In this episode, I'm joined by two special guests, harm reduction activist Julie Stampler and award-winning documentary filmmaker Jamie Boyle. We discuss the opioid epidemic through the frame of the incredible documentary Anonymous Sister, directed by Jamie Boyle, produced by Marilyn Ness, and executive produced by Julie Stampler. This is the story of one American family, but what happened to them could happen to any family. We learn about Julie's brother, Jonathan, who died from a heroin overdose, and how his death led Julie into her life of activism and harm reduction work. We see two different paths to managing addiction and substance abuse disorder. This is a story told by two women who watched their siblings suffer. This show is dedicated to all the siblings out there who are anonymous witnesses.
For the visually-minded who prefer to listen and read or for those who need closed captioning, watch the transcript video here: https://youtu.be/oD0vVqw-w6w
When a young woman turns to the camera for refuge, she ends up with a firsthand account of what will become the deadliest man-made epidemic in United States history. From the producers of Dick Johnson Is Dead and Summer of Soul, Anonymous Sister is two-time Emmy Award winner Jamie Boyle's chronicle of her family's collision with the opioid epidemic.
Anonymous Sister will be playing at IFC Center in New York June 2nd - 8th and Laemmle Theater in Los Angeles June 16th - 22nd, with more cities to follow.
Select screenings will be accompanied by special events and panels. For details and info about upcoming events:
Jamie Boyle is a two-time Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker. Her work has played at Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW. In 2019, she was part of the inaugural Sundance Talent Forum & Catalyst Lab and on DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list. She is the writer and editor of BREAKING THE NEWS, premiering Tribeca Film Festival in June 2023. She is the director and editor of ANONYMOUS SISTER, a personal feature documentary coming to theaters in summer 2023 and produced by Big Mouth Productions (DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, CAMERAPERSON) and Vulcan Productions (SUMMER OF SOUL, THE REASON I JUMP). She was the editor, producer, and cinematographer of JACKSON (Showtime), winner of the 2018 Emmy® Award. She was the editor of TRANS IN AMERICA: TEXAS STRONG, winner of the 2019 Emmy® for Outstanding Short Documentary and two Webby Awards. TEXAS STRONG premiered at SXSW and launched on them. She was the associate editor and production manager of E-TEAM (Netflix), which won the 2014 Sundance Cinematography Award and was nominated for two News & Documentary Emmys®, including Best Documentary. She was the director, cinematographer, and editor of the short documentary TAKE A VOTE, which premiered at DOC NYC in 2020. She was the in-house editor for The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch. She taught at the Bronx Documentary Center, as a guest lecturer at Columbia University, and served as a judge for the News & Documentary Emmy Awards.
Julie Stampler is a voiceover actress and harm reduction activist who is a National Harm Reduction Coalition Board Member. Julie's harm reduction advocacy work aims to help people who use drugs stay alive rather than pushing for abstinence-only approaches. She advocates for the importance of overdose prevention programs, training people on when and how to use and distribute naloxone/Narcan, and advocating for overdose prevention centers that focus on keeping people alive with access to social service resources. Julie's life-saving work stems from her brother Jonathan's untimely death from a heroin overdose 20 years ago. In a twist of irony, her stepfather Jack Fishman was the scientist credited with inventing naloxone which can reverse an overdose from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications—when given in time.
[00:00:00] Julie Stampler: Our stories are so different, but so interconnected. And when I say this work, it's the harm reduction community work. It's the overdose prevention work. It's the trials and tribulations of addiction and substance use disorder. I would be hard pressed to find anyone that hasn't been impacted in some way or another, whether it's by a direct connection or an indirect connection.
And for me, it's a direct connection from multiple angles. I had an older brother who lost his battle with substance use disorder in 2003, who ultimately overdosed and died. And that motivates my work in this area. And the irony of the story is that my stepfather, Jack Fishman, is credited with inventing naloxone, which is the opioid reversal drug that we're hearing talked about a lot now in the form of Narcan.
So, in the work that I do, which a lot of the time focuses on training people how to reverse an overdose, for me, it's honoring the legacy of my stepfather and the memory of my brother.
[00:01:17] Carole Blueweiss: Welcome to Season 3 of Wisdom Shared, where parents, their children, and siblings are the experts, and where connection inspires change. I am your host, Carole Blueweiss. You just heard the voice of Julie Stampler, a friend of mine, and she's one of my special guests on this show. Julie is the mother of three children, a voiceover actress, a harm reduction activist, and executive producer of the documentary film Anonymous Sister, a story about one family told from the viewpoint of not only the entire family, but also experts and a Purdue Pharma executive who shares disturbing stories about how she was trained to sell and market opioids.
I am so grateful to have Jamie Boyle join us on this episode as well. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and the director and editor of Anonymous Sister. Jamie opens up a window for us and invites us inside to see her family's space.
We've all heard of the opioid epidemic by now, but we might not appreciate yet the complexity of what actually happened. And how and why people became dependent on these pills and how Purdue Pharma played a huge role in misleading the American people. This is a unique story of one family, and yet the people can be anyone we know.
Jamie helps us see so much of what is usually invisible to the public eye. It's like seeing what lies beyond the Facebook smiles. You know what I mean. Let's listen.
Welcome to Wisdom Shared.
[00:02:59] Julie Stampler: Thank you Carole. And thank you for the opportunity to be here. We came together basically singing kirtans, which was magical and still holds a dear place in my life. So grateful that we were connected so many years ago. And then here you are bringing your wealth of knowledge to people and giving people like Jamie and I an opportunity to share our stories.
Jamie and I have a mutual dear friend who has become that for both of us. Marilyn Ness is an incredible producer, director, documentary filmmaker, and playwright. Been an honor to have been connected and to help Jamie share her story because as I know, I think I can speak for Jamie, as we do tell our stories, there's healing in every moment.
[00:03:42] Carole Blueweiss: Let's let Jamie describe, well, tell us about herself and about the documentary, even the name of the documentary and how that even became the name of the documentary.
[00:03:52] Jamie Boyle: Sure. Yes. I've tried to think about how to parse this down into a few sentences because the documentary does follow my entire life. But to make a very long story short, I started filming my mom and my sister about 15 years ago now when I was still in college. And I had just taken an intro to film course. I started filming them because they were both becoming increasingly dependent on the opioids they were being prescribed. I didn't know that that's what was happening at the time.
Of course, I had an inkling, but there it was wrapped up with so many other potential illnesses and pain and side effects that it was really, we didn't know what to untangle. I just knew they were very sick, and we were worried about both of them and then worried about each other. So, I started filming just as a student kind of project, and about a month after I finished, my sister went to rehab, and then about six months after that, my mom was able to get sober with the help of medication-assisted treatment and did it at home by herself with my dad's support.
But anyway, I graduated college and moved on, you know, tried to embark on a documentary career. By this point I really believed in the form, and it had provided so much to me in a moment of real distress and not knowing where else to turn. So, I started telling other stories for a living. Moved to New York from Colorado and met Marilyn, Julie's friend who she mentioned, and actually was her intern to start out back in 2011 or 12.
And yeah, I came to her with the idea for a feature film using that footage and combined with present day footage and my family's home movies and old archival and expert testimonial, and wanted to interweave our whole story with the larger picture of the epidemic with other stories, if that made sense, with kind of the macro view.
And she was completely on board and very supportive. Julie said everybody's been touched in some way by this, and she was really interested in this issue from a lot of different angles, from the medical malpractice to the failure of, you know, governing bodies to the lack of support and resources for treatment.
So, she was really interested in it and, and a very accomplished documentarian. So having her come on as producer was phenomenal. And from there, we just gained support. Julie being a huge, huge component of that. And we've had various different versions of the rollout of this film, so it went to festivals all of last year. That's a little bit of who I am. And yeah, I have done other documentaries that I'm incredibly proud of. They're all in the social justice sphere.
[00:06:34] Carole Blueweiss: I did see a few Emmys in there. You're very modest.
[00:06:37] Jamie Boyle: Yes. Thank you.
[00:06:38] Carole Blueweiss: You said nothing about us, without us, which we all know is a slogan that's used in the disability community. And this podcast started off as interviewing parents of children with disability because I did feel that nobody was asking the parents. And then I started to interview the kids too, when it's appropriate. And anytime I can, I will. And this slogan has come up and I think it's a very important one.
And here we are talking about a story about the opioid epidemic as it's come to be called. And yet we're still coming back to why did this happen and whose story are we listening to? It's very complicated. And yet a lot of the film was done when you were a child. Was your father like a professional photographer or videographer? Or he just was like a passionate amateur?
[00:07:32] Jamie Boyle: He would be so flattered by that suggestion. I always like to say of all my family members, like I'm the least artistic of all of them, although none of them made a living doing that. My sister's a phenomenal singer. My dad is a writer and my mom's a painter. And owned a feed store.
I come from a very working class family background and he actually got the top salesman prize, which happened to be a camera, or I think his feed store did. And he got the camera because it was only like three employees. So he ended up with that camera, which is a big question for people because apparently in the 90s you didn't really have one of those unless you had certain amount of money.
So, people who were adults at that time are, how does he have this camera? And he loved it. I credited him with a cinematography credit because he's a great shooter. And now that I know that world, I really recognize his talent, the way he followed my sister and I. So that, or the bulk of what makes this film so great, are those home movies.
Really that's why we say 30 years in the making. So, it sat around for a long time, that footage, just not doing anything with it. And as the epidemic got worse and more and more stories came out, and I got more and more comfortable behind the camera and telling these bigger stories, I circled back to it and tried to figure out a way to use it all.
What I was gonna say to Julie was that I was feeling especially about, you know, five years ago, around 2016, that all of the media portrayals, or the bulk of them that we saw, all looked the same and felt the same. And it often would be people at their worst and sadly, their least recognizable. The hardest part of the hell of addiction is that, you know, when people are in the most need, all the things are working against them. Everything from behavior to hygiene to how they present themselves to everything, distancing people and society from them. And I kept feeling like all of the media portrayals really focus on that, just that part of their life.
And only the people, their family and their loved ones, knew their whole person, who they were before this, how they got into it, who they were after, if they survived, you know? And it was that whole picture that I really felt like was missing. So as painful as it was to offer my family's intimate home movies, which now is pretty normal, but from the 90s, not so much.
Offer those up for the world felt like a big sacrifice and asking them for a big sacrifice. But it felt worth it because it didn't feel like we ever got to see the whole person behind this issue and these stories in a way that, that yeah, everybody could connect with and see.
[00:10:08] Carole Blueweiss: I can say as a viewer, I was able to see the latest version of the film, and I feel like I read a 1000-page novel where I got every character in the story. And I could even see myself seeing this family in their Christmases, in July 4th, and in the living room and in between things and good times and bad times because you always had the camera also, or someone in your family always had the camera.
And if I didn't know the understory, it seemed like the American family that everything is fine. Everybody's happy family that does everything together and sings karaoke together and supportive and the sisters get along and the mother's beautiful. And so, it almost played with my head because I'm seeing so much good and then so much tragedy.
[00:11:02] Julie Stampler: And I think that's the magic of, one of the words that's continued to come up during this process is courage. The courage of Jamie and her family to share their story. And I think that's so much value. So yes, we get to see their, the family home movies, but we're watching the spiral at the same time. And while we can hear all the news stories about the opioid crisis, coupled with the Covid pandemic, coupled with fentanyl on the streets, all of it. It doesn't become human, right?
We can push it away, we can dissociate from it. But what Jamie has been able to do, and so wonderfully willing to do, is basically open up her family and her family agreed, thankfully, to share their story. And now all of a sudden, it becomes real. It's like, wait, those people look like me or that looks like my family. And those are the kinds of things that we did. And holy crap, this could happen to us.
And I think that's part of the hope for putting this film out there is that it does help. And we already know it's helped. You know, one of the things that I don't actually know that we've even given the name of the documentary of the film yet, but that was the seal of the deal for me, because the film is called Anonymous Sister.
[00:12:33] Carole Blueweiss: Yeah, I mentioned that in the beginning in one of my questions, so I'm glad you're bringing that back, Julie. Perfect. I'm curious. I can make up reasons, but I, they would all be guesses why you decided to name it Anonymous Sister?
[00:12:43] Julie Stampler: And I think the answer could be different for everybody. For me, it is so deeply layered because through my brother's substance use disorder, I was invisible or anonymous. So that's like when we were talking about the film already and it was like, oh, this sounds interesting. I might be willing to get involved. And then I was told the name and that was it. That's when I was like, oh, so this is a film for me. I understand. Right? And I had a different understanding of Jamie and a different, even getting to know Jamie's mom and hearing more about Jamie's sister and understanding, you know, there's the 12-step program, which is Alcoholics Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous.
So, there's lots of different layers. But for me it was the sister component of the anonymity that pulled me in. So, Jamie, I don't know if you want to share the story about how you landed on Anonymous Sister. I think that's vital.
[00:13:41] Jamie Boyle: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I never knew that Julie, so I'm so glad to hear that. And I knew you loved the title, but you never told me that story. So that means a lot, especially feels fated because I wrestled with that title so much and I felt like it wasn't clear enough and that I needed to come up with something better. And it really made, makes me feel like it was for a reason that it stayed.
So that means so much to me and, yeah, you're exactly right. It's open for interpretation and that's why I loved it. There are probably like 10 different reasons why I settled on that title, and I'll tell you the top few. The first one was, I was thinking of Jordan, my older sister who's in a 12-step program that obviously has anonymous in the name. And I always wanted to do something with that. I just was fascinated by the program.
And then there was, there's al-anon obviously for friends and family. But then my mom and people who use medication-assisted treatment were at least, you know, 15 years ago, a little ostracized from that community. And those are gaps that people are starting to bridge and I'm so grateful for that and working to bridge. I don't have a direct experience, so I can't speak so much to that as well as my family members could.
But the title really started to evolve to be more about me after that. And I think somebody said, oh, I figured the anonymous sister was you. And I was like, oh, maybe it is. Because I realized that I was playing with this theme of, people would ask me, why were you behind the camera and what made you film?
And then I think another filmmaker asked me like, were you hiding back there? Or I think you were hiding behind the camera. Even when she saw the videos of me little was that I just wanted to be behind this device. And I think as things started to get really bad in my household with my family members, I was so exasperated at times wanting to force them into getting help and nothing was budging.
And I felt so helpless in so many ways that it was like I had to be there, but I couldn't fully be there. I needed something in between me and what was happening. Like I needed a barrier, and I needed a level of anonymity. And so, it gave me all of those things.
And then, you know, I really did not want to put myself in the film. I felt like I wanted people to see kind of as me instead of see me as part of it. And what I learned quickly through, you know, great test screenings and feedback was, it was actually more distracting to not have me there. And they were just wondering who is this person and wanting to connect. So, I did add touches of myself throughout to grab onto, but that feeling of wanting to be anonymous and also finding some release in that anonymity really carried the day.
And then what compounded it as well was feeling like I could be anyone. My mom could be anyone, my sister could be anyone, my dad could be anyone. And this feeling of you could be any sister, any family member, any loved one that felt like it should kind of define this film and wrap its arms around everybody, even tangentially connected to this issue. That was the goal.
[00:16:56] Carole Blueweiss: Yeah, well now it's like, well, yeah, duh. Like, you know?
[00:16:59] Jamie Boyle: What did you think?
[00:17:01] Carole Blueweiss: Like I haven't had enough time to really even think too much about it, but my first just response, anonymous sister was, it was your sister who was not understood and she was struggling in anonymity.
[00:17:12] Jamie Boyle: That's definitely a component of it, I think. Yeah. Jordan and I are twisting mirror images of each other, as all siblings and especially sisters are, and she definitely struggles with feeling misunderstood and out of place and the kind of the loss of her in varying degrees, whether it be to substance use or just other life things has contributed, I think, to her feeling that way too.
[00:17:37] Carole Blueweiss: I thought it was really powerful to be with you behind that camera. Somehow you were able to show the feeling of not being able to help your family. Do you want to say anything about that, Julie, and you've experienced it in your family and what kind of reactions you get when you mention that you had a brother who had passed away from a heroin overdose?
[00:17:58] Julie Stampler: Everybody is always very, oh, I'm so sorry. You know. The prescription pain pill epidemic is a little different from someone who advances their substance use in a different path, which was ultimately the way my brother started. So, what we're learning today, and especially, you know, the story in Anonymous Sister, is someone will go through an experience, whether it's wisdom teeth, a broken ankle, surgery, whatever it might be, and they're given a prescription for pain pills. Or they just have chronic pain.
And so, they begin a prescription for Oxycontin, for Percocet, whatever it might be, and then become dependent upon it and then get cut off. And when that happens, now you're dealing with someone who's physically ill and needing to fix that. And, you know, when people talk about getting their fix, it drives people to the street to get heroin, which is super-duper easy to get.
And unfortunately, the drug supply now is essentially poisoned with fentanyl. And if you don't have any tolerance to fentanyl and you end up getting some heroin that has a little bit in it, you're gonna overdose. So, the CDC came out with new rates yesterday and in the last, I think it was two years, the rate of overdose deaths that are related to fentanyl went up 279%.
So, there's a lot that needs to be done. You know, one of the things that we were doing last year when we were on the festival run with the film is that we would do Narcan trainings at as many screenings as we could, and people would walk out with an overdose prevention kit. So, it's, while the film illuminates the pain of this disease of addiction, we also don't want people to walk out of there feeling completely hopeless. Right? We wanna give people power to save a life if they have to, to find resources for help if they need to. And that's what's really been an incredible part of the journey is, you know, we talk about, a lot of the time, we talk about the stigma and shame associated with substance use disorder.
So, someone to share their story, and that's what's so interesting is, again, it's called Anonymous Sister, but the last thing you're doing in this film is being anonymous. If anything, you are fully broadcasting your family. And I thank you repeatedly. And I think anybody who sees the film walks away going, wow, that was so brave.
And as you said, Jamie, in the beginning and, and as you say in the film, it could be me or it could be my sister, or, and so combating the stigma and the shame associated with substance use is tremendous. And so, we try to do that a lot with our language and how we talk about substance use disorder and people who use drugs. And it's just a great arena for this to happen.
[00:20:58] Carole Blueweiss: I want to add to what Julie's saying, Jamie, in that what you did so well in this film is show, not tell, you know? And the lines, I don't know if there was very few or a lot, but the message from me hearing how your mom and sister were fighting this addiction, let's say, and in the film you really feel that, I hate to use the word victim and I don't know if you would agree with me or not, but the people that ended up addicted to prescription medications, whether they're in a wealthy town or not a wealthy town, they were targeted and they were told that they don't have a problem over and over again. And so, what are your thoughts on that, on the tragedy and the frustration? Like the people that you look up to, the doctors and the government, they just failed.
[00:21:51] Jamie Boyle: Yeah, I mean, it's a really, that's a really great question and it's my favorite one to kind of untangle, although I could talk for way too long about it. Because I mean, first off, I really, I see, and I think we're moving as a society to a place where I see everybody who has substance use disorder as a victim of a variety of social and economic circumstances.
It depends on the individual, but my family members' path happens to be through their doctors. And, of course, that was enormously frustrating. I think that people who maybe have family members or loved ones who initially start with, you know, illicit drugs, the frustration is probably with their peer groups or their poverty level or their social circumstances. And that's no less frustrating or hard to combat, I'd say.
But I think that this is, I think the sad, unfortunate silver lining of this affecting the population that it has, is that it's forced people to look at substance use disorder in the correct light, which is as a disease that people suffer from for a number of reasons.
So, you know, that is, that's the good of it affecting everybody, you know, primarily an upper-class white population, is that finally you have lawmakers and society as a whole paying attention. Now, whether they will treat any other drug epidemic similarly is, you know, up for debate. But I can say that the added component of having the entire healthcare system playing a role in this was enough to drive me nearly crazy from a, you know, high-functioning, almost straight-A cheerleader to you know, a very cynical, very depressed, very anxiety-ridden, panic-ridden, 21-year-old.
And it did certainly feel like no matter where you turned, I mean, this was, granted, this was 2009, but it was every doctor, it was every hospital, it was every hotline you called. There was no information, no resources, no help. To the point where, you know, finally when you make some headway and convince them to try to just taper down.
And I think my mom says it in the film, we don't go into it very deep, but their doctors would drop them as patients. They would stop taking their calls and say, I legally can't keep you on as a patient anymore because a family member called, or somebody expressed concern and it's just too much of a liability. Really sadly, like nobody still knows how to treat people with opioid use disorder.
My sister, who was in the hospital giving birth, her and her friend were offered Vicodin and, you know, came to find out finally six nurses later that IV Tylenol works just as well, if not better. And you know, Jordan ended up with one nurse who said that, and she got IV Tylenol and her friend who's in NA had a nurse who did not tell her that.
And she had to take Vicodin for a couple days. Thankfully it didn't lead to relapse. She was okay and, you know, had her support group around her. But just mind numbingly frustrating. My mom was told before a knee surgery a few weeks ago that she had to go off her Subutex cold turkey or she would not be able to go into surgery.
And yeah, I mean, I could go on and on with the stories of how ill-equipped and, you know, it's no one doctor's fault, but it is important for people to know that this is the modus operandi at the healthcare system at large. They are just not equipped. So please inform yourself, inform your loved ones. The DEA did just come out with requirements that any DEA registrant, so any prescriber, now has to take an 8-hour training in substance use disorder, thank God, finally. By June 23rd, I think. So that's a huge start. I actually signed up for the course, so I'm like about an hour in and seeing, because I really need to know what's in that course and if it's sufficient.
[00:25:56] Julie Stampler: I was just gonna say hopefully it's not filled with misinformation, which happens all the time from government agencies. It's just, I wanted to add that we are trained from a very young age to listen to your doctor. So, a lot of times we don't advocate for ourselves because I'm not a doctor, so I'm gonna trust that what you're doing for me, what you're prescribing to me is the best course of action. And we forget that we just saw the well-manicured, high-heeled pharmaceutical agent walk out with her little wheely suitcase. And basically, what they were doing was enticing doctors to prescribe more and more and more.
And that's what is an added bonus, I guess, in the film that there is a whistleblower who comes forward. That was her job, regardless of what she was potentially hearing. And that's why you need to see the film to really understand the magnitude of what was happening with Purdue Pharma, that they were basically pushing their sales reps to push the doctors. And when somebody would say, 10 milligrams, they're still in pain, oh, they need 20, then. No. Maybe we need to actually understand what's causing the pain.
And when you do a little bit more research into the effects of prescription pills over an extended period of time. Now, it's not to say there aren't chronic pain patients who need a steady dose of pain pills, but there's a way to do that safely, and there's a way to make sure that people aren't overdosing while they're doing or using whatever they need to get through the day. You know, there are plenty of people who say, if I don't have my fentanyl patch, I can't actually walk the dog.
And it doesn't mean that they're in chaotic use. It means their pain is controlled. And that's the interesting thing when you consider if somebody is in pain, a lot of the time the pain pill is doing what it's supposed to be doing and they're not altered. It's when it becomes out of control and they're increasing doses. And increasing doses just to get that effect is when people get into trouble.
[00:28:12] Jamie Boyle: Well, the other thing to add that's really important, that's so hard to understand, and it is absolutely individual, but, and I just have to say, because Julie hit on this perfectly. So, my mom, and you'll see in the film, and sister were people who needed a fentanyl patch to get out of bed.
She says in the film, if I didn't have my patch and I didn't have the morphine, I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Now the thing about opioids that people are finally starting to understand, but the CDC hasn't quite caught up. As Julie said, pharma has not only sent sales reps, the bribing that we all know about, but they have infiltrated all of our oversight committees.
This is just one example, but the man who approved Oxy in the first year in 1996, Curtis Wright, went to work for Purdue Pharma just a few years later. That story, time and time again with so many individuals and they, you know, the pain scale that is used in hospitals, it was implemented and funded by Purdue Pharma.
It's still something that's used all the time. But the point I want to make about chronic pain is that opioids are really interesting and really complicated, and I'm not a doctor. There are ways in which they can be used long term, but daily around the clock use is, the evidence is resounding that it makes pain worse, specifically because your tolerance is going up.
There's no world in which your tolerance isn't increasing. Even if you're suffering from fibromyalgia or an autoimmune disease. That's just how drugs work. Your tolerance is going up, so you will need more to get out of pain. Now, the problem people in chronic pain have is that they're in pain without them and they're in pain with them and they're just barely functioning with them.
So, we have a real problem to combat in terms of how we treat it. People are looking into cannabis and physical therapy and acupuncture. Now it takes a long time. Both my sister and my mom had residual pain. My sister, for a year or two because she didn't take medication-assisted treatment. And my mom for about six months.
Just random pains, back pain, pelvic pain. Now both are completely pain free and have no chronic issues. Getting past that first year, that is difficult. And trying to figure out what the opioids were causing versus what they were helping, I mean, my heart goes out to anybody embarking on that. I hope that our healthcare system rises to the occasion to help these people in the way they need it. Because yeah, Julie's absolutely right. There are people suffering with pain that they need help managing.
[00:30:50] Carole Blueweiss: Tell a little bit of the story of, obviously people haven't seen the film yet, but they can in June if they're in New York.
[00:30:57] Jamie Boyle: So, she was a prodigious figure skater, nationally ranked, and yeah, the star of the family, the focus of our attention for a lot of reasons. And she got nerve damage in her foot, her landing foot. So, at first it started out just, you know, she can take a handful of Tylenol, handful of Advil she needs to compete. And then as she started developing pelvic pain around the same time. And it gets convoluted, but she was prescribed Vicodin. Actually, the first time she was prescribed, it was for UTI and pelvic pain that kind of went hand in hand.
And she was prescribed 30 days for that. And then between that and the nerve pain in her foot, there were a couple different isolated pain instances going on. And then that Vicodin prescription was re-upped. Or I think they start you on Percocet and then you move to Vicodin or Vicodin and then Percocet.
And, like before you know it, we were like three months or six months in and she needs it every day. And her pelvic pain is getting worse. She's getting migraines and now she's getting side effects from the pain medication. So now she's often tired. So, she's prescribed Adderall to wake up and go to class when she needs energy.
Now she can't sleep at night, so now she's prescribed something to sleep at night. Usually in combination with something like a benzo. So, then she's prescribed Xanax because her anxiety is skyrocketing and now, she's on this like cocktail. And that was just the beginning. That's like the first six months.
Then we get down to the road of does she have Crohn's disease, does she have fibromyalgia? Does she have, because she was just deteriorating physically and mentally, just spiraling and in horrible pain. I mean, couldn't go over bumps in the car with her. She'd scream out. It was so obvious. Endometriosis, she was diagnosed with, she had laparoscopies all the time.
Just this continuous circle of trying to figure out what's wrong, diagnosing things that aren't testable. Anyway, by the end, she was on OxyContin just around the clock. Morphine for breakthrough pain or something to go to bed, something, a shot for when she got migraines. Just a constant cocktail to just, and the pain was all we talked about. All we talked about, and my mom was similar.
But it just very quickly, I think it's helpful for people to know that what starts as an acute injury or acute pain very quickly becomes something chronic that is undiagnoseable that you can't figure out the source of. And if they can't figure out the source of it, which is very often the case, you know, a lot of those people I think would benefit from seeing how they do with medication-assisted treatment or something. But again, with the care and support that they should have.
[00:33:35] Carole Blueweiss: So, I just wanna bring you back. You had said that medication that your mother was taking, she was told to stop taking that in order to have her surgery. Can you just briefly explain what that medication was and why it was important that she not stop?
[00:33:50] Jamie Boyle: Sorry. I throw these terms around like just so easily now. She's on Subutex. It's a form of what's considered medication-assisted treatment and in that class is buprenorphine. Methadone was the original kind of medication-assisted treatment where people have to go to methadone clinics. And around when my mom and sister got off opioids, they were starting to be prescribed at home because we saw this uptick in people with substance use disorder. Julie, you actually might be able to describe it better. You give it a shot.
[00:34:22] Julie Stampler: It is a maintenance drug, essentially, like a diabetic's gonna always need insulin. Someone with substance use disorder could likely always need something like methadone or suboxone. And essentially, it helps with cravings. And a lot of times, that's at the nerve center.
And so, it could ultimately help remove the pain because the pain is what's telling you to call for the Oxy or the heroin or the meth, whatever it is you're searching for, but you, you're looking for anything to get rid of the pain. And the Suboxone and the methadone, the Subutex, helps remove the cravings essentially.
[00:35:01] Carole Blueweiss: So how do we know that we're not getting addicted to that?
[00:35:05] Julie Stampler: Who cares is the answer. Really, who cares? If you're functioning, if you're not, you know, in chaotic use. If it's not problematic in any way, who cares? Right? If I know for me, like right now, I need a spoonful of honey. And if I'm gonna need a spoonful of honey every day, for me to be able to have a conversation with you and me taking that spoon full of honey doesn't affect anybody else around me, I'm gonna take that honey.
And if me not taking the honey ends up impacting other people because I'm coughing everywhere, I can't get through a conversation, that's what is called harm reduction. So, the honey for me in that scenario is harm reduction. The Suboxone, the methadone, the access to an alternative to substance use disorder is the goal, right? Do we want people to be dependent? If it helps them stay alive and helps them function in their lives? Who cares is my answer. That's just me.
[00:36:09] Jamie Boyle: And they're getting a lot more sophisticated all the time, so you can't get high or euphoria off of them. Now granted, when you're deep into opioid use, you're not really getting high anyways. You're staving off withdrawal. But they're pretty sophisticated in that there are some side effects, but they're pretty minimal and you can't really get that euphoric effect. It's a lifesaver for millions of people.
[00:36:32] Carole Blueweiss: So, you mentioned in the film that 2019 was the last time you were all together, and I just wonder if you feel comfortable explaining that?
[00:36:41] Jamie Boyle: Yeah, it's similar to the title. There is, as in any family, there's so much to untangle. There's so many factors that have caused rifts in our family. My sister, I don't think she'd mind me sharing, pulled away a little bit from the rest of the family during Covid. And the reason I include it in the film, which is what I find most helpful to talk about, is that I had so many people come up to me at screenings and in conversations saying that they were estranged from a family member, either because of substance use or totally unrelated, but they were so grateful that I put that in the film because they, again, it just, they felt like they weren't alone.
Somebody saw them, and yet again, I was making this film about basically a love letter to her and my family, and that felt like an important component that like, if I could give people the opportunity to, again, say whatever your family looks like right now, it could happen to anybody. It's okay. It does happen to everybody. We're all there because I feel so alone in that estrangement, and these things happen in families, you know, but it's horribly isolating and sad. But to know I'm not in it alone is everything.
You know, we've been through a lot as a foursome. And then Covid hitting, I don't think it was a coincidence that another giant public health crisis hit, and those rifts started to creep back in. We already live spread out. My sister's in Colorado, my parents are in Florida, I'm in New York. So that's always been the case. And then all of a sudden, we can't travel. Jordan can't go to meetings, everything's moved online. That is her entire support network.
And so, you start to see how, you know, these giant global failings and crises really start to tear at those very vulnerable things. We finally figured out how to sew back up and that, you know, it's nobody's fault. The systems are broken, but I just wanted to give people that reassurance that it we're all in this kind of boat. Again.
[00:38:49] Carole Blueweiss: Thank you for sharing that because the story in a way could have been a happily ever after story, which stories never really are. So, putting that in there made me so curious about that you seem to have ended all on a good note, but clearly, it's not the end of the story, is it? It never really is the end of the story and it's very, very complicated.
And then just the idea that there was a Covid that ripped many people's lives apart and, we know right, the more vulnerable people were the ones that suffered the most. It ripped through families.
[00:39:25] Julie Stampler: Well, and the accounts of overdose went through the roof during Covid because people were alone and using alone and that's never a good idea.
[00:39:34] Carole Blueweiss: And people started again too.
[00:39:36] Julie Stampler: Yeah.
[00:39:37] Jamie Boyle: And people with Covid pain were being prescribed opioids. Again, I had a nurse in Florida saying, I'm giving Covid patients fentanyl. And you know, I was horribly worried about my family members if they had to come into contact with the healthcare system again that was just not prepared.
And you hit on something really important, which is what I was trying to say. And that is in so many ways, we are a happily ever after. They're alive, they're with us, and they're sober. That's unheard of. So it is, but, and I almost felt bad not ending the film that way, because that is true. And we're so unbelievably, unimaginably lucky and so in the rare minority in that regard. But you know, it's never that simple. And I think that was the point I wanted people to leave with. And so, I'm glad that that resonated.
[00:40:29] Carole Blueweiss: And we don't see scars and yet they're there and if they're not exposed. So, what it almost feels like what you've done is you've told a story. And I think people will appreciate that it's not a typical story where at the end there's a certain type of tragedy. Well, there's many kinds of tragedies. The visuals you used to describe the anonymous one, let's say, becoming less anonymous in that little particular segment where your dad mentions some of the hardships that he noticed you were going through, that was very strong. How can you just watch all this happening? It's got to have affected you.
[00:41:03] Jamie Boyle: I almost didn't put that in the film, and that's why Julie, you saying that and you feeling that my presence and my anonymity and, and that feeling of being a sibling or I know caretakers often feel this way, that level of just always putting yourself second, you have to, you just do.
And that's just what happens. So, it doesn't take like an exceptional person. That's just the dynamic that develops and, but you do become the second tier. So, it was hard to put, it's still hard to think about my own stuff in all of this. I think that's hard for all of the siblings. Like people say take care of yourself. Take care of yourself. And you're like, what does that even look like? Am I doing it now? I don't know.
But yeah, after they both got well, I actually think this relates to a lot of what society is dealing with in the aftermath of Covid or aftermath, are we in that? I guess so. Is that, you know, my grandpa used to say like, you can shove it all in the closet or in a box, but like eventually there's gonna be one little thing that pops that box open. It's all gonna come flying out.
Yeah. About a year after my family members got off opioids, I had, I guess, what can only really be described as a nervous breakdown. And it looked a lot of different ways. It was like depression and panic when I never had those things. Anxiety and all of the things that I had felt during their using, but they were well now, and I had graduated college and I was supposed to be starting my life and I felt, what is wrong with me? Because I got them back. You know, my greatest dream came true. I literally felt like ghosts had gotten up out of the graveyard and come back into my life.
I mean, I had said goodbye to my sister. I had wrapped my head around that loss. And then she came back to me, and she was laughing again. When someone's in the throes of substance use, like you don't see them. I hadn't seen her in years. Like I missed her so much. And so, I felt like, how could this be happening?
And now I'm so depressed and so just a wreck. And then I went to therapy and saw some great psychiatrists and they let me know, no, that's exactly what happens. And that's exactly why we tell caretakers and loved ones and siblings to give all of that care to yourself because that's exactly how it functions.
It builds and builds and builds and, in some way, it's gonna come out and it doesn't make sense. The time, the place, the circumstances don't always make sense. They usually don't. It's usually quite a bit after the fact. And the form is not always what you'd expect and not in line with your personality or, you know, however you perceive yourself.
And that's part of it. And I haven't dealt with a loss like Julie has, but I'd be interested, Julie, if you're comfortable sharing how that looked for you when losing a loved one. Were you similar?
[00:43:49] Julie Stampler: It's incredibly challenging to consider all of the things that might have been. It's hard. I look at my kids and it's, ah, if only your uncle was here. My brother Jonathan was an incredible musician, and I could see that they could all, they would all be sitting there jamming together and singing together. So that, it's devastating to think about, but I think what a lot of people don't talk about, because it sounds horrible, there was a sense of relief when he passed because I didn't have to worry every time the phone rang.
I didn't have to worry every time I took that turn and passed that corner where I might have seen him once panhandling or begging for money, right? So that relief feels so counterintuitive because I just lost my brother, but I also now know he's no longer in pain, no longer struggling, no longer suffering.
And so, so there's a strangeness that comes, you know, and I say this all the time when I talk about him, he's saved the lives of countless people with his passing. And people have told me that, you know, years later, I'll run into somebody who knew him, who will say, by the way, it was Jonathan dying that made me find help and get sober.
You know, I talked to my, when I talk to my kids and I talk to other kids about substance use and harm reduction and overdose prevention, what I handed my children, which is a gift from my brother, you're in a situation where someone's offering you something and peer pressure exists, it's a thing. And you don't wanna look like a loser. You don't wanna look like a square, you don't want. So, giving children language around a situation like that. Yeah, no man. My uncle died from that stuff. I'm not going near it. Thanks, though. No one's gonna question you, right? No one's going to point fingers and laugh at you and tell you that's BS or whatever.
It gives kids an opportunity to get out of an unsafe situation. For sure. And I know giving a script essentially has been really helpful to them. You know, knock wood, everybody's okay before they walk out the door, whatever it is that they're doing. I always say make good choices. So, I repeatedly talk about how I'm devastated that my brother's not here, but he continues to save people every day as a result of him not being here.
[00:46:37] Jamie Boyle: That reminds me of a story, a quick story I have to tell involving Julie. Julie's at the center. Because his presence is so much a part of this film and its release through Julie. And Julie's presence is beyond enough on her own, but I feel his spirit and the loss of him in all your work.
Because I had a friend who, I don't think she'd mind me saying, was at our Denver premiere, which is where I'm from, and Julie was there with me. And this friend hadn't shared anything with me. I hadn't seen her in a while. She didn't know my family had dealt with this, even though we were very close at the time it happened.
But that's part of the stigma and shame. I didn't share it with anybody. So, she found out through watching this film when she came to the screening and Julie shared briefly her story of her loss when she did our Narcan training after the screening. And this friend of mine came up to her and shared with her that her husband was having a problem with opioids that he'd been prescribed. And then, not prescribed.
Then after that, he'd ended up taking some of hers. But anyways, he was deep in the throes of a problem, and she was worried about him and confided in Julie and Julie for over a long time, gave her Narcan. And a week later, actually, like the night after Thanksgiving, she called me and said, I just used the Narcan on him and he is in treatment now.
If it weren't for Julie sharing her story with the kind of love and passion that she has and Jonathan's spirit, like it wouldn't have happened. And I know this friend, she's a fairly private person and she hadn't shared that with me. She did after she shared with Julie. But it was absolutely her courage that led to that. And it was incredible to witness. And that's one of, I'm sure, hundreds of stories about the work Julie does.
[00:48:29] Carole Blueweiss: Wow. And then, I don't know if this is full circle or not, so Julie, your stepfather, he invented naloxone.
[00:48:36] Julie Stampler: Yes.
[00:48:38] Carole Blueweiss: I was under the impression after talking to you about that, that in part that was also inspired by Jonathan. Is that, no, that was a coincidence?
[00:48:48] Julie Stampler: No, not at all. No, no, no. That was totally coincidence. My stepfather was a brilliant, brilliant chemist, researcher, worked in a lab, and this is the story that has circulated in our family arena. And no one has corrected me yet. But from what I understood was that he was doing research on constipation caused by opioids and trying to figure out a way to combat that, and found that this little molecule kept blocking the opioid receptor, and while it didn't do anything for constipation, it stopped somebody from experiencing the effects of an opiate.
And so, this was in the 1960s and essentially it came to be called naloxone and is basically in every ambulance, in every hospital. It's remarkable what it has done in terms of just the world of medicine. My brother's been gone almost 20 years, which is hard for me to even fathom. And my stepdad has been gone for almost 10, so it's wild.
I've been doing this harm reduction work for about a little over 10 years and training people on how to reverse overdoses. It was October of '21, I actually used Narcan on the New York City subway platform and it was the most surreal experience because this 19-year-old kid was gone. He was just splayed out, gone, eyes rolled back in his head. There was a nurse, thank goodness, who was starting CPR.
Thankfully, I was there, and I had Narcan on me, but when I watched this kid get up and walk away, I swear my stepfather and my brother were standing there with me. Makes me cry. It's a testament to the work that we do because just that one kid, because this is the point, right? We share our pain with other people because we hope we prevent other people from experiencing the same. So, see the film, get some Narcan, save a Life.
[00:51:10] Carole Blueweiss: How do we get Narcan? I want to carry it with me.
[00:51:13] Julie Stampler: You could come to a screening at the IFC, the week of June 2nd in New York City, and we will be doing trainings after the screenings. You know, we just heard a big announcement that Narcan, the nasal spray version of naloxone, is going to be made available over the counter. But most syringe exchange programs, and you can Google and look for any in your area, will offer Narcan usually for free.
But make a donation if you can afford it. Generally, at least in the New York City area and most metropolitan areas, you can go into any pharmacy and go up to the pharmacist and ask for it. It will cost you. Some insurances will cover it. Some people don't want it necessarily to be attached to your insurance, but if you want access to it right now, just go to CVS and say, hey, I need some Narcan.
And they don't get to ask you why or what for, but you know, just say I have a relative with, you know, substance use disorder, or a kid who was prescribed an opioid, and I want to just have it in the house and you should be able to get it, no problem.
[00:52:17] Carole Blueweiss: One day, hopefully it'll be available for a very low cost or.
[00:52:21] Jamie Boyle: Ideally, yes, free. Yeah, I know there are also a lot of states that have passed laws saying that you can't get an opioid prescription without a Narcan prescription as well. I don't know if that's everywhere. That's a step in the right direction. And then I also wanted to say fentanyl test strips are becoming more readily available and I actually just told a construction worker near my building who lost one of his young kids to a fentanyl overdose that he thought he was taking Xanax.
So I told him about, and he had no idea those existed. So, I just want to say, on the airwaves, so to speak, that those do exist. And there are groups that Julie is in touch with and works with that hand them out at bars and restaurants, put them in bathrooms. You can probably say more about how to get those, but they're around.
[00:53:07] Julie Stampler: Dancesafe.org. You can actually go on their website, and you can order fentanyl test kits and you can order drug testing kits. That's a component of overdose prevention trainings that I always talk about is know what you're getting, know what's in what you're getting. Hearing that story about your construction worker's kid, that's what's happening today.
Kids, young people, are buying street pressed pills, looks exactly like a Xanax, and unfortunately, it's gonna have fentanyl in it. And part of that is honestly just lazy drug dealers who aren't cleaning their equipment in between. So, it will get in there. But again, zero tolerance to fentanyl and you pop a pill, see ya.
And so, this is why it's vital to have access to drug testing kits and fentanyl test strips. And we've been hearing a lot about xylazine, which is making its way into the drug supply as well. And there's actually now xylazine test strips.
[00:54:08] Carole Blueweiss: Can you tell us about what xylazine is for those that don't know?
[00:54:11] Julie Stampler: It's actually a veterinary drug that is used for animals who are going under surgery. It's an anesthetic, but unfortunately what it does in humans is it suppresses your breathing and knocks you out. You know, we have, in New York City, we have two sanctioned overdose prevention sites and it's remarkable because a lot of times people are in these overdose prevention sites, they're overdosing.
They don't actually need to give them Narcan, they just give them oxygen and let them be. Because ultimately, it's a supply of oxygen that ends up getting, the receptors get blocked, and you stop breathing. And so just usually it's just oxygen in a corner is all they need.
[00:54:53] Jamie Boyle: Just to chime in for people using opioids for chronic pain or otherwise. My sister started noticing signs of oxygen deprivation that we didn't understand was that till years later. For my sister, you know, when she would wake up, I remember her calf muscle, it was just rock hard. Signs we later found out were oxygen deprivation. You know, we knew that respiratory failure is how you die of an overdose. But, you know, adding up all those things, you know, we were in a mess.
[00:55:21] Julie Stampler: And one of the telltale signs of an overdose where fentanyl is involved is actually the chest wall becomes rigid. And the scary part about that is CPR becomes incredibly difficult. We always, we say, if you know how to do rescue breathing, add rescue breathing in.
But a lot of the times, Narcan can and should be enough depending on at what point you've arrived on the scene. People think when we talk about the overdose prevention centers, oh, well, you're just giving people an opportunity to use drugs and no, actually what it's doing is helping people stay alive.
It's getting all of the paraphernalia, the syringes, et cetera, off the street, and it's giving a person who uses drugs an opportunity to experience dignity and some compassion, and as a result, when they're in this overdose prevention center because it becomes now a safe hub for them. There's somebody there who can offer them resources for treatment, for housing, for work, right?
So as soon as we start treating people who use drugs as people, as a sister, as a mother, as a brother, giving them back their identities and taking away the horrible judgment of junkie, crackhead, dope fiend, all of that. We actually are giving people an opportunity to live. Isn't that the point?
[00:56:49] Jamie Boyle: One thing I wanted to, I keep chiming in, sorry. Julie's so inspiring.
[00:56:55] Julie Stampler: It's good. It's perfect. It's perfect.
[00:56:57] Jamie Boyle: She's so inspiring. Okay. No, it's something I thought of this morning as I've thought of as I was, so I haven't talked about this before, but you know, when I think about harm reduction and hear Julie talk about it, and I think about my family members, you know, our privilege, our race, our socioeconomic status. That was our harm reduction. Those reduced the harms associated with drug use for my mom and sister.
My parents were able to keep her housed. My mom was able to stay housed that kept them off the street, which means they weren't assaulted. They didn't get injection drug related illnesses, which can lead to a plethora of a million other harms that compound it, that make it impossible to get better.
Also, they had drugs that they knew what were in them because they were getting them from their doctors. My mom was controlling my sister's supply and making sure she kept her drugs and doled them out. Now we were still in like very dangerous territory, but they're alive because of those protection safeguard mechanisms they had around them that were in place until they were at a place where they felt like they could possibly combat or had the support to try to come off.
So just in thinking about that as a society, we were so lucky and so privileged in so many regards. And they're here because of it and their own, of course, strength and resilience.
[00:58:25] Carole Blueweiss: Which is a testament to how a social community can also be so effective, which is often missing. Okay. So, the overdose prevention centers, you explained to me how that makes so much sense on all the levels that you already described and economically for the city. Can you talk about that?
[00:58:44] Julie Stampler: Here in New York City, anytime there is an overdose situation where 911 is called, not only does an ambulance show up, the police have to show up and when the police show up, there's paperwork involved.
When an ambulance shows up, there's paperwork involved. When the, an overdose happens at the overdose prevention center, guess what? You don't have to call any of those people. In the year plus that they've been open, and they've saved, they've reversed, I want, I think it was now it's gotta be probably close to a thousand overdoses.
I think EMS has only been called a handful of times. And those were for people who had other issues going on. But so, in the year, they opened in November of '21, so since then, New York City has saved millions and millions of dollars in taxpayer money. 4 million bucks. That's it. And if they're open 24/7, imagine how much more money would be saved.
And it costs the city a lot of money. Someone dies on the street and/or if someone gets sick on the street and they're unhoused. And they don't have health insurance and they don't have access to care. There are doctors in the overdose prevention center who will do wound care, who will do give you prescriptions, who, if you've got Hepatitis C because you're an IV drug user, they're gonna help put you on the regimen to cure your Hepatitis C. So ultimately, it's a lifesaver and it's an economic benefit to any city that they're open in.
[01:00:22] Carole Blueweiss: That's quite striking. Since you've both experienced, I want to use the word trauma, but is that a bad word to use?
[01:00:27] Julie Stampler: It's a fair word for a lot of people, I think, and a lot of times when I talk about substance use disorder, you can usually trace it back to a trauma, whatever that trauma might be, whether it was a wisdom tooth extraction or a car accident or more sinister things. So, it is a trauma involved world. There were many instances of my brother's substance use that absolutely were traumatic.
[01:00:57] Carole Blueweiss: For you, though.
[01:00:58] Julie Stampler: For me. For me and experiencing and having my mother call me and tell me that I, she's about to go into one of the deepest, darkest, scariest neighborhoods in Florida to score some drugs for my brother. And I'm thinking, no, I guess I have to go with you. Terrifying! So yes, traumatic. Yeah. It's a fair word.
[01:01:21] Carole Blueweiss: What would you like to say to people that need some help finding that? Like how did you guys actually eventually find that for yourselves?
[01:01:30] Julie Stampler: Honestly, it's ever evolving, right? You have to allow yourself to explore what the experiences have left in you. We talked about scars earlier, right? And so sometimes I find a new one. Oh, didn't know that experience left that mark on me. Let me look into that. So, therapy, huge proponent of therapy and I have found myself engaged in different modalities of therapy. EMDR and brain spotting of late, which has been incredibly helpful for me.
You know, dealing with post-traumatic stress related to different aspects of my childhood, but a lot of it related to my brother's substance use disorder and, and what for a long time I considered my part in it, because that's hard. And then there is this aspect, especially you know, for me, it's survivor's guilt. So, it's trying to understand my place in the story and my place in the journey of healing.
And like I said in the beginning for me, sharing my story and being able to bring Jamie's story, help bring Jamie's story to light for other people, heals me every time. You know, just a little bit more. Yeah. Self-care is huge. Me carrying Narcan everywhere I go feels powerful. One of the first steps is admitting you're powerless. I am not that anymore.
[01:03:14] Jamie Boyle: I couldn't second everything Julie said more, especially finding your power in it and also being willing to, you know, look at the stuff that's not so pleasant to look at. And being willing to recognize the ways it still surfaces in your life and in your soul and being, and I'm similar.
I have things I've adapted in adulthood that now I've realized on a random basis, oh, that, yeah, I wasn't like that before. Now wait, was that becoming an adult or was that because of those years in which I became an adult? So, yeah, I think just therapy, again. The other thing is I've been asked this question a lot lately and I feel like I wish I had a better answer, but the only thing that comes to me is that there are no right answers.
I've been talking just at festivals across the country for the past year to people, family members, loved ones, even my own relatives and long-lost friends. And I hear a lot of the same questions again, and most of them are along the lines of, you know, what do I do with this person? What is the right answer? Is it tough love? Is it harm reduction? Where's the line between enabling what they're doing and not letting them hit rock bottom? The first thing I say is that something that was told to me and that was really helpful is that, often and sadly with where we're at in this epidemic, rock bottom is death.
So, I don't, I'm not a proponent of the old, traditional tough love ways. I think every individual is different though, and I think every relationship is different. So, if telling people there is no right exact way, there is no way to do this right or perfectly. Like that doesn't exist, and trying to find that will drive you batty and it won't make sure you are never taking care of yourself, you're never thinking about your own wellbeing and you are just running yourself into the ground trying to figure out how to save this person or get this person back.
And there are no right answers. There's a lot of information out there though, and it's getting so much better, and the other thing is because so many people have dealt with this, if you start talking about it, I just keep saying talk. Talk about it. Talk to your loved ones about it. Talk to your family members, your friends.
If you can't do that, seek out support groups. They're everywhere and people love to talk and trade stories and it's so healing. You never know where, not only the piece of advice that's gonna get you through the next year is, or possibly save your loved ones, but the next thing that's gonna buoy you or just give you that piece of healing or encouragement or something that you just need to keep finding your way through it.
But I just, for people who are in the middle of it, I just wanna affirm there's nothing harder. And I think Julie spoke to this when she said, you know, it was almost a relief when she lost her brother because you lose them when they're in the throes of substance use also. That is a loss. And so that trauma needs recognized and dealt with.
And also, yeah, so you are in the midst of going through a real traumatic loss while also trying to navigate a way out of it. And I think recognizing all that you're shouldering as a loved one or a person going through this is just the first step to trying to figure out how to care for yourself. But it is very hard. It's a very hard situation to be in.
[01:06:45] Carole Blueweiss: Well, I love that answer because as obvious, maybe as it could sound, like there's no one right answer. It's almost like a cliche, but I think to hear that is very soothing. As humans, we have a tendency to assume we're, you know, especially when it's difficult and it's not helping that we're somehow doing something wrong. But when things are complex, you know, it's never gonna feel completely right. But just knowing that's okay is very healing.
[01:07:11] Jamie Boyle: I mean, I'll just share one other anecdote. One thing I try to tell people at festivals is, for the longest time I thought that this just constant iron fist of demanding Jordan get help, my sister get help and go to treatment, was what got her to finally go and she actually said in her interview, my mom, who was also using at the time, but insisted on just loving her through it all, on bathing her and getting her dressed and getting her fed and just wrapping her arms around her and saying, I understand, I'm here.
She was like, she was all I had. At my lowest of my low, I had her still. So we don't know what it was or why it was that she agreed to treatment when she did, but who's to say that it wasn't that my mom's love and, you know, non tough love approach kept her alive just as much, if not more so than me, because I was pushing her away and distancing her.
And that can be deadly. And things that worked for my mom, worked against Jordan, things that worked for Jordan, worked against my mom. It's a puzzle. And anybody who tells you it’s not is just hasn't done it.
[01:08:22] Carole Blueweiss: How forceful were you in your actions to telling your sister if you need help, you need help? Were you like, outright screaming at her to please get help or?
[01:08:33] Jamie Boyle: I was, but I was still coming around and I was still, you know, she was still housed. You know, a lot of parents will kick their kids out of the house and sometimes it's for safety reason, a lot of times it's for safety reasons. And so there, it would explode.
Things would explode at times and there would be a wall put down, but that never lasted, we'd always let her back in. You know, I'm the youngest of the foursome, so nobody takes me that seriously anyway. Jamie's always mad about something or trying to stir the pot. So, they're kind of used to it. It's our dynamic.
And I could be screaming, and they'd all just be laughing at me. So, you know, that was part of it too, is I was adamant that she needed help, that they were addicted, but their doctors and everybody were like, stop listening to this 19-year-old in your family. She is terrified and unfounded. So that was part of it.
Yeah, so I don't know if it's not the same as if a parent says you need help and that kind of tough love, but it was certainly a component. I was a drumbeat in their ear, and I was terrified. It was constant. Well, you're not gonna wake up. You're gonna die. Like this can't continue. Yeah, it was pretty constant for the last six months about.
[01:09:46] Carole Blueweiss: Yeah, I have this theory that there's something about family members when they're given advice by other family members, it goes into another part of the brain. It doesn't go into the part where you're actually listening and considering the advice.
[01:10:00] Julie Stampler: I concur.
[01:10:05] Jamie Boyle: And I'm sure even more so if it's a younger sibling, it's just like in one ear, out the other. Yeah. Which I think is why I screamed all the louder. But yeah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that's what did it. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not. But it's all I, it's all I knew at the time. Thankfully, now we have people like you both and a lot more information about what works and what doesn't or what's more likely, I should say, to work and what's less likely to work.
[01:10:37] Carole Blueweiss: And if people want to watch the film, tell us how, when, where.
[01:10:42] Jamie Boyle: Yes. So, it will be starting at IFC Center, June 2nd in New York City. That will be running the 2nd through the 8th. And we will have a bunch of special panels and guests, including Julie and the fantastic array of experts and advocates she brings with her.
There will be resource handouts, like we said, so definitely go to our website, AnonymousSister.com and all, everything will be listed there. We're also on social media, which can all be found on our website. And it will be in LA starting June 16th for a week, and with a lot more cities to follow. We're booking those now.
And then in September, it will be available for rent on a variety of platforms. I think iTunes, Amazon, Apple Play, and, but we will keep those updated, but basically available to rent starting this fall.
[01:11:34] Carole Blueweiss: We will have in the show notes your website for anonymoussister.com and other resources. I want to thank you both so much for coming on and talking about this pretty serious heavy topic, but one that's important to talk about.
[01:11:50] Jamie Boyle: Yeah, thank you so much, Carole, I so appreciate you talking about it. I was really heartened by the conversations that you're having and I'm really grateful to be here and to be here with Julie. I think it's so valuable. I know I second Julie in that regard, but yeah, talking about it in this way, especially, I think we're talking a lot about the wrongdoing on the part of big Pharma, thankfully. But yeah, just the conversations between friends and family members, we definitely don't get enough. I'm really happy to be here. You know, it's the same reasons I made the film and those stories saved me and my family members, so thank you for this podcast.
[01:12:31] Carole Blueweiss: If you are in New York or LA, don't miss seeing the documentary Anonymous Sister directed by Jamie Boyle, which will be showing at the IFC Center in New York City from June 2nd through June 8th, and then in Los Angeles from June 16th to the 22nd.
Thank you so much for listening to Wisdom Shared. If you enjoyed this episode, please be sure to check out all the other episodes. Go to caroleblueweiss.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you like what you're hearing on Wisdom Shared, please spread the word and share this podcast with your friends. Leave a review and subscribe so you can receive wisdom every month. Thanks for listening.