Chapter 1: “It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This”
I Am the Beautiful
—K. Britt Doyle (Little Britt), age nine
I am the beautiful, quiet Mill Valley.
The pale pink house on the ocean shore.
The big golden labradoodle with the mile-long smile.
I am also the white house on Russian Hill with unlimited stairs leading
up to the doorway.
The cable cars that roll past, and a view that takes your breath away.
I am two different worlds, connected together by one bridge.
I am keeping my feelings inside until I finally burst.
I am getting through my family problems.
I am the girl who is somehow always caught in the middle.
Just trying to find my way out.
I am trying to get over my past, so I can begin a new future.
I am not just small and weak like you all may think.
I am not just sensitive and girly.
I am more than this.
I am strong and brave.
I am calm and relaxed, and find the best in people.
I am humble and kind.
I show love and care towards my friends and family.
I am a warm summer day.
I am taking thousands of pictures.
I am dancing on rooftops, listening to loud music.
I am the sound of laughter and the feel of excitement.
Above all, I am me.
“Dad? I don’t think we’ll be able to make the Easter party this
morning at the club. Mom’s dead.” Harry’s voice was monotone,
numb. I could hear Preston in the background, still screaming to the 911
operator on the other end of the phone line that his mother was dead. My
daughter Britt had stayed overnight with my wife Truth and me, which
meant her brothers—mere teenagers themselves—were having to deal
with this on their own. A shot of adrenaline coursed through my body as
the weight of what was happening came down like a dark curtain. I ran
into the bedroom where Britt was sleeping. I’ll never forget the look
on her face as I explained to her that her mother had passed away. She
was in total shock. I could hardly believe it myself. But deep down, I
had been expecting this day for a long time.
Wynne, the mother of my children, passed away during the night on
Saturday, March 21, 2015, at the age of fifty-two, after a long battle
with alcohol and prescription drugs. She had been a beautiful, vibrant
woman when we first met, twenty-two years earlier. We married in 1995,
and had three children over the next five years. Wynne continued to
dazzle as a marathon runner and world traveler. She was a devoted aunt
to her several young nieces who looked up to her because she genuinely
cared. But by the time she died, her substance abuse had affected
everything—from our marriage and our family to my career.
Postpartum depression followed Britt’s birth—Wynne’s third by
cesarean section— in 2000. Wynne’s doctor prescribed medication to
ease her pain, and that was the spark that led to what ultimately became
a debilitating addiction. By Christmas of that same year, Wynne was
already in rehab at her first treatment center. Less than fifteen years
later, she would be dead. But in 2000, postpartum depression and drug
addiction were not topics either of us talked about. We weren’t alone
in this; no one at the time discussed the dangers openly. The Internet
was not the information source it is now, so we relied on the various
doctors we saw and the medication regimens they ordered. It wasn’t
until Andrea Yates drowned her five children in 2001 that the world
began to take postpartum depression seriously, and it wasn’t until
around that same time that people began to see a rapidly developing
crisis stemming from the massive increase in opioid dependence and
addiction in our country.
According to the Center for Disease Control, opioid-related deaths have
increased by 200 percent since 2000 in the United States. Many of the
victims, like Wynne, received their first exposure to opioids in a
hospital setting. The National Institute of Health’s Institute on Drug
Abuse finds that today more than four out of five young heroin addicts
started out using prescription opiates. Wynne drew the line at “street
drugs.” She never would have tried heroin because above all else she
was a lady. On the other hand, she didn’t have to face that choice,
because she found plenty of doctors willing to prescribe the pain
relievers she craved. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the
phrase “I’m just following the doctor’s orders!”
I’m writing this book not to expose or hurt anyone mentioned, but to
tell a story of what can happen when addiction rips through a family.
Perhaps these words can shed some light on the human side of addiction
and help other families who are facing these same struggles. I don’t
blame Wynne, because addiction is a disease, not a choice. The story is
immensely tragic, and touches so many lives. My family learned far more
about the effects of addiction on individuals and their families than
anyone would ever want to know. I’m incredibly angry at a medical and
psychological community that with all of the technological tools it has
at its disposal, still allows this epidemic to exist, and in some cases
seemingly drives it. Societal norms that encourage silence have also
contributed to and in many cases accelerated the problem.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t discuss your wife’s account due to
HIPAA regulations,” said the pharmacist at Walgreens during one of
many visits I made in 2005.
“I know that,” I replied. “I’m not looking to discuss anything.
I’m here to tell you something. You need to know that you’re not the
only one prescribing drugs to her. She’s getting the same medication
from several different doctors and none of you are communicating with
one another! Please stop filling the prescriptions!”
I made calls to the doctors each time I found a new prescription bottle
somewhere in the house.
“I don’t want to see your name on another pill bottle in my
house…EVER!” I screamed into the phone to one particular doctor who
seemed to refill bottles almost weekly from what I found.
“Are you threatening me?” he stuttered.
“You bet I am! If I find another bottle with your name on it, I swear
I’ll come down to your office with a baseball bat.” I was shaking.
I became manic about trying to find pills and bottles of alcohol hidden
around the house before Wynne could consume them. I couldn’t keep up.
They were hidden in her shoes, between the mattresses, in the pockets of
the coats hanging in her closet—even inside the container of rice in
the pantry. My desperate need to find and dispose of any substance she
could abuse was completely taking over my life. By 2005, she had already
been in the emergency room several times for overdosing. After spending
a night or two in the hospital, she’d attend a treatment program at an
addiction facility. But she didn’t receive the tools and help she
needed and sooner or later she relapsed. It was the same pattern every
time. She was angry, and so was I. This wasn’t supposed to be the way
we were going to live our lives. This wasn’t the way we were going to
raise our kids.
“We are not going to be a statistic!” I would remind Wynne on
various occasions. “We will beat this.”
But in the end, she could not free herself from the treacherous grip of
addiction. I think the shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and guilt she
felt must have been overwhelming to face, which made her even angrier
with me and the situation in which we found ourselves.
The funeral was painful on so many levels. Most obvious was the
realization on the part of everyone present of the void she left in her
children’s lives. They had lost their mother. Britt, the youngest of
our three teenagers, read a weighty poem with her brothers standing at
Excerpted from "Sedated: The Secret That Everyone Knew—" by Britt Doyle. Copyright © 2017 by Britt Doyle. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.