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My boyfriend died of a heroin overdose — what I know now about addiction

After losing her boyfriend to a heroin overdose, woman shares what she wishes she knew about addiction.
/ Source: TODAY

My boyfriend, greatest love and most beloved person in my world, Damon, died in May 2017 of a heroin overdose.

In the year since his death, nothing has felt normal and I don’t know if or when it ever will again. I feel so lost and disconnected from everything and everyone because my anchor, my person, is gone. Most days my brain still feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton balls. I’ve cried more than I ever thought was possible, felt angry, depressed, scared, anxious, suicidal and been brutally honest about the darkness of it all. Half the time I don’t recognize myself.

Still, a few things have crystallized:

1. Addiction is a disease and should be treated as such.

We would never vilify someone for having cancer, or another disease, and we would never try to treat it at home, in secret. We need to talk about it as openly as we do anything else, and treat its victims with the most empathy and loving kindness we have.

So many people have come forward and shared their stories of addiction and recovery with me since learning of Damon’s story. If I had known the facts, or been less ashamed and more vocal, and let someone in, maybe things could have been different.

2. People show up for you in unimaginable ways if you let them.

Ask for help and don’t move through life thinking you can fix everything. On the flip side, know that some people will disappoint you. Grief and loss are indescribably complicated, and it’s in these life moments when you really identify what you want your life to be, and who will be by your side — no matter how messy it gets. The world becomes smaller, but relationships become so much more meaningful.

3. You’re allowed to feel angry or even act crazy.

It’s not crazy, it’s normal. The process is slow and painful and there is no shortcut around it. People will eventually start to forget and they’ll stop asking how you’re doing and start to expect you to get back to “normal.” Whatever that means. And that’s when it gets really hard and really lonely. It’s never really OK, but it’s important to remember that grief has no timeline.

4. Forget everything you think you know.

I’ve had to relinquish control, which is humbling, and accept that attempting to control everything doesn’t mean making it better or making it right. I’m not as in control as I thought I was. Don’t wait for things to line up exactly the way you planned. Live the life you want right now, and if you are lucky enough to find a partner who really sees you and wants to really be in it with you, grab them and hang on tight. We don’t always get a tomorrow.

5. Acceptance and love are the only things that matter.

And the greatest gift someone can give you is self-awareness and self-acceptance. What a gift Damon gave me. I tried to save him; instead, he saved me from myself, saved me from going through the rest of life asleep and afraid.

Damon used to joke that he either wouldn’t make it to 40, or that God would punish him by making him live forever. He made it to 33. And in my opinion, he was too good for this world. He changed my life. He unlocked something in me that made me able to love and accept love. And for that, I am forever grateful to him.