Our mission is to share resources for struggling families,
help raise awareness, and create a dialogue around
the opioid epidemic in Culpeper and surrounding counties.
NO SOLUTIONS COME FROM SILENCE!
Let’s talk about it.
Culpeper Overdose Awareness was born out of pain. And it was born out of a desire to do something positive with that pain.
In October 2017, one of my son’s best friends died of an overdose. We were all close to him and took his death hard. The morning of his viewing, I began my workday, planning on leaving early so I could attend his service. I wore all black just in case I got out of work late – my heart was already preparing for what would come next.
Not a half hour into my shift, my phone rang. The words being spoken from the other end seemed like a cruel joke, now my son Joseph was dead, just like his best friend.
Both died in the same house, just 84 hours apart.
Both now lay in the same funeral home, waiting their turn to say goodbye.
Both never even made it to their 25th birthday.
Through the fog of grief and shock, my immediate reaction was anger – and that anger compelled me to do something – anything. I had no idea that my community was experiencing an opioid epidemic. No idea that our young people were dying in startling numbers – no one I knew was talking about it!
I quickly learned about the pain bubbling just under the surface in many of our community members and began trying to find out what resources and help were available for anyone struggling with addiction. A lot of what I found was outdated, disorganized, and hard to find.
And that is why Culpeper Overdose Awareness was started. It was a desire to raise awareness, make resources easier to find, and start a conversation about addiction in our community.
I decided that it should start with being open and honest about the cause of Joe’s death.
It wasn’t easy to say “My son was a substance user” but I felt it was necessary.
It began with THIS POST on Facebook the day after our son passed away:
“Our son Joseph Levi Fleming, died October 13th 2017 of an overdose. Our beautiful, hilarious, wild and crazy, loving, precious son.
Unfortunately this is a tragedy that is repeating itself over and over again in our town of Culpeper VA. Our son Joseph died just 84 hours after one of his best friends also passed away from an overdose. Neither of these young men should have been lost. This epidemic is senseless and is bringing in its wake broken hearts and devastated families that will forever feel this loss.
If you are a user, please call someone before you use again. Please share your struggle with someone.
This time may be your last time!!!!
It was for my Joey.
If you are not a user, chances are pretty good that you know someone who is. Love them, don’t avoid them, please grab them and hug them. They don’t need your judgement, your avoidance, your gossip. They need love, they need understanding, they need to talk, to truly be listened to. Be one of the ones who reaches out arms of love. This is exactly what we hope to do and ask you to walk along side of us on this terrible journey to love those struggling with addiction.”
And in hopes of further breaking down stigma, we also put his cause of death in his obituary.
Acknowledging the toll addiction is taking on our communities and facing the reasons why we are losing these young beautiful lives can help us make progress. Substance Use and Mental Health struggles are so prevalent – yet often hidden because of shame, stigma and lack of resources.
In order to find solutions, we have to face it, look at it, talk about it, and work toward finding help and hope. No solutions come from silence.
Two weeks after Joe’s death, I started Culpeper Overdose Awareness to share as much information and resources I could find with anyone who may need it – all in one place. The very first post was about a Narcan training.
I am grateful that the Lord has allowed something positive to come out of the pain of losing my Joe, and I am truly thankful for each and every one of you who share some of the resources here and on our FACEBOOK PAGE. That means that Joe did not die in vain – and for that, I cannot thank you enough!
~ Dee Fleming