On December 28th, 2016 I set out from Vernal, Utah in my 2001 Honda Accord. The goal was to reach Columbus Ohio with a cardboard sign. With stops in Heber, Salt Lake City and Cleveland, here’s what happened:
- Miles Traveled: 4,194
- State Lines Crossed (Including a wrong turn into Michigan): 14
- Energy drinks consumed: 23
- Lottery tickets purchased: 1
- Mini-Mart Signs Replaced: 1
- Days on the road: 6
- Audiobooks listened to: 7
- “Emergency” naps taken: 2
- Time-Zone changes: 4
- Gallons of fuel used: Approx. 124
- Longest haul at once: 1,743 miles
- Times pulled over: 1 (A block from my apartment)
- Pints of oil added: 5
- Tires worn flat: 1
Now, let’s look at the darker side of this:
- Number of preventable overdoses during my trip: At LEAST 774
Ohio is ground zero for the heroin epidemic and I was able to see it first hand. Utah is FOURTH in the nation for overdose deaths. During those 6 days I was on the road, the “129/day” statistics put the preventable overdose deaths at 774. During the FED UP rally in Washington DC, they told us the numbers are closer to 200 per day. That could mean 1,200 preventable overdoses.
However, suicidal ideation gets worse during the holidays, and I was also on the road on New Year’s Eve and Day. My guess is that the number could be as high as 1,500.
So, if you followed my journey, please understand that it was NOT only about a sign. For a long time I was filled with hate and rage at the mentality of Abdue (Save Way Mini Mart Owner) or the #outlawnarcan people.
While I may disagree with their mentalities, the biggest thing I learned is that we cannot fight Hate with Hate. Abdue agreed to speak with me because I was a “gentleman” and first spoke about HIS frustration with theft and other drug-related crimes. I tried to understand his perspective before presenting him with mine.
THAT is the lesson for me in all of this. I know how easy it is to get angry and up-in-arms about these things. I am often guilty of it myself. I am forced to breathe and take a moment to consider my response. Deliberate action vs. emotional reaction.
I’m grateful the trip went the way it did. I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support, but I also need to redirect your focus away from me and toward the message:
People are dying. The true statistics are staggering. These are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters… friends, family and loved ones.
Preventable Overdoses in Your Life
There are people who do drugs and also commit terrible crimes. However, being a drug addict does NOT make you a bad person. It does not mean you are worthless or a lost cause.
The Rebel Recovery team believes in Narcan. I wouldn’t be alive without Narcan and I’m so happy to be alive. I’ve found the value in a life I once considered “disposable.”
Practice Harm Reduction: clean needles, test shots, anything that might preserve your life and health long enough for recovery to click.
Help is available. Recovery is possible. Don’t live a disposable life. You ARE worth it.