BONUS Why You Should Focus On Your Similarities With Your Child Instead of Your Differences

Living While Loving Your Child Through Addiction
Living While Loving Your Child Through Addiction
BONUS Why You Should Focus On Your Similarities With Your Child Instead of Your Differences

On August 31st, 2021 Heather spoke at the Volusia County Recovery Alliance Keeping Hope event.  It was their 4th annual overdose awareness and remembrance day held in Daytona, Florida.  The event is in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day which acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends and remembers those who have died due to drug overdose. The day helps reduce the stigma of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), showing that recovery is possible and that overdoses can be prevented. 

Heather’s speech focuses on:

1. Remembering and honoring Helanna

2. What Heather wants others to know regarding the stigma associated with overdose

3. Her encouragement and guidance for others who have lost a loved one

Link to flyer about the event

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This transcript has not been formatted or edited.


Hey, everybody.

This is a special bonus episode because I wanted to share my speech with you that I’m doing at the Volusia County Recovery Alliance in Daytona for their fourth annual, overdose awareness, and Remembrance Day, which I talked about that a little bit more on the previous episode that I’m actually releasing on.


National overdose awareness day but this is going to be happening that day as well.

And so I’m going to release this either later that night or the next day because I don’t think it’s fair to release and do my podcast before I share it at the actual event.


But I talked about International overdose Awareness Day a little bit on the previous podcast.

Here’s just a summary of it.

It acknowledges the You felt by families and friends and remembers those who have died due to drug overdose.


The day helps reduce the stigma of substance use disorder showing that recovery is possible and that overdoses can be prevented.

And of course, if you listen to my podcast at all, that I lost my daughter Helena last year to an overdose really out of the blue because things have been going better than I ever could.


Have imagined but at the same time like as with addiction there were struggles going on as well.

And so I have been thinking about what I could do to just have more of an impact because it makes me really emotional to talk about this.


But I didn’t go through all of this.

It’s been nine years that have been really, really hard and I didn’t go through all of this not to help as many people.

Well, as I possibly can, and I want to not only advocate for people who are struggling with substance use disorder and give them a voice and help reduce stigma, but also help their loved ones.


Not have to struggle for years without help the way that I did or, I spent so many years looking for help, and the help that I got a lot of time.

It was even counterproductive.

And so I was thinking like, what can I do to help?

And I talked to her Lana about it all of the time which was one of the things that I do to stay connected to her.


I still maintain my love and connection with her even in spirit.

And it came to me to do this to advocate for not just families but people who are struggling with substance use disorder and then Amazingly a couple of days later I kid you not.


I got this just introduced to somebody who is actually looking for help with something else and we started talking.

And of course we immediately struck up a beautiful connection because of our shared experiences and I got the opportunity to share my story at this event and I want to share it with you because I think that it is just if you’re struggling with shame or stigma or even how to help your child or how to move forward in your life.


I think that it will help you with any of those.

So I’m going to go ahead and share that with you.

And this is exactly what I’m going to say at the event.

So this is not like formatted for a podcast.


It Sarah formatted to be shared in front of people.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my daughter’s story honor her memory and be a part of this beautiful event.

Do you wonder what your loved one who lost their life to an overdose?


Would say if they were here today, I thought a lot about what my daughter would say is I prepared to share our story.

My daughter Helena Johnson, died, December, 2nd of 2021 from fentanyl poisoning, She was 21 years old and my only child before she died.


She had been sober most of 18 months with a couple of short lapses.

I chose to phrase it that way because I don’t think lapses diminish how hard she worked to change her life.

Helena who was living her life very differently.


Those 18 months, then she had lived her life, the previous nine years.

She had a job and was supporting herself.

Picked up extra shifts at work.

So she could pay off her debts and save money.

She was making meaningful friendships reconnecting with old friends and she was figuring out who she was is a sober young woman.


She was also just beginning to share her story to help others.

Now, the important conversation about stigma recovery and understanding substance use disorder is incomplete.


Without her voice.

So I want to share some of her words with you.

One of the times, I interviewed her for my podcast in order to help parents understand their kids experience with substance use, I asked her what I do.

That makes her feel supported.


Her answer was so simple.

She said she appreciated my patients in love.

Then we talked about how there were times in the early years of her substance use where there was in his much patience and love between us.

She said imagine how different things would have been in those days if we had seen our similarities instead of our differences, we could have been there for each other.


Helena was such a smart young woman and so much more than her addiction.

She was my greatest teacher.

If you had been lucky enough to meet her, she would have quickly when you over with her sense of humor, then she would have made fun of you in a way that made you love her even more.


She had a little dog named honey, that was often her motivation to stay sober in rebuild her life, but it was still a challenge for her.

About a month before she died, Elana wrote this passage in her journal, describing her struggle.


Sometimes I feel tugged at from two sides.

On my left side, is my past in the hell I created because I was convinced, I deserved it to my right.

I see an intensely bright future that I can create in thrive in.


Sometimes I feel stuck in a war between my past and my future, but also, For the first time in my life, I want to jump headfirst into a genuinely happy life.

I understand how she felt rebuilding my life without my daughter seems impossible.


I feel the same War.

She’s so eloquently described in her journal between my past and my future without her.

I get compassion for my grief and my struggle yet.

Our loved ones who have suffered so much because of addiction don’t always get that same compassion and understanding our society, minimizes the complexity of addiction by labeling it as a choice, no one.


Minimizes my experience of grief by labeling.

How I feel is a choice because most people understand grief The police officer who called me to tell me my daughter?


Told me she died because she chose to break the law and use heroin.


He also told me overdose is clogged up the medical system and keep people who are having heart attacks from getting the help they deserve.

Do we blame and judge the person having a heart attack for their lifestyle choices and genetics know, we have compassion for them and their families.


If my daughter had died from a heart attack, her life choices wouldn’t have been questioned and her life wouldn’t have been deemed less important then less deserving of Medical Services because of her choices.


No death is less tragic because it is drug-related What’s tragic is that my daughter only got to experience 21 short years of life on this Earth.

Her life mattered stigma focuses on choice and doesn’t leave room for curiosity or compassion and it doesn’t allow for the humanity.


Of someone’s very painful experience, which leads me to how I choose to approach the pain of facing a future.

ER, without my daughter, I share my story of my patients acceptance and unconditional love for my daughter to help others because stigma flourishes in silence.


When I get a chance to be whole Anna’s voice and tell our story.

I break that silence and help change the stigma surrounding substance use and overdose deaths.

And you can do the same thing by humanizing.

Your loved one, when you share their story.


Our words can heal us and help us make sense of our experiences, our loved ones who died from an overdose aren’t a shameful secret.

Their voices deserve to be heard and you can heal by telling their stories and being their voices to.


If I could ask kalana how we could all move forward after such tremendous loss, she would tell Oh, us to focus on our similarities instead of our differences to offer ourselves compassion, instead of judgement into our lab ourselves to move towards the genuinely happy future.


She was working so hard for thank you.