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An open letter from Eileen DiMaggio about her son, Andrew
We are thankful to Eileen and Andy DiMaggio for sharing their story with us.
From the moment Andrew was born, to the moment he left this earth, he was loved. Not only by his family, but anyone whose path he crossed. Andrew was a friend to everyone. He was kind, caring, fun, loving and had a big heart and a smile that lit up a room. He was naturally talented at everything he did. He loved snowboarding, skateboarding, dirt bike riding, hiking, photography, and anything outdoors. He had a very adventurous side and was fearless. What Andrew loved most, was his family. He had a great relationship with his brothers, sister-in-law, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Each and every one of them have their own special memory with him. He seemed to have it all.
We first learned of Andrew's addiction when he was 23 years old. We were completely devastated and immediately worked to get him help. We knew all too well the battle he had ahead of him. Sadly, addiction was nothing new to our family. In 1975, my brother Jimmy died of an overdose and in 2013 my brother Jackie also died of an overdose after living in recovery for over 20 years. Like Andrew, they were great sons and brothers and are missed every day. No parent should ever have to bury their child and my parents buried two sons and then their grandson. They are incredible parents and grandparents and didn't deserve this.
Andrew told me became physically and mentally addicted after his first use. He was at a party drinking and someone told him to try it, "it would be fun". It was a decision he soon realized was anything but fun and wished he'd never tried it. He fought desperately to overcome the tremendous grip heroin had on him. Every single day was a battle for him, as well as for all those who loved him and watched him suffer. For the next two years, we did all we could to help him. Despite all the love and guidance, the rehabs and detoxes, his perseverance and persistence, heroin suffocated every dream he had.
On October 14, 2017, Andrew died of an accidental overdose. Throughout his struggle to overcome his addiction, he shared with me his feelings of guilt and shame. He told me he was embarrassed and believed he had let his family down. He wanted so desperately to overcome his addiction. The horrible stigma that exists about addiction and those who are plagued by the disease needs to be changed. We must show kindness and compassion, offer help without judgement, avoid hurtful names and encourage treatment for those who are lost and alone. For those who don't understand that it's a disease... do your research and learn how dependency develops, unknowingly and without regard to who you are, where you live, or how much you're loved. Addiction is a disease that changes your brain's chemistry. It manipulates your mind and steals your life. Insurance companies have come a long way, but 28 days isn't enough time. It could take years before an addict's brain is clear. Health insurance must change to meet the needs of the addicted and treat the disease as we do other illnesses.
It is my hope, that in telling Andrew's story, that he will be part of the change, by changing the way people think about addiction and ensuring those afflicting are treated for their illness.
Andrew, we all miss you and will love you forever!
A portion of the proceeds from our REACH at the BEACH event was donated to St. Christopher's Inn in memory of Andrew..
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