Monthly Archives: February 2014

Michele Yeo Venezia

Submitted by: Tiffany Roy
Born: 1985
Died: 2014
My Tribute: This is the story of my Michele. In life, there are two types of relationships. Some relationships are a result of an active choice, you seek that person out and choose to spend your time with them because you enjoy them. These are friendships. Then there are those relationships that life chooses for you. You were destined by forces unknown to live life together. This is family. Michele was my family. I remember Michele in my life as far back as my memories go. She was a combination of the oldest child in her family of 4 (the family of my father's best friend) and the youngest child in mine (I had 2 younger sisters-we were born 82,83,84 and Michele came in January of 85). She was an outgoing brat. Always around, always picking a fight, refusing to be ignored. We once fought so much in the car on the Fourth of July on our way home from a fireworks display that we made her mother cry. Her mother CRIED we bickered so much. Like sisters. We grew up in middle class families. Our dad's liked to fish, so we fished together. We all played softball. It was a wonderful childhood and I loved Michele long before I ever had a choice in the matter. She was family.

With age, Michele grew more and more beautiful. It was impossible not to be aware of her presence, her smile would light up any room. She had a loud, booming laugh. I think this will be the thing I remember most vividly about her, her laugh. With high school came boys and parties. She was just a fun person to be around, and as we aged, we stopped bickering and became more like real sisters. We stood shoulder to shoulder in fist fights, friends of hers became friends of mine. I went on to college and Michele and my two sisters stayed in high school. Life progressed and the party eventually stopped, but not for Michele. She was young and beautiful, and her party continued on until it was clear her party was a problem. And her problem continued on until it was clear she was no longer my Michele.

Sometimes I would see the side of her that most resembled my Michele. These glimpses of my old Michele became fewer and father between. The rest of the time she was someone unfamiliar, wasn't funny, seemed aloof. It got so I spent most of our time trying to figure out if she was high or not, she didn't seem interested in me, always distracted. It was these glimpses of my old Michele that kept me coming around, hoping things would get better, hoping I could reach her. She married a wonderful man who loved her, they had a daughter. I thought this would be the change she needed, surely the strength of a mother's love would be stronger than this drug. But even that wasn't enough. I watched her family struggle, I watched her husband and his family struggle and I struggled myself. I struggled not to enable her, I struggled to make her see. So many loved ones fought so hard for so long. We wanted to believe she could be trusted, she wanted to be better. My old Michele was slipping away, and I was desperate to have her back. This new Michele used my love for my old Michele against me. She would tell me she didn't want to be like that anymore, and she would mean it. But she would always go back and I resigned myself to the fact that she was gone long before today. But this did not lessen the pain of her loss, and it did not stop the rush of memories of my old Michele and our happy times.

In contemplating other devastating losses I have encountered, I have come to put these losses in two categories. On one hand, I have experienced losses that I mourn mostly for myself. These might be grandparents or loved ones who have lived long and fruitful lives, living to a ripe old age. These people have celebrated many birthdays and weddings and milestones. I am sad as a result of my selfish need to have that person in my life because I'll miss them, and my life will not be the same without them. In looking at long, full lives, it's hard to feel sad. Then there are times when I mourn for the lost. These are young lives cut short, those with so much life to live and experience. Here I mourn what could have been, what should have been and the unfairness of that tragedy. Today I find myself in a new state of grief, in a class all her own. For her young, beautiful daughter who I pray will remember her mother, and so many loving family and friends for whom 29 years were simply not enough, I am sad because I'll miss her and I am sad for all she's missing, my Michele.

Jeff Cullen

Submitted by: Gary Cullen
Born: 1981
Died: 2008
My Tribute: Jeff died from an overdose after a long struggle with substance abuse. He died from a disease and will always be remembered for the loving person he really was.

Andrew Moe

Submitted by: Frances Herbert
Born: 1983
Died: 2012
My Tribute: My little brother was a wonderful, kind man who would have given someone the shirt off his back. He had struggled with drugs since he was in middle school. Our childhood was filled with abuse, neglect and drug use. He first started on marijuana and alcohol then on to meth. He was in and out of rehab centers and jail for the last 12 years of his life. He overdosed alone on October 16th 2012 after being clean for a few weeks. He was working at a church and attending his NA meetings, trying to find hope. He was left alone for the weekend and was supposed to be hanging out with his sponsors. He only met his only nephew once.

Andrew Todd Moe would have been 25 years old today.

Now all the pain and struggles are gone, hopefully your life in the everafter his filled with strength and peace.

Bergen Dyer Fernwalt

Submitted by: Bonnie Scott
Born: 1983
Died: 2012
My Tribute: Bergen lost his fight with addiction at the age of 29. He was the funniest, sweetest pain in the butt I ever knew. I will miss my only child every day of my life. "Tell me a story about Daddy" are common words in my house now. I love you, Bergen. Mom

Overdose prevention workshop has paid off

Date: February 20, 2014
Author: Sylvie Belmond
Source: The Acorn

Two young adults from Simi Valley and Ojai who took lethal doses of opioids are still alive today thanks to an antidote provided at an overdose prevention and response workshop in Oak Park last October.

To save more lives, Oak Park resident Loretta Di Lustro is preparing to host a second overdose prevention workshop at her home on March 1.

“Parents, (people addicted to opiates) and anyone who knows an active user of opioids is invited to attend so they know what to do if a drug-related emergency happens,” said Di Lustro, whose son John died from respiratory failure after an accidental heroin overdose in 2011.

To Read the Entire Article Click Here

Terri Renee Hickman

Submitted by: carolyn Wilkerson.....mother
Born: 1964
Died: 2014
My Tribute: My only daughter and oldest child.She was smart ,funny and loved by all that knew her.I will always have a piece of me missing,I loved her so much! Terri had ovarian cancer when she was 38 and that began her addiction to pain pills.She tried so many times to get off them ,but they are so addictive she couldn't beat it.She beat the cancer but the pain pills beat her.Such sadness I've never known.I don't think I can survive this. My life is torn apart from her death.I hope and pray I never see another one of my kids on life support,I can't get that picture out of my mind.It's driving me crazy,literally.She has 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren,boththeir parents died within 2 months and 9 days of each other from drugs.Such a loss for her kids.How is this ever going to end?

Courtney Layton

Submitted by: Laurie Layton (Momma)
Born: 1/89
Died: 3/12
My Tribute: My beautiful daughter Courtney Layton died of a heroin overdose in March 2012 at 23 years old. She was my only daughter. We did not even know she was using drugs. I knew she smoked pot, that was it. How could I not have known. Well she was away at college and perhaps when she came home she hid it well. All I know is that she was home for Christmas and happy and died in March. The coroner report said there were only two needle marks on her arm. She had just started using and she died. She didn't even have a chance to go to rehab. So my message is it only takes once. Please don't use. I miss my baby every minute of every day of my life.

News from Susan Kelly, our GRASP chapter leader in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Susan KellyDate: February 15, 2014
Author: Susan Kelly
Source: Susan Kelly, GRASP Chapter Leader

As you can see below, Susan’s been busy keeping the group members connected in her rural area of Pennsylvania and has been very active in her community educating people about the public health issues surrounding overdose and talking to legislators about naloxone access and Good Sam 911 legislation. The picture is Susan with her son Danny who died from a heroin overdose in 2005:

Susan shared this with us in an email:

“Our GRASP group in Indiana, Pennsylvania, has numerous members with new people being added.  We are having some trouble with transportation in a rural area and getting everyone's schedule to click. I have been meeting with members individually and we keep in contact by phone and e-mail.

I was recently invited to speak at a meeting for our local drug education task force, ‘Drug Free Community, about my son Danny's story.  I also had the opportunity to speak about pending bills for the Good Samaritan Law and naloxone being more available. The meeting was well attended.

     The Drug Free Community agency has been very responsive to GRASP and offered me to make GRASP business cards to hand out, a free daily advertisement in our local newspaper and a free daily spot on our local radio station.

     I am planning to meet with our new county commissioner, Mike Baker, who was the Coroner when my son Dan overdosed.  He has been very visible and vocal about the drug overdoses on our area being an epidemic.  I will also be meeting with PA State Representative Jeff Pyle.  I spoke with him about the Good Samaritan Law shortly after my son's death in 2005. He was working with PA State Senator Jane Orie on a bill. I will pass on to them my testimonial about Danny which tells his story and shows the need for naloxone availability and Good Sam legislation.”

Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not have choice or free will and neither do you

Phillip HoffmanDate: February 4, 2014
Author: Debbie Bayer
Source: Debbie Bayer Blog

In the wake of the tragic loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a great artist, partner, father, brother, and son, I offer the following facts about the neurological disease of addiction.

The overwhelming majority of adults in the western world have passed through experimental stages in their lives where they have dabbled with some kind of brain altering addictive substance, i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, prescriptionpain killers, ADHD medication, anti-anxiety medication, and yes, even marijuana (save the ‘it’s not addictive” arguments for later, please).  And the overwhelming majority of these adults will emerge from their experiments unscathed, believing that their free will and good choices are what saved them from becoming addicted.

To Read the Entire Article, Click Here


Submitted by: Anne
Born: 1993
Died: 2013
My Tribute: Jacob was a loving, sensitive and caring young man. He loved to play his drums and strum his guitar. Truly enjoyed music and life. His addiction started with prescription percocets and began a battle that ended December 22 2013 from a heroin overdose. He wanted to be clean and went through 3 rehabs, the last one he remained clean for 5 months. Addiction is a disease that can happen to anyone. Something needs to be done to stop how easily doctors prescribe pain pills and the pharmaceutical companies that are making millions of $$. The sad truth is almost all heroin addiction starts with prescription pain pills. No one should ever have to endure this loss but also the stigma of shame should not exist nor judgement. No one who has lost their life to this disease is any less significant than any other human being whom has passed away for other reasons.. He is now an angel counting stars and will shine in my heart forever.