When Madelyn Linsenmeir, a 30-year-old Vermont mother died on October 7 as a result of an opioid addiction, her parents used their daughter’s obituary as a call to action for increased awareness of the disease that took their daughter’s life, while simultaneously showcasing who Linsenmeir was as a person—both because of and outside of her addiction.
Since being published earlier this week, the obit has gone viral, likely thanks to the fact that her family chronicled the start of her drug abuse, her subsequent addiction, and many attempts to overcome it. But they also honored the other attributes that defined her: the love she had for her son, her incredible singing voice, and how she charmed everyone she met.
“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,” the obituary read.
Her parents ended the tribute by speaking directly to those who are struggling, as well as those who don’t understand their struggle: “If you yourself are struggling from addiction, know that every breath is a fresh start. Know that hundreds of thousands of families who have lost someone to this disease are praying and rooting for you. Know that we believe with all our hearts that you can and will make it. It is never too late.”
“If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.”
In the wake of its publication, many have taken to Twitter to commend Linsenmeir’s family for their honest and heartbreaking portrayal of their daughter’s life, and the opioid crisis. Ivanka Trump wrote, “Profound admiration for the family members who wrote this raw, beautiful & devastating obituary. A generous act amid their pain & a wake up call to all as we battle, together as a nation, opioid addiction; a crisis of epic proportions. Rest In Peace Maddie.” Another Twitter user shared, “This is the most honest and devastating obituary you will ever read about a person who died from opioid addiction.” And another thanked Linsenmeir’s family, saying, “A beautiful, heart wrenching tribute to a woman who was a beloved daughter and mother, lost to addiction. And what a blessing this family is to educate us as they honor her.”
At least 31 women lose their lives to opioids daily, Glamour reported last year in a special look into the epidemic. And for those like Linsenmeir—who had breifly been able to stop using for short periods of time—it typically takes repeated attempts to become drug-free. In the same report, Glamour spoke to 20 women in recovery for opioids, and almost all said that they relapsed between ten and 20 times before getting sober. As David Fiellin, M.D., professor of medicine, emergency medicine, and public health at Yale, put it, “Relapse rates after detox are over 80 percent within a year, and those individuals are also at high risk for overdose.”
Linsenmeir’s family’s fearless decision to publish such an honest account of their daughter’s addiction is another step in the right direction for people to understand this disease that as of 2017, is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, by way of overdose.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioids, learn more at Shatterproof.org and find specific treatment options in your area on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s website.