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Overdose Tributes to Read During National Recovery Month 2023

by Demarco Moore

August 31, 2023
an old man holds a sign that reads in memory

Understanding the Gravity of Drug Overdose

Drug overdose isn’t just a headline or statistic. It’s a devastating reality that claims lives, tears families apart, and leaves communities in pain. Overdose deaths in the United States have skyrocketed 50% since 2019, claiming over 105,000 lives in 2022.

This isn’t just another blog post; it’s a platform where families honor their lost loved ones and share stories beyond the grim statistics. National Recovery Month 2023 isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s our collective call to action: #EndOverdose

We’re amplifying these stories to remember those we’ve lost, help those still struggling, and empower those in recovery.

Overdose by the Numbers

International Overdose Awareness Day 2023 reminds us to face the hard facts and honor the lives they represent. U.S. overdose deaths dropped 2%—from 107,573 in 2021 to 105,452 in 2022. While this decrease is a step forward, it’s not enough. We still lost 105,000 Americans to a drug overdose last year. 

Why Overdose Tributes Are Important

On this day, we’re doing more than just counting numbers. We’re sharing stories and faces of the people we’ve lost. It helps families heal and gives hope to those still fighting addiction. 

Every story you read here is about someone’s child, parent, friend, or spouse. We’re making sure their lives are more than just a statistic.

12 Personal Tributes

The following names come from families who wanted to honor their loved ones lost to overdose and addiction. Their stories serve as a memorial and a wake-up call to #EndOverdose.

Kyah Rayne

Kyah Rayne passed away from a drug overdose. For National Recovery Month, her family submitted an international overdose awareness day tribute to honor her life.

Kyah Rayne passed away from a drug overdose at 17. Her family remembers her life during National Recovery Month.

“My beautiful, smart, amazing 17-year-old daughter passed away July 11 due to an overdose. Such a tragic event has drastically changed my entire life. We love you, baby girl! #Forever17”

Jennifer Felix

Jennifer Felix's family submitted a tribute in remembrance of her drug overdose death for International Overdose Awareness Day

Jennifer Felix died at 21 to a fatal drug overdose. Her Family remembers her life during National Recovery Month.

“Jennifer Felix was kind, funny, and had a heart for her closest loved ones that brought great heartache upon her death. She enjoyed spending time with her siblings, caring for her grandparents, and helping her uncle William around his home. She found pleasure in engaging in activities like hunting, fishing, and cutting wood. 

She was known by her nickname “Dude,” which was given to her by her late uncle Ebert Felix. We called her by that nickname because of her style of clothing and the things she liked doing that involved work that usually men would carry out. She died of an accidental overdose in the community of Taché on February 23, 2022. 

Jennifer Felix was only 21 years old when she lost her battle to addiction. She had no children but had a family that cared for her very much, working hard to encourage recovery. But due to a lack of services and stigma, she found it hard to reach out for support. Jennifer wanted to change her life around and finish school, she was in her last year of high school and was about to graduate. 

I want to bring meaning to my sister’s death and bring understanding about the complications of substance use and disorders. I have begun my journey to fight for change and have gained a champion who is willing to work with me as I present an integrated Community Action Team for both substance use and recovery to engage in addressing addiction and to develop a framework of traditional wellness and healing models that can be provided in the community and on the land. My event took place on the first anniversary of my sister’s death. 

I hosted an introduction Plan for the Integrated Community Action Team–Forming a Substance Use Committee and a Recovery Council on February 23rd, 2023, and still need all the support I can get. This is the call to action, a path forward for evidence-based inclusive engagement on a community-wide approach to help our people. I hope you are there for me, giving me strength when I carry out my endeavor, little sister, hearing you say, ‘You got this, sis.’ I love and miss you and will forever bring remembrance to your name and all the others we have lost to this preventable disease. With all my love, baby sister. My lil Nalo Jr.” –Big Sis Sam

Zachary Nikel

Zachary Nikel's family submitted a picture to honor his life on International Overdose Awareness Day

Zachary Nikel suffered a fatal drug overdose on April 3, 2015. His family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day to honor his life.

“April 3, 2015. My baby brother. I miss you ❤️”

Joey Bryan

Joey Bryan is pictured in remembrance of his fatal drug overdose.

Joey Bryan was described as an “incredible uncle.” His family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day.

“[Joey was the] most incredible uncle with the biggest heart.”

Adam Wayne Hall

Adam Wayne Hall is pictured in remembrance on International Overdose Awareness Day

Adam Wayne Hall is remembered on International Overdose Awareness Day as someone who “would light up a room.” His family celebrates his life during National Recovery Month.

“Adam could make anyone smile! He would light up a room! He loved his family.

He loved listening to music, playing with his younger cousin, and sitting on the swing at Mawmaw’s house with everyone enjoying a fire. Forever in our hearts, we miss you so much!”

James “Bo” Downey

James "Bo" Downey is pictured in remembrance of his life on International Overdose Awareness Day

James “Bo” Downey was a former addiction counselor at Landmark Recovery. His family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day, remembering him as someone who “made an impact on everyone he met.”

“Bo was an addictions counselor with Landmark until his death. He was an avid golfer and LOVED his Bears and Wisconsin football. He was the love of my life and made an impact on EVERYONE he met.”

Brian Weeks

Brian Weeks is pictured in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day

For National Recovery Month, Brian Weeks is remembered as someone who could “make you laugh.”

“I lost my baby brother to this vicious disease on September 11, 2020. Brian loved his friends and family. The guy could be dying inside but still make you laugh.”

Michael Denson

Michael Denson is pictured with a young man.

Michael Denson is remembered as a “best friend” during National Recovery Month. His family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day.

“I was my brother’s keeper, as he was mine. Life will never be the same as I lost my best friend that day.”

Melissa Phillips

Melissa Phillips is pictured in the backseat of a car

Melissa Phillips is survived by her 6 children. Her family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day.

“[Melissa was a] loving daughter, sister, and mother to 6 beautiful children. Turmoil pivoted her life on the track of addiction she struggled with and overcame multiple times in the years she was alive. Unfortunately, the addiction sunk its claws in too deep, and her life was lost on Christmas morning of 2018. 

She leaves behind her mother, father, brothers, and 6 children. We miss her dearly but know she is no longer struggling to keep her head above water in a sinking ship. She is no longer in pain. She is finally free.”

Christopher McBride

Christopher McBride is pictured inside a restaurant.

Christopher McBride is described as someone who “was larger than life himself.” His family remembers him during National Recovery Month.

“My nephew loved life and was larger than life himself. Missing him more every day.”

Timothy Miesen

Timothy Miesen is pictured smiling in a car.

Timothy Miesen had “an infectious smile.” During National Recovery Month, his family, who submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day, urges those in active addiction to understand that “one last time” could be the last.

“Tim was on this earth almost 40 years. He had an infectious smile and laugh that you would never forget once you heard it! Tim loved his family and friends deeply.

Addiction took hold of Tim in his early 20s and, unfortunately, led to a lifestyle he couldn’t escape. As his only sister and the only living family member other than his 3 nephews, it hurt my heart deeply when I got the call on April 23, 2021, that he had given in to the devil after 8 months sober. Tim fought for a week, but his body couldn’t fight anymore.

On this International Overdose Awareness Day, I urge those in active addiction, early sobriety, or years of sobriety to understand one last time could be the last! Call someone other than the call that could lead to your last call.”

Shawn Willis

in loving memory of shawn willis

During National Recovery Month, Shawn Willis is remembered as “The most fun-loving, considerate person you could have met.” Willis’ family submitted a tribute on International Overdose Awareness Day.

“The most fun-loving, considerate person you could have met. A son, brother, uncle, and friend to everyone he met. RIP, son!”

If you’ve lost someone to overdose and want to honor their life, fill out our tribute form. We’ll share it on our website.

What To Do If You Witness an Overdose

  1. Identify the Overdose: If someone’s breathing slows, try calling their name or rubbing your knuckles on their chest. No response could mean an overdose.
  2. Call 911:  Dial 9-1-1 right away. Clearly state the address and situation. Mention the person is unresponsive and struggling to breathe.
  3. Give Rescue Breaths:  Follow instructions from a 911 operator, administering rescue breaths until emergency services arrive. 
  4. Administer Naloxone: If you suspect an opioid overdose, clear the mouth and tilt the head back. Pinch the nose, give two slow breaths, and check for chest rise.
  5. Wait for Help: Stay put. Wait for paramedics, even if breathing improves.

The Power of Remembrance and Need for Action

National Recovery Month 2023 calls for more than remembrance; it demands action. Whether guiding a loved one to treatment, establishing boundaries, or staging an intervention, your actions can make a difference in the fight against drug abuse and addiction.

Confidential Support Is Just a Phone Call Away

Are you struggling with addiction, or know someone who is? Help is within reach. Comprehensive treatment programs are available at Landmark Recovery

We have rehab centers nationwide ready to meet your recovery needs. Call our Patient Navigators anytime at 888-448-0302.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.