Despite her loss, Melissa has hope for other families

Published Dec. 8, 2022

Melissa Flynn finds it difficult, but necessary, to share her family's story.

“My hope is to prevent what happened to our family from happening to other families,” she said. “They need hope and they need to know that they’re not alone.”

Melissa's stepson, Nicholas, died from an opioid overdose in May 2018. Since then, she’s made it her mission to help others by recounting her painful experiences and increasing awareness of addiction resources.

“I feel like I have an obligation to share what I have been through. We’re losing so many people to addiction, and I just feel like this has to stop,” she said. “We need to help educate families, we need to save lives, we need to end the stigma and allow people to talk about it and seek help. And honestly, helping is the only thing that makes me feel better.”

Melissa describes their fight with addiction as a giant octopus with an unrelenting clutch.

“We would fight to get one tentacle off of us, and then another tentacle would grab us. It was a constant battle with little to no relief,” she said. “The octopus squeezed the air out of our lungs, the joy out of our lives and the money out of our pocket books, but we kept fighting. We kept hoping. We kept loving.”

Nicholas’ years-long battle with addiction was tumultuous, isolating and painful for the entire family. But the last few months before his death offered “real hope,” Melissa said.

“We learned how to cope with the nightmare we were living in and we started to see a change in Nicholas for the first time in many years,” she said. “We got to see the loving, smart, talented, caring and funny human being he was. This was the longest period of time in 10 years that we got to spend time with our beautiful son. We finally felt we were on the road to recovery. We had joy and hope.”

When talking with other loved ones, Melissa's advice includes education, hope and compassion.

“Talk about it, seek help for yourself first and educate yourself. I like to say, ‘Lead with love.’ Understand that your loved one is suffering and needs help in the right way,” she said. “I also want people to know help is possible – it’s OK to hope. Because for so many years, we felt hopeless.”

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