CW: The death of a sibling, car accidents, opioid overdose, the death of a parent, and Trader Joe’s.
In This Episode:
In this episode, I sat down with Lanie, a fellow voice actor and host of the podcasts “True Crime Fan Club” and “Crimes of Passion” on the Parcast Network to talk about her brother Chito who passed away in a car accident on February 21, 2009.
I met Lanie over Instagram, right when George and I had just started releasing episodes of the Dirty Bits Podcast. She helped us get started and I don’t think the podcast would be where it is today without her. Over the past years, we’ve become close and I’m grateful to be able to call her my friend.
You Can’t Tell Other People How To Grieve
Our reactions are all so different because we as people are all so different. I don’t remember my husband as the literal alter boy that so many other people seem to remember him as. He was a complex person with baggage who I loved unconditionally and who I knew maybe even better than I knew myself. The vulnerability and trust that you share with the love of your life almost can’t be conveyed to those who haven’t experienced it. And I think that’s why I’ve had nothing but support from other widows in regards to utilizing comedy and my platform as a podcaster.
Day of the Dead
Lanie celebrates Dio Los Muertos or the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday on November 1st and 2nd that consists of remembering, praying for, and celebrating the dead. Living in San Diego, it’s a holiday I’m familiar with and I’ve had the privilege of being invited to celebrate with friends over the years. The movie Coco that depicts that the holiday holds a very special place in our hearts. George and I watched the film a lot together and I used to sing the song “Remember Me” to him before I had to go home from the hospital at night. I love the symbolism and allegory of the story- there are some things that are out of our control, like death. I’d truly give anything to have the love of my life back but nothing anyone could give can make that happen. The only way to truly keep him alive is for his memory to continue. And that’s actually something I can do and it gives me comfort. It’s also how I’m surviving. A common sentiment I hear is one that Lanie conveyed….how do you survive? You do whatever you can to survive. That’s why I tell jokes. But telling jokes isn’t everyone’s way of coping. Lanie shared with me how her husband, Brett, lost his mother and how his reaction was fascinating to her because it was so different from her own grieving process. And there isn’t anything wrong with that- their family dynamics are different. We also talked about losing someone you had a complicated relationship with due to addiction and overdose.
While the death toll related to the opioid epidemic has decreased by 16%, largely in part to efforts that have been put in place since 2010, 2017 and 2018 were still responsible for the highest overdose rates in U.S. history. And while opioid overdoses have decreased, cocaine overdose deaths have increased by almost 5%, meth overdose deaths have increased by 22% and accidental deaths due to the deadly drug Fentanyl often found in opioids on the black market and dark web increased by 10%. Opioids from places like dark web sites are often manufactured with fentanyl, which is extremely deadly in minuscule doses to even the most experienced user.
About 25 years ago, companies like Purdue Pharma pushed doctors to prescribe Oxycontin to their patients in excess and by 2001, sales exceeded one billion dollars annually as the top-selling brand name drug in the country. The Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, has profited billions and billions of dollars in the last ten years. They have repeatedly denied accusations that they intentionally misled doctors about the harm and risk of the opiates and deny engaging in vigorous marketing campaigns in order to push the sale of opiates.
Since 2010, opioid prescriptions have declined and in 2016, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines.
But here’s the thing, after overprescribing opiates for decades, doctors are now hesitant to prescribe opiates at all. This leads addicts to buy illegally manufactured opiates tainted with fentanyl on the black market, resulting in more deaths by accidental overdose. There are also few accessible treatment options available for addicts in the United States unless they’re extravagantly wealthy. And while the healthcare system in America doesn’t make it easy for addicts to get help... neither do we as a society.
We still stigmatize addicts and view them as undesirables when they are no different than anyone else battling and living with a health disorder. We shame them into not coming forward when they need help... and the help that is provided, like sober living facilities, is often lacking, unregulated, and ineffective. Cutting healthcare accessibility as opposed to expanding it, and implementing the death penalty for drug dealers aren’t just ineffective policies, they’re downright harmful to solving this epidemic.
Addiction is something that can affect anyone, regardless of your political affiliation. It is also largely preventable and treatable. Many of the deaths that have happened and continue to happen due to overdose are entirely preventable.
I’m asking you to keep that in mind when you head to the polls this year.
Lanie didn’t really utilize humor initially to cope with the loss of her brother but she uses humor in other ways to cope and has a dark sense of humor in general. We chatted about navigating the grieving process when each person in your family seems to have a different style, fighting with your siblings, and being preoccupied with losing additional family members. We also talked about how other people memorialize your loved one.
This has been one of the most challenging parts for me… even utilizing comedy hasn’t made it easier. It’s tough to watch people who I saw a handful of times in 6 and a half years who never even bothered to text George, acting as if they’re so very bereaved he’s gone. How has anything changed for them? Were they suddenly going to start talking to him out of the blue the day he died and it was all just an unhappy coincidence? These same people never texted when he was in the hospital and homebound on 5 liters of oxygen for most of 2019. Some of these people are the same ones that George and I asked to visit and they either declined or never responded. Other people who are putting on the grief show are ones who George actively disliked. He skipped their special milestone life events and wanted nothing to do with them, yet here they are, using his death to garner attention. They didn’t speak with him, they certainly didn’t sleep with him, they didn’t podcast with him, and they didn’t take care of him when he was sick, yet they are the ones who claim to miss him the most...even more than me, his wife. That’s more offensive to me than any darkly humored joke.
I couldn’t agree with Lanie’s closing statement more as I’m coming to accept that the love of my life is gone. George made me a better person. I didn’t know what unconditional love meant until he showed me. And that’s what’s shaped me into the woman I am today. Because of George’s death, I’ve changed but because of George’s life, I’ve changed too… in a great way.
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Chillin Hard Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Editing done by the always lovely Matthew Ramirez - firstname.lastname@example.org