Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ivanka Trump shares heartbreaking obituary to raise awareness about opioid addiction

Ivanka Trump is using her platform to raise awareness about one of America’s worst epidemics: opioid addiction.

The president’s daughter shared a heartbreaking obituary written by a relative of a 30-year-old Vermont woman, Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir, who died earlier this month after a dark and protracted battle with addiction.

Tragic obituary recounts opioid struggle

The obituary’s heartwrenching descriptions of Linsenmeir’s life — including the hopeful final days when she seemed to finally turn things around — have resonated with many readers since the obituary went viral.

“For 12 days this summer, she was home, and for most of that time she was sober,” the obit read. “For those 12 wonderful days, full of swimming and Disney movies and family dinners, we believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath. But her addiction stalked her and stole her once again.”

The story is forthright that Linsenmeir, whose family called her “Maddie,” was a drug addict, using poignant details from her life to make a powerful appeal for others to see addicts as humans and victims of a disease rather than a choice. The story recounts how a singing voice that “could stop people on the street” led Linsenmeir to tour the world in high school, just one part of an eventful youth of dancing, skiing, and snowboarding that would be followed by years of struggle after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party.

Even as addiction took over her adult life, she remained the kind of person who “could and would take to anyone.” But “to some, Maddie was just a junkie,” the article states bluntly. “When they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient.”

The birth of Linsenmeir’s son Ayden in 2014 motivated her to try harder than ever to stay sober, but things took a darker turn after she relapsed and lost custody of him, an “unbearable” loss.

“During the past two years especially, her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame,” the obituary read.

Opioids a silent epidemic

A cop from Linsenmeir’s hometown of Burlington, VT wrote on Facebook that he was upset that it took a well-written obituary to get people to notice the problem.

“My problem with it is that it’s a much better obituary than the rest of us deserve,” he wrote, according to the Burlington Free Press. “Why did it take a grieving relative with a good literary sense to get people to pay attention for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people have already died in the same way as Maddie as this epidemic grew?”

Heartbreaking stories like this one have a way of showing the human impact of a statistic, and the statistics are grim. Opioids now kill more Americans every year as all of the U.S. casualties in the Vietnam War.

In fact, opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, killing 72,000 Americans in 2017. In Linsenmeir’s home state of Vermont, opioid deaths went up 5 percent from 2016 to 2017.

President Donald Trump has pledged a war on the epidemic, granting millions of dollars in grants to states to help fight addiction. The Senate also passed legislation this month to combat the epidemic.

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