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A Sister’s Plea: End the Stigma of Addiction


Dear Community,

My brother, Jamie, was many things to me — funny, obnoxious, caring, loving, a partner in crime, and a best friend. I’ve never met anyone that could make me so angry but laugh uncontrollably all at once.

He was vibrant, outgoing, full of life. He was the kind of person you wanted as a friend: considerate, loving, and non-judgmental.

Jamie held me together when I was down, made me laugh when I was stressed, and always made me feel like I was truly doing my best. He believed in me.

I guess you could call me oblivious for the first few years of Jamie’s drug addiction. He was a role model to me, so I never wanted to see the worst in him. He tried to hide his disease because of the stigma and shame surrounding it. Substance use disorder was never talked about, it’s the disease we hide.

I share with you the narrative of Jamie’s battle, not to dwell on the pain of loss, but to shed light on the barriers that prevented him from receiving the help he so desperately needed. Without the threat of judgment and the stigma that surrounds substance use disorder, there may have been a better chance that he would still be with us.

Once I had become aware of his addiction, I started noticing more of his behaviors, things that just weren’t Jamie. He was different and lying more – I knew that wasn’t him in there. He was taken over by something much more powerful than he was. I just didn’t understand then that it was the drugs lying to me and not my brother.

For years, my family and I kept Jamie’s substance use disorder a secret, obeying his wishes to not tell anyone. It wasn’t easy. The stigma caused us all to suffer – if we could have talked about it to others without judgement, we could have helped him, maybe we could have saved his life.

This is part of addiction we often don’t talk about – the impact it has on the family.

In 2015, Jamie took the courageous step to ask for help, leading him to an inpatient treatment center. It marked the beginning of a journey that saw him achieve moments of sobriety and happiness. Even though he was sober, the disease loomed. It would be something he knew he’d struggle with his whole life. But because stigma persisted, it stunted his sobriety.

On December 7th at 12:23 AM Jamie called me to see how I was. I was studying for finals and stressed but he kept telling me how great I was going to do. It was reassuring to hear his encouragement. We ended our phone call the way we usually did, with saying “I love you.” That was the last time I spoke with Jamie.

I lost my brother on December 7, 2016, to an accidental drug overdose. Jamie died in Florida while he was receiving treatment for addiction. His story is not just a tragedy; it is a testament to the barriers created by stigma and the need for change.

Jamie’s story is not just my family’s story; it’s a story that countless families across the nation grapple with — a story of substance use disorder and the stigma that shrouds it. 

Substance use disorder is disease. It can affect anyone; in fact, you probably don’t even realize you know someone who is struggling with addiction.

My family is using Jamie’s story as a catalyst for change, and we want you to talk about it. We want you to talk about substance use disorder, because we want to reduce the stigma around addiction and prevent anyone else from going through what we did.

The Jamie Daniels Foundation, which was created by my parents, aims to keep Jamie’s legacy alive. It serves as a beacon of hope, encouraging open conversations about substance use disorders, and providing prevention programming and recovery support to those in need. I am proud of the work they have done, but we need your support.

The opposite of addiction is community, so I invite you stand with me – to stand together as a community and break the stigma – to create a world where stories like Jamie’s become fewer.

Thank you,

Arlyn Daniels


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