A 24-year-old woman has shared a heartfelt message on social media to raise awareness about the nation’s growing opioid crisis after losing her younger sister to heroin addiction.
Chrystal Charlesworth had just said goodbye to her grandmother for the final time at a funeral in March 2018. There, she snapped a photo of her charismatic younger sister Lexus Felton. Little did the 24-year-old know she would return ten months later at the same church to say goodbye to Lexus as well.
Two months ago, you’d call me back one last time. I would be the last phone call you would ever make or receive again….
In a Facebook post, Charlesworth described the pain of losing her 21-year-old sister who died from a heroin overdose in December last year, just one month before her 22nd birthday. To accompany her story, Charlesworth posted a photo of her sister at her grandmother’s funeral and one of her sister lying in her own casket, wearing the same shirt, to show how swiftly the opioid epidemic can come and take loved ones away.
“10 year challenge? Let’s talk about [an] (almost) 10 MONTH challenge,” Charlesworth wrote.
“In both pictures my sister, Lexus, is in the exact same church room, wearing the exact same shirt, and laying in the exact same kind of casket my grandmother’s in,” she continued.
“Little did I know that when I took the first picture of my inappropriately hilarious, charismatic little sister that it would end up having such a surreal meaning behind it just a few short months later.”
She explained that on the day of her grandmother’s funeral, her sister managed to stay sober despite being actively addicted at the time. Lexus continued to use heroin for a little over a month before their mother took her to see a probation officer to admit that she had been using again. She explained her sister had been on probation previously for using drugs.
“Lexus abided willingly because she genuinely wanted the help and I truly believe in my heart that she wanted to stay clean,” Charlesworth wrote.
Lexus then spent the next three and a half months in jail before transferring to a long term rehabilitation center that her mother had chosen in Philadelphia. The 21-year-old spent the next three months working through therapy and the rehabilitation program until she was given a Vivitrol shot—a non-addictive treatment to prevent relapse in opioid dependency.
“Finally, she was able to come home! My family and I were SO excited and happy to have her back, as she was to be home!!” Charlesworth said.
I wish I had a time machine..Want to know what I would do? I would travel back into the past to spend more time with you! ???? ..God, I miss you.
However, things didn’t go as expected.
“My sister would have only 37 full days left with us. On the 38th day she would die of a heroin overdose,” the sister said.
“Out of those 38 days, she only used for three of them. It only took THREE days of using again … It only took one last hit for her body to go into cardiac arrest and ultimately cause her to take her last breath.”
Charlesworth said she felt it was important to share the photos because she wanted more people to talk about the opioid crisis.
“I wish I would have been more educated and taken it even more seriously than I already thought I was. Opioid addiction is a national crisis! It is an epidemic!” the 24-year-old said.
“Please, use my sister as an example. Use her story to fear taking that next hit or use it as motivation to confront your loved one about their addiction. … Let’s be real, no one is safe these days from this affecting them. Maybe you aren’t an addict BUT maybe your sister is, maybe it’s your dad, friend, coworker, or neighbor who is secretly addicted,” she continued.
“Addiction hides in the everyday faces all around us. So, let’s keep talking about this issue and raising awareness. … There are many out there who need to face this reality,” Charlestown added.
According to a recent report by the National Safety Council (NSC), Americans have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose, while the probability of dying in a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 103. The council’s analysis is based on 2017 mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 15,482 people died in 2017 in the United States from a heroin overdose, which is a rate of about 5 deaths for every 100,000 Americans. This is compared to 1,960 deaths from heroin overdose across the country in 1999. Heroin-related overdose deaths increased five-fold from 2010 to 2017, according to the CDC.
Back in October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The Senate subsequently passed a bill that received bipartisan support to combat the crisis.
The law includes a number of initiatives to advance recovery and treatment, and to prevent drugs from getting into people’s hands in the first place. It also includes research into non-opioid alternatives for the treatment of pain.
“While there is still much work to be done, this historic effort will undoubtedly save lives and put families and communities across our country on the road to recovery,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a sponsor of the act, said at the time.
If you or someone you know needs help for opioid addiction, call the national helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or find resources online at SAMHSA.gov