My aunt. After I left home and moved across the country, she became my surrogate mother, of sorts. I could talk about things with her that I’d never dream about talking about with my mother, but at 10 years my mother’s senior, she’d pretty much raised us all. She would have turned 79 years old on September 11. So classy, always so together. She taught me everything I knew about navigating this world – how to look, how to speak, what not to say. Naturally, I was completely clueless of the fact that she was caught up in the stranglehold of opioid abuse. It unfolded right in front of me, but to this day, I can admit I was naïve. Hell, I’d taken Percocet before when I had my wisdom teeth pulled, so how could someone I know so well, someone who seemingly had the world in the palm of her hand, succumb to such an affliction?
Although my mother recognized the signs much earlier, I wasn’t aware of them until I was living in Brooklyn, when our weekly calls became daily. Our conversations would usually be full of laughter and gossip, but this one day, something was different. As we were talking, her dialogue went from coherent to gibberish. And I’ll never forget, she said something so inflammatory, something so unlike the auntie I had grown to love and respect, that I immediately knew something was wrong. And I was right. This conversation marked the beginning of years of suspect behavior, paranoia, multiple visits to the ER, and finally, a rift from which our family would never heal.
At the time of my aunt’s death, she was isolated, alone and in pain. It was painful to watch and even today, I listen to my mother’s stories with regret that we didn’t do enough. But what could we do?
“We tried to get her help,” Mom said. “I even told one of her doctors that my sister was addicted to pain pills, but nothing came from it.” This was long before the dirty secret of opioid addiction bubbled to America’s surface.
It was back and neck surgery that left my aunt confined to a wheelchair and, subsequently, addicted to opioids. The irony is that, during this time, my mom and aunt were on the same exact medication at the same exact dose. “I’ve been taking opioids for years because I have fibromyalgia, ” Mom said. “I take extra precautions to take my doses as prescribed. Sometimes, I can’t remember if I’ve taken my medicine – in those cases I stay on the safe side and don’t take it until the next dose.” I recall Aunt B being hospitalized for an overdose on Xanax and Percocet, yet the prescriptions still came.
We were connected like no other. To this day, I look in the mirror and I can see her influence staring back at me. Some days I’m “head-to-toe” Aunt B, because I was the only person in the family who could fit her designer clothes. As soon as I put on her blazer that I could probably never afford in this lifetime, I instantly am instilled with the power of Auntie Barbara, even today. I miss her so much – my mom tells me she thinks about her every day. After her funeral, when we gathered at her daughter’s house, I noticed a picture on the wall with my aunt wearing the same amazingly embroidered black dress I was wearing at the time – a dress that she had given me years prior. After all, it was only right to be head-to-toe before we parted forever. This was confirmation for me – although she was gone, we would forever remain connected.
I’m no doctor, so I can’t say for certainty if opioids led to my aunt’s death in 2018 from heart complications, but I have no doubt that her opioid misuse was a definitive factor in the years of downward spiral leading up to her death. An activist during the Civil Rights Movement, a two-time breast cancer survivor – my aunt was a fighter, a survivor, and tragically a true testament to the ultimate power that opioid addiction can have over a person. It knows no face, it does not discriminate, it has no mercy.
JanOne sees every day as an opportunity for fresh ideas to end the opioid epidemic, the worst drug crisis in our nation’s history.
As a NASDAQ-listed company, JanOne draws private-sector resources into this urgent fight. We seek innovative treatments—focusing on developing revolutionary, non-addictive drugs that kill pain, not people.
February 6, 2020
January 28, 2020
January 23, 2020
March is National Autoimmune Disease month and as we are fighting an “invisible epidemic”, it is a great time to bring awareness. Approximately 23.5 million Americans are affected across the country, according to the NIH.
Best wishes of good health and safety in the days and weeks ahead to all of followers, friends and family.