This week marks our 25th and final episode of Last Day, Season One. Today, Stephanie and Jess sit down–virtually–to reflect on favorite interviews and ah-ha moments, noting the ways the show has changed along the way and the moments that have changed them most. We also look at what’s next for the Last Day family with an exciting announcement!
[00:01] Dr. Nzinga Harrison: This is Dr. Nzinga Harrison, and I wanted to pop on real quick just to touch on something that’s really been on my mind during this forced social distancing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. And that’s that I’ve been really thinking about and really worried about people who are finding themselves in situations where they are using alone. So if you’ve listened to the Last Day podcast, you’ve most certainly heard as one of the foremost harm reduction principles to reduce the risk of dying by overdose: don’t use alone. And since we’re all being forced apart by this coronavirus, that may be getting harder and harder. So if you or someone you know or love is actively using, I just wanted to give two ideas for how to stay safe. If you are with someone else, which is the best case scenario, we don’t ever want you using alone, but if you are with someone else, then try to stay six feet away.
[01:08] Dr. Nzinga Harrison: Use your hand sanitizer. Wash your hands. But if you’re not in a place where you can be with someone else and you are actively using opioids, especially injecting, then call someone you trust on the phone and have them be there with you that way. So that if you become unresponsive, they know where you are and they can call 911 to send someone to help. These are just a couple of ideas and there are of course, a ton. So my favorite resource is Harm Reduction Coalition. They have special information on their website right now at HarmReduction.org. And so this is me trying to share a bit of unconditional love in what is an unconventional time. So that’s it. I hope everyone will be able to stay safe.
[02:05] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Hey there.
[02:06] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Hi! Good to see you. I’ll see you a lot, actually.
[02:15] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I’m sorry. It’s your fault.
[02:18] Jessica Cordova Kramer: I know. Everything is my fault.
[02:22] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: That’s it. Good night, everyone! Thank you for joining our finale. How are you doing?
[02:26] Jessica Cordova Kramer: I think I’m OK. I mean, the world is topsy-turvy in every which way. But I think in general, I’m no worse than anyone else. How about you? How are you?
[02:42] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I’m tired. I’m just tired. I just feel really run down. And I feel like we’ve run a marathon. Like a marathon is 26 miles. And the show is 25 episodes. And I feel like every episode is a mile.
[03:00] Jessica Cordova Kramer: I like it. Look at you. We should do an extra episode.
[03:02] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: No, I’m good. And like, you know, at the end of a marathon — what I hear, I’ve never run one — but what I hear is that, you know, you’re in pain. Your legs hurt. You’re just bloody.
[03:16] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Your feet are bleeding. Your toes are bleeding.
[03:19] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, my toes are bleeding from the show.
[03:22] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I’m Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Don’t worry. My toes are not actually bleeding. And this is Last Day. So for our big finale episode, Jess and I had orchestrated this plan to reunite in person and reminisce about our favorite moments from Season 1. I was supposed to fly to Minneapolis and we were going to sit down in an actual studio together and compare notes on whether or not this marathon was worth it. But as we all know, a global pandemic derailed the production schedule of our show about an epidemic. Which is ironic and totally appropriate at the same time. I mean, the overarching theme of this season has really been we have no control over fucking anything. And just in case I needed yet another reminder of this, here I am literally recording from my closet at 10 p.m. on what should be a school night. But it’s not because the schools are shut down, like, indefinitely. And the studio’s closed. And I couldn’t record during daylight hours because children are so loud and this is what you do when you are committed to a cause.
[04:55] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: But like, what is this cause, you know? As we’ve gotten closer and closer to the last day of Last Day, I’ve been reflecting on the point of all of this, and whether or not we’ve actually gotten anywhere. I mean, I know what we set out to do. We wanted to make a show about the opioids crisis in a human way that actually made room for all the shitty things that the data and the statistics don’t acknowledge. And that mission has led us in some interesting and unexpected and shocking and pretty heartbreaking directions. So today for our finale, Jess and I are looking back. Over Zoom, quarantine-style, to share some clips, retrace our steps and see how far we’ve come.
[06:00] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So for me, I feel like this entire show was built on the back of this one thing that you said in Episode 2. Let’s play that clip.
[06:16] Jessica Cordova Kramer: After the person dies, or the whole time you after you find out that they’re using this drug, you’re like “what the fuck? How the fuck did this happen?” And it does. You go all the way back to 6 years old. Did I not talk to them enough? Did I — you know, what was the one moment? And I can probably pinpoint 20 moments that could have been the moment. None of them were probably the moment. I’m not my brother. I don’t know what on earth he was thinking when he decided this was his next step in life. But I know lots of people who go through trauma and don’t end up using heroin and lots of people who don’t go through trauma and do. And I think for those of us left behind, you’re constantly trying to find out what could I have done? What could I have done differently?
[07:11] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Hearing that clip — I can’t even talk. There was something about that very vulnerable and very authentic and like desperate question of what could I have done differently that speaks to everyone’s fucking collective suffering.
[07:38] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Yeah, I mean, I think that the reason the Last Day construct is so stark is that the person was here, the person was not here. On that specific day, is there something that could have been done to resuscitate them so that there was one more day, one more chance or was there something at age 6 that could have been done to prevent this in the first place? Or is there something in our system that could have changed to prevent how we treat people? Or all of it? You know, whether your person dies of an overdose or they walked outside across the street, got hit by a bus and were gone. You truly are so traumatized by this starkness and loss and complete lack of control that you have, that y in that stage of grief of — what is it called? — there’s like acceptance and bargaining. You’re in that bargaining phase for a while where you’re like, no, I could probably rewind. Like, I truly was like, this can’t be right. We’ve got to get him back. I think I’m generally living in acceptance, but I think grief ebbs and flows. And I don’t know if I have a specific thing I would have done differently, but I think our big conclusion on the show is that people can live on medically assisted treatment for the rest of their lives. And that’s OK. And I just would have had that conversation with him more.
[08:56] Jessica Cordova Kramer: And I also talked about this on the show in a later episode. But I would have also said to him, I don’t care if you need to use heroin in the middle of the night, but you’ve got to do it not alone, or you’ve got to figure out a way that you’re not going to overdose. Because I want you in my life.
[09:13] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: You know what, Jess, let’s actually play that clip. This is Jess from Episode 11.
[09:23] Jessica Cordova Kramer: A mom recently emailed me and she said my daughter has been using heroin for the past seven or eight years, and she just started using fentanyl. I don’t know what to do. Is there anything I can do? And I, with all the caveats of I love you and I’m sorry and I am not a doctor, I said, if I had 30 seconds more with Stefano, I would say, please don’t use alone. Don’t use alone. You don’t have to. Yeah, you can use right in front of me if you need to. And that is contrary to everything you learn about enabling addiction. And there are ways in which you could maintain an addiction and a dependency that won’t kill you. And expecting people to just not use isn’t it doesn’t work. So I think the thing I’d say to people is just don’t use alone. Go to a treatment facility. Have someone sit in the other room. Be honest. Don’t go in the bathroom in the middle of the night. Wake me up. Wake me up if you’re going to do it. Just wake me up. I don’t want you to die.
[10:32] Jessica Cordova Kramer: That episode nearly killed me. Recording it was tough, and I remember that. And I blame Jackie for it. Jackie’s our producer in New York City Jackie’s wiley production skills will set the moon on fire and make you turn into a wildebeest in a screaming grief moment in the woods, running around crying. I mean, I was a mess. I was a mess. And then I had to like go produce six back-to-back episodes of Good Kids in the studio. It was like a classic Lemonada moment where I was like, “all right, put on your big girl panties! And move on.”
[11:13] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I mean, and that was just such an emotional episode, like it was just. It was a lot like, what is it like for you to have that episode, where you are 100 percent exposed, what is it like to have that episode out in the world?
[11:31] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Yeah, I don’t think I’m a “let me share my feelings with you.” I’m more of a listener. But I know people are feeling the same raw emotion. We had a dad, I think, on that same episode or similar episode talking about how his kid died in his house while he was sleeping. And they found him in the morning. And that could have been Stefano, too. Even with all the precautions we might have put into place, even with all the wake me ups. It still could have happened. So I don’t know. It gutted me. And I still walk through the world with that episode having really hit people, like, when people realize that it was me on that episode, they want to talk about that episode and just how much it hit them. Yeah, it’s intense.
[12:33] Jackie Danziger: Hey, everybody, this is Jackie. I’m the producer of Last Day. I’m the one who makes people cry, gets people to stop crying and generally gets the show out on time. And like you’ve heard, it’s pretty intense. When the current production team got together. we had no idea that this was going to turn into a show that takes 187 hours of manpower to make a single episode. And just in case you think I’m exaggerating., that is the real number that we came up with when Stephanie asked all of us to tally up our hours. But that’s what it takes to make the show that we want to make that you want to listen to. And in order for us to keep doing that and to keep getting more ambitious, we need your help. If listening to Last Day has helped you or anyone you know in any way, we would like to humbly ask you to consider supporting us financially on our Last Day Patreon on page. Because if you and everyone who listens to last day pitched in like five bucks a month, we would immediately achieve financial sustainability and there’s gonna be cool perks. So please pitch in whatever you can by visiting us at http://lemonadamedia.com/patreon.
[13:39] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So it’s funny, I asked you to pull the clips that were most meaningful to you, and you and I chose out of 5, 3 of the same ones. It’s just truly mind-boggling. It’s not surprising, it’s not, because I think that speaks to the fact that we are different people, but we are living the same experience. And I think that that’s why the show is so compelling to people, because they’re like, yes, this is your story, but this is also my story. Like, I see myself reflected. And I think these “aha”s or these breakthroughs that I’ve had — people always say, like I went to an event last week and this lady was like, “that’s not scripted, right? Like you are actually having these breakthroughs in real time?” Like, you know, it sounds real. And I’m like, no, no, no, it is real. I am actually going, oh, my God, I did not know blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that kind of knowledge-gathering in real-time is very interesting. So in Nzinga was one of the ones that we pulled. So let’s actually play this one clip from Episode 6, which was Nzinga’s episode, where she is talking about Stefano not being able to get his Vivitrol. And this is one of the clips that we pulled. So let’s play that.
[14:59] Dr. Nzinga Harrison: First of all, that breaks my heart. What it should be, the harm reduction approach, is — and I love this quote by Monique Tula, who is the executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. She says, “Harm reduction is the practice of unconditional love for people who use drugs.” And the way that needs to be operationalized in treatment is if your brother comes in and he says, all I want is Vivitrol. I’m not interested in psychotherapy. I’m not interested in being evaluated for depression and anxiety. I’m not interested in you helping me make sure things are stable in my life, or that I’m meaningfully connected. Even though we know all of those pieces would increase our chances that your brother would be in remission in a year, we also know that saying no to Vivitrol and kicking him out the door increases the chance that he will be dead in a year. And so what we need to be able to do is bring him into the program, start the Vivitrol, maintain the relationship, and as he gets further into his recovery, continue to evaluate how we can support him with the additional services that we have. But it’s just not the way the system is crafted most of the time. And so I’m sorry about that. I feel like very emotional about that because your brother, one, should have gotten MAT on any of those other visits. And he certainly should have gotten Vivitrol when he was asking for it.
[16:31] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: That clip, obviously, was incredibly emotional. For both of us, it was like hearing Nzinga get so emotional, and be so compassionate, was sort of groundbreaking for me. You know, like she’s a doctor, she’s an expert, but she cares so much. And then the other thing she introduced that really I started to get even more in the next episode, which was Episode 7, was his idea of harm reduction. That you are doing whatever you need to do, you are breaking down all the barriers to get people the help that they need. And that idea was sort of like brought home in Episode 7 with Mayor Myrick. And this is another clip that you and I both pulled. So let’s hear Mayor Myrick talking about safe injection sites or they have a million different names. Overdose prevention sites. Lots of language that we’ve been exploring this season and season one. Let’s hear that clip now.
[17:36] Mayor Svante Myrick: The east side of Vancouver is one of the most notoriously entrenched neighborhoods for heroin use and overdose deaths in the world. And about 20 years ago they opened their first supervised injection facility. And I went and toured it, and I was touring it with the with a sergeant from the Vancouver Police Department. And we got up early and, you know, walked through this neighborhood that really has just been gutted, really having a horrible time. And he walks us through this alley and there’s a group of five people sitting there shooting up. And he nudges them with his foot and this one woman literally has a needle in her arm and looks up at us. She goes “what?” And the uniformed officer says, “what are you doing? The injection site is just around the corner.” And she goes, “yeah, it’s 8 a.m., they’re not open yet.” And he said, “it’s summer hours, they open at 7 a.m.” “Oh, thank you, I didn’t know that.” And they all stood up and they took their needle and they walked around the corner and into the facility. And I asked him, I said, you don’t want to arrest them? And he goes, no, we want them to get inside and we want them to get up. He goes, we’ve tried arresting them and it doesn’t doesn’t fix anything. We want to clean this problem up by actually cleaning the people up, not just by moving them around. And I thought that that was so profound.
[18:57] Jessica Cordova Kramer: I think from a policy perspective, you know, when we set out to make the show, we were like, what’s working? Let’s focus on that. We know what’s not working. Everything we’re doing is pretty much not working as a society when it comes to opioid use disorder and prevention and treatment and long-term treatment and understanding. So let’s focus on what is working. And, you know, Mayor Myrick is leading with compassion and also fucking smart. Yeah, that’s someone’s kid in the street, that’s someone’s dad, that’s someone’s mom. That is a human being who probably has a bunch of coexisting issues, including mental illness, including probably some financial troubles, and that why not pick them up and clean them up and help them get the help that they need? Which, as we now know, is going to take probably 18 months or longer?
[19:46] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, I mean, the idea that they’re not a criminal, they’re a person with a disease, this was like a groundbreaking kind of a notion. And that we are not going to discard anyone in our society. We are going to treat everyone with respect despite whatever it is that you’re struggling with.
[20:04] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Yeah. And back in the Nzinga clip, that was — I think if I had to pick one moment of the entire season, that would be it. It was the most satisfying moment for me to hear a doctor of actual medicine cry because my brother didn’t get the thing he needed.
[20:24] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah. I mean, I think that the idea that we, just on a massive sort of systemic level, have got to shift our gears to a harm reduction approach as a country. To shift from a criminal, punitive, you are wrong, you are bad, et me slap you on the hand, let me throw you in jail to a let me meet you where you are. And get you the help that you need because you are a human being and you have a history, and it probably includes some trauma, which actually leads us to our next guest that both of us were massively impacted by, not just us, I think I’ve gotten more comments over the season on this one guest than anyone else. Dr. Gabor Maté, I love this man. I am part of the cult now. It was hard for me to pick one clip from this episode because it was a hugely truly groundbreaking tectonic-plates-in-my-brain-shifted-forever, literally put me back in therapy in a good way to address all the things that need addressing. So let’s play this clip now from Episode 17.
[21:47] Dr. Gabor Maté: Again, you have to understand, trauma is not that bad things happen to people. Because like the Buddha said 2,500 years ago, life brings suffering. So that’s just the norm. You know, people die. Your pet dies. People might reject you. Somebody you love may not respond positively. You might suffer illness. This is painful. So life brings pain, but pain is not the same as trauma. Pain becomes traumatic when that pain isn’t resolved, when it doesn’t get the support it needs, when it isn’t metabolized, when we don’t learn and grow from it. Trauma is not what happens to us, trauma is what happens inside us.
[22:28] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I mean, yeah, that that episode for me was like your Episode 11. I feel like I laid my soul bare in that episode.
[22:36] Jessica Cordova Kramer: That episode for you really was. I mean, you were sharing in ways that nobody expected. That I didn’t even expect.
[22:45] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: No. I intended to go in and be like, “hey, your thesis is wrong because we had a perfect childhood. We weren’t traumatized.” And then he, like, carefully dissected that for the next 45 minutes. I mean, his definition of addiction, even, you know, that it’s not — you don’t just have to be addicted to opioids. you can be addicted to lots of things.
[23:05] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Right, it’s a coping mechanism for life, is our habits. And, you know, this episode helped me just forgive my brother because his habits just killed him and mine don’t kill me. And we call them habits when they’re — sometimes we say bad habits, like biting your nails, but habits are, oh, you go to the gym, you work really hard, you whatever. You have oatmeal for breakfast every morning. And they’re not judgmental. And the way that he found to cope was deadly. He also had great habits. That’s the funny side of this is you talk to anyone who’s person has an addictive personality and has an active or addiction in remission, and it usually comes with other great habits, or great personality traits. It’s like this funny yin-yang of the personality just being magnanimous and attractive. My brother boxed and worked out and was in great physical shape.
[24:11] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: My brother was not. He loved Chili’s, he loved Whataburger, he loved Taco Bell. Still very popular with the ladies, I will remind you.
[24:21] Jessica Cordova Kramer: He was addicted to his art. I mean, the first thing he did when he came out of rehab was go to a set.
[24:28] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: It was the last thing he did before he died was a comedy show. It’s pretty beautiful, actually.
[25:57] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Did any of the stories we heard from other people — you mentioned Brittany and Ahren. Do any of those stand out to you as a listener? you know. Oh, wow. This was really a moment that resonated.
[26:12] Jessica Cordova Kramer: I love them all. Brittany and Ahren was so important because we got a slew of emails of people who were like, I’m in active remission, or I have relapsed recently, and I heard that episode and it never occurred to me that I could be on Suboxone or methadone for the rest of my life. Never once did someone fucking say that to me or make that an opportunity for me. And Brittany and Ahren are just slogging through life like the rest of us. And there’s not really a place for him to be out of remission and not on something that’s helping him, some sort of medically assisted treatment, and all of the other therapies and support groups and systems that he set up and routines that he set up to sort of recreate his life.
[27:00] Ahren: I feel better than I’ve ever have, to be honest with you, I think a lot of it is because of the people I have around me. You know, they’re so supportive. No one ever makes me feel bad about what I did, you know? So I feel good. I feel like I got a new life. Everything that I wanted when I was getting high, I feel like I got that now.
[27:29] Jessica Cordova Kramer: So I think that episode is critical for people because we didn’t know if the show would be at all appealing to people who are themselves struggling with opioid use disorder or other addictions, chemical addictions. And we have a lot of people listening who are in that place. And to hear someone’s story that is not ending with, “and I will never use heroin again!” But instead, like “I’m going to be on Suboxone for fucking ever.” And Sam Snodgrass was the same. And that came early, thank God, because we opened that door real early. We were like, you might be on buprenorphine for the rest of your life, like a diabetic would be on insulin. It’s fine. Like you didn’t fail at life. You had a thing. And now you have a different thing. And the different thing isn’t gonna kill you.
[28:22] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah. And like there’s no shame in that is the thing. And when Sam said in Episode 3 — this was groundbreaking for me — when he said that this is a disease of brain structure and function, like my mind blew out of my brain. You know what I mean? You know what I mean? Let’s listen to that clip. Here it is.
[28:43] Sam Snodgrass: And it clicked. I finally understood why I couldn’t stop. I finally understood why I fought myself like I did and kept losing. This is an acquired disease of brain structure and function. They say knowledge is power. Well, it was this knowledge — nothing I got out that damn rehab — it was this knowledge, I think, which has helped me to not use up until this point. This is a chronic illness. Right now, my addiction is in remission. I am not cured. I am not recovered. I’m not even in recovery. My addiction is in remission. I can’t promise you that next week or next month or next year, I won’t be using again. This can come back. It can have a recurrence of this disorder anytime.
[29:36] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So like you just said, that was the first time that we heard from someone who was like on MAT for their entire life. And like, I think it was just too early in the season at that point for me to have fully internalized — it was like I was like, “yeah, totally!” It’s like when Sam talked, I internalized that this is a disease. But I was not yet ready to think, yeah, Harris could have been on MAT for the rest of his life, because I hadn’t made that shift yet. But by the time we got to Garth Mullins in episode 10, and he reiterated this concept about hey, if there’s people in the world that can go cold turkey, more power to ‘em. But I wouldn’t recommend it. You know, like he was just so sort of like blasé about it. It was so like that they would be the weird one, you know? That was when that kind of like got solidified in my mind, where I wasn’t just like, oh, that’s a cool idea. But I was like, this is the way. So let me just play a moment of that clip from Garth. Here it is.
[30:43] Garth Mullins: If people can be abstinent, more power to them. I know a few. Not very many. And I tried to go to NA myself, and it didn’t it didn’t work out for me. But if that’s the path you’re gonna go, please, please be careful, because the most common thing is that you’ll be abstinent for a while and then you’ll go use a bit. But your tolerance changes. Maybe you don’t have the connection to the same dealer, so maybe you have to get it from somewhere else. So you don’t know your own tolerance. You don’t know the quality of the stuff. And that’s a really dangerous moment. So when you’re in that moment, like, please, like, don’t use alone, like take the precautions, get Naloxone, get trained. Like I’ve known too many people who in that moment — they aren’t with us anymore. And I know that maybe that might have been — like that might have been what happened to your brother, too.
[31:40] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: It was.
[31:41] Garth Mullins: I’m really sorry. And that’s why this sort of drumbeat of abstinence that’s constantly going on is like if that works, like I said, that’s great. But it doesn’t for lots and lots of people and actually can make it a bit more risky. So I kind of don’t really advise people to do that. Like the people who are really close to me, I say just try to find a way to be safer. The unicorn ideal of abstinence might be sometime in your future, but you’ve got to live that long to get there.
[32:12] Jessica Cordova Kramer: The level of understanding that people now have, and I think this arc from Sam and Nzinga and Brittany and Ahren and Garth, and then some of the episodes that come where we’re on the road, like Eleanor Health, are these “aha”s of like, “oh! This is an illness. It needs medicine and therapy forever. It is not a moral failing for which you go into a cage for 30 days and then you come out better.”
[32:43] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, I love that. I mean, yeah, it’s like it’s not enough just to say, like, this is a disease. Yes, it’s a disease. So then what do you have to do with the disease? You have to treat it! It’s a chronic disease. You have to treat it forever. The idea that everyone kept repeating that — it’s so funny, in later scripts, we had to start cutting it out because we were so sick of hearing it. The five years framework, the idea that it is not until you are five years in remission that you become the level of the general population in terms of your risk for relapse. I mean, do you remember in the beginning of this where we had this hunch that 30 days isn’t enough? And then I remember when Harris was struggling, I kept going, you know, go somewhere for like six months. Six months felt like the max. Like, if you go somewhere for six months, you would be fine, Harris. You’d be better. And it’s like I was on to something. I had an impulse that 30 days wasn’t enough to rewire your entire brain and like, you know, like reset. But the idea that it’s five years, and then even after five years, you are still doing maintenance, like, that concept just reframed all of it for me. That you’re not ever out of the woods everyone. You’re never out of the woods! You always need to be getting that support.
[34:06] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Yeah. And I think The Women’s Home and Eleanor Health ones were really helpful in just understanding the why of that. It’s like if for whatever period of time — and opioids so accentuates this because of what it does to your actual brain and rewiring it — if for a period of time, and for some people, it’s decades, every time something went right or wrong, your reaction was to get high. Thirty days is not going to fix that shit. Even if the chemicals weren’t highly addictive, and they are, but the treatment facilities who are doing it right are helping people recreate their response to hunger and pain and joy and suffering and stress, anxiety and all of it.
[34:55] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Thirty hours of therapy a week for 18 months. That’s what you have to do. Like that is groundbreaking.
[35:06] Jessica Cordova Kramer: And our people are worth it. But for Harris and Stefano, even knowing all this — if someone else made this show and I listened to it and I was like, “Stefano, you could be on MAT for the rest of your life! You have to go to Eleanor Health for six months and then come out and you’ll be in an outpatient situation in Durham.” He would’ve been like, “I’m not doing that. It’s not happening.” Do you feel the same way about Harris?
[35:33] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, but that is something that you cannot have control over. And I think that’s the part that is still sort of in this whole — you know, I think some people listen to the show and they think like, you know, well, you’re not dealing with somebody that’s in act of addiction right now, because when you’re dealing with somebody that’s in active addiction, there is no fucking reasoning with them. Because their disease is telling them, feed me, feed me, feed me. I think it’s easy for us, where we are, to be like, “this is what we would do.” But that totally takes out the willingness piece. That’s the part of this whole thing that’s tricky, because that’s the part that like people talk about that moment of clarity, or that white-light moment or, you know, the “rock bottom,” where you finally go like, “OK, I surrender.” And you and I have talked ad nauseum about the fact that Harris and Stefano never were ready to surrender. And you can’t make someone surrender. That has to come from within.
[36:39] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So, Jess, we have co-parented this very demanding baby together. And I just have one final question. Has all of the work and the tears been worth it?
[36:57] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Yes. It goes without saying that we would much rather not have had to make this podcast on a personal level in the first place. So that goes without saying. But I’m gonna say it because I don’t want to get the review that’s like, “uh, wouldn’t you rather have your brother back?” Yes, I’d fucking rather have my fucking brother back. Fuck you. No one was gonna say that. But in my head, that’s what was going to happen.
[37:20] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Oh, they might have. They might have.
[37:21] Jessica Cordova Kramer: So not for the glory, but for the catharsis and for other people out there, it was worth it. And I do think I think it was worth it. I think the ripple effects haven’t even started yet on this one. What do you think?
[37:36] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, I mean, listen, I like to whine and complain and kick and scream, but at the end of the day, this has been the most difficult, but also most rewarding and most fulfilling creative endeavor of my entire life. It has been a labor of love. It has been a labor of pain and sorrow. But, you know, we set out to make it, and I thought that I knew everything there was to know. And the information that I have found putting it together has changed me. And I know that that’s been the case for a lot of people. So, yes, I think it was worth it. And if someone in the world does not have to experience the pain and the sorrow that we have experienced, then I’d call that a fucking win.
[38:38] Jessica Cordova Kramer: Amen.
[38:48] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I know that we just ran through our greatest hits. But you all know I hate nice, neat little bows. So there are a few things that still need to be said. First off, we set out with this really simple goal to figure out if there was anything we could have done differently to save our brothers, which is, you know, like so not simple, but that journey started in a pretty dark place. And as the season has gone on, I’ve noticed that we’ve gotten more and more and more solutions-oriented. And that’s great. You know, that’s really, really great. But I wonder sometimes if, I’m like a snake-oil salesman, you know, like, I’m a snake-oil salesmen and I’m selling harm reduction. Like, you can live if you have Narcan. If you don’t use alone. If you have fentanyl test strips. If you do long-term treatment. If you get 30 hours of therapy and address your childhood trauma. If, if, if, if, if, if, if, if you do all these things, then maybe you have a better shot. But like there’s no 30-day money-back guarantee on the box, because we are still dealing with a chronic disease. And so, yes, you can have better outcomes if you do X, Y and Z, but sometimes, with something as unpredictable as disease, it doesn’t fucking matter. Sometimes it’s “sorry, you have stage four pancreatic cancer and you’ve got three months to live.”
[40:42] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I’m not a doctor. I’m not an accredited journalist. I’m just one woman who partnered with another woman who experienced this really shitty thing, and we have some fight in our soul and, you know, some cynical, if not very pure, desire to make the world a better place. But I feel a real sense of responsibility to make it clear that even though I genuinely, authentically have learned a lot along the way, right along with you — and I think solutions do exist. And I think that there are incredible people who I have met who are working in this space and making the world a better place. I don’t want our listeners to feel like they have failed if they follow any of the advice from this show and their person still dies. And this feels especially important to say now because this is pretty much our last episode about the opioids crisis. Next season, Last Day we’ll still be here, but we will be covering a completely different topic. And I don’t want people to listen to the finale and think that we’re walking away because the fight is over and the questions have been answered. We are walking away because the marathon’s over. You know, we are wrapped in our little metal blankets and we are tired, but we feel extremely accomplished.
[42:17] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: And so, so grateful. In fact, let me just take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you to every person who took time out of their lives to talk to us and share their expertise or share their story and their firsthand experience. There are also a handful of extraordinary people we interviewed for Season 1 and didn’t get to include, but don’t worry, we will be sharing them on Patreon, which is the thing that you should join.
[42:58] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I also have to thank our parents. My mom and dad, Stefano and Doreen, for supporting us and pouring their hearts into this project. Thank you to my partner Jess and her husband Eli and my family, Mike and Iris and Harry, for putting up with me during the last nine months. And like the Last Day production team. Oh, my dear goodness, golly, jeez, like you guys hear me every week. But please know, please know, this would not be a show without these people.
[43:45] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I don’t really want to thank Stefano and Harris, but I want to acknowledge that — it’s such a tricky thing to say. I’m sitting here in the closet and I’m staring at this painting that Harris did. And it’s like this — I swear to God this is true — it’s this heart and it has these yellow wings and it’s like flying off into the sky. And there’s these like little tin foil stars. And I feel like that is Harris and Stefano. I feel like they are the heart of the show and they are like beating throughout. And you know, in Judaism we say “may their memory be a blessing.” And I hope that that’s what this show is.
[44:52] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Our listeners, I mean, you have your own version of this beating heart with wings flying into the night and I thought that a few people would listen. One of them being my mom. I had no idea that so many of you would find comfort in this show. And I want to thank you for sticking with us, and tuning in every week, and sharing the podcast with your friends and your families. We get a variety of emails and, you know, some people are just wanting to share. Like, this happened to me, too, and I want to be seen and I want to be heard. And other people want advice on how to help their person. The seeing and the hearing, we have got that covered. We know how to do that. And I hope you feel seen and heard. The other part of that, there’s just a lot of interesting questions that have been asked over the course of the season that just don’t fit neatly into the opioid epidemic narrative that we have been crafting. And then there’s others that we just don’t necessarily feel like it would be responsible for us to answer them and that it would be better to consult a medical professional.
[46:20] So having said that: surprise! We have a new show that is currently in the works at Lemonada coming out in May called In Recovery. And it is hosted by the true superstar of Season 1, Dr. Zinga Harrison, who you just heard a few minutes ago in our greatest hits compilation. She is extraordinary and we are so excited to get to continue the conversation about all facets of addiction, not just opioids, anything and everything a human being can be addicted to, this is a place to talk about all of that. So stay tuned for that.
[47:05] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: OK. I think that I have rambled on long enough, so thank you again for listening to this show. I am sending love to all of you. Last Day is a production of Lemonada Media. Thanks again to our producer, Jackie Danziger. Nicolle Galteland, our associate producer, and our assistant producer, Clare Jones. Kegan Zema is our technical director. Brian Castillo is our editor and our music is by Hannis Brown. An extra, extra special thanks today to all of our sponsors, and also to Westwood One, our ad sales and distribution partner who helped us to launch Last Day, our very first Lemonada podcast. We are so grateful for all that you do. You can find us online @Lemonadamedia. You can find all of our swag at LemonadaMedia.com, there’s lots of cool stuff on there. And you can find me online @wittelstephanie. If you liked what you heard today — I know the show is over, but people should still listen to it from the beginning. So please tell your family and friends to listen and subscribe, rate and review us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Stephanie Wittels Wachs. I will see you very soon.