Signs of Opiate Overdose | Opiate Addiction | Addiction Kills - My husband passed away in 2010 of an opiate overdose. There were signs of the overdose that I didn't recognize at the time. In this post I share the horrors of that day and the signs of overdose that I didn't recognize. Addiction kills, but learning the warning signs could help save a life. #addictionrecovery #drug #addiction #overdose #relapse #prevention

The Two Signs Of Opiate Overdose I Didn’t Recognize That Could’ve Saved My Husband’s Life

On December 26, 2010, I woke up to find my husband dead, next to me in bed. I began shaking him, yelling his name, and in the other room my daughter woke up and dialed 911.

I remember trying to get him dressed, because he’d gone to bed naked. For some reason, all I could focus on was trying to get him dressed. I didn’t want him to be angry that I hadn’t tried to protect his dignity. But it didn’t matter.

There was no trip to the hospital. No attempts to revive him. He was gone. 36 years old, and his life was over.

The Two Signs Of Opiate Overdose I Didn’t Recognize That Could’ve Saved My Husband’s Life

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Even now, over seven years later, I can’t remember much else about that day. What I do remember is heartbreaking.

His brother picking up the Christmas tree in the living room and throwing it on the front lawn.

His grandmother falling to the floor, fainting or so overcome with grief, I’m not sure which, but probably both.

People coming and people going. It seemed like they left Brian in the bedroom for hours, before ever removing his body. I remember trying to curl up with him…and realizing completely that his soul had moved on.

At some point that day, I remember telling his 11 year old daughter that her daddy was gone. She wasn’t home when it happened. I can still see the look on her face and taste the tears that we shed together.

I moved through the next few days like a zombie, being led from one destination to another so arrangements could be made. He wanted to be cremated. His grandmother begged me not to, and I made the decision to honor her wish. Her love meant the world to Brian and I felt confident in that decision.

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His funeral took place on December 29th, which would have been our 4th wedding anniversary. I had written something to share at his service, but when I pulled it out to read, it was an old grocery list (like I said…zombie). So I just spoke from the heart.

I was a hot mess. For quite some time, actually.

I found out that my husband died of a morphine overdose from the autopsy report a couple of months later. Even though I knew he was on Morphine, Percocet and Xanax, I didn’t realize he was using so much that it was deadly. His doctor prescribed the medications for his back problems, and on Christmas evening, those medications took his life.

I knew that he would take more when he couldn’t get relief, but I had no idea how much more.

After starting my own addiction recovery, I learned a few things about the warning signs of an opiate overdose. Today, I realize if I’d known then what I know now, my husband might still be alive.


Nodding Off

On Christmas Day, Brian kept nodding off.

I wasn’t alarmed by this, since for the entire week prior, he had been doing the same. He was in a lot of pain, and with the recent addition of Xanax and Morphine to his pain management regimen, I assumed this was normal.

On Christmas Day, he was the first person awake, and excited about our Christmas. After our gift-opening, my three boys went to spend the day with their dad and his daughter went to her mother’s. It was just the two of us, and we spent the day snuggled on the couch watching movies.

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He was dozing off and on all day. When dinner was ready, he got up to eat. He was falling asleep while trying to eat. I asked him if he was okay, and he said he was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I went with him and tucked him in. The last thing he said to me was “I’m sorry, baby.” I assumed he was sorry that he was feeling so bad on Christmas.

That nodding off should have been my first clue that something wasn’t right. But since he was waking up and talking to me coherently, I really just thought it was the side effects of the new medications.

The Deep Snore

Not long after Brian went to bed, there was a knock at the door. Surprise! It was my daughter, who lives out of state. I was thrilled that she had made the trip to visit me.

She asked where everyone was, and I told her about the kids going to their other parents and about Brian’s back pain.

I remembered that he had gone to bed nude, and since Amber would be spending the night, I wanted to let him know she was there.

I went into our bedroom, where he was snoring heavily. I said his name a few times, but he continued to snore.

At the time, I thought he was finally getting a good night’s sleep, which had been a problem due to his back pain.

Brian also had a short temper about being woke up, and I wasn’t going to be cursed at with my daughter in the next room. When I went to bed around midnight, he was still snoring. I fell asleep, and until the next morning, didn’t realize that he was taking his last breaths.  

Years later, in a recovery meeting, I heard this deep snoring referred to as the “gurgle”. 

Am I a complete idiot, not to be alarmed by these two signs of overdose?  How could I not realize something was so wrong?  



These thoughts play over in my mind, but not once have I ever felt that his death was my fault. I don’t think I could live with myself if I ever take on that responsibility.  

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I do, however, think about what would be different if I’d known what was happening and called 911 when he fell asleep at dinner. How would our lives be today? Would he have suffered brain damage? Would he have quit using opiates all together? Would I have found my own recovery sooner? Would I even have spiralled the way that I did after his death?

It’s hard to say, what might have been.

I can only be grateful for my own life, and try to share my story with hope that it might make a difference.

If there’s an addict in your life, tell them you love them. Tell them they are worthy of life and love and happiness. You can’t force them to get help, but you can let them know you’re there when they’re ready.

Have you gone through anything similar to this?  Do you have your own story to share? I would be honored to share your story on Life of an Addict. For more info on submitting your story, click here.

Please help me win this fight of ending the stigma of addiction by sharing this post on Twitter or Facebook, or by pinning to a relevant Pinterest board.  Together, we can make a difference and hopefully save a life.

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Signs of Opiate Overdose | Opiate Addiction | Addiction Kills - My husband passed away in 2010 of an opiate overdose. There were signs of the overdose that I didn't recognize at the time. In this post I share the horrors of that day and the signs of overdose that I didn't recognize. Addiction kills, but learning the warning signs could help save a life. #addictionrecovery #drug #addiction #overdose #relapse #prevention

19 thoughts on “The Two Signs Of Opiate Overdose I Didn’t Recognize That Could’ve Saved My Husband’s Life”

  1. Oh my goodness, you poor thing. How terrible for you. I’ve read quite a lot about how dangers prescription opiates can be – I have been on Tramadol for years and have cut it down from 8 to 4/5 in the last year, and am determined to get off it completely.

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss, and I take my hat off to you for writing posts like this that might save other people.

    (I won’t write my real name when I leave the comment, because of the personal medical info I’ve just given out)

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Thank you.
      I remember that it was just a few years ago that I was being prescribed Tramadol, and it wasn’t considered narcotic. My doctor gave me a ton of them, so many that I had several extra bottles just lying around.
      Then, they reclassified the drug, and once again thousands of people were cut off of the medication and left with an addiction.
      This is complete bullshit! We trust our doctors, literally with our lives, and pharmaceutical companies downplay the side affects of these medications to make billions.
      That’s great that you are weaning down. I personally didn’t take them as much as prescribed (luckily) so I don’t know what the withdrawals are like, but at least your doctor is doing right by you and tapering your dose.
      Good luck, and thanks so much for your feedback.

    2. LifeOfAnAddict

      Thank you.
      I remember that it was just a few years ago that I was being prescribed Tramadol, and it wasn’t considered narcotic. My doctor gave me a ton of them, so many that I had several extra bottles just lying around.
      Then, they reclassified the drug, and once again thousands of people were cut off of the medication and left with an addiction.
      This is complete bullshit! We trust our doctors, literally with our lives, and pharmaceutical companies downplay the side affects of these medications to make billions.
      That’s great that you are weaning down. I personally didn’t take them as much as prescribed (luckily) so I don’t know what the withdrawals are like, but at least your doctor is doing right by you and tapering your dose.
      Good luck, and thanks so much for your feedback.

  2. I just read through this and I was shocked and very inspired by your courage. I’ve had to deal with addicted family members, so I understand where you are coming from. God give you strength.

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Thanks Poorna. God is good to me. I’ve had to find recovery of my own and face my own demons head on. Life is so different for me since I lost Brian, but I hope the stories I share will help someone.

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Yes, and the opiate epidemic is a genocide of sorts. The pharmaceutical companies need to be held accountable for the mess they have created.
      Grrr. It gets me so angry, to see people dropping like flies all around me.
      I understand that not all addicts were prescribed opiates by a doctor initially, but I also know for a fact the deception that was passed on to physician’s about the possibility of addiction by prescribing these medications.

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Thanks Nayna. I don’t feel brave – since I spiralled into my own addiction after he passed away.
      I’m one of the lucky one’s though, to have found recovery instead of losing my own life to an overdose.

  3. Wow thank you for sharing your experience! I have never heard of the gurgle and now I know what to look for if I am ever in that situation. I’m so sorry this happened.

  4. Your story is so powerful and honest. I’m so sorry for your loss. I think your blog is so informational and your writing really strikes to the heart.

  5. My heart goes out to you, but I also thank-you for having the courage to share your story. By spreading awareness, you could be saving so many lives. About 23 years ago, I had a friend die from an overdose when the morphine she was taking reacted with a cough medicine – had I seen her that night, I wouldn’t have known to look for those warning signs, I would’ve written her tiredness off to her being a new mom. I simply had no idea until reading your post today. I hope that you’ve found happiness in your journey and have luck in spreading awareness and breaking down the stigma of addiction!

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Hi Nicole. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.

      That’s such a tragedy, that these medications kill, when people are just looking for relief from physical pain.

      I’m always nervous about writing on this blog, because there’s a lot of shame attached to my own addiction. Even though I haven’t used in over 2 years, the stigma attached to “drug addict” is always looming.
      I am a blogging and social media coach, and founder of NextLevelBlogging.com. I worry that bloggers reading this may not want to work with me because of my past, even though I’m a damn good coach! The stigma is heavy and always looming.

      Thanks so much for your feedback and sharing your own pain. If you’d like to honor your friend with a memorial on my Home page, send me an email with a picture, her name, DOB & DOD. It’s free, and I’m happy to share it.

  6. This post hit me right in all of the feels. While I have never had an addiction issue, people in my life have. I have seen both of these things first hand and I completely understand why you did not see them as signs at the time. I didn’t see them at first either.

    Thank you for being so open and honest in this process. I know how terrible and hard it can be to be so vulnerable. I really hope you are able to help others along the way.

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Thank you Cara! Knowing that people are supportive of this blog makes my heart smile.
      It’s hard to be so vulnerable, yet freeing.
      I’m sorry that even though you’re not an addict, you still have to deal with the consequences of this disease. It fricking sucks.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I have worked as an addiction Counsellor for over 20 years and have lost some pretty special people — especially in the last few years. It’s heartbreaking that is for sure. We can get caught up in the should ofs — could ofs — what ifs — but the truth is — it just stops us from living. You are brave and courageous for sharing your storey. I know I am a stranger — however I am super proud of you. Blessings

  8. LifeOfAnAddict

    Aww, Shelley, thank you!
    As a counselor, I’m sure you have witnessed far too many people relapse once and end up dead.
    Scary times we live in.
    Thank you so much for the work you do.
    My counselor made a huge impact on my life – once I decided to really get honest with myself, he helped me start to love myself again. You are making a difference in people’s lives – that’s amazing.

  9. I’m sorry for your loss. There are no words that can relieve your grieving. I was a heroin addict for well over a decade. My family of 4 does not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of people we knew personally that have died from an opioid overdose.

    This epidemic is crushing and it is getting worse. I have a blog about addiction as well. Although mine focuses on being able to overcome the past to create a NEW life. Becoming a badass, despite ALL of your past shit.

    If you ever need someone to talk to or want to collaborate, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

    1. LifeOfAnAddict

      Hi Natasha. Thank you so much for your feedback.
      I struggle with anxiety over sharing my addiction and experience. I worry about losing the trust of my potential blog coaching clients and readers of my other blog, by sharing openly on this website. I’m determined to fight through it though, because I have so much I want to share on this topic, to let other addicts know it’s possible to live a different life. Plus, I want NO shame in my game.
      I’m learning that I’m worthy of happiness and feel an inner peace that I’ve never known. I finally feel like I’m in charge of my life instead of feeling like I’m limited in what I can achieve. I am a badass and without sounding arrogant, everything I’ve gone through has only made me better and stronger.
      I would love to collaborate on something with you – I will definitely reach out to you about that, probably later this summer. Maybe before then just to chat 🙂
      Thanks again for checking out my blog.

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