KNOCK OUT OPIOID ABUSE CONTEST finalist
What do you hope to accomplish by being a part of this contest?
My hope is that this contest helps raise awareness of the opioid abuse epidemic. In doing so, we not only remember all those we have lost to opioid use, but we also stand with the courageous individuals in recovery.
What is some of the stigma you have experienced around opioid use or overdoses?
It has been my experience that when someone dies of an overdose, the grief of the surviving family and friends is clouded by shame or guilt. It’s a similar experience when a family loses someone to a suicide. There are whispers: “Did you know how he died? Did you hear where they found her?” There is a lack of compassion. Loving words to help with healing are few and far between. People don’t know what to say or how to act. To some, it is a shock. And to others, it doesn’t come as a surprise. And that, in itself, is a tragedy. If someone lost a child to cancer, or in an auto accident, people would be knocking down the door of the family, bringing meals, hugs, words of hope and encouragement. People would be sitting around smiling and telling “Remember when” stories. Why does this not happen when someone dies of an overdose? Death is death. Grief is grief. Why is compassion contingent upon how someone died?
How do you think the opioid epidemic has affected you personally? Friends? Families? Our Community?
I have friends and family who were or are in recovery. Earlier this year I lost a cousin to an overdose. And even though I hadn’t seen him in many years, it is a heart-stopping, devastating and painful loss. He was only in his 20’s and had his whole life ahead of him. Last September, opioids silenced the music of a brilliant 26 year old musician whom I came to adore at a weekly open mic in Central New Jersey. He brought so much joy to the world with his charismatic smile and beautiful music. But he couldn't beat the demons of drug abuse. So he became another statistic in the opioid epidemic.
What advice would you give your teenage self?
If I could give advice to my teenage self, I would say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Don’t hang on to hate or anger or jealousy. Don’t let your past define your path.”
Are there any positive moments from your life that shaped you into who you are today?
Any negative events that shaped you? Every moment, every person I have met, every situation I experienced, helped shape me into the person I am today. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I experienced God’s grace every day : friends who drove me to chemo, doctor appointments, scans and blood work; the smiling volunteers at the cancer center; the nurses who administered the chemo; the friends from church who brought meals to me; the handwritten notes and get well cards; the phone calls and visits from a community that genuinely cared about me, loved me, and wanted to help make my journey a little less rocky and a little less lonely.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for my faith. Growing up Catholic, I went to church every Sunday, received all my Sacraments, was involved as a volunteer in many church ministries over the years - including music ministry and youth ministry. But my parents were the living examples of what it meant to BE a Catholic. It wasn’t just what they said. It is what they did and how they lived their lives - with joyful, loving hearts. They taught me by example. Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary. Their love was louder than words.
What are you most proud of in your life?
We all have different gifts. I’m proud of how I have utilized my gift of music in my life. I've been involved in Music Ministry since I was a teenager singing and playing guitar in Church on Sundays. Over the past 20+ years, music has continued to be a major part of my journey, from singing in choirs, participating in worship bands, and even performing as a singer/songwriter at a local coffeehouse. Music is a universal language. It knows no boundaries. It connects the hearts of people of all ages and backgrounds. It transcends cultural and religious differences. It draws people together. Music heals
What does music mean to you?
Music has the ability to dive into our souls, and it’s this notion that inspires me to create and perform. I started piano lessons at the age of four and began composing music at the age of ten. As I grew older and more proficient in musical ability, I learned that my music can be transformative for not only myself, but also those who listen. Since 2008, the events and people who have surrounded me on my journey have inspired my songwriting. Along peaks and valleys, through darkness and light, my songs are the diary of my life being read aloud, sung aloud and lived aloud.
What do you think the solution is to the opioid epidemic?
I don’t think there is any simple answer or quick fix for the opioid epidemic. This is a public health crisis, and we need to recognize the importance of creating resources for those seeking help with their addiction. 18. Is there anything else you would like to add? We need to recognize the successful recoveries in progress. The Facebook posts that simply state 10 year, 7 yrs, 5 yrs, 3 yrs, 1 year, 6 mos, even 30 days, deserve our Likes, Loves and Affirmations. Embrace their successes. It is our responsibility to be the support system for the people we care about so they can continue to successfully fight their battles and be a part of this world we are all trying to survive together.