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for_kindness

This site is devoted to sharing pictures, letters  and poems of Sean Blake. He was a young man who loved kindness.  He enjoyed giving and receiving love. A gifted poet and writer. He was an amazing chess and card player.  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.

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. The message is don’t start. No one intends to grow up to be a slave to a substance.

Sean initially began with high dose THC products, this caused mania, psychosis and even a suicide attempt. It ended his career in the Navy.  Unfortunately, he developed polysubstance use disorder. He began use of opiates in addition to cocaine and marijuana. Sean used Oxycontin and eventually heroin.  Sadly, he transitioned from opiates to marijuana. He attempted to treat his OUD with marijuana and alcohol. While he survived five years after his OUD was “in remission”, he eventually, used something that turned out to be fentanyl. We aren’t sure if he had any idea what he was using. He still, at times, when manic,he used cocaine. However, he did have needles in his bag and we can’t say for sure what was in his mind.  He was impaired with marijuana and alcohol in addition to the small amount of fentanyl.  I wish he had been on some type of MAT, instead of trying to self-medicate.

The poems and letters were written, mostly during periods of good health.  The writings and posts chronicle his struggles with love, bipolar disorder, substance use and life.  Hopefully,  what he has left behind will help another to choose life over addiction or at least show more kindness to those struggling with this disease.

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

We will miss him forever.

Speech by Michael Gaffney, Sean’s Best friend

This is the text of a memorial speech by Sean’s best friend, Mike. He gave a shortened version at the “OurStoriesMatter” event. I agree with his honesty and how we could have done better for Sean. I agree with his push for harm-reduction and medically proven therapy.

Introduction and spiritual well-being hopes.

As some of you know, Sean has been a close friend of mine for years, since Spanish at South Burlington High School. When I think of Sean, I am reminded in ways of St. Mark Ji Tianxing, both because of his patronage of opiate addicts and because of his complicated relationship with the Divine. St. Mark Ji Tianxing was unable to receive conventional Catholic salvation, due to an immature understanding of the nature of addiction on the part of his Confessor, but he pressed on towards Heaven, faithfully begging God daily for martyrdom, since he felt so ensnared by narcotics that freedom felt impossible but he knew that that death for Jesus would seal his fate for the good.

It is clear to me that God has been with Sean throughout his life. On the one occasion we broached the Eternal, attending Mass together, he promptly deposited the last dollar he had. Despite worrying before that he would “burst into flames” from having been far from the Church for so long, he was almost immediately rewarded with shelter and funds, bearing true the parables of Jesus in dramatic fashion. [Parable of the Widow who gave her last funds, amongst others] Of course, Sean had a much more convoluted walk than did St. Mark Ji Tianxing, but nonetheless the general direction of his path was clear to me. I thank the Lord that though Sean was unable to attain martyrdom as far as I know, and I’m uncertain even about his Last Rites, I was at least able to recite prayers in his presence which in our belief ought to hopefully help usher him to Paradise. Providence surely played a role at multiple levels. While his hobbies might’ve contributed to the early demise of his body, … compared to much of this town … , I worry little for the life of his soul. Ultimately, and fortunately, since my prayers have surely grown slack, he is now fully in the hands of the Most Merciful. We can be better, we must be better, and we will be better!

Memorializing and APPLAUSE Sean might best be remembered for his heroic sacrifices as a submariner. As anybody acquainted with the operations of a nuclear Navy is aware, a career path aboard submarines can easily lead to deployments on what constitutes a perpetual Schrodinger’s sentence of suicide. This is maddening for even the strongest of souls, and so in this light, the struggles of Sean can be seen as a continuing contribution to the defense of our very lives as Americans.

He made friends worldwide, one of the most remarkable things to me in the weeks after his death was the number of our friends I realized were impacted by his life, including individuals from countries a world apart. One of my fondest memories is eating at a Chilean restaurant in Midtown with two of our friends, along with the time we made a salad following Mongolian norms, off of Shelburne Road. He was of course known for his culinary capabilities. I’ll always remember his innovations—an egg in the Marinara. And a plate of quail wings he invented still makes my mouth water. His generosity extended to the table. I recall that during fatter times he provided me with enough healthy food to shed significant weight in a few months. His big heart extended to the many women in his life. While they sometimes fell head over heels, this was rarely reciprocated though they were always treated with respect, since Sean tried to keep his eyes fixed on greater things. I am reminded that at a point he perhaps managed to wed a beautiful lass though there were few accommodations made for the couple. I’m also reminded of St. Maximilian Kolbe, both because he is a patron of addicts, and because at Auschwitz [FACT-CHECK] he sacrificed his own life to save another’s. Somewhat similarly, Sean made known his organ donation wishes. And so shared the fire of life. Lamenting and accusing; sorrows section Of course, there were stressful times with Sean, and those must be discussed.

Let’s be truthful, we cannot blame beer or bud, we can’t even blame heroin, and while he can accuse himself, we certainly can’t blame Sean. We can, however, blame our collective inaction when it comes to the well-established covert Chinese chemical operations aimed at a disruption of our national vigor. And we can blame a need for action on one of the only proven solutions: potency-based sentencing, wherein the incentives of Chinese collaborators are aligned at least with the interest of honoring human life, by prosecuting in accordance with the potency and so the risk of fatality of seized narcotics. These same networks have been run by the Communists since the days of Korea and Vietnam, and as recent Congressional testimony has shown, they have continued at least in essence and adapted to turning Americans against our country by shipping synthetic opiates en masse to the desperate and the greedy and practically for free. It is necessary to stop or defang this flow, and in the interim, muzzle its public health bite.

We can also blame the “recovery” industry, in whose greedy modalities Sean was snared at times. While there are far more effective and scientifically proven treatments available, the 12-stepper’s promote a revolving door of recovery, rather than true improvement. That said, the programs are better than nothing, and are intended to provide a free sober socialization setting, which is a good and the hijacking of which for wanton profit is despicable. I bear much blame. Despite seeing one of my best friends forced to rely on drughouses and pushers for shelter because of the selfishness of his supposed loves ones, I was equally selfish, rarely offering him shelter in Vermont though I had every reason to trust him situationally. In New York, he was a reasonable houseguest, until our mutual poverties brought us to blows. Given an equitable economic distribution, he could’ve easily obtained employment and housing along with the many friends he earned each time, and even indulged his vices a bit—Lord knows some consume ten times the narcotics with a tenth the consequences. But most importantly, given each and every one of us having mercy on the addicts in our lives, we can ensure that our loved ones live.

I’m reminded of one time when Sean stormed out of a car with me and a few other men, bellowing “I just wanted my friend Mike,” and it was only much later, when I was leaving a bus and passed by someone I suspected might’ve been a distressed Sean, failing to offer him help, followed up by holding his dying body in a hospital bed, that I realized he was likely referring to myself. Adding to this accusation is the fact that I failed to send a letter intended for him during his imprisonment, despite being obligated by Conscience to do so, and I remain acutely aware that that letter could’ve perhaps saved his life. With Sean opening his eyes to these circumstances of neglect every single morning, his murder might’ve been mercy, and that horrifying conclusion must motivate us to change, to love, to actually care. And we must keep in mind that so many more are still suffering the same struggles, since Sean is both a statistic and a soul, so both symbolic and conclusive of the problem. Anything that would’ve worked for Sean we must offer to all those so afflicted, and anything that would’ve worked for anybody we have a duty to make available. STATISTICS Call for prosecutions, or explicit mention of mercy? We can be better, we must be better, and we will be better!

Call for action; anger/actualization We do need thoughts and prayers. Of course, we must do more. At a policy level, we want: A comprehensive evaluation of the factors and components of the drugs crisis, for example, housing policy. An ombudsman and office to serve as a voice for those suffering from the drugs crisis, e.g., in encounters with bureaucrats distributing thwacks and treats. Potency-based sentencing, with stiff penalties for negative outliers. The exploration of a short-term blanket amnesty (perhaps with reporting requirements) followed by a stark sharpening of penalties. At a philanthropic level, we want: • Memorial efforts • Hope for addicts, in the form of jobs, investment, and education. • Inclusive recreation and community centers; there’s a reason Vermont has among the highest rates of cannabis and alcohol use, and it’s shocking we have so few open community centers to alleviate this environmentally-induced ennui. And at a personal level, we must: Whatever you do, no money for the status quo, instead for things of relevance: musical library, lobbying, scuba, skiing, wildlife, etc. I promise you, had my friend been given a private bed, a spliff, and a sixer to go with his meals, so, a saner society, he would be speaking in my stead right now. We could’ve done better. We can be better, we must be better, and we will be better!

An Appendix: Props and Publications Sources: • Source for Chinese chemical warfare claims • Source for submarining claims • Source for VT drugs statistics. • Open with Ecclesiastes? Props: • Photo of quail wings

Our Stories Matter

ourstoriesmatter

Our Stories Matter   

 

Event to End Stigma for Mental Health Conditions and Substance Use Disorders

August 24th 5-7 pm

Oakledge Lower Pavilion, Burlington Vermont

 

Speakers share their personal stories,

Resource Fair,

Slideshow tribute to those lost,

Naloxone training,

Light refreshments

 

Presented by for-kindness.com

(Sean Blake’s family)

 

Have a family member you want to include in our slide show, send photo to blakestb@gmail.com

Mobilize Recovery

especially when you let it! Be kind to each other. (1).png

I recently returned from an amazing conference/training. The Voices Project is partnering with Facebook and several other recovery minded businesses.

It was inspiring and energizing. I felt drawn to doing more work in my own community to prevent substance use disorder and to help those who are afflicted with SUD and/or mental health issues.

Since returning home (via a short camp vacation) I got started planning an event to Stop Stigma regarding mental illness and substance use disorder. #OurStoriesMatter

It is still in the planning stages but, it will entail recovery speakers, book signing, Narcan training and a resource fair.

I have given an interview on costs of treatment to vox.com, and I have started attending a family action group in our state .I look forward to sharing some of the knowledge I gained over the last 10 years or so. I hope to be a resource for families and a recovery advocate.

More to follow…

 

Freefall

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVAv6b5_QFOux4TZGXfiddA

 

IMG-0890This movie was made by Riley, a high school student from Vermont. She made an award winning short version of the film and then transformed it into a longer more substantial piece.

As Sean’s Mom, I was asked to help with the film. Riley’s Dad was the ICU doctor who kept Sean alive the first night after his overdose. We weren’t sure of the extent of the brain damage but, we hoped he could get through the next 48 hours so a determination could be made.Unfortunately, the damage was severe. The transition to organ donation took place soon after it was determined that Sean have suffered brain death.

I really appreciated the compassion and care of the ICU team. So when asked I said of course I would help. I had no idea that the film would win awards or even be shown at a local cinema.

Of course, I wish I could have used some less stigmatizing language or paid more attention to my hair and make-up. However, it was filmed just a few months after he died and the emotions were pretty raw.

The real gift was I got to practice my story, or my version of Sean’s story. My husband and I presented Sean’s story a few weeks later to our city’s opioid task force. We have been able to testify at our local legislature. So much of this was possible because Riley,

took the time to encourage our story and perfect the message.  Sean was a beautiful person, afflicted by mental illness. A disease just like cancer or diabetes, unfortunately because the brain is affected, many choices are self sabotaging.

Riley is generously making the film available free and to the public.

Thank you!!

 

 

You’re Just A Marionette

Guest poet Halley Kunen

Halley and I met through Tumblr blogs, at the time I wrote an anonymous blog about parenting a child with substance use disorder. I had only a few followers..luckily Halley was one. I have appreciated her wit, wisdom and earnest posts, poems and messages.

You’re Just A Marionette

I saw something in those eyes
that sparked in me something different from the first time
blue pools of Persephone
a hidden fire
not sure what you used it for
but I’m tired of hurting
a magician uses the wand in a special way
with the key of timing
and that’s what you did
sleight of hand
all the better for clenching the secrets
you kept from everyone
what I could make of your smile
the edges sewn up like a marionette
encapsulating a life
in one dimension pacing in an abandoned cubicle
that was your trip home
while in the other world your space was full
or at least it temporarily felt that way.
I remember you used to write
you know how to use words
to mimick the touch on one’s abscessed spine
how do you cut to the core
when you don’t know yourself
and you don’t say what you mean
and I plead you do
but my expressions go right through you.
I’ve only seen your daughter
a few times it seemed like time slowed down
because I wanted to know her
to understand you
she looks more like her father
but the traces of you are in there

And when she speaks
she is just like you
I don’t know how to explain it
or to prove this
but

like her sudden spurts of energy
like when something brings her joy
I just hope she doesn’t use her grin the same way
I pray that she’s more free
I pray that your traits don’t rub on her
like how your mascara pours off when you fake cry
a waterfall
and your lashes fall into the street
composting the scraps of authenticity that fall to the wayside

And sometimes I think if I could meet your daughter
for more than a split second
I’d get the answers
but I know that isn’t true
other times I pray for amnesia
but I learned so much from you
even if it includes knives
to destroy myself.

AL DOG , the Best Ski Coach Ever

Al was Sean’s alpine ski coach, Sean wrote this draft as a public speaking project in high school. His performance was inspiring. As his parents we were so proud of his message and his gift of charisma. (I was always jealous of his natural grace in front of an audience.)

Sean loved Al, and Al helped Sean immensely in high school and even after, reaching out to him frequently.ALDOG pg1ALDOGpg2ALDOG pg 3