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.
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.
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.
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