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Opioid addiction: This story is bigger than me

Lauren Verno’s sharing of her father’s story encouraged others to come forward

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In journalism school, you are always taught to report the facts and never become part of your story.

In my case, I didn’t have a choice. When my father lost his battle to addiction last year, I knew I needed to speak about it.

What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming response from our community. These are some of the messages I received.

“Lauren, Thank you. That took an immense amount of courage. My deceased son battled drug addiction. I can identify with your pain, but only you can feel it. Although our experiences are familiar and similar, they are unique to our individual circumstances. I wish I could give you a huge hug! Your story and tears were heartfelt.”

“Just want to let you know that your story was touching tonight. I hope everyone shares your story, I sure will. I have been drug-free since 1988. Our youth definitely need to be aware of this story.”

“I just saw your piece on addiction. They say shame keeps us quiet. My dad is a functioning alcoholic. Can we even say ‘functioning’ in the same sentence as alcoholic? I’m not sure, but I’ve been trying to function in my own adult life (I’m 33) knowing I can’t change him--only he can. It’s been sad to see his decline, but I cling to those moments where he’s sober--when I see MY DAD. I still hope there’s a fairytale ending, too.”

With every message came the understanding that this story is bigger than just me.

That’s where I met Val Jordan White and Carroll Miniard.

Carroll first wrote to me after my story Keep You Addicted aired last year. She opened up about the loss of her son Evan, who died from an acetyl Fentanyl overdose in July 2019.

Even though the death of her son was still so fresh, Carol was ready to share Evan’s story.

The day before Carol and I met, she called and asked if her friend Val could join the interview. Val Jordan White lost her son William to an acetyl fentanyl overdose in March of this year.

Even though the three of us had never met, they welcomed me into this club. It’s one that no one wants to be apart of, but the bond of losing someone to addiction is unlike any other.

While the two sons never met Val’s son William and Carroll’s son Evan were connected in many ways. Both were born in 1983, only 6 days apart Both were in accidents where they were prescribed opioids. That both Val and Carroll believe kick-started their addiction Both lost girlfriends from overdoses while sleeping high right next to them. And both lost their battle with addiction last year.

"We got a knock on the door at 2:30 in the morning, with two detectives telling us. I knew, when my husband went to open the door I just instantly put on my robe, put on my bedroom slippers and just walked to the door. It’s every mother’s worst fear and there it was,” explained Val.

Only a few months later, Carrol got the knock on the door.

"When they left our home they had five more homes to go to that night. They left my home at midnight going to five more homes with the same news that you’re child has overdosed,” said Carroll.

According to the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office, 132 people who died as a result of an overdose in 2019 had acetyl fentanyl in their systems at the time of their deaths.

That’s why, less than a year after losing their children, these mothers want to share their stories.

"What made you say yes to doing this?” I asked Val and Carroll.

“Because we don’t want to waste our pain,” said Val.

“I go back to it. If it helps one person, if it encourages one person or one family then we’ve done our job,” said Carroll.

There are resources out there for those fighting the addiction, but something I have learned during this process: Until the addict is ready to make a change there is nothing a mother, or in my case child can say to make the person get sober. The person with the addiction has to be ready and willing to get help.

Alcohol, drug, and other rehab resources are available throughout Northeast Florida

FreeRehabCenters.org

This resource helps people take the first steps toward getting help for their drug and alcohol usage and having drug-free lifestyles. To contact an alcohol/drug abuse counselor, call (800) 780-2294.

Finding hard to locate resources for assistance with alcohol, drug and other rehab related problems is what FreeRehabCenters.com is all about. They scoured thousands of government and nonprofit resources to find the most affordable, free and sliding scale resources.

Gateway Community Services

Substance abuse treatment on location for adolescents, persons with co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders, DUI/DWI offenders and criminal justice clients. Insurance accepted and sliding-fee scale.

3747 Belfort Road, Jacksonville - (904) 646-4889

Salvation Army Adult Rehab Center Jacksonville

For over 100 years The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Centers have provided spiritual, social, and emotional assistance for men and women who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves. Centers offers residential housing, work, and group and individual therapy, all in a clean, wholesome environment. The physical and spiritual care that program participants receive prepares them to re-enter society and return to gainful employment. Many of those who have been rehabilitated are reunited with their families and resume a normal life.

10900 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville - (904) 641-2122

Breakthroughs Counseling & Recovery

Alcohol and drug addiction rehab treatment in an intensive outpatient environment. Groups consist of education about drugs and alcohol, relapse prevention, and substance abuse and mental health counseling. Groups meet 4-5 days per week for 3 hour sessions. Both morning and evening programs are offered

3810 Williamsburg Park Blvd., Jacksonville - (904) 419-6102


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