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Lessening the stigma of opioid addiction

A Weber State University 1999 graduate, Maureen Cavanagh, came back to WSU to teach students about opioid addiction and how she learned through family experience how to combat it.

Author of “If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughters Opioid Addiction”, Cavanagh spoke to students on October 3, 2019 in the Interprofessional Education building, which was full of EMT students, health professions students and athletic trainers.

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Maureen hopes to spread awareness about opioid addiction with her personal story of her daughter (Israel Campa / The Signpost)

Cavanagh grew up in New York City. She came to Weber State University to get away from her drug and alcohol addicted family members and raise her children in a better environment. As her children got older, Cavanagh decided to move back East to Massachusetts to get her education degree.

Cavanagh told the story of her daughter and her fight for her life. She said her daughter was a very sweet girl. She did well during school and eventually graduated high school as an honor student. Somehow, during her first year of college she began to experiment with different drugs and alcohol.

Cavanagh immediately searched for help for her daughter, taking her to the ER and later admitting her to outpatient addiction programs. After 13 overdoses and 40 different addiction rehabs, she continued to fall down hill. She had no idea that it was this bad. She was scared for her daughter’s life.

Cavanagh said to her daughter one night as she was crying on the kitchen floor while relapsing, “Katie, I love you, but you are going to die.” Then her daughter replied, “If you love me, let me die.”

Cavanagh explained to students that there are different ways that stigma impacts people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. She told them that she had been terrified to reach out for help knowing that it could hurt her daughter to have the whole community know about her opioid addiction. She didn’t think anyone could understand what her family was going through.

She was trying so hard to keep her daughter’s reputation while still searching for help. Cavanagh felt several times that all hope was lost and her daughter would eventually lose the battle against opioids.

The New York Times approached her asking if she would write a book about her experiences. She began to write the book “If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughters Opioid Addiction.”

She decided to write this book for the mothers and family members out there thinking that they are alone in the battle against opioids. She wrote it to tell her story about the real life experiences of having a child addicted to drugs, hoping that someone would read it and understand what their child was going through.

Cavanagh later started a foundation called “Magnolia New Beginnings” where they run a non-profit helping people in recovery. The group currently has over 25,000 support groups online 24/7 to help people to reach sobriety. The foundation also raises money for people in recovery to go back to school and get an education.

Cavanagh is a life trainer and family recovery coach helping families everywhere to recover from addiction. “Be delusionally optimistic, no matter how hard the situation you are in. Always hold on to hope,” Cavanagh said.

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