Meet Tricia Odham. She is sharing her tragic story of how she lost her daughter to a drug overdose and the tools she used to heal from this.
I am extremely grateful to Tricia for taking the time to share her story in order to help other families heal from this tragedy.
Tricia, can you tell us a little about your daughter and your family dynamics prior to her death? How old was she, what type of personality did she have, did she get along well with family? Help us understand who she was, if she was struggling with addictions for long, was she generally a happy girl?
Thank you for this healing platform, Iva. Yes, Amanda was the kind of happy that lit up the room. She was a natural entertainer with a sharp wit – even as a toddler. Because of the way she thought outside the box, she was also not easily confined by rules that did not make sense to her.
As her mom, I often felt I had to present a good case in order to get her to go along with anything she wasn’t interested in doing – and she was tough to convince. She was a fearless spirit; coloring outside the lines and challenging the status quo was her specialty. I wish I had just let her be herself from that early age.
As her mother, I thought it was my job to manage her, to control, shape and protect her – and I really wanted her to stop making me look bad. I already felt unqualified – I didn’t know how to take good care of myself until I was thirty, and unfortunately for Amanda, she was born when I was eighteen.
Amanda permanently changed me when she entered my life and when she left it.
Her drinking became a problem in her teens, and she celebrated her seventeenth birthday in rehab. I saw the signs, as we have a strong family history, and I got sober when she was six. Like her mother, her drug of choice was alcohol and “whatever you’re having.”
Of course, I wanted what was best for her, but I was also driven by a self-centered fear that something bad would happen to her, it would be all my fault, and I wouldn’t be able to handle it. This kept us in a cycle of me trying to manage her rather than focusing my priority on my love for her.
I know that this diminished her view of herself as I tried to fix her rather than to support her, and this is my biggest regret. I can say that I had learned the lesson while she was still on earth, and I’m grateful we had an authentic, unconditionally loving connection in her last days. We did not know what a short time we had left.
At twenty-eight years old, she had struggled and suffered from the consequences of drinking, and the effect on her six year old daughter was her primary motivation for trying to get her life on track. In the last several months of her life, she was in and out of jail and halfway houses, and she was making a strong effort to change.
Unfortunately, she thought she could hang out with friends and drink socially, since her intentions were good and she was doing well. That is the one false belief that cost her life.
Can you tell us about the night she died? When did it happen, time of day, where was she and who was she with? Where were you? Etc. Talk us through that night a bit please.
This part cuts close to the bone, and I have to be mindful as I relive it so that I don’t set myself up for a dark place.
I’ve been a nurse practitioner and spiritual educator for many years, and I work in the addiction medicine field. In my nursing career, my guiding principle has always been to treat my patients the way I would want my family to be treated. This has been especially true as I work in addiction medicine, as I am keenly aware of what a herculean effort it can be to get a loved one into treatment and help them in their recovery without enabling their addiction.
On Saturday, August 18, 2018, I was working in the detox hospital when I got the call that my daughter had died. My poor husband had to deliver the news. He was on his way with the detective and one of my closest friends. The detective came to tell me that Amanda had left the halfway house the day before, met up with friends, eventually started drinking at a bar, then left with a guy.
She was found dead in his bed that morning.
There were no signs of drug use, no signs of injury or foul play. No explanation. Her body was en route to the medical examiner for autopsy. I cannot even describe the pain of visualizing my daughter’s body on her way for an autopsy.
I just can’t.
Three months later, her toxicology report showed positive for heroin and alcohol level “sufficient to cause impaired judgment”. Cause of death: drug poisoning.
My family and I had spiraled into grief. Amanda’s six year old daughter, my sweet granddaughter, had to embrace that her mother was gone, while we were unable to comprehend it ourselves. My other daughter, Shelley, fell apart, — I nearly lost her in those following months. My father dove headlong into isolation and drinking heavily, and he ultimately ended his life in the parking lot of the liquor store in May of 2020.
It has been a painful journey. No one knew what to do with their pain.
How was your grieving process and how long did it take before you were ready to function normally, if we can call it that?
I gave up on normal – I just didn’t have the energy for it. What you see is what you get from me nowadays.
Grief is messy, unscheduled and requires oceans of energy to get through the day. I haven’t thought of ending my life, but I have begged on raw knees wondering how am I supposed to live?
It is heavy.
I cherish the love and courage of the friends and family who surrounded me and carried me. These were the angels from whom I could borrow strength where I had none. I vividly remember the day Amanda died as well as the day she was born, but the weeks that followed are blurry.
The psychic injury shot holes in my memory, and I still have difficulty with finding words and with the perception of time. It is like suffering a stroke, where my brain just doesn’t fire like it should.
I am easily overwhelmed.
I suffered horrific anxiety for way over a year. My friend and sister-in-law made arrangements for the funeral home and wrote my daughter’s obituary. I was too broken. I couldn’t eat.
The gift of people in my life is the only way I made it to where I am now. I have medical training, spiritual beliefs, self-care practices, knowledge of skills for healing, but these were unavailable to my mind at first, and I had to let people love me through it.
I began walking one step at a time, going slowly, following the light I had to see by, until I was able to start practicing the things that I knew, which work for me and others: mindfulness, self-compassion, forgiveness, connection to nature, connection to people, connection to a sense of universal love.
And therapy – thank goodness for therapists. I also had an amazing experience with equine therapy that gave me huge relief.
My mind is healing, and my heart is open. My family is my purpose to keep going, and I keep finding new places to put my love for Amanda, because it is too big to carry with no place to go. I am so grateful to call myself Amanda’s mom, and I will honor her memory by helping those who are swimming for that shore of healing, wholeness, and connection that we all need.
As Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”
Thank you for giving me the honor to share my story with you and your readers.
Once again I thank Tricia so much for sharing her story. Please don’t forget to click on her link below for more information.
Please visit her blog at https://www.mindlikesky.net/