Recently, I joined one of my good friends, Erik Kerr and his business partner, Summer, in seeing their vision of helping to end the addiction epidemic that haunts our world. It is called Healing Addiction. This is a project that is VERY near and dear to my heart.
This is my story.
After becoming paralyzed, I started surfing social media in hopes of connecting others who live with paralysis and finding peers that, "Get it." I was not replacing my able bodied friends, I was just looking for someone else that could relate to the new life I had acquired. Someone that was going to tell me, that I would find my "new normal" and that everything was going to be ok. Once on Myspace (Yes, it was THAT long ago!), I quickly saw a whole new world that awaited me, with many people who were not only living with paralysis, but who were THRIVING.
One of those people was a guy named Michael Davis. Michael reached out to me and very soon after, we were on the phone constantly. He lived in Colorado, and I lived in North Carolina. Very quickly I came to trust and look to Michael for advice, an ear to listen and someone who understood the changes I was going through, both physically and emotionally. There were many nights that I do not know where I would be today, had it not been for him picking up the phone as soon as it rang. I was in a very dark place. I was still struggling to figure out where I was going to go next in life, and what my possibilities were. There were times that I didn't want to wake up anymore, but I did; Because of Michael. No matter what time of day or night it was, he ALWAYS answered my calls and he was always there to catch me when I began to fall into the depths of my own mind and when the depression set in.
Michael had been paralyzed 5 years before me, and was one of the few that embraced life on wheels. He had a passion for life and for pushing the limits placed on people with different abilities. He was always looking for a way to prove people who thought he "couldn't", wrong. I really looked up to him and remembered thinking, "I want to be like Mike." But, over time Michael started to really open up to me and let me in to the reality of his world. Like most of us who have acquired a spinal cord injury, Michael lived with chronic pain, muscle spasms and insomnia. In order to better the quality of his life, his doctor prescribed Oxycontin for pain and Ambien for sleep. Over time, Michael shared with me that he could no longer function without either, but just brushed it off as how his life after injury was going to be. Whatever it took to make it easier for him to still do the things he loved, and live his life at full speed, he was game.
One day, about two years after I met him, I received a call from his number. The only difference was, this time his voice was not the one on the other end of the line when I said, "Hello." It was a lady's voice, telling me, "This is Michael's mother." I quickly had a very bad gut feeling. She proceeded to inform me that Michael was no longer with us. She had found him in his bed that morning not breathing. I was devastated. How could this be?? I had just spoke with him the night before. He had not mentioned being sick or not feeling well. With sadness in her voice, his mother told me that they suspected Michael had stopped breathing in his sleep as a result of an accidental overdose. After his autopsy was performed, it was confirmed that their suspicions were correct. Michael had taken too much medicine, causing his breathing to slow and ultimately stop.
My heart was broken. I remember laying in bed night after night, wondering what I could have did. I knew he was taking them medications and I knew he was dependent on them for reasons out of his control, but I never would have imagined he would "accidentally" take too much. How could this happen?
After Michael's passing, I started talking to others who take the same medications and started learning how an accidental overdose can easily happen for people who live with conditions like chronic pain and insomnia. After being on the same medications for prolonged periods of time, a person's body starts to become not only dependent on the medications, but it also builds up a tolerance that causes the users to have to take larger doses to get the same kind of relief they initially had at the onset of taking the prescribed medications. In Michael's case, rather than going to see his doctor to consult on how to "safely" get the same pain relief and sleep, he just took more...and more. He was not trying to end his life. He was just trying to improve his quality of life after a traumatic injury.
Over the years since Michael left this world, I made many more friends with spinal cord injuries. I started to realize very fast that this was very common amongst people who live with disabilities. To date, I have lost a total of 12 friends in 16 years to the same fate. It makes me sad, but more than anything, it makes me want to create change. That is my reason for being dedicated to becoming a part of the solution, not just for my friends and family, but for anyone that will reach out to me. I see you and I am here. Don't be ashamed to reach out.
Has your life been impacted by addiction?
Healing Addiction is a solution that can help your loved ones end the addiction spiral and create a brighter future. It is a FREE online event featuring 29 of the World's leading experts on ending addiction and facilitating life-long recovery. The FREE event will take place online from February 3rd- 9th, 2018. Some of the speakers for this summit include Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Sean Stephenson. You will have to register to be a part of this event by clicking the link below.
Will you be a part of the solution?