Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ten Years Later

It's been 10 years since we lost Casey to the disease of addiction.  I don't know where those years have gone or that there could possibly have been 10 of them.  I do know that it will not matter how many years pass.  I will always grieve for him and miss him terribly each and every day of my life.  My heart will be broken forever. 

As I reflect on the past 10 years, I am encouraged by the strides we have made in raising awareness about the disease of addiction so that treatment and recovery resources are becoming more accessible.  I said more accessible, not nearly as accessible as the need requires.  We now have 10 Recovery Kentucky centers in operation, 5 for men and 5 for women, with plans for 4 more in the hopefully, the very near future.  That's currently 1,000 beds that were not available 10 years ago.

Intervention has become a more familiar word because of the television program by the same name.  So, whether or not families choose to use this tool to get their loved one into treatment, at least the family is aware that the option exists and more importantly the correct protocol for a successful intervention.  That's more than I knew when we learned of Casey disease.  This is another step in the right direction.

The number of petitions filed for Casey's Law have continued to increase meaning that more families are aware of this intervention tool that became effective July 13, 2004 in the state of Kentucky and are using it for the benefit of their loved ones.  I know that we now have more people living with addiction rather than dying from it in part because of Casey and the law that was inspired by his life and death.

I have grieved by being an activist, an activist that has been blessed by the many individuals who have traveled this road with me for the past 10 years.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of Transitions, Inc.  My office is now in the building for which I was hired to build community support, Transitions Grateful Life Center.  It is a blessing to be greeted by the smiling faces of young men who, while they remind me so much of Casey, have an opportunity that was not available to him 10 years ago. 

My goal of having a program about addiction on television has been realized in the past 10 years as I have served for the past 6 as co-host and host of a community cable show called "Guide to Feeling Better".  It is produced by Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky's Mental Health and Substance Use Awareness Committee and sponsored in part by Transitions.  It is my honor and privilege to interview some of the most knowledgeable and impressive individuals who are known locally and nationally as experts in the field of mental health and substance use disorders.  Now, families have more access to programming on topics directly related to the disease of addiction.  Our programs can be viewed on local community cable stations and are archived online at

And there's more. . . . More rallies for recovery in recognition of September's National Recovery Month are being hosted around the country.  Transitions will host it's third rally this month on Saturday, September 15th in Shelter #2 at Pioneer Park from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  

This year will be the first of the National Anti-Heroin Rally & Memorial in Northern Kentucky held at the Amphitheater in Devou Park on Saturday, September 15th from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. 

The 3rd Annual Vigil will be held on Thursday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m. at Transitions Grateful Life Center. This vigil is sponsored by Transitions and PEACE (People Enduring Addiction Consequences Everyday).   Our PEACE grief support group has been in existence for 9 of those 10 years and continues to gain members.  We are grieved by the death that brings a family to us but grateful when they find comfort and healing with our love and support.

This coming Thursday an independent documentary, "Cole", will be shown at Transitions Grateful Life Center at 7:00 p.m.  It's a story of friendship and loss.  It's a story that puts a face on addiction, opens the door to conversation about the disease and honors the life that was taken because of it.

All of these are examples of steps we can take to eradicate the shame, stigma and discrimination that surrounds the disease of addiction.  These are the barriers that keep addiction a secret and people sick.  We must break this vicious and deadly cycle because if nothing changes, nothing changes.

I am so very grateful that there have been changes, life-saving changes.  Thank you for whatever you have done and continue to do to further awareness of this disease and in doing so increase prevention, treatment and recovery resources for other families.

Until next time. . . .

Casey's mom

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Moms on a Mission

On March 7th the Mother's Council celebrated their first anniversary. The Mother's Council was organized to raise awareness about the disease of addiction, diminish the stigma associated with the disease and raise funds for the Center for Chemical Addiction Treatment (CCAT). I was very honored to be asked to speak at this 1st anniversary celebration and to be among a group of fifty or more people who are committed to making a difference. The audience was comprised not only of moms who have children still living with the disease but also moms who have lost their children to the disease. In fact, a name change was suggested to encompass all the other family members in attendance, including dads, brothers and sisters, who are also committed to the cause. The group has accomplished a lot in one short year. Regardless of the name, who knows what will be achieved by these individuals on a mission. For some, the need to become involved comes after the death of a child. With the death comes a compelling need, the need to have their child remembered, the need to let others know that their child was here and that they mattered. It is that very need that can keep the parent(s) living, living passionately on purpose. For me, Casey's Law was a result of that passion. Casey died and an advocate was born. I became a 'mom on a mission', a loose cannon, shooting off in all directions, hoping I would hit something. Being a 'mom on a mission' is not for the faint of heart and can be painfully daunting. However, when I receive a call or an email from a family who has used Casey's Law to intervene on their loved one, that purpose is affirmed and my strength is renewed. Sharon Blair and Kathy Sturwold are other moms who are also on a mission. You can follow their efforts to get involuntary treatment laws passed in Indiana and Ohio (respectively) on links found on the home page. Whether you consider yourself a 'mom on a mission' or not, I hope that you will find your own way of advocating for recovery from the disease of addiction. I am firmly convinced that, more than anything else, it will be families who will make a difference in how this disease is treated. It will be us who will make it OK to talk about this disease so that someday soon, people with addiction will be treated as anyone else who has a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal illness. Remember what happened when people started talking openly about cancer. Just imagine. . . . Until next time. . . . Casey's mom

Thursday, February 17, 2011

You Are Not Alone When the Darkness Falls

"You are not alone when the darkness falls", a quote from Dr. Franklin O. Smith, M.D. , Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, was spoken at a one-day conference offered free by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He was referring to those who are living with cancer, specifically blood cancers like the one that Casey's dad is surviving. This was the second of these conferences that we have attended since the diagnosis was made almost 3 years ago. As I listened to the speakers, I was comparing and contrasting the way cancer is talked about and treated with the disease of addiction.

Since Dr. Smith's topic was New Drug Development for Cancer, he focused on how long it takes to development new drugs and why the drugs are needed. I'm sure that there were several among the more than 170 in attendance, including Casey's dad, who are alive today because of the clinical trials for new drugs to treat their disease. In contrast, drugs that have been developed for the treatment of addiction are often met with opposition because they have not been a part of treatment modalities used in the past. This response totally disregards the fact that the new medication(s) may be what saves a person's life and that without this assistance, the person's chances of survival may be slim to none.

He also spoke of the efficacy of the modalities that had been previously used to treat childhood cancer. He concluded that the "future does not lie with these modalities". When and until we have a 100% success rate with addiction, we have reason to actively pursue other modalities of treatment for this disease as well. It is blatantly obvious that there is room for improvement in how we treat addiction.

Why does this resonate with me? During our crisis with Casey's disease, there were many meetings where the statement was read that "addiction is a disease much like cancer and diabetes". I believed and know now that is true. I thought at the time that would translate into the same kind of help and support for the disease of addiction. We quickly learned that was not the case.

As I reflected on this conference, I was thinking of all the families who are painfully aware of what it means to feel "alone when the darkness falls". I was trying to remember if I had ever heard of a conference for families on the disease of addiction, new treatments, treatment and recovery resources, a conference that would offer an opportunity to network and join with other families so they too can know that they "are not alone when the darkness falls". Honestly, I could not think of a single one.

There are many conferences for professionals in the field that are only advertised to that specific audience. There are none that I know of that offer a day of vital information and support for the families living with addiction. It was the summer that Casey died that I found out about The Kentucky School of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies at Northern Kentucky University. At that point, it had been held at Northern for about twenty years or more! Since then, I have missed only one year of the school and gained a wealth of information from the outstanding presenters who participate. This year's school will be held from July 17th - 21st.

This conference on blood cancers was about hope, hope for survival. Surviving the disease of addiction and living in recovery is also all about HOPE. My hope is that addiction will very soon be treated as a disease, much like cancer and diabetes.

Until next time. . . .

Casey's mom

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let the Blogging Begin

Today seems to be the day for the blogging to begin. The announcement today at the 2nd Annual Faces of Drug Abuse Conference in Lexington, KY that the blog was regularly updated really put the pressure on to get with it.

It was my privilege to be the keynote speaker at the closing session of the conference. I was honored to be listed among most impressive keynote speakers who were part of this 2-day conference. You may want to read about them on the conference website.

There were close to 200 people in attendance at the last session even though the weather in Lexington this morning was not the best and some attendees had left for home. The audience was a good representation of professions and people working in the field of substance use disorders, very attentive and most gracious. Due to the inclement weather, there were many who left immediately after my presentation. However, there were several people who came up to offer their condolences for the lose of Casey and most of them also had questions about how they or someone in their family could help a loved one. While it is discouraging to hear that after 6 years there are still people who have never heard of Casey's Law, I am always grateful that now they do.

It is always emotionally draining to relive Casey's addiction and revisit all the barriers we faced in trying to get him the help he needed. However, it is also always a blessing to have the opportunity to talk about Casey. As I said today, he will always be my son and I'll always be his mom.

I would once again express my thanks to the presenters and sponsors of this conference. This event offered a great opportunity for learning about the dangers of drugs, prevention strategies, intervention tools, and treatment and recovery resources. That's a good thing.

It has always been my experience that when people of like mind come together in one place there is an energy generated that just can't be duplicated any other way. I hope that those present were encouraged, rejuvenated and that their resolve to make a difference was strengthened as mine was today.

Until next time. . . .

Casey's mom