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On April 21, 2016 the world lost a musical legend. On that day Prince Rogers Nelson, better known to the world as Prince, died unexpectedly at the age of 57. I was on a lunch break when I got the news from my daughter in a text that Prince had passed away and I could not believe it…


I immediately jumped online to see if this was one of those celebrity death hoaxes or if it was real and the first site I went to was CNN and it was breaking news. When I saw that, no exaggeration, my eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to keep myself from crying. It’s only May, and already so many people have died this year; from well-known celebrities to everyday people, it seems not a week has gone by without news of someone’s passing.

 

The news of Prince’s death though hit especially hard because it was so unexpected; he had just performed at a concert a few days before and seemed fine…
When I got back to work I shared the news with my coworkers and they were all as shocked as I was and one of my coworkers was hit especially hard, as he said that Prince was on his bucket list to see perform live and now he would never have the chance. I remember clicking on a clip of Latoya Jackson talking about Prince’s death with her mom, and how upset her mom got because it was like she was reliving the loss of her son Michael all over again. When she said that and started to cry I had to turn it off because I was on the verge of tears and I refused to cry at work.

 

Of course not long after Prince passed, the rumors of how he died started. Why people are so quick to put out all types of lies and innuendo I will never understand; everything from AIDS to murder was floated and one particular cause that really caught my attention was an overdose.


A Point of Reflection

 

I remember when I first heard and read this I took to Twitter and put out a tweet that said I hoped it wasn’t true. I had never heard anything about Prince abusing drugs and knew that with his devout faith, this is something that wouldn’t even enter his thought process. But then I had to catch myself; since when did faith have anything to do with addiction, if this were true?


As the rumors started to pick up steam, I remember thinking so what if he did have an addiction? Did that negate everything he meant to me and millions of people all over the world? Did that change his gift, his talent, his legacy? If anyone could understand about addiction it would be me as I have dealt with family members who are now thankfully in long term recovery, and lost a brother to alcoholism. That didn’t change how I much I loved my brother, it didn’t change how much he meant to me and all the people he touched…

 

As the rumors were confirmed and news came out that he was seeking treatment for opioid dependence; as a matter of fact he was scheduled to check into rehab the day he died, it once again brought into crystal clear focus how devastating any dependence on drugs can be. This may be controversial, but I don’t believe that Prince was a person suffering from addiction I believe he was a person suffering from chronic pain. He had been dealing with debilitating hip pain for years and was simply trying to find relief. All I can do is speculate, but it could be that his body had built up a tolerance to the painkillers he was taking so he had to take higher doses to get some relief and accidentally overdosed. We’ll know more once the full autopsy results are released but that is what I believe happened and nothing that comes out will really change my mind.


If there is any good that can come from such a tragic loss like this, it’s that it is bringing new awareness to the issue of how to deal with chronic pain management. We need to understand that there are millions of people who depend on opioids not to get high, but just to literally be able to take a step without being in excruciating pain. How do those people survive without what is for them lifesaving medicine and not suffer the same fate Prince did?


Prince’s sudden passing has brought these people out of the shadows to speak up in hopes of breaking the stigma that people who rely on these opioids face. They want people to know that for them, their opioid use is not because of a brain disease; it is a way to deal with the nonstop daily physical pain that they have to endure and that for the vast majority of them, they can do so without developing an addiction.


I know this is controversial and I know that there are many people who are much more learned than me who will disagree, but I for one have been doing a lot of reading on this since Prince’s passing and the stories are heartbreaking. I hope that these people will continue to come forward and share their stories to help educate the rest of us so that we won’t judge them as we judge others who are dealing with issues we can’t understand.


Rest In Paisley Prince; you will be missed.

 

Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).
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