June 16, 2024

Story Highlights Need for Overdose Awareness

overdose awareness

So many families believe it will never happen to them. Opioid addiction and overdose are things that happen to other families, and the idea just seems like an awful nightmare. But for Bryant’s family, that nightmare became a reality, and they want to share his story to help others. Walden and the St. Mary’s County Health Department are sponsoring a special event Aug. 31 in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, in hopes of helping families like Bryant’s.

Like others, Bryant’s family never imagined they would be touched by addiction. Their nightmare became reality when they realized Bryant was suffering with opioid addiction, and then when that addiction claimed his life June 29, 2016.

Throughout his short life, Bryant was funny, curious, dependable, outgoing, unique, generous, and talented. A daredevil and a rebel, he was also strong-willed and often lacked self-confidence. He was unsure of his purpose and place in life. Eventually he was introduced to pain pills, and his spiral into addiction began.

Bryant battled his addiction for six years with the full support of a loving family. He joined the US Navy, hoping it would help him forget his addiction. However, he was injured and prescribed opioid pain medicine, and that sent him deeper into addiction than ever before. Even after accessing recovery services and becoming educated about the risks he was taking, Bryant simply could not beat his demons.

Bryant came to Walden in 2014 and found the SMART recovery meeting. He was concerned about attending a group close to his home, afraid that his confidentiality would be compromised, but he found help in SMART recovery for a while. His mother, Donna, and his sisters attended meetings and became part of a strong network of support.

Donna says the meetings helped her to be compassionate toward her son and better understand his struggle. She said they allowed her to communicate with him about his addiction in a positive and supportive way, and she learned to let go of the stigma of addiction and to just love her son.

Bryant relapsed several times during the two years he was attending the meetings. He was working and doing well, serving as a park ranger at Point Lookout State Park, but his final relapse resulted in his death. He thought he had purchased heroin, but it was actually fentanyl. He fatally overdosed in a bathroom from fentanyl intoxication.

Bryant’s funeral was held on a Wednesday. Donna returned to a SMART recovery group that Friday. She felt that if she shared her experiences with others in a similar position, she could help to educate and support them.

Donna urges people to understand that addicts “have purpose, they matter: their words, their actions, who they are. … It matters!”

After her son died, Donna found journals in which Bryant had written about his battle with addiction, knowing it had an impact on those he loved, as well as his own dreams and ambitions.

Memorably he had written, “You’ll never know it, but my pain has the hope that you will never feel it.”

These days, Donna attends another Walden group – one for those who have lost a family member through tragic circumstances – called “We Can Relate.” She feels there is a common theme for those who struggle with addiction; they are trying to escape something sad, bad, or traumatic. She feels society lacks education and understanding about addiction and if she can help improve this situation, then Bryant will not have died in vain. She challenges those who will listen: “Do something, say something, and be someone who makes a difference. Don’t stay quiet and don’t stay still.”

Overdose Awareness Day aims to help families battling addiction. The event will be held at Beacon of Hope Recovery & Wellness Community Center of Walden at 21770 FDR Blvd. in Lexington Park. Doors open at 5 pm, and event activities begin at 6 pm. For more information, contact Laura Webb at 301-997-1300, ext. 804, or email [email protected].

For more information about Walden Behavioral Health, visit its Leader member page.

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