By Jessica Cordova KramerOctober 20, 2020
TreatmentMagazine.com is honored to shine a light on the team of Last Day, a podcast about what is killing us—opioid addiction is the subject of Season 1. Season 2 of Last Day, looking at mental health and the rise of suicide, premieres tomorrow, Oct. 21.
Each October, I start to feel the same way. My brother, with whom I was emailing and texting nearly every day that month, died unexpectedly on Oct. 23, 2017, of an overdose. I didn’t know this until 1 a.m. the following day.
The entire month is a nightmare each year. I relive the moments leading up to his death. What could have changed the course of his life—our lives—had we known he was going to use alone that afternoon?
We battled his addiction with him—sometimes well; sometimes terribly—for a decade. We tried to understand. We got mad. We were estranged for short periods of time. Anger, sadness, frustration in all directions. Many times, we thought we’d won this, together. But we hadn’t. Then, one day, he was simply gone.
His absence is still a gaping hole.
Stefano Cordova Jr. was my baby brother. He was handsome, brilliant, hilarious—not to mention a total pain in the ass. The last day I saw him was in May, at his wedding. It’s a beautiful memory, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t terrified, even on that day, that his addiction would ultimately win.
We want people to get the help that Stefano never could and to give families the support and understanding they have never had. This is the silver lining on the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me.”
Two years after his death, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and I made Last Day, a podcast to help us and others better understand the opioid epidemic. We zoomed in on Stefano’s last day of life in Allston, Mass., and then zoomed out on every aspect of the opioid crisis over the course of a gut-wrenching season. We had no idea if anyone would listen. More than 3 million downloads later and 2,000 reviews on Apple alone, we have created both content and a community for the millions struggling with the same thing we did: loss, damage, you name it.
There is hope in community, in erasing stigma, in understanding substance-use disorder scientifically.
We want people to get the help that Stefano never could and to give families the support and understanding they have never had.
This is the silver lining on the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me.
Though, selfishly, I would erase it all for just five more minutes with my brother.
Jessica Cordova Kramer is CEO of Lemonada Media, creator of Last Day podcast, as well as In Recovery, hosted by Nzinga Harrison, M.D., a physician board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Harrison wrote this beautiful Story of Hope.
(If you haven’t listened to this podcast, this handy overview of highlight episodes and Jess’ favorite shows may be a good place to start.)