Military Spouse Magazine

OCT 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 35

O U R L I V E S IN SEPTEMBER 2017, JONATHAN WINNEFELD ENTERED HIS FRESHMAN YEAR AT THE UNIVERSIT Y OF DENVER. Having just completed 15 months of treatment for a dual diagnosis of depression/anxiety and addiction, he felt inspired to help others. But Jonathan told a friend that he had been offered heroin just weeks before classes began. He'd refused it. His parents believe this triggered a relapse which led him to purchase a fatal fentanyl-laced dose of heroin. Three days after school began, Jonathan was found unresponsive in his dorm room, becoming one of almost 50,000 people who died from an opioid overdose that year. Jonathan's story doesn't begin in poverty or any other stereotypical backdrop of a drug scene. It begins within the military community. That's what his parents Retired Adm. James "Sandy" Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Mary, want you to know: the opioid epidemic doesn't discriminate. In November 2017, the Winnefelds founded the nonprofit, Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic (SAFE), to combat the opioid epidemic and support families who are affected by it. Addicted A military family's story of loss. Hope. And change. By Natalie Hayek, Air Force Spouse A DEVASTATING ILLNESS Jonathan was athletic, friendly and compassionate. He was intro- verted, but his buddies remember him as the friend who stood up for them. Having once moved six times in three years, he knew the challenges of military life. As a young teen, Jonathan was misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall. To calm himself, he drank alcohol. He later used marijuana and Xanax, and ulti- mately became addicted to heroin. Studies show that opioids physically and chemically alter the brain, reshaping its neural pathways and changing the way a person processes infor- mation, emotion and desire. A young person's developing brain is even more susceptible. Jonathan's parents paid the equivalent of four years of private college tuition for treat- ment because TRICARE didn't cover the costs to treat Jonathan's dual diagnosis. Recovery often requires more than detoxifica- tion and group therapy. "Addiction is an illness," says Rosemary Williams, SAFE's executive director. "It's not some- thing you can just turn your back on." Jonathan emerged from recovery with a desire to live, but he didn't have sufficient support to sustain his reentry into society. Recognizing the complexi- ties of the disease and recovery, SAFE developed an integrated approach to prevent the epidemic and create support for those affected by addiction. Their ultimate goal is to establish SAFE communities and SAFE cam- puses around the country. >> Photos courtesy of the Winnefeld family James, Jonathan, and Mary Winnefeld at the University of Denver campus. 24 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / OCTOBER 2018

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Military Spouse Magazine - OCT 2018