by Laura Monteverdi // Photo by Jamison Mosley
Throughout my career as a reporter and news anchor, I have covered many different types of stories.
Some of my favorites are from my time spent in Sioux Falls, S.D.
I had my own series called “Life with Laura,” where I had the opportunity to do everything from ride in a hot air balloon, to learn how to ski and snowboard and even milk a cow. It’s South Dakota – why not?
However, I’ve also covered many more difficult stories.
I was on the scene the day a little girl’s body was pulled from an icy river, days after she jumped in to rescue her little brother who had fallen in. The little boy survived.
I was first on the scene of a deadly accident that killed a mother, father and two of their three children. Their youngest daughter, away at college at the time, had no idea she was now an orphan.
I was also given the opportunity to interview a mother of nine who lost her husband and two children in a deadly tornado in 2014. For two years, she turned down interviews, even an invitation to the White House, but for some reason, she agreed to share her story with me.
These are just some of the many stories I have shared over the years. But there is one I never thought I would ever have to share.
On Sept. 16, 2015, I received a phone call that changed my entire life.
My boyfriend, Brock Timothy Eidsness, had passed away from a heroin overdose.
Brock was the best man I have ever known. He was the man I planned to marry. We talked about our future, goals and a life with children. He had dreams of directing a major film one day.
He loved his family.
He loved his friends.
He loved me.
I never imagined I would lose the man I loved at such a young age.
Nor did I imagine heroin would be the reason.
Brock’s death was a shock to everyone who knew him.
I knew very little about Brock’s past with drugs, but naïve me thought I knew enough.
When he was 15, he hurt his leg playing football. His coach gave him oxycodone for the pain.
That is what ultimately led to his addiction. Several years later, he was arrested for selling painkillers.
He spent two years in prison before getting out and getting a fresh start.
He graduated from college with honors and a degree in film.
His life was his again, free from drugs.
I met Brock a few years later. He told me parts of his story, and I listened to every word. I was shocked, but I thought to myself, “Well, he’s clean now, so he must be fine.”
I never thought of him as an addict or that he had a problem. I thought he made a mistake, and his past was in his past.
I had no idea at that point that addiction never goes away. It may lie dormant, but recovery is an everyday battle.
I had no idea of the battle Brock was fighting each day behind that bright, beautiful smile.
Until it was too late.
When I look back now, I see the signs I missed.
There was the time I thought he had the flu in the middle of the summer. He was ghostly pale and couldn’t eat. I remember going and buying him Pepto Bismol and Gatorade. I had no idea he was going through withdrawals.
Then there were the missed calls. The apologies for forgetting to call and say goodnight. The secret trips where he would “be right back,” only to return hours later.
These changes in behavior were not characteristic of Brock, but I had no idea of his addiction, that ugly dormant beast, was awakening.
When Brock died that September day, a part of me died too.
I crawled into a hole, and I stayed there.
I didn’t talk about how he passed, even though I knew people wondered what happened to an otherwise healthy 27-year-old.
If people dared to ask, I would say I wouldn’t want to talk about it.
Sometimes I lied.
It’s easy to say someone passed away in a car crash or died from cancer. Those things, while tragic, happen every day.
It’s not easy, however, to say someone died of an overdose. Trust me. I tried.
For two years, I sat quietly. I didn’t talk about Brock’s death to anyone. I avoided any topic or story about drugs. When the words heroin or overdose came on the prompter while I was reading the news, I froze. I physically could not read them.
I was paralyzed by the stigma of addiction.
I was terrified of what people would say about this incredible man I loved so deeply. I feared the words “addict” or “junkie.”
I was terrified that how he died would define him.
Until one day I decided, I refuse to let it.
On November 1, 2017, I stood in front of a room of 1,500 people at the Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Hot Springs, and I shared my story.
It was the most terrifying day of my life.
In doing that, it opened the door to many incredible opportunities to share Brock’s story and educate people on addiction.
More importantly, it helped me to see that I am not alone in this. I am no longer on an island.
Since sharing my story that day, I have traveled the state, speaking at schools, churches and forums.
I produced an Emmy Award-winning documentary called “Saving a Generation: The New Face of Drug Addiction,” which highlights the opioid epidemic in Arkansas and conducted interviews with dozens of families who have lost a loved one to this disease.
In February 2019, I produced a mini docuseries called “Saving a Generation: Out For Life,” in which I shared the stories of four young men in jail because of their addictions and a program that aims to help them prepare for life after they get out.
It’s been a whirlwind year for me, but it’s also been very difficult at times.
Every time I share Brock’s story, it’s like ripping a Band-Aid off a wound that hasn’t quite yet healed.
Sometimes I get angry, and I wonder why God put me in this position. Why do I have to do this? Why me?
Then he showed me why.
On October 30, 2018, I was in my car and came to the intersection of Sam Peck and Cantrell in Little Rock.
A car was stopped, and after several lights, it still had not moved.
When I got out of the car to see what was wrong, the driver in front of me did the same.
He went to the driver’s side door, opened it, and the body of a young woman fell out.
She was blue. She was not breathing, and her eyes were wide open.
When I ran up to the car, the first thing I saw was a needle and spoon in her seat.
I called 911 immediately and told them we needed Narcan, which is an opioid overdose antidote.
It took several minutes, but the police arrived and were able to administer the Narcan.
She immediately woke up.
I left that day not knowing what happened to her.
I didn’t know if she went to jail or the hospital.
I didn’t know if she left and overdosed again.
But God works in mysterious ways.
Thanks to a post I made on Facebook, the young woman and I connected a few weeks later.
She shared her story with me and told me how she has been using heroin for over a year.
She’s 29, the same age as me, and she has a little girl.
Her family had no idea she was using or that she continued to use even after she overdosed that day.
It took three months, but that young woman finally agreed to get help.
She entered a treatment center in Arkansas and is now nearly four months clean.
Today, I don’t leave the house without Narcan. This small device that can fit inside a purse can immediately save someone’s life.
Narcan is to an overdose as electric heart paddles are to heart failure. Both will revive you temporarily, but neither will beat the underlying disease.
But it CAN change someone’s life.
It can give them a second chance or a third or a fourth or a fifth.
I see proof of that every single day through the eyes of that young woman.
So back to WHY ME?
That question I asked God over and over again.
Well, today – I say WHY NOT ME?
Addiction does not discriminate.
It doesn’t care what color your skin is. What kind of house you grew up in or what kind of car you drive. It doesn’t care how much money you make or how popular you are.
It doesn’t care whether you’re just sitting at a stop sign minding your business on a Tuesday afternoon.
Addiction can affect us all, and for many of you, it already has.
And if it hasn’t, you probably just don’t know it yet.
When I look at Brock, I don’t see an addict. Or a junkie. A druggie.
And I doubt you do either.
That’s how addiction shows itself.
In the cashier at Kroger.
In the man sitting next to you at church.
In your best friend sitting next to you in class.
THIS is the new face of drug addiction.
And many of us are blind to it.
If there is anything you all take away from you, it’s this:
Addiction is a disease – not a character flaw.
No one wakes up saying they want to be an addict.
I can guarantee you that.
Today I continue my work to spread awareness and hope and end the stigma of addiction.
One thing I remember most from the early stages of my grief was how alone I felt.
I attended a grief group at a local church, and while it was helpful, I felt afraid to share about my loss because of the way Brock died. I never want anyone to feel the way I did.
Shortly after his death, a friend introduced me to an online Facebook group called GRASP, which stands for Grief Recovery after Substance Passing. The group is private, and only for those who have lost a loved one to substance abuse. I found solace in this group and felt I could open up to these people. Even though they are strangers, we are all familiar with what it’s like to lose someone the way we have.
Several GRASP chapters meet all over the country. However, when I looked, there was not a single one in Arkansas.
I prayed for several years that someone would start a chapter locally. I prayed and prayed until God’s whisper turned into a roar. I knew I was meant to start one.
So I did.
In April of 2019, I, alongside my friend Tamera Deaver, held the first GRASP meeting in Arkansas.
The group is small, but sadly, I know it will grow.
GRASP is a safe haven. It’s a private place where those who know the loss and pain of addiction well can grieve together and not fear judgment.
I pray one day we can end the stigma of addiction.
I truly believe If we can be kind and show compassion for those struggling, instead of judging, we can save lives.