A Michigan woman’s Facebook post about her brother-in-law’s drug addiction and subsequent fatal overdose has gone viral.
Father-of-two Chris Pennington, 35, of Ann Arbor, passed away on June 1 from an overdose of cocaine and fentanyl, the synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.
His sister-in-law, Nichole Cicotte, shared a photo on Facebook last week of family members surrounding Pennington as he lay in a hospital bed.
In an accompanying post, she described the pain and grief that the family felt in that moment and in the days and weeks that followed his passing.
Cicotte told DailyMail.com said she hopes the post helps de-stigmatize the issue of addiction and that those who are suffering are inspired to get help before it’s too late.
Nichole Cicotte shared a photo of the family of Chris Pennington saying their goodbyes after they passed away on June 1 from a drug overdose (pictured)
Pennington (left and right) began struggling with addiction when he was a teenager. Cicotte said he went to rehab and stayed clean for a few months
Cicotte told DailyMail.com that Pennington had struggled with addiction since he was a teenager.
When Cicotte met her husband, Micheal, 11 years ago, her brother-in-law was abusing alcohol and prescription pills.
‘He had his ups and his downs, but his downs were worsening over the years,’ she said.
‘Towards the end, he lost everything. His house, his job, relationships were broken.’
Cicotte said Pennington went to rehab earlier this year and managed to stay clean for a few months, until he fell off the wagon.
She, her husband and children were on a trip to Disney World in May when Cicotte checked her phone in the middle of the night and saw several missed calls and messages from the family.
During a binge, Pennington had taken cocaine laced with fentanyl. He overdosed and was in the ICU.
The photo Cicotte shared on Facebook is the family saying their goodbyes. Five people stand around Pennington’s bed, looking at him or gently touching him.
In the foreground, a man in a gray T-shirt and jeans sits in a a chair with his head in his hands, distraught. Near the bottom of the photo’s caption, Cicotte later identifies the man as her husband Micheal.
In May, Pennington’s family learned he was in the ICU after overdosing on cocaine laced with fentanyl. In the Facebook post, his sister-in-law discussed the grief and pain the family felt in the days and weeks following his passing. Pictured, left and right: Pennington
Cicotte said that Pennington (pictured) had wanted to speak about his struggle with an addiction in an open forum and that the Facebook post was a way to fulfill his wish
‘We all just kept looking at him taking in all of his features, trying to remember him for the loving person he was, not what the addiction led him to,’ she said.
‘One of the last conversations my husband had with his brother was to warn him about fentanyl. He told him: “You will die”. We all felt so many emotions all at once.’
OPIOIDS IN AMERICA: BY THE NUMBERS
Opioid prescriptions are going down across the US, but overdoses are not.
Last year, the rate of opioid overdose deaths hit a record high, with around 200 Americans dying every day, according to new figures, published by the DEA in July.
US Health Secretary Alex Azar insists the tide has turned this year.
However, doctors warn the boom in prescriptions flooded the market with unused pills, some of which may have made it onto the black market.
An in-depth analysis of 2016 US drug overdose data shows that America’s overdose epidemic is spreading geographically and increasing across demographic groups.
Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016.
Nearly two-thirds of these deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Overdose deaths increased in all categories of drugs examined for men and women, people ages 15 and older, all races and ethnicities, and across all levels of urbanization.
The Orange County Health Agency found that there has been an 88 percent of drug overdose deaths between 2000 and 2015.
Half of those deaths were due to accidental prescription drug overdoses. Seven out of every 10 overdose deaths between 2011 and 2015 involved opioids.
Source: CDC, Orange County Health Agency
Cicotte said she and Pennington had discussed speaking about his struggle with addiction in an open forum and that the post was a way of fulfilling her late brother-in-law’s wish.
‘This is addiction,’ Cicotte begins the post.
‘It’s a 3am phone call that we knew was coming, but prayed it never would. It’s a doctor having to tell another family that their loved one is legally brain dead.
‘It’s a mother’s heart being ripped out from her chest. This is a room (and a whole hospital waiting room) full of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends beating themselves up that they didn’t do more to save you.’
She continues in the post to express the anger felt towards Pennington after he passed away as his family grieved.
‘This is waking up on Monday morning feeling empty, feeling angry, because how could you do this to us?’ she writes.
‘It’s feeling sad because we know you fought so hard to recover. It’s feeling guilty because we wonder if we could of done more to save you. It’s feeling a sense of relief that you’re no longer battling your demons.’
The post, published on December 6, has more than 5,300 reactions and has been shared more than 15,000 times.
‘It’s heartbreaking to see so many others sharing their experience with being an addict or loving an addict,’ she said.
‘It makes you feel like you aren’t alone in all of this. I definitely didn’t expect this reaction, but I don’t think it is a coincidence. Chris saved three lives with his organ donation. Now he can save lives with his story.’
Cicotte says she hopes the post helps humanize those suffering from addiction and inspires others to seek help to quit.
‘I hope that this helps people put themselves in the shoes of a loved one grieving the loss of an addict,’ she said.
‘They’re not junkies. They’re someone’s family and they’re loved dearly. Overall, I hope at least one addict sees my post and chooses the path of recovery before they end up being taken away by this disease.’
Cicotte’s post about her brother-in-law has more than 5,300 reactions and has been shared more than 15,000 times
More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in the US in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly two-thirds of these deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
Since 2000, the death rate from drugs has more than doubled from 6.2 per 100,000 people to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2014.
A study released on Monday from Iowa State University found that there are multiple opioid epidemics occurring at the same time rather than one crisis.
The authors describe three epidemics: a prescription drug epidemic persists in rural southern states, a heroin epidemic in the Midwest and western State and an epidemic of synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, in the Northeast.