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Opioid Crisis and Reforming Society (VOA Connect Ep 48)


AIR DATE 12 14 2018


Opioids in America

It’s the little things that make it so worthwhile with her. It’s wonderful and phenomenal but there are bad days. Taking Suboxone for as long as I have has had some detrimental side effects.
((Animation Transition))

Marriage in America

We got engaged on September 1. We are so happy when same sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. Because if our relationship wasn’t recognized, we would have only been able to shine in private.
((Animation Transition))

Recognizing Intersex

Eight years ago, my parents and my doctors lied to me for my entire life, basically, and told me that I was a girl who couldn’t make hormones and have puberty.
((Open Animation))

((Banner: Living America’s Opioid Nightmare))

((Popup Banner

More than 115 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses.
VOA looks at three stories from the epidemic))
((Banner: Allison: Part 4
Producers: Jeff Swicord, Chris Simkins, Jacquelyn De Philips
Camera: Jeff Swicord, Chris Simkins))
Miami, Florida))

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))

We're going to Jackson so I can pick up my prescriptions. Super Fun. It’s like the addict’s version of going to like the mall. I take Suboxone, I take two antidepressants, and then something to help me sleep but I can't. I’m just so tired. I'm not living my best life. I'm living the life that is expected of me and I'm so scared to step outside the lines because 'Oops Sawyer. We'll take Sawyer. You'll lose your daughter.'
((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))
John: Hi babe what's up?

Allison: I'm on my way to Jackson.

John: Nice.

Allison: Super nice.

Allison: Hey can you call and find out how much I owe for SunPass because I have a feeling it's like a lot.

John: Yeah mine is too.

Allison: Mine's going to be a ton. I just know it.

John: Well, we need to get you a SunPass so we stop spending that extra nickel.

Allison: Holy s****! A whole nickel!

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
John and I are going to have differences. We're not married because we're the most compatible people in the world. Do I think we're soulmates? Absolutely.

John: Well it's more than a nickel. It’s like 25 percent more.

Allison: Literally the only place I go is to Sawyer's day care. So, let's be realistic.

John: Well, we’ll get it squared away.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
I love that man. He is everything that I've looked for in a husband, in a partner, in a father.

John: Send me a picture of your license when you get a chance ‘cause they might ask me for that information too.

Allison: You don't remember it?

John: Your license number?

Allison: Yes.

John: Am I supposed to be Rain Man?

Allison: You're convinced you're an idiot savant?

John: Definitely 7. Definitely 7.

Allison: You're dumb. I love you. I'll talk to you later.

John: I love you too. I'll talk to you later.

Allison: Ok, bye.

John: Bye.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))

((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))

Allison: I’m so ready for this to be done. It’s been like what, two years?

John: Two years this November.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
I'm exhausted with the supervision and it's nothing against anyone personally. It's so frustrating to look and see the people that I was in rehab with, who got their kids back months, even years ago.

John: I'm prepared for at least another three months, I mean, what's three more months. But six more months, I don't know how I take it.

Allison: I think it's, it's very intrusive. We have Sawyer’s advocate come once a week. We have to drop, which is basically peeing in front of somebody at least once or twice a week for me, mostly twice. I'm told what medicines to take.

John: How often to take them.
Allison: When to take Sawyer to school. What time to pick her up by and that's not real life. That's not normal and I'm ready for normal.

John: It's not to say that a lot of this stuff isn't warranted, I don't think, but so much micromanaging becomes a negative impact on, you know, like our situation.

Allison: As far as the court is concerned we've been model citizens, like.

John: I think it's getting to the point where we just like we want to start the next part of our life and until this part closes, we really can't.

Allison: It's like a decathlon.

John: I think it's time for us to have the next chapter in our lives with me, my wife, my daughter, us together as a family. Being able to go and, you know, not have to really answer to anybody all the time.

John: I get it. You know there's a young child involved but there just comes a time where it's like you got to let us go sometime.

Allison: When is enough enough? Since having Sawyer, everything's been dotted i's and cross t's. So, it's very frustrating for me. I'm frustrated and I'm done.


Sawyer: He does not feel too good. He needs to go to the doctor now. Hey doc. Yeah, ok. Come check out the boy. He’s not feeling too good. Ok, bye. She’s coming.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
You know, sobriety is one thing, being a mom another. And definitely being a stay-at-home mom is completely uncharted territory for me.

Sawyer: There’s a giraffe in there.

Allison: There’s a giraffe in his ear? How did that happen?

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
But it's also very fun, because I get to cook for my daughter and I get to go pick my daughter up from school. And you know, John gets home very late at night, but then sometimes he gets to come home to a clean house. Not all the time but sometimes. Let's be real.

Sawyer: I’m not messing up my toys.

((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))
You got a 3-year-old little girl. Life is good man.

John: I don’t know. We gotta ask mommy because I think mommy….

((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))
Sometimes it seems like she can do no wrong like even when she's blatantly doing something she's not supposed to. But she's a lot of fun man. You couldn't have created a better mix of Allison and I.

John: You’re done? High five. You want some more eggs?

((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))
She's funny and kooky like I am. She loves to laugh. I love that little girl.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
I haven't been around many 3-year-olds. I'm the youngest child in my family, so I never had a younger sibling.

John: Would you like a milkshake Mike?

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
It's the little things that make it so worthwhile with her. Every night it's, you know, mommy I love you. I'll see you in the morning. Have good dreams. I don't wake up every day thinking about getting high. Most days I am just mommy. I'm just a wife. I'm just me.

Allison: Look at mommy. Say cheese.

Sawyer: Cheese.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
It's wonderful and phenomenal. But there are bad days. Taking the Suboxone for as long as I have has had some detrimental and adverse side effects. My decision making process is not great.

John: It’s okay.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
I've always been kind of a free flowing person, but it's even more like hasty. Like I walk into Wal-Mart and I'll spend five hundred dollars on garbage, stuff I don't need. I get dizzy, I get massive headaches. I'm always tired. And it's not conducive to being a parent. I can't counteract it with a sleeping pill, because if my daughter needs to get up to go to the bathroom, she calls for me.

((John Lowe, Allison’s Husband))
No one ever talks about the negative effects of Suboxone. I've been with Allison for 10 years. I've never, I've never seen her hold as much weight as she's holding and the only thing I can attribute it to is the influx of medications that have been brought into her life in the last year and a half or two years. I absolutely hate it. I think it's a great tool, short term, but it is not a long term drug.

((Allison Norland, Recovering Addict))
I'm reliant on it. And how is that any different than being a drug addict?


((Judge Jeri Cohen, Miami-Dade Family Court))

Woman: Thank you so much.

Cohen: I’m very proud of you. Good job.

((Judge Jeri Cohen, Miami-Dade Family Court))
I had a parent in here this morning who has four children in her custody. She's been with us about 13 14 months. She's confident about her sobriety.

Cohen: Gotta stay clean.

Woman: I will, for sure.

((Judge Jeri Cohen, Miami-Dade Family Court))
I feel very comfortable with that mother. I would close the case today and I would bet that she makes it.

Cohen: Case closed. Everybody give her another hand. OK Sarah.

All right. OK. Norland. How are you guys doing?

Allison: Great.

Cohen: Good. How's Sawyer doing?

Allison: She's awesome.

((Judge Jeri Cohen, Miami-Dade Family Court))
Other parents are a lot more fragile. They're hesitant or they're still making decisions or judgments that aren't conducive to good parenting. Those are the cases that you want to keep open. You don't want to close the case until you know that the parents have a good support system. They're leading a very structured life. They're working if possible. Their housing is stable.

Cohen: Alright you go to your meetings?

John: I haven't found a sponsor yet but I am going to meetings.

Cohen: But you need a sponsor. Because you've got to work those steps. Anybody can sit in meetings. That's not working the program.

John: I worked all the way up to the eighth step, Judge, before I lost my previous sponsor. So, I mean I get it. I get it. Believe me I understand. I understand where you're coming from. But also it's not a one size fits all.

Cohen: Yeah, I just, I'd like you to work through your 12 steps. I think it's important for you. You know you gotten up to 8. And I'd like you to get a sponsor and go through your steps. It's really important.

John: I know it is. But it's not exactly like you can just go pluck any person off of a vine.

Cohen: No, but you also don't have to marry the person.

John: I'm not. Yeah, but ideals are important.

Cohen: They are. But there's gotta be someone out there.

John: I just don't have the time after work every day to go hit meetings every day to try and find the sponsor, because then I don't get home until 11 o'clock at night. I don't see my little girl. You know what I mean. When I do get home at night, I spend maybe an hour with her. Then I'm putting her to bed. You know, I mean, it's, it's just time is not a commodity I have a lot of at the moment..

Cohen: But I would really try because you’re going to be out of this court. Life is tough, and that’s the kind of thing that keeps you sober. Now what about your Suboxone? Are you seeing Dr. Eris Romero?

Allison: I, not as frequently. I still go to Jackson. But I've seen....

Cohen: Who did you see? McCloud?

Allison: Pamela. She's newer.

Cohen: She’s not the doctor, though. Is she the one that you're seeing?

Allison: Yes.

Cohen: OK. And how many milligrams are you on.

Allison: Same amount. Four milligrams.

Cohen: OK. Are you stable?

Allison: Overly so.

((Judge Jeri Cohen, Miami-Dade Family Court))
The science says an individual should not come off of Suboxone until they're extremely stable. Because if you come off of Suboxone when you are not completely stable, there is a very very high probability of relapse.

Allison: I think I'm ready to start the process of coming down.

Cohen: I would prefer you, you tell them the judge said to speak to Dr. Eris Romero.

Allison: Right.

Cohen: I think if you are going to titrate, you want to do it now. Maybe you should go down a little bit now while the case is still up, if the doctor says so. I'm not saying do it but do it slowly. But if you start feeling badly, you gotta go back up. That's the thing. Because you can't risk it. All right? Really, you can’t risk it.

Cohen: All right guys.

Allison: Thank you.

Cohen: I really don’t think we need to come back until we’re ready to close the case.

Woman: I was going to ask the January judge.

Cohen: When in January?

John: January 14th.

Man: Yes, at 1:30

Allison: Ok, perfect. Thank you.

John: Thanks judge.

Cohen: Good job, guys.



Living America’s Opioid Nightmare
continues on VOA Connect in the weeks to come))

Coming up
In the Open



((Banner: Open Communities))
Mengyu Dong))

((Camera: Yiyi Yang))
((Adapted by:
Ailin Li))
San Francisco, California))

((Lang, Student))

I came out to my parents when I was 14. The most memorable thing is kneeling in the living room for a whole night and my mom hitting me with a belt.
((Lang, Student))

My name is Lang. I’m from Chengdu (China). My major is biology, and I work in San Diego now. I did my undergraduate study in Manhattan, Kansas. So….
((Wang, Student))
A very conservative state?
((Lang, Student))
Yes. It’s a very conservative state. It’s a little depressive compared to Chengdu, which is a very open city.
Wang, Student))
I’m Lang’s boyfriend. My name is Wang. I’m from Shandong (China).
I came here for my Master’s program in Human-Computer Interaction in Michigan. I haven’t come out to my parents yet. They actually know quite a bit, but we never talked about it.
((Lang, Student))

He feels like family.
((Wang, Student))
It was natural. We get along very well. We just fell in love.
((Lang, Student))
We got engaged on September 1. We were so happy when same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. because if our relationship wasn’t recognized, we would have only been able to shine in private. That’s why we were so happy when it was legalized. It felt like I was recognized by the whole world.
((Lang, Student))

The LGBT groups in the U.S. and China live in different situations. In the U.S., you can discuss your problems with your friends and colleagues. Once I go back to Chengdu, even though people acknowledge me, they don’t want to touch on the topic or talk too much about it. You can’t talk about your problems with your family members too much either. It’s somewhat depressing.
Wang, Student))
But I come across problems (in the U.S.) too. For example, my professor and classmates pay too much attention to my identity once they know about it. During class discussion sometimes, they would try to agree with my opinion because I’m an LGBT person. I also don’t want to mention my LGBT identity when applying for jobs, because some companies do give preference to LGBT people. So, while I do wish to be recognized in the U.S., I don’t want people to look at me just as an LGBT person. Because I am who I am. It’s only one aspect of me. If everybody knows about it and can respect me, then I’ll be happy.
((Lang, Student))
Of course we hope the environment for LGBT groups in China can be improved. Because in China, even if we get married in the U.S., it’s illegal in China because same-sex marriage hasn’t been legalized in China. But many regions in Asia have started to recognize same-sex marriage and to talk about its legalization.
((Wang, Student))
Many people are starting to learn about this topic. People in our community are also coming out. I think these are the first step leading to legalizing same-sex marriage.

Coming up
I’m attracted to Sarah and it’s less important what her gender is than who she is. I love her.



((Banner: Intersex))

((Reporter/Camera: Genia Dulot))
((Popup Banner:
People who are intersex are born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics))
((Map: Santa Cruz, California))
((Sarah Keenan, Intersex))

Intersex is biology. Intersex means that there’s a combination of anatomy, chromosomes or hormones that don’t fit neatly into binary definitions of sex. I only found out when I was 49 years old, so eight years ago, and my parents and my doctors lied to me for my entire life, basically, and told me that I was a girl who couldn’t make hormones and have puberty. And the truth is, I wasn’t actually a girl and I never felt like a girl. I said to my father, “Pop, I think I’m genetically male. Do you know anything about that?” And he said, “Yeah, when you were a teenager the doctor said that they could make you a three inch penis if I wanted them to, and give you testosterone and I said, “Hell no. That’s my daughter. She’s a girl.”
So, he made the decision when I was 16 that I would receive estrogen and become as close to a girl as possible, rather than receiving testosterone and become as close to a boy as possible. And he picked a surgery for me to make my body appear more female rather than the surgery that would have made my body appear more male.
I needed to feel some control, so I got involved in cutting my body with knives and with razor blades. You’re not going to cut me. I’m going to cut me and I’m in control of where the cutting stops and where the cutting starts. I’m in the driver’s seat. You doctors, you parents are not in the driver’s seat. I’m in control of my body.
So, it was, in a sick way, it was taking ownership of this body that doctors and parents thought was their property to make decisions about.
Not to get too romantic, but love was the way out. Meeting my husband, being loved by him, you know, and he would see me slicing up parts of my body and he would just lovingly put his hand on mine, you know, and say, “you don’t need to do that. I love you so much. You’re perfect the way you are. You just, you don’t need to do that.”

And over time I began to believe him, that I was loveable just as I was.

((David Keenan, Sarah Keenan’s Husband))
Well, I’m attracted to Sarah and it’s less important what her gender is than who she is. I love her. If she’s genetically male and taller and stronger than usual, I’m okay with that. That’s not that important to me. If that makes me pansexual, I’m okay with that. If it makes me homosexual, I’m okay with that too. I love my wife. The only thing that’s troubling to me really is how much trouble she’s had getting acceptance of that in public.
((Sarah Keenan, Intersex))

Here it goes….Oh, I hit you in the head.

We want to see the surgeries that are conducted on intersex babies and children stopped until the child becomes old enough to make a decision for themselves, to express a gender identity, choose to either stay in between male and female, in terms of physical presentation, or choose to have surgery to align their body with male or female. But for it to be the person’s choice rather than doctors making that decision or parents making that decision, because they get the gender choice wrong a lot and these surgeries cannot be undone.
I have friends who had larger surgeries when they were babies and so much tissue was cut off that they’re not capable of experiencing sexual pleasure.

((POP UP BANNER: In 2016, Keenan became the first person in the US to have a birth certificate amended to reflect intersex))

((Sarah Keenan, Intersex))
And I wanted this birth certificate to say intersex so that in the future we’ll live in a society where babies don’t have to be cut up just to make them fit into a wrong box.


Next Week….The Art of Glass
It’s hard to be a part of a five generation business because you have to kind of make your own imprint but you also have to understand you are just a chain that’s going to continue on and so, there’s something really kind of rewarding in that what we are making is something that will affect people’s lives on a very personal level. Stain glass is in my blood for generations. My name is David Judson. I am the President of the Judson Studios here in Los Angeles. We design and manufacture stain glass windows for churches, hotels, residences and so, from design to installation, we are manufacturing these windows for custom projects.