Episode 85: Angela Kennecke, Addiction Assistance
Angela Kennecke is a seasoned investigative journalist and news anchor at the South Dakota CBS affiliate KELO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Angela was working on a story on drug overdoses the day she got the news that her 21-year-old daughter Emily died of an overdose. It was later revealed that Emily died of fentanyl poisoning after having obtained what she thought was heroin. Angela is on a mission to address the stigma associated with addiction and the problems associated with addiction.
Angela Kennecke Bio
Angela Kennecke is a veteran broadcast journalist and award-winning investigative reporter. Her reporting has uncovered fraud and corruption, which has resulted in changes to state laws. For three years, Angela investigated the “GEAR UP” grant scandal in South Dakota. She exposed lack of oversight and accountability with federal funds. Angela discovered that since 2005, $60 million dollars had been put into GEAR UP to get Native American children into college, yet there was no data to show that a single Native American student actually attended college because of the program. Public pressure following the GEAR UP investigation led to the creation of an accountability board within State government and conflict-of-interest disclosures for those on boards and serving in public office. Angela’s investigations also helped military veterans get the Purple Hearts they deserved. In addition to anchoring nightly newscasts for KELO-TV in Sioux Falls, SD, Angela has been involved in a number of other endeavors.
Angela also helped raise millions of dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network as a telethon host and storyteller. She has emceed hundreds of events and served as keynote speaker for many conferences and gatherings. Angela was an adjunct instructor for South Dakota State University in the journalism department and taught courses, both graduate and undergraduate, in communications management. During one of Angela’s investigations, she met a small-town business owner who asked her to write his life-story. The Day His Heart Stopped Crying is an inspirational book of second chances and has sold more than two-thousand copies.
Over the last decade, many of Angela’s stories focused on the growing opioid crisis. On May 16, 2018, the day her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, died of an overdose, Angela was working on an investigation into Good Samaritan Laws and overdose deaths. She interviewed three parents whose children had died of overdoses. Following Emily’s death, Angela realized there was an important meaning and a lesson that she could take away from those interviews.
Emily died of fentanyl poisoning. Angela has taken Emily’s story nationwide and even internationally. Angela speaks tirelessly about the issues surrounding opioid addiction, a parent’s frustration and sense of helplessness and tells it all from the perspective of a mother who has lost her child. Angela started a non-profit organization called “Emily’s Hope,” because she never gave up hope on her daughter and now wants to offer hope to other families struggling with addiction. To date, Emily’s Hope has helped dozens of people with treatment scholarships. The charity also supports mothers in recovery, and their children, staying in the Emily’s Hope Oxford Sober Living House.
Angela believes when tragedy and setbacks strike the only thing you have control over is your response. Angela’s response to the loss of her beautiful and beloved daughter is to turn heartbreak into action by erasing the stigma surrounding addiction and advocate for more funding, better treatment and more research and understanding of substance use disorder.
Angela and her husband Jeff have surviving children, Abby, Jordan and Adam. The family also has three dogs, Charlie, Skippy and Hunny
Where do I go? it only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger.
I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Karen Ortman 00:31
This is you matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to you matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion, and so identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I'm your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome Angela Kenickie, a seasoned investigative journalist and news anchor at the South Dakota, CBS affiliate khelo. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Angela was working on a story on drug overdoses the day she got the news that our 21 year old daughter Emily died of an overdose. It was later revealed that Emily died of fentanyl poisoning, after having obtained what she thought was heroin. Angela is on a mission to address the stigma associated with addiction, as well as the problems associated with addiction. Angela, welcome to you matter.
Angela Kenickie 01:39
Thank you so much for having me.
Karen Ortman 01:42
And my condolences regarding your daughter.
Angela Kenickie 01:46
I appreciate that.
Karen Ortman 01:48
Tell me about Emily, as she was in life up until the age of 21.
Angela Kenickie 01:55
Well, Emily was my oldest child, I have four kids. And she, like any new mom, you know, got a lot of attention and hovering over and she was just very, very loved. And she was a real go getter. I mean, she was a risk taker. And she was goofy and funny. And she was very involved in everything she wanted to... I mean, I can't say she knew she, her life was going to be short. But she wanted to experience everything as if she knew her life was going to be cut short. And she was very athletic. She was a gymnast, she was a cheerleader. She ran track and did hurdles. And she was gifted academically and an amazing artist. So she had a lot of gifts. And the one thing I used to always tell her is that with so many gifts comes great responsibility that you need to really, you know, use these gifts well.
Karen Ortman 02:51
What was her response to that?
Angela Kenickie 02:53
You know, she, she, I think she took that to heart. And I think those are the things that, that she tried, you know, tried to do, unfortunately, she was derailed by addiction, but there's a lot of things that that set that up, you know, it's not just addiction, I believe now looking back, you know, and I take her to the doctor for you know, anxiety, or did she have ADHD? Or were there some other things, you know, as a teenager that were going on? She became very rebellious. And of course, anything I said she would do the opposite or say no. So it was tough. That mother daughter relationship during those teenage years was really, really hard. And then she got involved with group of peers that were already experimenting, using and selling drugs and then became involved in an abusive type relationship. And just went down a path that and hid a lot from me, you know, really kid a lot from her mom. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 03:53
So if so if we could let's go back to the teenage years when you took her to doctors regarding potentially a diagnosis of anxiety or ADHD. What were the behaviors that you recognized at that point?
Angela Kenickie 04:15
While she was just very sort of out of control, doing a lot of things like just a rebellious behaviors, a lot of those things and complaining about some things in school and so she did briefly try attention deficit disorder medication, and hated it, said it slowed everything down and made everything boring for her. We had a doctor prescribed like a low dose type antidepressant or anti anxiety and she flushed those down the toilet. She didn't want to take prescription medication, which I find really interesting because later on she took the illegal drugs and the drug that was laced with fentanyl and killed her. Yeah, but I also took her to counselor after counselor and we really couldn't get on good plan. We really couldn't. It seemed like nothing worked. Yeah. And eventually because of the drug use, I even thought, well, I'll just call law enforcement. That's how I'll, you know, scare the kid. Stop or now she's a juvenile. Which now I think is could be the way I handled it could be faulty thinking, but it is a last resort. A lot of parents do that.
Karen Ortman 05:22
Yeah, that's true. Yeah.
Angela Kenickie 05:23
And, but in so she even went to addiction treatment, like an outpatient thing, but she got kicked out for swearing at the counselor. So really, and she never even in adulthood, I brought her to the doctor because she was picking at her face. Well, and now I know why she was picking on her face when you're coming down from heroin. Yeah, people pick up their faces. But the dermatologist prescribed, you know, an anti- anxiety and a cream for her. So nobody was really screening for addiction. Nobody was really helping us with these issues. It was so frustrating. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 05:57
So there were clearly mental health issues that were ongoing. And it's interesting, because I've had other guests speak before on this subject and the screening of people who are experiencing similar symptoms as Emily... drug use is not part of the discussion. Right, usually, with with medical professionals,
Angela Kenickie 06:32
Karen Ortman 06:32
When did you learn that Emily was using drugs? How old was she?
Angela Kenickie 06:37
Well, it was about 15, I was first alerted with my parent, and by the school that she had been talking about, you know, smoking weed. I think a lot of parents think that's a rite of passage, or that's normal teenage behavior. However, I don't think it's for the developing brain.
Karen Ortman 06:54
Angela Kenickie 06:55
And addiction runs in her family and our family. So I was concerned about that right away. And that's part of the thing I was trying to, you know, protect her from. And then after that, later on, I learned through high school, she was taking benzos, like Xanax type things,
Karen Ortman 07:14
and this was still at the age of 15?
Angela Kenickie 07:17
between 15 you know, and 16, you know, that those ages.
Karen Ortman 07:21
So at this point, you had already taken her to medical professionals, because of you mentioned anxiety, ADHD, at any point during those examinations, if you will, where those meetings with medical professionals was drug use ever discussed, particularly with Emily?
Angela Kenickie 07:43
No, never in fact, I even took her to a behavioral health hospital to be assessed thinking maybe she needed to be admitted. And they assessed her for suicidal thoughts. but they said No, she didn't need to be admitted. And they never brought up drug use at all
Karen Ortman 08:03
had she expressed suicidal thoughts or ideations up to that point.
You know, she was just, she was very volatile. So she was just kind of going off. And you know, those teenagers, now later on, she wasn't volatile like that. But during that age, I would say 14 to 18. Those are some really tough years. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 08:29
So tell me about the conversations you had with her with respect to drug use, you know, with getting the information that she was smoking weed and taking benzos.
Angela Kenickie 08:41
Right. Well, I think I tried a lot of tough love early on. And that's what his parents were told to do. Right? Take things away set rules. Like I said, I even invoked the law. She had a juvenile probation officer at one point, it did absolutely no good. I think he's, he had a really heavy caseload too. I mean, I want to give some night owl grace to the people who are trying to do these things, but she wasn't as bad as some of the kids they see. And that's one thing I kept hearing about in court too, was that, Oh, she comes from a good family. And they see, you know, some really troubled kids doing much worse things, than what my daughter did, and, and also coming from homes that are very, very troubled. And so everyone was just kind of like, Oh, it's just a phase. She's gonna be okay. Yeah. And I always felt like this is not a phase. This is my oldest. So I've got younger ones that went through the teenage years. Really nothing like this. Nothing other kids didn't have their challenges. But I had, I had never experienced anything like this. And then I haven't experienced anything like this with my other children since.
Karen Ortman 09:44
So you mentioned court, under what circumstances were you in court?
Angela Kenickie 09:49
Well, she had gotten in trouble for violating her probation. So she would have to go to court for that. And, in fact, one time we were waiting in the hallway If you've ever been to juvenile court, like every young person their parents or parents just look like, they have been through the wringer like they are. They don't want to be there. It is the worst thing ever. And I asked my daughter if she noticed that, the look on parents faces. And she did. She goes, Yeah, everybody just looks very upset and like, they don't want to be here. And I was hoping that those things would make a difference. Yeah. But they did not.
Karen Ortman 10:27
So this was as a juvenile, she was in court. Tell me about the progression. We talked about 14- 15 benzos. weed. how did her story continue with respect to drug use, and changes in behavior that you observed?
Angela Kenickie 10:52
Well, she got an art scholarship to the university here. And she started off there, but didn't complete the first semester. And I had really encouraged her to do so you know, and I didn't... Once your child moves out of your house, too, and they're not living with you anymore. It's hard to know exactly what's going on now. But she ended up working after that. And, you know, there were lots of times I suspected that she was high or something was going on, but every time I would confront her, of course, it was denial, denial and anger. And then I wouldn't see her for a week or two. You know, she just sort of cut me off for a while. And then she'd always come back. And so I really found that as, as time went by, I learned that tough love didn't work and confronting someone didn't do any good. So I always tried to approach it with love. They always tried to just say, Hey, I'm here for you, how can I help you? Can I get you help? Those kinds of things? Yeah. And there was one time, I think, where she tried, you know, I saw a changed girl. And this was about now that was a full year before she died. But you know, I think that we probably had our most honest conversations at that point, but she still never told me anything other than benzos. So this whole time, I'm thinking, you know, she's smoking weed. She's taking benzos or Xanax or anything like that, and never imagined that my kid would use heroin. And I think it's a lot more prevalent than when I was younger, it's a lot more acceptable. And so I that, I learned that after the fact. And I felt like I should have known. I should have known but I didn't.
Karen Ortman 12:35
So when she goes to college for that first semester, leading up to her departure, were things pretty much status quo.
Angela Kenickie 12:49
Well, not exactly know she had graduated. But she had taken off and left the home for four days, take it off with a boyfriend and didn't come back. Those kinds of behaviors seemed to continue. And so her dad and I are divorced. So she chose not to live with her dad, because she didn't want to follow... I had three younger kids here, and she didn't want to follow the rules of her house. And that was hard, too. That was really hard. But I just tried to I kept thinking if I just got her planted in college, if I just got her there. Yeah, you know, she'd do better. She'd figure it out. She'd be okay, she'd find her way. And a lot of people told me that would happen.
Karen Ortman 13:27
So she goes to college. The first semester she living on campus at that point? Yes. And did you have much communication with her while she was at school?
Angela Kenickie 13:38
I did. I had a lot of communication with her, we can communicate it regularly. And I would bring her in. It's not that far away about an hour away from where I live. And so I would bring her some, you know, supplies that you bring college kids and stuff like that.
Karen Ortman 13:51
What about her younger siblings? Did they up to this point? She's graduated high school. She's in her first semester of college. Did they recognize changes? Did they recognize drug use? Did they see things that perhaps you weren't aware of?
Angela Kenickie 14:11
I don't think that they saw the things that I wasn't, you know, if anything I wasn't aware of. No. And they had been very, very kind of upset with her over everything, the turmoil that was caused in the home and everything and, you know, it's just a hard thing because they were upset with her choices and her behavior and what she was doing. And they but they always loved her and cared for her wanted her you know, to be at things and to be at family things. But that's the thing toward the end of her life. She just started missing family events and things like that and that really hurt too, hurt the other kids, hurt her siblings.
Karen Ortman 14:51
So she dropped out of college after that one semester. What does she do? She got a job. I think you said, so she was 19 point where she's still living, you know, a distance away from you?
Yes. So she stayed in a college town because the boyfriend was there.
Karen Ortman 15:14
Angela Kenickie 15:15
And eventually she moved back to my town at was that maybe in the summer? the next fall... the next fall? I think.
Karen Ortman 15:25
And how did that go?
Angela Kenickie 15:28
Well, it was okay. But you know, she wasn't living at my home. And we were actually our relationship, we got closer again. I mean, we would do things together, we go hiking, and she would come to a family holidays and events. But she ended up moving into a place with this guy and his friend, and I was never allowed inside. So I would pick her up and she come outside. And I always I would try to kind of, but then I always felt like if I, if I push too much, I'd push her away. And I wouldn't see her you know, so it was hard balancing that. And I saw some signs at Christmas time before she died. And I confronted her and I was like, What is going on? But I was always denial, denial, denial, and then anger now, and even though I would say I want to help you, let me help you. How can I help you? It just, she never opened up to me. She did not want me to know what she was doing.
Karen Ortman 16:29
And at that point, you still think that she's doing pill and pot. And you were not allowed inside of the apartment? She was living with her boyfriend? Why not? Why were you not allowed inside?
Angela Kenickie 16:49
I don't know. I assume there's there were things in there that she probably didn't want me to see.
Karen Ortman 16:53
Angela Kenickie 16:55
That's an assumption, because I never pushed it so hard. Like, let me in. Let me in. You know, I mean, I just I knew it wouldn't have done any good. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 17:04
And to your knowledge, did her boyfriend also use drugs?
Angela Kenickie 17:08
Yes, in fact, he has quite a long criminal history. But nothing more. Well, he had a criminal history involving marijuana, which is soon going to be legal in our state, but at the age of 18. And now since then, there have been he's faced a few more arrests involving other substances. In fact, the latest was fentanyl. But at the time she was alive. I didn't know anything other than his issues with marijuana.
Karen Ortman 17:37
Did your daughter ever enter any rehabilitation facilities?
Angela Kenickie 17:42
No, no, in fact, when, when she was younger, I thought about trying to send her out of state, you know, because we didn't have anything here for adolescence. And I had looked at that and I just waffled back and forth, is that going to be the thing to do or not. And so we had just done the outpatient that she had been kicked out of for swearing at the counselor, and then blew the window, right before she died was when we were I had booked her into a facility. And we were planning an intervention.
Karen Ortman 18:16
an intervention. Why?
Angela Kenickie 18:18
Because she never would say, this is what I'm doing. You know, we could see, as she continued to miss more family events and appear to be out of it. Something was terribly wrong. And I was thinking, in fact, when we met with the interventionist our entire family, including her dad and her stepdad and her siblings, we all met with the interventionist. And I brought her picture. And I said, I brought her picture kind of before and after, because her looks at started to change. And I said, What is she doing? You know, I kept asking, Is it meth? Is it opioids? What is it? you know, and you know, obviously, they didn't know what she was doing. But we talked extensively that we didn't know and that she wouldn't. She didn't ask for help. She hasn't come to us with what it is. But we we knew there was a problem. And in fact, three weeks before she died, one of her friends who I didn't know this friend, overdosed and died. And I didn't know I was never told what the substance was. Yeah, I found that out later. But that really had us leaping into action, because we just knew that this was bigger than we thought this was worse than we thought. And there have been some physical signs with her too. So we just knew she had missed too many family events. She seemed really out of it. And then this friend had overdosed and died that we heard about, we wouldn't have heard about it, except that when she got the call, she wouldn't have told us see, when when she got the call that this friend had died. My son was in the car with her. We were coming back from like a family birthday dinner. And so he is the one that told us or we would not have known. You know, she was living a completely like secret life, in terms of not letting her family know the extent of what was going on, because I believe was ashamed. And I feel horrible that that she didn't want to tell us or want us to know or, I mean, I wish that was different.
Karen Ortman 20:17
Let's go to Wednesday, May 16 2018. How did your day begin?
Angela Kenickie 20:31
Well, it was one of those days that we rarely get in South Dakota, where there was no wind, the temperature was perfect. And all the trees were blossoming. And I actually took some pictures and posted on my Instagram "beauty is all around us". And I went into work. And I was working on a story on Good Samaritan laws and overdoses, because I interviewed a woman earlier, whose daughter had died of an overdose. And then I had found out about this kid that was a friend of Emily's, and had been working on that story, doing interviews, talking to parents who lost children to overdose, thinking, okay, I'm planning an intervention for my daughter, but I didn't think she was using heroin and thinking, I'm going to get my daughter help. And I never thought that she was was going to overdose, you know. And it was one of those days where we'd like to hike and she had a dog and she would hike with her dog. In fact, she was also a runner, and she was super health nut, which does not match up with any of those with using a drug like heroin or any illegal drug, for that matter. But I asked, Do you want to go hiking, I texted her and I didn't hear back from her because we used to go hiking or go to yoga and stuff together. And she didn't so then I ate dinner with my family and later got the call. You know, I tried calling her too. And she didn't answer and I thought that was weird, because she'd always call me back right away, cuz she knew I worried about her.
Karen Ortman 22:10
Yeah. So and you got the call from who?
Angela Kenickie 22:15
Her dad because she'd actually moved back into his apartment and had broken up with the longtime boyfriend from that, and it was, you know, she was in an abusive relationship with him, which I didn't know the details or the extent of until after her death, either. But yeah, he found her in her room.
Karen Ortman 22:39
And I assume that he had no idea that she was using heroin either.
Angela Kenickie 22:46
No, he did tell me that. She was staying out all night, and she was looking worse and worse. And, you know, he had been angry with her for those reasons. But, yeah, no, he didn't know the substance, though.
Karen Ortman 23:03
So nobody in her life that you know of, other than those with whom she'd spent her time knew that she was using heroin.
Angela Kenickie 23:13
There was a friend who knew who had been kind of shut out of her life by the boyfriend. She did see her on her 21st birthday, this friend. And this friend later told me that she knew, you know, I didn't know this young woman at the time. I just knew her name. And I just knew about her, but I didn't know her. And so I suppose she didn't feel comfortable telling me but I do tell when I speak to young people now. And I speak to a lot of young people all across the country. I say, if you have a friend that's doing something I mean, even illegal weed, you know can be laced with fentanyl. All these drugs, man, we see so many kids. Now they buy a pill, you know that's laced with fentanyl and they die. You have to tell someone because you don't they're playing Russian roulette and you don't know if the next thing they take or do is going to be the thing that's laced with fentanyl and kills them.
Karen Ortman 24:13
Did you learn anything about Emily's struggle with addiction after her death beyond this friend who you later learned, knew about her use of heroin. Did you learn anything additional?
Angela Kenickie 24:32
Well, I did. She kept a journal and so it wasn't all very coherent. But there were some things in there that really made me sad. She had written up a little poem, needles in cupboards, needles in veins, needles, desensitize thoughts, numb the shame. And I found that in her journal afterwards, and it just broke my heart and I also met, she had voluntarily so they don't just on her own decided diagnosed herself with borderline personality disorder, even though she was using, you know, hard drugs, she had diagnosed herself with that about a year and a half, two years before her death, and had gone to see a counselor for about a year who she told me about. that I kept asking if it was helping, because yeah, there was always the picking up the face issue. I know. And she told me it was helping but then about a year, quite not quite maybe just a little under a year before her death, she stopped going to that counselor. And I actually was able to meet with that counselor, who gave me a lot of insight into what was going on in my daughter's life that, you know, her private adult life with her boyfriend that I didn't know about. But it helped me to understand what was happening. And also the counselor told me at the time, she never wanted to stop using drugs, like she never, like, this counselor says some counselors won't see people who are using until they stop. But she doesn't feel that way she feels like if she can just get them to maybe eventually see that maybe the drugs are the problem. And not all these other things that they're telling them are the problems. But I really greatly appreciated that that was just very kind of her to meet with me and give me some insight.
Karen Ortman 26:18
Looking back on your journey, you know, age 14, to 21 with Emily, is there anything that sort of stands out now that maybe you didn't pay attention to, and perhaps listeners who have an Emily in their life and maybe are sort of exhausted with trying to communicate and getting nothing in response, any guidance you can give those people?
Angela Kenickie 26:57
Well, you know, hindsight is 2020 of course. And so many mothers in my position, feel so much guilt and go over every minute of every day that they had with their child, especially when things started to not go so great, right? I don't think one thing I have learned is that we cannot control another human being even our own children, we don't have power over them to control them, we can only continue to show up and to be there for them and to offer help. And to offer it, like I said, I think some of those tough love things I did like calling in law enforcement or, you know, I put herself on the front step, you know, after she disappeared for four days, you can't live here, if you can't, you know, follow any rules. I don't think those were the best things to do that pushed her away more. But at the time, I was being advised, you know, by counselors and by people who said, Oh, you got a tough love, you got to scare him, you gotta make them understand. So I would say always approach it from a standpoint of love and how you would want to be approached. And the other thing I can't stress enough are the dangers that are out there that you have to take it seriously. and search out the right kind of help, we need to do a better job in this country. In fact, my community health system that we support their addiction Care Center through my charity, is starting an adolescent Behavioral Health and Addiction program. And they're going to include navigation for parents. I mean, that was the hardest thing for me, not knowing what to do. And trying all these different avenues and nothing working and not knowing how to navigate the system correctly. And I'm a journalist and a researcher. Yeah, so if it was hard for me, I can't imagine it would be hard for so many parents. But 223 people are dying of overdose every single day in this country. We are at a record high, fentanyl it's out there. It's everywhere. So we have to treat this like the emergency that it is. But at the same time when you're dealing with a rebellious kid who doesn't want to do anything you say and more open up to you or talk to you or let you into their lives or that part of their lives. You know, yeah, it's very difficult. And I don't have a pat answer. I there are no easy answers. I don't have them. If somebody does, I would love to hear it.
Karen Ortman 29:12
Yeah. Well, you know, I can appreciate that. And just the fact that you're speaking to our listeners, given the rate at which people are dying of overdoses. There are listeners who have gone through what you have gone through. And I'm sure that there's comfort in sort of, you know, you sharing your story with those people.
Angela Kenickie 29:41
That's why I do it. You know, I have a blog and a podcast and I do it because I don't get paid to do those things. But I do it because I want other people to know they're not alone. And I'm looking for answers for myself to you know how to cope with grief. I'm looking for answers about addiction to understand and understand it better. And all of those things helped me and I hope they also help others.
Karen Ortman 30:03
I'm sure that they do. Tell us about Emily's hope.
Angela Kenickie 30:07
Right. So I started Emily's hope, which is a nonprofit. I did that in Emily's name, because I, my first thought was, I don't want any other family to ever go through this. Now, obviously, I can't stop out and it's still happening. But we have been able to raise I think we're at about 200... Well, actually, more than that, within a couple of years, right realtor raise almost half a million dollars to help with treatment scholarships. And we also help with a sober living. We have Emily's help Oxford sober living house, we help mothers and their children, mothers in recovering their children. And we have, I have plans for more prevention and education. So we really want to reduce the stigma through education, prevention, we want to help with prevention, and we also are currently working on treatment scholarships, and recovery and, and sober living.
Karen Ortman 30:59
Well, I support you completely. I'm here in New York, and you're in South Dakota,
Angela Kenickie 31:06
but I overstayed Yeah. hahaha
Karen Ortman 31:07
So it's all good. You know, there are people...
Angela Kenickie 31:10
the problems everywhere.
Karen Ortman 31:11
Absolutely. And there are people that are all over the country, and parts of the world that are listening to this. So I think that your story gives hope and inspiration to others, and educates as well. What advice do you have for grieving parents?
Angela Kenickie 31:38
Well, a lot, a lot. That's why I write my blog. But I believe that you have a choice in your grief. What are you going to do with that? Now, I'm not faulting anybody who gets stuck in a very difficult place, because I have seen it happen to friends of mine who have lost children. But I think you have to find purpose in your pain. I really believe in that's what I do through and I'm not saying everybody has to start a charity or do a blog or our podcast, but to find some kind of purpose from what you've gone through. And helping others does really helped me the most. And I am never ever going to not be in grief, I am never going to move on. You know, I could only move forward and but I have to I'm here I told a friend of mine who actually comitted suicide. In February, her son was one I was speaking of who overdose the friend of Emily's. And I had told her the last time I saw her because I knew she had been struggling. I said, you know, you are still here breathing on this planet. And that means you're still here for a reason you have a life, you have to live your life despite the fact that your son died. And, you know, she seemed to agree with me, but obviously, or she was in too dark of a place. But I firmly believe that I mean, I'm living, I'm breathing, I still have to go on and I have to figure out a way is different. I'm not the same person I was, you know, before this happened, I'd like to think I'm a more compassionate person, and I'm a more loving person. But I do think you have to remain open hearted, you can't let your heart shut down and close. When these terrible things happen to you.
Karen Ortman 33:21
How do you feel when you're asked how you're doing? Or if someone asks anything about Emily? Does that bring you joy or sadness?
Angela Kenickie 33:34
I like it. I suppose everybody is different. But I think I'm always thinking of her. You know, I'm never there's never a day that goes by where she doesn't cross my mind. So I really appreciate someone asking me how I'm doing. Not just how, how's your day? or How are you? But you know, how are you doing? Really? How are you doing? Yeah, and I also appreciate letting people I don't have anything to talk about or too much. And maybe it makes people feel uncomfortable. Not grieving parents and not other parents who've gone through this. I'm just talking about social circles. But things come up. And I think of her and I just talked about her and I'm grateful when someone allows me to do that or ask about her.
Karen Ortman 34:13
I think that's wonderful that you keep her spirit alive by talking about her. How are your other children doing?
Angela Kenickie 34:21
You know, I think siblings deal with this very differently. A lot of it has to do with their maturity level, you know, especially at the time of the tragedy. It's funny because we just marked Emily's 24th birthday yesterday, and we went out to the cemetery. And you know, my kids are here that I feel like they don't like to go to the cemetery and they're more here for me like they want to support me and make sure mom's okay. But I was talking about something, some things that had happened immediately following Emily's death and neither one of them had any recollection of it. And I said, You know, I think that's just trauma. You know, trauma has blocked that for you. But you know, they, they remember their sister, and they're happy to do that. But they also want to live their own lives. And they don't want that to be something that overshadows their lives. You know, they have their own their own things in life that they're doing. And yeah, but but they're okay. They're okay. But it's still it's hard on everybody. It will be forever. It will be hard forever.
Karen Ortman 35:24
Yeah, I'm sure. Is there anything that I have not asked you that you would like to share with our listeners?
Angela Kenickie 35:33
That's the question I always ask at the end of an interview. Especially one as my job as a journalist, anything, anything else you want to add? You know, because you can always miss something. That's, that's
Karen Ortman 35:43
Angela Kenickie 35:45
Yeah, I... I just want people to understand more than anything else, that addiction is a disease of the brain. And we have to stop stigmatizing and marginalizing people who suffer from this disease of the brain. And we have to do a better job of understanding it. And we have to stop punishing people. I really believe that. I just heard from a friend of mine today. she's helped me quite a bit. I've done some stories with her on a podcast with her, you know, to understand addiction, and she was in prison for over a year. And it was her second time in prison. And she went to prison because she overdosed and died in her car and was brought back by Narcan. And she said that completely has, you know, changed her relationship with her son and her husband, going away and being locked up, right. And I just don't think that's the answer for someone who's addicted. Yeah. So I really hope that by speaking out about it, and by more parents had more people speaking out about it, we start to look at addiction differently in this country, and we start to treat it differently now.
Karen Ortman 36:56
I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today. I am sure that your story and Emily's story and her life will have meaning to people who listen. And I'm grateful. Thank you.
Angela Kenickie 37:16
Thank you for allowing me the time to tell it.
Karen Ortman 37:19
Yeah. So thank you once again to my guest, Angela, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of you matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing. Please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or am I a US Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to You Matter on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or tune in.