Should Dealers Be Responsible for Heroin-Related Deaths?

heroin needle

My husband Nick and I just had this discussion. Should someone who supplies another person with heroin who overdoses be charged and face prison time?

We lost Nicholas, our nephew, in August of 2013 to heroin (Read Nicholas’ story 72 Hours of Heroin here). He had been struggling with his addiction but had been clean for a few months. One night the temptation was too strong and he used, with the result being the end of his life. Nick and I weren’t married yet but living together so technically, Nicholas wasn’t my nephew yet but I truly enjoyed having him in my life. His death stunned us.

As we sat at the hospital praying and hoping he’d magically wake up, I went through his phone. The journalist and curious person in me had to know what happened. He was doing so good. He was staying clean. I had to know why. I had to know a timeline and I had to know who sold it to him. I was so angry with the person who sold it to him. I wanted that person to pay. I was able to piece together a timeline and figure out what had Nicholas so down that day. I was also able to figure out who sold the heroin to him… sort of. I had a name, but obviously a nickname. I also had a phone number. The deal had gone down via text message. We turned the phone into the police but for whatever reasons, the case went cold and they weren’t able to make an arrest.

I was angry. This guy killed our nephew. He gave him an illegal drug that is known to cause death A LOT.

I read yesterday that a dealer admitted to supplying a fatal dose of heroin to a Northern Kentucky man and is now facing 20 years to life in prison (Read Story Here). I know I would have jumped up and down for joy had this been Nicholas’ dealer. But when I first read the article, I had a battle between my head and my heart. If I owned a gun store, legally sold you a gun and you went home and shot yourself, I wouldn’t be charged nor should I. If I sold you a car and you chose to drive it off a bridge and died, I wouldn’t be charged. If I sold you cigarettes for 20 years and you died from lung cancer, I wouldn’t be charged.  If I legally sold you beer, you chose to drive, wrecked and killed someone else, I wouldn’t be charged. So why should the heroin dealer? In my heart, I immediately knew I wanted the dealer charged. But my head kept asking questions and comparing it to gun, car and beer salesman.

I told my husband that my head and my heart were having a battle. Although I think he was surprised at first, given all we have been through in the last year, but was also understanding. He said it wasn’t a struggle for him though. Nick said the difference is none of the other acts are illegal. As long as you follow the laws set in place, it’s not illegal to sell a car, a gun, cigarettes or alcohol. It’s illegal to sell heroin. Everyone knows that heroin can, and most likely will eventually, kill.  I am not denying that the user made a choice, a deadly choice but the dealer holds some responsibility as well. The dealer may not have held a gun to the user’s head or pushed the needle into their arm but the dealer provided the user with the deadly drug.

I want to know… what are your thoughts on the subject? Please be respectful of each others’ opinions.

 

 

 

Music Fest Battles Heroin

music fest 2

My fiancé Nick lost his nephew Nicholas in August, 2013 to heroin (read about it here). I lost him too. I didn’t get the chance to know Nicholas for a very long time but I loved him very much. He was such an awesome guy. He had just gotten out of rehab when I met him. He wanted to stay clean. He wanted to make his family proud. But heroin is such a powerful drug. It eventually took him from us.

I used to say Nicholas passed away from an accidental heroin overdose. But I have come to realize that Nicholas died from heroin PERIOD. Might sound like I’m splitting hairs but I’ll explain. If you use heroin, it will kill you. It will start by killing your ambition and personality. Instead of focusing on the important things in life like taking care of your family, keeping a job or maintaining your health, you’re priority becomes “how will I get my next fix.” Heroin is cheap and easy to get but once you lose your job because of it, it’s not that easy to pay for. You’ll start doing things you never thought you were capable of – stealing from your friends and family to pay for heroin. Now you have lost your job, your personality and your dignity. Many addicts lose their home because the family can’t allow them to stay.

Heroin took Nicholas from us piece by piece over time. The family got most of him back after rehab but one bad night led to a relapse, which took him from us forever. The Specht/Stegner/Layman/Schell/Holt families created WWW.NKYHatesHeroin.Com because we don’t want this to happen to your family. We want to raise awareness, work on prevention and support the families of addicts, as well as the addicts in recovery.

As part of that effort, NKY Hates Heroin, six venues in Newport, Kentucky and 14 local bands have partnered up to fight the heroin epidemic in Northern Kentucky on Saturday, April 12 starting at 6 p.m. with a music festival. The event cost $10, which will get patrons in at all six venues. Raffle tickets for a split the pot and WWW.NKYHatesHeroin.Com. T-shirts will also be sold.

The lineup:

York Street Cafe The Chuck Land Band, Grand Oversoul, Honey And Houston, The Core and Eva Ross

Little Nashville Marty Connor Band and The Carter New Band

Sis’ Gary Devoto & Dave Webster and Friends

Birk’s Nailed It J.R.’s Revenge and Altered Inc.

Mokka And The Sunset Bar & Grill Don Fangman (Frank Sinatra Impersonator) and Stonehaus Trail

Shortneck’s Band to Be Announced

The bands’ genres include bluegrass, country, rock, lounge/jazz and classic rock. Proceeds will be used to promote heroin education and prevention as well as providing support to those seeking recovery and their families.

Will you enjoy a night out for a great cause?

music fest

The Best of 2013

The end of a year is a time for many to reflect on the last 12 months. It’s a time to be thankful, a time to look at what you would do differently, a time to reflect on relationships and a time to look at your accomplishments. It’s also a time to plan for the new year. It’s a time to set goals and make resolutions.

My regular readers know that I’m a glass half full kind of gal. We might be given a bad hand from time to time but what we do with that is really what’s important. So today, I am thinking of mine and my family’s accomplishments in 2013 and all the things we have to be grateful for. So many wonderful things have happened in 2013… too many to list in fact but I will give you a few highlights.

1. March 3, 2013 was probably the most important day of 2013 for me. It was the day I met Nick, the man I will spend the rest of my life with.

2. I am grateful for where Histiocytosis, the rare disease my son has been inflicted with, has led my family. I know it might sound crazy but hear me out… I was a person filled with worry and anxiety prior to Joey’s diagnosis. Histio put life in perspective for me. There is no more stressing out about the small stuff… shoot, I barely worry about the big stuff. I know that life will work out. It always does. I now live anxiety-free and it’s awesome. Of course I wish he didn’t have Histio but we are dealing with it.

My Histio Family

My Histio Family

Joey has chosen to be an advocate for the Histio Foundation and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. He knows he is one of the lucky kids with Histio (no chemo, no organ transplants and he’s going to survive) so he wants to fight for those kids who can’t. My family (cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews) and friends have come together to support Joey in his fight. We have virtually met hundreds of people going though Histio and physically met dozens. We have developed an amazing support group and built incredible friendships.

3. My new family, Nick’s family, dealt with something extremely difficult this year – the loss of Nicholas to an accidental heroin overdose. This would rip most families apart but we didn’t let it. Although we deal with the daily pain of this loss, we have come together to fight the heroin epidemic through NKY Hates Heroin. We have been part of the solution and supported each other during the grieving process.

nick specht

4. I am grateful to watch mine and Nick’s five children grow into wonderful young adults. Joey started middle school and Andi started high school. They have both done amazing with the new challenge. Joel joined the National Guard. Jordan graduated this year and committed to going into the Coast Guard in the spring. Josh finished his junior year of college and created a plan for himself. I’m very proud of all five kids.

holt stegner

5. We have had a lot of new life in our family. Nick’s niece brought our newest family member into the world just last week – Keegan. Nick’s nephew and his wife also had a child this year. Two of my cousins announced their pregnancies and are due in late spring. Three of my cousins had beautiful baby girls this year. I love being surrounded by all the babies, playing with them, feeding them and then giving them back when I’ve had my fill.

first cousins

First Cousins (minus five)

cousins xmas

Second Cousins (minus six… 2 on the way)

This year has definitely thrown some challenges at us but we our strong and have made the best of each situation. 2013 has also brought some pretty wonderful things and people in our lives. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for the Holt/Stegner family. Bring it on!

What is your best of in 2013? What are you looking forward to in 2014?

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Heroin Sucks; Support Rocks

I have to say I’m completely overwhelmed by the amount of hits my post 72 Hours of Heroin has had, as well as all of the comments that were made on the post. For days I couldn’t get on Facebook without it clogging up my news feed. Hundreds of people shared and it and 30,000 people read it! I wrote that post as my own therapy, just as I do all my posts. But this post became therapy for so many more people. Thousands of people.

The comments have been so hard for me to read and even harder to reply to but I know I need to for my own therapy. Dozens of people have told me their stories with heroin. My son died, my brother died, my sister is hooked, I found my cousin dead, my girlfriend won’t give it up… It was the same story with different names over and over. I was shocked. I can’t believe how common this drug is. I can’t believe how many people are hurting so bad that they are willing to inject a needle full of street drugs into their veins.

Some of the comments were from people asking me for advice. They have loved ones hooked on heroin and they don’t know how to help them. I wish I had the answers. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s in my nature to help. I will truly give you my last dollar for food, I will find you resources for therapy, medical care, housing, schooling, whatever you need. That’s just me. So seeing my boyfriend’s nephew die like this, I’m ready to take the heroin epidemic on and somehow win! Nicholas’ whole family is coming together to fight this. We want to educate others on what they can do if there is a problem but more importantly help people say no to heroin.

heroin

I don’t have a lot of advice yet but I am taking the time to research and learn. I am not a medical professional or counselor so please don’t take any of my advice as being from a professional. I am just a person who cared a lot about someone who lost their life to heroin. I will share what I have learned so far:

1. Take the time to learn about Casey’s Law. This law allows you to place a person of any age in rehab without their consent. There are some hoops to do this so read up and be prepared.

2. Understand that addiction is an illness. Just like any serious illness, it might take more than one round of treatment.

3. Look into your insurance and see what they will pay for regarding rehab.

4. If you have a known heroin addict in your life, get Naloxone (Narcan) and carry it on your person at all times. It’s not the easiest thing to get just yet but is legal, at least in Kentucky, for a non-user to have it prescribed to them. It can save an addicts life if administered quickly after an overdose. Just make sure you use it the right way.

5. Seek out a meeting. I know you are thinking meetings are for the user. Al-anon meetings can help the family and friends cope and learn to not enable the addict while still being there for them.

6. Prevent drug use by teaching your children early in life how to deal with life’s issues. Most drug users turn to drugs because something bad happened in their life that they just couldn’t or didn’t want to handle. Take your children to counseling, read books with them about coping, talk to them about different life scenarios and let them know that heroin will kill them.

7. Watch this video and share it with your family. It’s powerful.

8. Consider signing this petition to make laws stricter for dealers.

9. If your state isn’t charging the dealers for murder, share this story: Dealers Now Being Charged in Overdose Deaths, with your state prosecutor and legislators and urge them to do so.

10. Heroin deals take place everywhere – street corners, parking lots, restaurants, upscale areas, bad neighborhoods, etc. You might witness one happen. I am begging you to call 911 as long as it is safe. If you can report a dealer without putting yourself in harm’s way, please do so!

11. Share Nicholas’ story over and over again. It seems to be helping others. Many people have told me that they have used it to discuss the epidemic with their own children.

I will share more with you as I learn more. Keep sending me your comments and questions and I’ll do my best to respond.

I have one more thing to ask of you. We want your stories. A website is being developed to bring people together on this issue. It will be used to share stories, educate people and much more. We would like to share your stories on the website. You can post your story here or email it to chrisstegner@insightbb.com. We don’t have to use your name on the website. Just let us know if you want to remain anonymous. The stories can be about your struggles with heroin, how you are dealing with a loved one who is using, how you started using or anything at all that is associated with heroin. We might not use every story but we appreciate all that are submitted.

Always smiling

Always smiling

P.S. If you aren’t following Raising2tweens on Facebook yet, you should be. 🙂

Heroin Causes More Pain Than it Numbs

nick funeralMy boyfriend’s family (and I) lost a wonderful man this past week to heroin. You can read this tragic overdose story here. Nicholas Specht was always smiling. He welcomed me into the family from the first time we met. As far as we knew, he had been clean for several months since rehab. Nicholas grew up in a good town, with a wonderful christian family who cared for and loved him. He attended one of the best schools in the state. He spent the last several weeks volunteering at church with a construction project. He attended meetings every single day. We thought he was doing great.

But the truth is, he wasn’t doing great.  He was clean but still struggling. Nicholas had something tragic happen in his life a little over two years ago. His baby was still-born. This crushed Nicholas, as it would anyone. In a weak moment he turned to heroin. Heroin quickly changed his life. He found himself doing things he would have never done before to get this potent drug that eventually took his life.

I met him when he got out of rehab. We would chat a lot. I would tell him that he needed to stay away from his old friends, people and places where he could easily get the drug. I would tell him to call me if he felt the urge and focused on just saying no. But thanks to a comment on my post 72 Hours of Heroin that was made by a medical staff member who tried to save Nicholas last weekend, I realize I was focusing on the wrong things. I also realize that repeatedly telling my children to say no to drugs is not enough.

Think about it… I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind wakes up one day and says “I think this will be the day I try heroin. I think I’ll put some crazy drug in a needle and shoot it into my body.” Only someone not in their right mind would do this. Something drives people to make this decision. Something horrible in their lives, like losing a baby. It may be chronic depression, a relationship breaking up, losing a job, feeling like a failure or something else that they just can’t cope with.

So in addition to teaching our kids to say no to drugs, we have to teach them that it’s okay to come to us with their problems. It’s okay to seek counseling. That no problem is too big or too small. We have to teach them how to cope with their problems. That has to start at a young age. We can’t just baby our children and tell them things will be okay. We have to teach them how to make it okay. There are tons of articles and books on how to cope with life’s unexpected issues. We need to encourage our schools to focus on teaching kids how to cope when they preach say no to drugs.

I stood at Nicholas’ grave yesterday with my 14-year-old daughter wrapped in my arms. I cried and begged her to always tell me about stresses in her life. I told her that I will always be open and will never judge her. I will get her the help she needs to deal with anything and everything. I told her my love for her is stronger than any problem she might have. I made her promise me that she would never to turn to drugs to cope with her problems. I hope and pray she keeps that promise. My 11-year-old son and I will have the same conversation tonight.

Nicholas died just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. He turned to heroin in his late 20s. It can happen to anyone at any time. Heroin does not discriminate. It is cheap and easy to find. I am asking all of you to have this conversation with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and loved ones. Have this conversation no matter if they are 10 or 40.

Please share your thoughts and comments here as our family truly appreciates reading them. And please share this with your family and friends. Heroin is an epidemic an education is the only way to crush it.

heroin