As saddened as I am at the death of Prince, the public reaction to this news angers me as the mother of a son who died under similar circumstances. What is so different about Prince than any other person who lost their life from an overdose? Why is there a difference between those who are rich and famous, and those who are not? These feelings surfaced long ago when I heard about the deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Both who died from the same combination of drugs that killed my not so famous son and many other not so famous sons and daughters. Yet there was no name calling. Not once was the word addict used. They were both eulogized as beautiful, talented, irreplaceable superstars. Society went into immediate mourning. Both were beautiful lives that were tragically cut too short. The media went crazy with tributes to both while the sites of their deaths were overflowing with flowers and tributes from hundreds of public mourners. So now it's Prince who lost his life to the same opioids that killed 44,000 people in 2015. Public reaction is one of pity, shock and sadness. I feel like I'm reliving Groundhog Day. Once again, it's another horrible tragedy. Another beautiful soul who was also among the rich and famous rock stars whose abuse of drugs is downplayed due to the fact that he was Prince, the musical genius, who according to his peers was the most magnificent artist to ever grace this earth. What makes their deaths such a horrible tragedy when the death of your average Joe Addict is cause for scrutiny and criticism? Why are the words drug use whispered behind closed doors instead of spoken in public? Why was the death of my son not viewed as a horrible tragedy? Why was his death the acceptable fate of one who uses and abuses drugs? "Why are you surprised? He was an addict," many people who barely knew me asked after my son's death. As though Matt's death were expected. "He did it to himself" others told me. Like he deserved his fate. Why does the stigma only hurt those suffering from addiction in certain socioeconomic classes? It never fails to shock me that the perception of addiction changes when it's a superstar. Where is the A word? Where are the "thin the herd" people now? Are they the same people who criticize addicts who aren't rich and famous? What about the people who feel that addicts are morally inferior? The public is now becoming informed of Prince's Percocet use and possible abuse. Suffering from hip pain and trying to remain that amazing performer his public expected to see on stage. Managing his chronic pain using opioids and becoming that word I have yet to hear in the same sentence with his name, addicted. Didn't he also do it to himself? So I ask you, would anyone consider Prince worthless now that we know he suffered from addiction? How about all those who are anti-Narcan for those who overdose? Everyone knows that Prince received Narcan in that hospital when his crew made the emergency landing. He was treated for an overdose and saved by the same drug used on no name addict's across the country. Like many of them, he was released only to use again and lose his life. Was that drug wasted on saving his life the way people believe it's a waste of money to save just any other average Joe Addict's life? Everyone in the news and entertainment world praise his talents and philanthropy. Structures across the country were illuminated with the color purple to show tribute to his life. Why isn't the stigma of addiction rearing its ugly head? Why is the death of an addict treated so differently in society because of who you are? Across the country we are losing the next generation of beautiful people yet there are no public shows of sadness or shock. The world doesn't skip a beat at the news of another family losing their child. Prince's family will scream and cry like I do every day knowing he is gone because of a disease that so many people share. But unlike myself and so many other families they will not be shunned or criticized. How can the public be so accepting of a disease depending on who has it? Why is it ok for my son and the children of those who are normal people to die from overdoses like it is an acceptable fate? Where is the outpouring of support for moms like me who lost her son to the same disease as Whitney, Michael, Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith, and now Prince? What kind of society points the finger at one group of addicts and not those richer and famous but still addicts? When will society value a human life for something other than fame and fortune? Matt was just as valuable as Prince. He wasn't a superstar, he was a beautiful man with a horrible disease who died just like all the rich and famous addicts who people put up on pedestals after they're gone. Yet there was no lighting up the sky in honor of Matt. There was no outpouring of sympathy from strangers. No flowers were left at the site where Matt took his last breath. All Matt got was his mother quietly grieving the death of her prince. My hope is one day the world will stop accepting overdose deaths as a horrible tragedy for the few famous folks and a self-inflicted choice for the rest. Until then beautiful people will continue to die. All dying from a disease that unlike society knows no boundaries. Today I will say a prayer for Prince's family. A family that now shares my grief. A family who lost a piece of their heart when they heard the same words we all prayed would never come. A family who will suffer from unrelenting grief for the loss of Prince. Not the rockstar, but a brother. A famous brother who died just like my son.
REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.