Chris' story: The final chapter

By Randall Poulton | Jul 18, 2019

On June 18, Chris’ lifeless body was found in her bathtub. Although the cause of death has not been officially determined, it appears she passed out and drowned. Chris’ death, at age 57, was the final chapter in her 30-year struggle with substance abuse. Regular readers of this column may remember Chris’ life story. Here is a recap:

Chris was a successful attorney with a lovely family. She had it all. But all included a lust for alcohol and drugs combined with a predisposition to addiction. Her life journey from lawyer, wife and mother to unemployed, divorced and estranged from her children is littered with “what ifs.”

What if she had not been prescribed a powerful pain killer to treat a fairly minor shoulder injury? What if it was not so easy to obtain copious quantities of prescription drugs through the mail? What if cheap heroin and fentanyl were not pouring into the Maine via Mexico? What if the rehab facilities she entered had been locked down so she was forced to stay and complete her treatment? What if the doctors who repeatedly treated her for substance abuse-related illness and injury had blue-papered her? What if the cab driver who brought her the booze, at $100 a pop, had said no? What if? What if? What if?

But none of these life-changers occurred and Chris is dead. Her obituary says she died “unexpectedly.” That is a lie. What was unexpected is she lived as long as she did. Everyone who knew her could see the disease was winning. In fact, Chris had quit fighting. When I recently told her that she was drinking and drugging herself to death, Chris cavalierly replied: “Everyone has to die sometime.” Definitely not unexpected.

In fact, Chris almost died a couple of months ago: She was found unresponsive at the bottom of the stairs in her home. A week in ICU and a half-dozen blood transfusions brought her back from death’s door.

Apparently, she had passed out after grinding up and snorting Adderall, then chasing it with a bottle or more of straight vodka. Most people cannot imagine ingesting drugs and alcohol in such a self-destructive manner. But for an addict it was just another party, albeit one that ended in the ER.

In the last two years, Chris had three “boyfriends.” They too, all died “unexpectedly.” Jack, a heavy drinker with a huge beer gut, went first. He suffered a fatal heart attack, likely triggered by snorting coke or meth.

The next in line, Steve, literally drank himself to death. His liver and pancreas quit working and 60-year-old Steve died in a nursing home, finally choking to death on his own vomit. His obituary stated Steve died “after a brief illness.”

The third boyfriend, Fletcher, died June 4. His was the classic story: Fletcher used a dirty needle and got a life-threatening infection in his arm. He was in the hospital 10 weeks. As soon as Fletcher was discharged, like most addicts, he went looking for a “fix.” Because he had been clean for 10 weeks, the dose that would have gotten him high 10 weeks ago killed him. Fletcher had a seizure and died on the sidewalk.

This is the truth about the “unexpected” deaths of Chris and her friends. They were all active users suffering from substance abuse disorder. They were all unemployed and well known to law enforcement.

Chris was arrested and transported several times, spending a few nights in jail. But what she needed was months of treatment. Chris was also a frequent flyer at the ER. Yet, the doctors always found her sane enough to be released.

I knew Chris was killing herself and so did many other people. What made the situation so frustrating, is there was virtually nothing anyone could do to save her. In Maine, it is perfectly legal to drink and drug yourself to death. So very sad and such a waste of a life. May Chris rest in peace.

Epilog: Substance abuse extracts a terrible toll, not just on the user but also on their family, on their friends and on all taxpayers. The fact is, whether you knew Chris and her boyfriends or not, you were impacted by their disease and subsequent behaviors.

Just imagine the health care bills Jack, Steve, Fletcher and Chris racked up in the last couple of years. I am sure their combined medical bills totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

For hospitals, the cost of dealing with “frequent flyers” in the ER is staggering and we all pay for it: through higher taxes (to pay first responders and law enforcement), higher health care costs (hospitals pass on the cost of charity care to the rest of us) and higher health insurance premiums.

And yet, as a society, we don’t seem to have the will to stop the epidemic of substance abuse. Our southern border is a sieve — 90% of the heroin and fentanyl used in Maine comes from Mexico. Cab drivers willingly deliver booze to addicts. An involuntary commitment, or “blue papering” of an adult, addict or not, is all but impossible. Suicide by bottle is totally legal.

The outcome is heart-wrenching and expensive, but not unexpected.

Randall Poulton lives in Winterport.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.