Combat the Crisis: ‘Today I Matter’, breaking the stigma

Opioid Crisis

ELLINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — 29-year-old Timothy Lally of Ellington, the older of two brothers, died nearly 4 years ago, in January of 2016, five days shy of his 30th birthday, of a heroin overdose. In the wake of the tragedy, his family started an organization to bring awareness to the opioid crisis.

Tim was a big guy whose Mom loved his teddy bear hugs. His parents, John and Laura, are healthcare professionals and provided a loving, caring home in Ellington, Connecticut.

They knew their son’s emotional pain; he struggled with anxiety and depression from the time he was in high school. He admitted to them that he started taking Oxycontin and Percocet to help curb his feelings of loneliness and isolation. He felt like he didn’t fit in.

His father told News 8’s Ann Nyberg that Tim’s drugs came from the street and from school.

Tim’s mother says that this crisis affects all people from all walks of life; “it can find good people in good families.”

“If it can happen in little middle-class Ellington with professional parents working hard to take care of their kids and do everything, it can happen anywhere.”

– Laura Lally, Tim’s mother

The Lally’s got Tim repeated help and in-patient care, though that was a struggle to find.

Laura pointed out that there aren’t always enough facilities with enough beds when people need help. And, unfortunately, when those struggling need help, it needs to be immediate.

In the end, it would be a heroin overdose that would take Tim’s life. The Lallys made the decision to say just that in Tim’s obituary.

The family told News 8 that it is the stigma that keeps people out of treatment. Lauren explains that it is the blame and judgement associated with addiction that keeps people silent about it. In putting it right in Tim’s obituary, they were breaking their own silence as an example to others.

WEB EXTRA: ‘It’s the wanting to hide it that kills people’: breaking the stigma of addiction

Tim and his little brother, Brendan, (three years younger) were inseparable in their childhood. So much so, that Brendan ended up following Tim into a world of drug use, thinking it would help him fight his own demons.

The difference between the brothers: Brendan was able to pull himself out of it and is now 11-months sober.

Brendan, like his parents, is talking openly about their lives and experience with opioid use disorder. They want to remove the shame and stigma around the struggle so that people talk about it and get help.

Brendan’s message to parents: no one sets out to struggle with opioid use disorder.

Brendan credits his parents’ deep love for bringing him back, the same love they gave to Tim; the same love that couldn’t save their other son.

“The worst thing I’ve experienced as an addict is feeling alone in the world, and to have parents that would push you away and make you feel more alone would just be the last thing that you could deal with.”

– Brendan Lally, recovering addict

In their deepest time of grief, the Lally Family set out to help others, forming an organization named after their son T-I-M. It stands for “Today I Matter.” They want all those who are gone to know they mattered.

“Our mission is to reduce the shame and the stigma of mental illness and addiction because there is an overlap as it was with our son.”

– John Lally, Tim’s father

Part of their efforts include a poster program, in which their son is a part. They seek photos of loved ones lost. They have collected more than 360 photos from Connecticut and around the country. In this way, a face is put to a life lived.

“Each of these pictures, there’s a whole family, there’s a Mom, there’s a Dad, brothers, and sisters, aunts and uncles, there are grandparents and there’s the rest of the community that got lost.’

– Laura Lally, Tim’s mom

Laura explained that families fear that, after their loved ones pass, the world is going to forget them. The T.I.M. poster project “keeps the loved ones right here with us” and says to the world that they are not ashamed of who their loved one was, that they are not hiding their struggle or how they died.

Today I Matter gives away $2,000 in scholarship to a student every year in Ellington in their son’s name. Learn more about their organization: https://www.todayimatter.org/about.html

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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