Treatment & Support

“I never believed this would happen to us!”  A familiar quotation heard in everyday life, but what happens when everyday life turns into your worst nightmare?  For Bryant’s family that is exactly what happened the day they realized Bryant was suffering with opioid addiction; an addiction that would eventually claim his life.  Bryant’s life ended on June 29, 2016 from opioid overdose.

Bryant was described as unique, funny, curious, sarcastic, loved unconditionally, dependable, outgoing, intellectual, generous, talented, and had a heart of gold.  He was also strong-willed, a rebel at heart. Bryant was a daredevil, unless it was risky, it wasn’t fun; but, he was also insecure, lacked self-confidence, and was unsure of his purpose and place in life. Bryant was introduced to drugs, including pain pills, and his spiral into addiction began.

For 6 more years, he battled this addiction, bravely, and with the full support of his loving family.  He hoped joining the Navy would help him forget about the addiction he battled so fiercely, but after being injured and prescribed opioid pain medicine, he found himself deeper in addiction than ever before. He accessed recovery services and information, he was well-educated about the risks he was taking, the decisions he was making, but he simply couldn’t beat his demons.    

Eventually, in 2014, he came to Walden.  The SMART recovery meeting was the only meeting he felt he could connect with.  He was worried about attending a group close to home and feared his confidentiality would be compromised, however, SMART recovery worked for him, for a while.  His Mom, Donna, and his sisters attended SMART meetings for family members and found a strong support network.

Donna describes the SMART meetings as allowing her family, to have a positive, memorable and meaningful relationship with Bryant for two years before he died.  She feels the meetings gave her and her family a way of understanding Bryant’s situation, his challenges, and a way of communicating with him about his addiction positively and supportively.   Donna feels without these skills, the relationship would have turned sour, without compassion and understanding of his struggle and the relationship would have continued to be based on negativity.  Donna learned how to let go of the stigma of addiction and to ‘just love him’. 

Bryant relapsed many times over those two years. He had been doing well, serving as a Park Ranger at Point Lookout State Park. His final relapse in June 2016 resulted in his death. The heroin he thought he bought was actually fentanyl.  Bryant fatally overdosed in a bathroom, needles still on the counter, from fentanyl intoxication.

Bryant’s funeral took place on a Wednesday and Donna returned to a SMART recovery group on the Friday.  Donna felt sharing her experiences with others in a similar position could help to educate and support them.  Donna says addicts “have purpose, they matter: their words, their actions, who they are…it matters!”

After Bryant died, Donna describes finding his writings.  Bryant had written extensively about his battle with addiction and the impact it had had on those he loved, on his dreams and ambitions.  Memorably he wrote, “You’ll never know it, but my pain has the hope that you will never feel it.”

Donna attends another Walden group these days; one for those who have lost a family member through tragic circumstances; ‘We Can Relate’.  She feels there is a common theme for those struggling with addiction; that they are trying to escape something sad, bad or traumatic.  She feels there is a lack of education and understanding about addiction in society 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.”

Donna is supportive of Walden’s work, trying to get ‘upstream’ of the terrible opioid epidemic we are experiencing.  By using our collective efforts to influence and educate community leaders, politicians and law makers, as well as the community itself, maybe one family can be saved from experiencing the tragic loss of their loved one.