Addiction is a disease. No one awakens one morning and decides they want to be an alcoholic or drug addict. No parent wants to raise an addicted child. No spouse wants to be married to an addict. No child wants to have an addicted parent. Yet it happens, all too frequently, with devastating results.
We are Mariann and Len O’Connor. Our beautiful daughter, our only child, Elizabeth Rose Olsen, was found lifeless on July 5, 2016, from a lethal overdose of narcotics at the age of 26.
Boston Liz, as she was known to her friends, was beautiful, talented, loving—and addicted. What had begun in high school as taking pills to “get high” morphed into a full-blown addiction satisfied by just about any drug within her reach.
Our story is the same horrific story told by many other helpless and distraught parents of drug-addicted children. As parents, we denied we were being her enablers when we smoothed her road with a financial bailout; we believed her when she lied about using, we believed ourselves when we thought a word or deed could fix things. We found excuses for her failures and blamed life’s early childhood events for the addiction. When we couldn’t bear to blame our child, we blamed ourselves. And though we know in our hearts that only Elizabeth could save Elizabeth, the unbearable weight of her death still takes our breath away, can bring us to our knees and reduce us to tears at any given moment, on any given day for no apparent reason.
We saw that being clean came a little easier for Elizabeth when she worked a 12 Step program, had a job, surrounded herself with a strong support team and focused on the future. She needed to spend less time being frustrated about her past and the negative “things” of life. She needed to spend more time paying attention to the inner healing necessary to beat the disease.
The Foundation’s mission is to help qualified recovering individuals obtain some of these basic life necessities so they can feel better about themselves and work to gain serenity.
Near the end of my daughter’s eulogy, I spoke about how Len and I never planned to bury our child. Our plan was to grow old watching her grow up. We expected that Elizabeth would beat this hideous disease, bring illumination to the dark world of addiction, and shine her light on those who needed her help. God had other plans. Therefore, with love and respect for Elizabeth’s search for truth it seems the only thing we can do is pick up her torch.
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