Lately, or for the last 6-ish months, I have been almost entirely consumed by my grief for Chelsea. I would feel bad about it, but I think Tim understands. I think he knows that after he died I was left with just one of my two people, so it was that much harder losing her.
But today something really took me by surprise.
Today, I was scrolling through facebook and I saw my Timmy’s photo in a picture of someone’s memory wall.
The problem I found myself having with this was that this particular memory wall was one for drug addicts that have died. Friends of the poster, who is now a peer counselor at the department of health. I honestly only knew what this memory wall was for because the poster recently participated in a documentary about the opioid epidemic.
The thing is, it isn’t her fault. She, somehow or another, heard some details about his death, I’m assuming. She has this wall of photos to remember people whom she knew that have lost their battles to addiction. There is nothing wrong with this. My personal issue is that it is not widely known that my Timothy’s death had to something do with drugs. It is not something that any of us talk about. I don’t know how or why she knows some of the details of his death, but by sharing this picture of her wall on Facebook, it makes it public assumed knowledge that everyone on it was an addict. I guess I have a couple issues with this.
One of those issues is that I am almost certain out of the approximate 20-30 people on it, there at at least one or two other people on it who’s family members would feel exactly the same way that I did when I saw Tim’s. I am certain of this because there were at least two people on there who’s cause of death I always wondered about (chalk that up to the funeral director in me) but everyone was always very tight-lipped about.
Timothy was one of the best people I ever knew. He was extraordinarily kind, incredibly smart, and could find a silver lining in literally any kind of situation. He would give you the shirt off his back, or his last twenty dollars. I am not saying that drug addicts aren’t capable of having these qualities, but being inaccurately branded as an addict does dim all of the wonderful things, and that upsets me.
The other issue I have is more of a broader issue, on the topic of addiction. First I will tell you that Tim’s death was ultimately the result of an undiagnosed medical condition, but it only killed him because it was exacerbated by drugs. Drugs he was given by someone he trusted, drugs that were supposed to be one thing but were actually heroin. While he did seek out some uppers this particular night, he was not an addict.
I struggle with how our country views the opioid epidemic and drug addiction in general. While I learned just like every other psychology major that addiction is most definitely categorized as a disease, I feel like the fact that once someone is in active addition because of a CHOICE they made themselves, the fact that it is technically classified as a disease is used as an excuse. Maybe the reason this is so personal for me is because I have a severe degenerative disease that has made me an almost lifelong pain management patient, and people making bad choices leading to addiction and therefore the opioid epidemic makes things for pain management patients like me so much more difficult than it should have to be. It does make me mad, when I see people in recovery saying things like “opiates should never be prescribed”. Sometimes that is the only option. I’m willing to bet if they were living with some of these debilitating conditions, they would be singing a much different tune. Should people that have severe chronic illnesses and conditions have no quality of life simply because others cannot practice self control? In America right now, the opioid epidemic is a popular topic, but what never gets discussed are the group of patients that end up screwed.
When I saw Timothy’s photo in the picture on facebook today, I was pissed. It also kinda hit me that I haven’t really thought about him lately. I did end up messaging the poster and explained that his cause of death is not public knowledge, and she removed the photo without me even having to ask her to. Maybe I should have let it go, and honestly I almost did, but I just have a feeling Tim wouldn’t have appreciated being publicly branded an addict, so here we are.