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Gratitude

This Thanksgiving has been different. It is the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from my son Ned. I had a COVID test pending due to an exposure and didn’t feel it was safe for him to come home. Luckily, the test came back negative a few days later. So, I was left to with time to reflect on some years in the past.

There was the Thanksgiving, I spent the day on the phone with Sean, unable to get him into treatment and he spent the holiday in jail. I spent the day before all day with the insurance company and couldn’t get approval for treatment in time to get him out. Then, there was the year we spent away from him as he was in treatment, only to have him get into trouble and get kicked out the very next day.

Interestingly, my favorite was year was at a treatment center that felt more like home to me. Ned, Tim and I flew out to be with Sean. We all gathered at the men’s house and had an amazing dinner with other kids and their families. What was astounded to me was the laughter. People enjoying the company of their loved ones. Most family visits I remember had tears and drama, we had just a few hours to have very tough conversations.  This time we had a joyful event to share and no hard decision talk. We could just be a family. Of course, we were all confident of the bright future our children had on the road to lasting recovery. The magical thinking that overcomes every parent when their child enters treatment, this will be the time. Surely, they have reached their bottom. They will succeed and we will all live happily after. Sometimes the dream comes true. Don’t give up hope.

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for_kindness

This site is devoted to improving treatment of mental health in honor of Sean Blake.  He was a young man who loved kindness.  A poet, writer and chef. He gave gifts of stories, letters and recipes.  Sean showed his love by cooking for family, friends and strangers alike.  You may have seen him reading palms on Church St. in Burlington, VT.  He touched many lives with his wit, charisma and love of life.

The site is maintained by Sean’ s family. We hope to show that Sean was more than his disease. We share our stories and many stories of families affected by substance use disorder. We hope there will be less stigma and shame with mental illness and substance use disorder. We hope to raise awareness of the dangers of opiates and risk of death from their use. We advocate for compassionate treatment and harm reduction. We hope to show healing and growth in our recovery from his death.

As anyone reading this can understand, Sean wanted to live, he wanted sobriety. It takes only one moment of  weakness with an opiate to cause serious consequences.

Sean died at age 27 from an overdose of alcohol and fentanyl, combined with marijuana.

We will miss him forever.

Happy New Year

Grief and Gratitude

2020 has been a challenging year and there has been a tremendous amount of grief for all of us. Loss of so many people, illness for others, loss of jobs. There has been tremendous fear as well. So much anxiety for the virus and our families, coworkers, and neighbors.

Having done so much grief-work this year, the load does feel lighter. I can remember without tears, beautiful holiday memories, fun times filled with optimism for the future. I can enjoy the present . Enjoy what we do have to be very happy about. Relish in our smaller family.  The huge, gaping hole that was doesn’t seem quite as large this year.

There are a few strategies I have embraced. Not because I wanted to, because I had to learn new ways to cope. I start every morning with a few minutes of meditation. I enjoy the quiet, before my husband or dog rises to think of my day ahead. I read from a daily reader and contemplate the day.  To me, meditation continues with a walk outside, when I can. The 30-50 minutes of exercise outside grounds me. The angst of the morning melts away with every step.  I call it my daily dose of vitamin D. It may not be a huge hike or even a great calorie burner. It does settle my mood.

Before bed, in the evening, I do something relaxing before bed. TV or a meeting. Then I start my bedtime ritual which includes a gratitude practice. I read from a gratitude daily reader (Mark Nepo-The Book of Awakening) Then, I prioritize sleep.

On call nights and office days it means everything is shorter. I still try to get a few minutes in the day to start and end with intention and gratitude.

For the New Year, I hope to increase and improve my exercise regimen. I hope to continue to get out side more. Maybe some skiing, cross country skiing maybe downhill.  I hope to get more sailing in.  To do all this activity, I want to be in better shape. I hope some strength training will help with weight loss.

Since being diagnosed with diabetes I have had trouble managing my blood sugar, and weight has not been a huge priority. So this year I hope to improve on that area.

Peace and Love in the New Year, Sean’s Mom

Dia De Muertos

Some families have Halloween celebrations, we celebrate Day of the Dead, All Souls Day. We take advantage of that time in between where the door between earth and heaven open just a sliver, just enough to tell opur loved ones how much we miss them.

We celebrate with favorite foods and stories, tales of past celebrations, back when All Souls Day was something we read about. There were so few that I mourned, Grandparents, a cousin gone too soon. Then the death of a close friend, then my Dad, and then Sean. All within a year, three of my closest friends/family. Now it is a day for pause and remeberance.

I have become friends with many parents who have lost kids, I grieve for them too. We collectively grieve our kids on birthdays and “angel days” We talk about them. Because if you haven’t noticed, people don’t like us talking about our dead kids. The think we are stuck in our grief. There is even a name for it “Complicated Grief” stuck somewhere far from Acceptance, that final stage that announces “We are done!!” Yes that is where everyone wants us to be..moved on. When I post a photo of myself having fun, the world cheers me on.. Having fun gets more likes and comments than any post about my son or Dad or Jill. The world wants me to be happy.

I just take note, write in my journal or share with my friends of loss. They get it. You can have fun and celebrate life and enjoy all you have and still think about the one’s you’ve lost without being pulled under. You can” have it all”. The messy, sad terrible grief and the joy and laughter too. We aren’t just one or the other. Some type of a chimera of love and loss, all bound together in one being.

Celebrate your loved ones on a windy fall day, sing some songs, have a nice meal.

What does abortion have to do with substance use?

I started this blog to highlight need for harm reduction with regard to substance use disorders. I hoped to show the value of human life, even for people who use drugs. They may have a substance use disorder, a mental health condition or just enjoy substances. Using drugs shouldn’t be a death sentence.

I show many letters and poems my son, Sean Blake wrote over the years. To personalize his struggle. He tried to stop, he even went to jail, thinking he could stop by being incarcerated. He did stop, for about a year, he was sober. However, he returned to using and didn’t want help. While having alcohol and marijuana at a party, he inadvertently used fentanyl. We don’t know what he thought he was using…It ended his life. People were outside the bathroom door, they would have helped if they knew, they thought he was taking a shower.

With the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to our supreme court, I worry we may go back to the dark ages of septic abortion. As a practicing Ob/Gyn, I was trained to fear the history of pregnancy termination in the US. My wise mentors would get a look on their face, describing the horror of losing young women to infections from a “coat hanger or back door” termination. These were, by and large, conservative white men. Staid men, who wouldn’t vote republican for fear of overturning Roe V. Wade.

I took my oral boards in 1996, the final exam question was how to treat gas gangrene of the uterus. This infection was commonplace before 1972. Once the infection gets into the myometrium (the uterine muscle), a hysterectomy is necessary. The examiners tried to get me to try to just give some antibiotics. They said “She wants to have children” I said “She can’t have kids if she’s dead” Needless to say I passed. This is the closest Xray photo I can find to the picture on my board exam.

The uterus is outlined in gas from the infection. The gas makes the uterus look black. I sincerely hope, for our country we don’t have to turn to doing hysterectomies on 22 year olds because they had an illegal termination.

Termination is going to happen. Whether you like it or not. You don’t have to be prochoice or prolife to be a harm reductionist. It seems pretty prolife to me. Just like substance use is going to happen, abortion is going to occur. Let’s make it safe. Let’s not make criminals out of patients.