Mother of 3 says Jacksonville organization saved her life

On International Overdose Awareness Day, Jamie Smiley shares his story. She says the non-profit organization, Inspire to Rise, has changed her life.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jamie Smiley knows drugs can wreak havoc.

They cost the 37-year-old mother-of-two custody of her children and nearly killed her.

“I couldn’t see my kids for years, so I went deeper into my addiction. Fentanyl was my drug of choice,” Smiley said. “I overdosed probably over a two-year period and half or three years, six times. We would keep Narcan in the house. My husband took me back about three times.

She shares her story on International Overdose Awareness Day. The last Numbers from the Florida Department of Health show EMS responded to more than 106,000 overdoses in the state last year. In 2020, there were 7,460 fatal overdoses. It’s a number that hits close for Smiley. As she struggled with addiction, she watched those around her die.

“In 2021 I had a friend who died of a fentanyl overdose,” Smiley said. “And then on October 14, 2021, my sister died of a fentanyl overdose. My grandmother always told me that death comes in threes. So all I could see was that I’m the next.”

Determined to get clean, she checked herself into a hospital facility and upon discharge she was referred to Inhale to rise in Jacksonville.

“We’ve been described as the IKEA of social services,” said Aida Seeraj. “We see ourselves as a community center focused on the holistic treatment of people.”

Seeraj started the Westside nonprofit in the zip code with the most overdoses in Duval County, 32210.

She warns that fentanyl, which is highly addictive and can be deadly, is mixed with all sorts of drugs and squeezed into fake pills.

RELATED: Authorities report alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses in Florida

“32254 follows right after that, which is also why we have a second slot in 32254,” Seeraj said.

His organization goes door to door distributing awareness kits with Narcan.

“There’s this drug, it’s very addictive,” she shares with residents. “It can kill you even on the first try. But there is a way to save your life and educate the family, the whole family on how to use it, because you can’t save yourself with Narcan.

Inspire to Rise is on a mission to connect people to the resources they need.

“From community behavioral health to outpatient treatment and intervention services, so that we can impact that person’s life,” Seeraj said.

It’s an organization Smiley credits for helping her turn her life around.

“Inspire to Rise has completely changed my life,” Smiley said. “On July 6, I got the phone call from the Guardian ad Litem. And they told me we got our kids back. I lost my kids to my addiction. And I’ve been sober since the November 17, 2021.”

And she plans to stay sober. She is now participating in the Inspire to Rise intervention program and has found a strong support network because she knows that the more support you have, the more likely you are to succeed.

“Now I’m in the intervention program,” Smiley said. “I wanted to keep going because this is going to be a journey of a lifetime for me. And in order for me to be there and be the best mom and person that I can be, I have to integrate my recovery into my life every day. It’s God, recovery and family. And it has to be in that order, for me to be successful. I’ve learned so much, grounding techniques, how to set boundaries, coping skills.

His advice to anyone considering using drugs, don’t.

“You might think I’ll do it once, and I won’t get addicted, but you don’t know. It may be that once you do that you will die,” Smiley said.

And for those struggling with addiction, she says, don’t be shy. All you have to do is walk through the door and someone is ready to help.

“I was so worried about what people would think of me,” Smiley said. “Oh, she’s got kids and she’s a drug addict. But you know what’s going on in life, and it’s what you do with it that makes you a better person. You have to reach out and ask for help. help. Do not be afraid.

You can learn more about the services offered by Inspire to Rise here.

RELATED: Flagler County Sheriff’s Office hopes to reduce overdose deaths

RELATED: ‘I never want another mother to go through what I’ve been through:’ Mother makes it her mission to help others

Aubrey L. Morgan