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Bearing witness: Obituary for a young woman who died as a result of addiction

A young woman, Madelyn, died recently as a result of her opioid addiction. Family members wanted to share her story to let those who are struggling with drug addiction know that “every breath is a fresh start” and to urge those “reading this with judgment” to understand “it is not a choice or a weakness.”

Madelyn tried OxyContin at a high school party, igniting “a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.”
“... her addiction stalked her and stole her once again. Though we would have paid any ransom to have her back, any price in the world, this disease would not let her go until she was gone.”
“... 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 states:
“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie — 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. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay.”

A police chief in her hometown commented on the obituary:
“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?”
“Maddie’s gone. She can’t feel your sorrow,” he wrote. “But others are next. Some aren’t beautiful. Others look nothing like you. Some are like Maddie’s twin, and have little children too. They are all human beings, and they need our help. Go. Get to work. We still need to earn the feelings her obituary inspired in us. We should have felt them years ago."

Adapted from a Washington Post article by Lindsey Bever, 10/17/18

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