Starting in Harper's Ferry on April 1st Karen and Stephen will hike south to GA to raise awareness about drug overdose.
In about 4.5 months Stephen and I will leave the comforts of our house, complete with our snuggly dogs, warm soft bed, and reliable running water and toilet to hike 1100 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
This is the thumbnail for the Facebook Page, if you want to join that....as of this writing we have requested to FB to change the page name to this (from WhyODAsk)….this seems more straightforward.
The journey of us getting to THIS point has been quite a long one. Some of this information has been briefly shared in other places but I will expand a bit here.
In 1993, my (Karen's) older brother, Peter, took his life by overdose. He had been diagnosed with AIDS and had lived with it for several years and decided how he would die. It was devastating for my family, my mother and sister were closest to him at that time. I felt so helpless for so many reasons and had certainly not been able to help my brother and did not know what I could do for my mother and sister. I was 27 years old at that time, Peter was 29. I had 2 small children and worked at a prison at that time and as I sit and write this today I remember what a fog I was in then. For all these years I thought of Peter's death as a suicide, which is was, but the drug aspect has recently become significant in a bigger picture of my life.
Stephen's sister, Donna, died in 2001 at the age of 33 and Stephen was 27 when she died. She had been prescribed medications to address mental health issues she was experiencing and it was determined that there had been an interaction of those medications in her body that were toxic to her system and she died. The family was shocked, of course, and devastated by her death. It has not been talked about openly over the years and that has added to some of the pain of the losses.
In 2012, my son, Bryan at the age of 21 decided to enter a residential drug treatment program in FL. He had been struggling with substances and he felt that his use was getting out of control and he made arrangement to leave the Northeast for South Florida. The previous year his good high school friend died from an overdose and it was very hard for Bryan. He completed the 30 day program and returned to upstate NY. His sobriety did not last and that would be the first of over 40 admissions to treatment facilities. He experienced several overdoses over the next 5 years and 1 was nearly fatal. The doctors expressed surprise that he woke up and he describes having a near death experience seeing his decease friend who told him, 'you have to go back'. As of this writing he has 13 months in recovery and is going to school for mental health counseling and continuing to learn and grow about the addiction that took over his life and our family. I wrote a book about a year of that experience and how it affected me and him and describes our individual experiences.
In the summer of 2017, Karen and Stephen met Brett Bramble, who had walked across the country once for overdose awareness. He lost his sister to an overdose and had also experienced his own struggles with addiction. He was on a new walk this past year walking from Key West, FL to Fort Kent, Maine. We met him in Maine and did a little to support his efforts. This is where the idea was formed to do THIS overdose awareness hike. It all came together with the realization that we have experienced a lot of loss due to overdose and have also experienced a lot of ignorance and misinformation and understanding. This pandemic is not improving but change is on the horizon, I do believe. We are going to walk and raise awareness as well as funds toward that effort. Brett Bramble has started a non-profit organization, Freedom to Grow, in GA and that will be the first portion of our hike and fundraising effort. In 2020, we will tackle our second portion of the AT and raise funds for ME organization....more about that later.
I plan to also wear a purple bandana, in honor of overdose awareness and Matt's Purple bandana project. Heather Starbuck lost her husband, and Brittany Adams-Kelly's brother, Matt, to an overdose and they hiked the AT, ending in September 2018 at Mt. Katahdin. We met these amazing ladies in Bangor and they shared some stories of Matt and the AT experience...we will honor Matt on our hike along with other overdose losses and share with anyone we can.
We will post more frequently here as the hike gets closer...we have to get through winter first! Spread the word, ask how you can help, and lets keep raising awareness and reduce the number of deaths and devastation.