support group. Click here to ask to join the private Facebook page.
RAA ABC (After Baby Care): A program that provides newborn-care items to mothers in recovery. Please send monetary donations to:
Rage Against Addiction (Rage ABC)
P.O. Box 1
Forest Hill, MD 21050
Rage Club: A program offered for children who are touched by substance abuse disorder. Click here for more information.
Rage Against Addiction Team
Wendy Beck Messner
Founder and Executive Director
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Recovery Coach and Daughter’s House Program Director
Family and Recovery Resources and Support