A devastating obituary for a young mum is a powerful reminder of the human toll of opioid addiction

Madelyn Linsenmeir/FacebookMadelyn Linsenmeir and her son, Ayden.
  • An obituary for Madelyn Linsenmeir, who died of opioid addiction, went viral this week.
  • Written by her sister, it detailed how Linsenmeir improved the lives around her, but had her life destroyed by her addiction.
  • The obituary drew renewed attention to the personal toll of the opioid crisis.

An obituary for a mother who died following a struggle with drug addiction went viral, drawing fresh attention to the opioid epidemic plaguing swathes of the United States.

The obituary for Madelyn Linsenmeir was published Sunday in the Vermont-based Seven Days newspaper. It was written by Kate O’Neill, her eldest sister, after Linsenmeir died on October 7. O’Neill is awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of her death, according to People.

The obituary is about Linsenmeir’s warmth, and how beloved she was by her family and the community of people who advocated for her and helped her during her addiction.

“Madelyn was a born performer and had a singing voice so beautiful it would stop people on the street. Whether she was onstage in a musical or around the kitchen table with her family, when she shared her voice, she shared her light,” the obituary reads. “She was adored as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend and mother, and being loved by Madelyn was a constantly astonishing gift.”

But it also explores the dark side of her addiction. She tried OxyContin for the first time when she was 16, wrote O’Neill. Opiates subsequently dominated her life. Linsenmeir also had a son, Ayden, who was born in 2014.

“After having Ayden, Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable,” O’Neill wrote. “Her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame.”

More than 115 people die every day in the United States after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a figure that’s spiked since 2015. Addiction often begins from the prescription of OxyContin, a legal and highly addictive painkiller created by Purdue Pharma.

The obituary drove new attention to the crisis when it went viral this week.

O’Neill told People that she hopes her writing inspires people to offer compassion to those suffering from opioid addiction.

“The hundreds of thousands of people who have this disease, most of them don’t look like Maddie. Many of them don’t. It’s easy to see a photo of a beautiful, young white woman and feel empathy,”she told People. “But this disease is happening to so many people. When they see the person it’s harder to feel empathy for, the guy sleeping on the footpath … I want them to see those people and see Maddie. That’s Maddie.”

The obituary also included a message to people who work in professions that deal with addicts.

“If you work in one of the many institutions through which addicts often pass – rehabs, hospitals, jails, courts – and treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve, thank you,” O’Neill wrote. “If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession.”

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