Monthly Archives: October 2015

When Drugs End a ‘Fairytale Life,’ Parents Find Solace in Helping Others

cullen-1-e1445628837252Date: October 29, 2015

Author: Kendal Patterson


Denise Cullen made a deal with her son, Jeff, when he was young. If he waited until he was 25 to get a tattoo, she’d pay for it, whatever he wanted. It was a way of keeping him from getting something he’d later regret.

Jeff took her up on the offer and, when he turned 25, excitedly began the multistep process of getting an elaborate angel tattooed on his side. Midway through the work he revealed to his mother that he was doing it to honor her, and he planned to add the words “Mom” to the design or perhaps the image of a child kneeling at the angel’s feet.

“Of course, I was beyond touched, but I talked him out of it. I said, ‘Girls are going to think you’re weird! You don’t need to have Mom on it,’ ” she said, laughing at the memory. “If that’s what that means, you know it, I know it and that’s all that matters. So what he started telling people was that he had an angel on his side.”

Today, seven years after her son’s death from a drug overdose at age 27, Denise remains the angel steadfastly at his side through her work as executive director of a nonprofit that includes two sections: the support group Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) and Broken No More, an education, information and advocacy group that champions more enlightened drug policies and better public awareness of what addiction means. In these roles she not only keeps her only child’s memory alive while helping others who have experienced similar loss, she works to prevent more tragedy.

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Submitted by: Mom and Sister
Born: 1993
Died: 2015
My Tribute: October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Something we had no idea was a "day" until today. But we think that given everything that has happened this week, it is something that needs to be talked about.

Mental Illness is something that has affected our family directly, something that Greg had suffered with for the past few years and it was not an easy ride. He was a diagnosed schizophrenic and often suffered from anxiety as well. He had to deal with long wait lists until he was finally able to get into a stable program. There are very few strong programs in the city of Calgary to support individuals and families who have to deal with Mental Illness, Greg had to travel all the way up to Foothills Hospital just for a prescription refill! We will always push for better access to help for those suffering.

Greg did not understand how to fully cope with pain in his life so he turned to an easy answer, drugs. As many people with mental illness often do. We didnt even know the severity of his drug problem until it was too late, he suffered in silence. We are not going to hide what happened to Greg. We hope he can be that example that will help send someone down the right path.

We encourage you all to speak up about Mental Health. It is okay to have anxiety. It is okay to be depressed. Speak up. We need to get past this stigma around Mental Health. As a society we need to build up better access to our Mental Health programs. Lets not just give people medications to numb the pain, but actual support systems to help them work through the pain.

And if anyone needs to just talk, we are here to listen. No one should suffer alone and in silence.

Garrett Conoly

Submitted by: Heatherly Lewis
Born: 1981
Died: 2015
My Tribute: the love of my life for 15 years. he had the biggest heart we would of been married by now. we both struggled with addiction in our years together but it had a big hold on him. he was the strongest person I knew but one pill could make him weak he knew this lord knows how many times he got better then his rached friends would come around and just hand it to him like nothing. I will love him forever he was not only my love but my best friend. I miss him every day.

Matthew Gillen

Submitted by: Lindsay Johnson (sister)
Born: 1989
Died: 2015
My Tribute: This picture is how I choose to remember my brother. We were goofing off on Christmas eve with my dad in 2010, trying on silly gifts. This was when he was a regular old pot smoker. Then he started using spice while in the military to elude detection. It is my belief the spice precipitated his diagnosis of bipolar.

After he was discharged from the navy, he was a whole different person. He stayed in GA for awhile, completed a rehab program for spice addiction (twice). We are six years apart, so unfortunately we weren't very close at this time in our lives. But i did talk to him on the phone often. I know he like to snort percocets and use cocaine.

Then he moved home in June of this year. Did another treatment program at the VA, where my dad works. They were extremely close. On August 14th, my mom, myself, my husband and daughter, and my dad and brother all went out for dinner that night. My parents have been divorced now for 20 years, so this is something that doesn't happen very often. The next day was my dads birthday.

The day my brother's best friend (an EMT) had to break down the door to the brothers house and try to resuscitate him. The day they brought his lifeless, puke covered body to the ER in the hospital I WORK AT WHILE I WAS ON DUTY!

Andrew William Gasper

Submitted by: His Mother
Born: 1985
Died: 2015
My Tribute: It's only been 3 weeks since Andrew died of a Heroin overdose and I will never be the same. His addiction took him at a time in his life when the future looked brighter than it had in a long time. He had a new job and just gotten a vehicle the day before. I knew that death for him was always near, but I did not expect it now. His friends at his funeral told me stories of how he was there for them and helped them in their darkest hours and how they loved him. But he could not help or love himself. He is my butterfly now and has escaped the pain of this horrible disease. I love you honey, I will see you in heaven.


Submitted by: Reta
Born: 1984
Died: 2015
My Tribute: My son, Josh, was found Oct. 6th in a little creek with a can(s) of keyboard cleaner around. Cause of death is pending. I know he died on September 29th, the last time we talked. I was advised to not see him, so he was cremated. I'm having a hard time finding a way to get closure. He had a wonderful celebration of his life last Wednesday.
Josh has a beautiful son nearly 3 that he adored.
He was the love of my life and my only child. I keep going because I have my Little Josh.
It's been too soon for me to do a long tribute, in a word, addiction took my wonderful son and great Dad away from us way too soon!

Life-saving drug approved after heroin death

Life saving drug BermudaSubmission Date: Oct 8, 2015
Attributing Author: Sam Strangeways
Source: The Royal Gazette (

A life-saving drug used to reverse heroin overdoses can now be administered by all emergency medical technicians in Bermuda .

Chris Spencer died in October 2012 after collapsing at home. The EMTs who attended the scene could not give Narcan, which can reverse heroin overdoses, because it could only be given intravenously after the approval of a doctor at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

A life-saving drug used to reverse heroin overdoses can now be administered by all emergency medical technicians in Bermuda without a doctor’s approval after hospital chiefs acted on a coroner’s recommendation.

Bermuda Hospitals Board has changed its policy on the use of Narcan, or Naloxone, in “certain crisis situations” after an inquest into the death of 25-year-old Christopher Spencer this year.

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Grasp Press Release announcing new support groups

grasp_logo-bigDate: October 2, 2015

Author: Stacy Moore BS, CPS, RCS (Ionia County Substance Abuse Initiative)

The Ionia County Substance Abuse Initiative (ICSAI) is eager to announce two new supports groups in Ionia County.  The success of current ICSAI sponsored groups such as: Families Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous and SMART Recovery has assisted family members, loved ones, people in recovery, etc. cope with addiction and its affects.  Now two new support groups will be available as well. Grief Recovery after a Substance Passing (GRASP) and Ryan’s Friends: Kids healing kids after a loss through addiction/substance use.

To Read the Press Release Click Here

Richard Wellmer

Submitted by: Sherry Wellmer
Born: 1994
Died: 2013
My Tribute: To our dear, sweet Richard who left us at the tender age of 18. He touched so many hearts with his kindness.
Today marks two years since that tragic morning when I found your beautiful face at peace forever. We will always love and miss you.
Love, Mom