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Life after overdose: Support for families impacted by death of a loved one

For the loved ones left behind, life after an overdose or substance abuse death can be devastating, but there is help.

“My kids didn't deserve what they went through. Nobody wants to see anybody fall apart, and when you're an addict that's what you do, you fall apart in front of everybody.”

Suzanne Stone is talking about her ex-husband. She says he fell into a downward spiral after getting addicted to prescription medications.

Kevin Stone joined the military after high school. After his military career ended, he went to nursing school and became a registered nurse.

Suzanne says he was very health-conscious, he liked to work out, he was smart and he loved his family. Not exactly who you’d expect to be a drug addict.

But, according to his family, that’s exactly who he was.

“He was good about covering up what he was doing,” Suzanne said.

In August 2017, Kevin Stone’s body was found near an empty lot in Laredo, Texas. He died of an apparent drug overdose. He was 46 years old.

Suzanne believes the addiction started with an Adderall prescription. She says Kevin took it to focus while in nursing school, then took more to stay awake at night.

He then would take Ativan to help him sleep. Later, a car accident would have him seeking something stronger.

“There were some pain meds because he was sore from that,” she said. “I don’t know if he was really having migraines and taking medication for that or if that was a coverup. Sometimes I think it was withdrawal that he was going through.”

Suzanne demanded Kevin go to rehab or she would leave him. She had to choose between saving her husband or protecting her children.

Eventually, she filed for divorce. She hoped the court would force him to get treatment. She would be disappointed once again.

Family members left behind after an overdose death are often in need of help to cope with feelings such as anger, guilt, shame and grief.

They may not realize it, but they need support as much as the addict did.

Jim Smith, an advocate for Nar-Anon, says the stigma of drug addiction often keeps loved ones from getting help.

But they need to know, they are not alone. There is support available.

“I have seen miracle after miracle,” Smith said. “People who come in and their lives are devastated and today they have great lives.”

Nar-Anon Family Groups are a worldwide fellowship for those affected by someone else’s drug addiction.

“They need to get into a group, so they can hear the stories of other people and understand that they did everything they could possibly do. You cannot fix this,” Smith said.

Suzanne found support with Nar-Anon. She and her children are strong. She says although life after an overdose death of a loved one isn’t easy… it is their new normal.

If someone close to you is fighting a drug addiction, you can find help at www.nar-anon.org.