May 13th, 2019: Four Years

Yesterday was the four year anniversary of my dads death. It’s hard to describe the feelings and emotions that go along with such a tremendous loss.

I can’t believe it has been four years since I’ve heard your voice, given you a hug, or have gotten to see you. I guess the seeing part isn’t completely accurate if you count the numerous dreams I’ve had of you dad. But regardless I want to memorialize you and your life. You had some hard times but you also had some amazing times and accomplished a lot in your short life. I choose to remember how smart and funny you were, how at family dinners you would always have the most interesting stories to tell about your day at work. I remember when we were younger and you’d read all of us Junie B. Jones books and how I’d honestly believe that, that’s how Junie B. sounded in real life if she had a real voice. I remember all the hugs, kisses, and I love you’s. I will never forget you my poppa you were a true hero and always will be. I love you forever and always, you are deeply missed. <3

04/15/19 - Taking Space

It’s been awhile since I’ve written or posted anything. This past month or rather couple months I’ve needed to take a breather from The Cost of Being Free. At times I find this project hard to work on and so I take space away from it to rethink what I’m trying to say and my approaches to do so.

In the time that I’ve taken this space I’ve talked to others about the work and have gotten  advice as well done research and read books about addiction specifically. One book in particular that I read is called Beautiful Boy. I’m sure many of you have heard of this book because it was also a movie. I found this book to be quite profound because it is told in the perspective of a father watching his son go through a meth addiction. Not only is this book beautifully written but it is so relatable as someone watching a family member struggle. It made me understand on a deeper level what parents go through when their child struggles in this way and how it can spiral out to affect everyone in that person’s close network of people. It also made me realize how similar all these stories are to one another yet so unique in their own ways. It reminded me of why I continue to do the work that I do. It is about bringing the community of people who suffer from this disease together.

As unique as each individual's story is I found comfort in knowing that I am not alone and neither are you. We have one another to talk, to listen, and  to find solutions together. It is so important to keep this conversation going and to normalize addiction. It is not something to be ashamed about. It is a disease and we must treat it like one and continue the dialogue.


I want everyone to know that I am hear to listen and to talk. If anyone has a story they want to share but don’t feel comfortable putting it other there publicly please feel free to email me. Let's have a conversation and support one another. I am here for you and you don’t have to suffer alone.


Email: thecostofbeingfree@gmail.com or kylamilberger@gmail.com


03/17/19 - Control and Letting Go

Self-Reflection, January 11th, 2018:

This is your body, your emotions, your thoughts and your manifestations. No one controls anything about you except you. Take responsibility and use this to your advantage.

Yesterday, I was in the car with my mom and we were talking about how nobody really has any control over anything and I found this idea to be weirdly comforting. I mean the only thing we really have solid control over are the decisions we make for ourselves. We don’t have control over what others do or not do just as we don’t have control over whether its going to snow or  rain tomorrow. But we do have control over how we react to that snow or rain, to that person or situation. This idea comforts me because it truly allows me to let go of the things I don’t have control over. It forces me to worry only about my own actions, my own thoughts, and my own decisions. Everything really is just a manifestation of what you make it because it is your life and no one else's.

“Sometimes, the road ahead is blocked, but clearing the way becomes part of our journey. Learn to tell when it’s time to let go, to surrender, to search for another road, a different path, another dream. But also learn to tell when it’s time to move forward, through obstacles if need be, because the dream is electric, charged by divine energy and love”. ( -Journey to the Heart )

It is okay to let go. It is okay to take care of you.

3/04/19 - It's okay to distance yourself.

In the last couple of blog post I’ve spoken a lot about distancing myself from my loved ones that struggle with addiction. I talk about how I sort of run away and ignore the problem until it starts to consume my every thought because I don’t feel that I have given them enough of my emotional or mental support.

Something I’ve come to realize though, is that it is okay to distance yourself from the craziness. In fact sometimes it can be the right thing to do for both you and the person who struggles with addiction. When we let other’s issues start to control how we drive our own decisions in our lives it can become enabling to both parties.

Addiction is a disease that is all around consuming and not just for the addict but for the ones who are closest to that individual. I think oftentimes people forget that struggle. It’s hard for me to really articulate what it feels like to be on the other end where we feel lost and don’t always know how to help. It is a feeling of weakness, powerlessness.

The reality and truth is, the only thing we can do is be supportive and love those ones who struggle. We don’t have the control to stop their addiction and we don’t have the control to stop their pain. We only have control over how we choose to react to it.

It’s okay to distance yourself when you need to, it doesn’t mean your not there for that person. You are taking the time to care for you and in turn that will be more helpful for the individual who uses.

I know that it is not easy to create that distance but sometimes it is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

2/12/19 - Being There, Being Aware

I decided to send Justin a hand written letter.

I find that I have a lot and I mean a lot of trouble facing issues that come up head on. I know this might come as a shock to some of you seeing as I’ve been doing a project that relates to one of the biggest events and issues that surrounds my world. It takes me a long time to really see things for what they are and to come to terms with how I want to cope and handle these issues.

One of the biggest regrets I had when my dad had passed was not being there more. I knew I had to separate myself from what my dad was struggling with because I didn’t want to let that bring me down in my life. But I also know I could’ve been more aware of his struggles and there to be a support to him. The real truth is I really wasn’t there for him.

I’ve been noticing that I have started doing this again, where I separate myself and become distant from the ones I love because I don’t feel like I always know how to handle what they may be going through. I caught myself this time because of a difficult conversation I had with a couple of close friends that honestly told me that I wasn’t there enough for Justin. It took me some time to really understand this and when I did I realized this was exactly what I did with my dad.

So because of this I wrote a hand written letter to Justin and I’m not going to share what I wrote because it is for him to see and read.

I think it is crucial to recognize and be aware of the struggles others face. It is so important to be there for one another even if we don’t really know how to truly be there. We must find ways to be open and communicate all sides of these feelings and to understand and face our own internal struggles.

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2/08/19 - Dad's Birthday

Dad,

Today would have been your 59th birthday. I think about how this day use to be so happy, it was a time we had to celebrate your existence. Now this date marks another year where you are gone. Everyone misses you so much. I think about you every single day, in fact I don’t think there has been a day that has passed where I don’t think about you. You being gone is weird, it’s been almost 4 years at this point and I still feel shocked and immense sadness by the absence of your spirit.

I love you dad, always have and always will. Happy Birthday to you. Wish we could celebrate another year of life with you.

Love Ky <3

2/06/19 - Judgement

Addiction is an extremely hard subject to publicly speak about. It tends to come with a tremendous amount of judgement. It becomes a risk to talk about, which causes people to be afraid to speak up. I think this is why addiction in general has so much stigma surrounding it.

Since I started working on The Cost of Being Free I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about bringing more awareness to addiction but I’ve also gotten some negative feedback as well. It was brought to my attention that I show the addict in a negative light and that my intention isn’t in the right place.

As I mentioned, addiction is not easy to talk about or see. But I don’t want to sugar coat the truth either. My intent is not to exploit the individuals who are apart of this community and project but to show the lives of these individuals and to document their true and genuine experiences.

I thought about the feedback I was given a lot because I want to take in and consider any critique I get. I believe it is extremely important to get that feedback. After some thought I realized that if I were to do this project differently and take certain photos/stories out I would be sugar coating the truth.

It is crucial to be vulnerable, to talk about the issues that are most difficult to talk about and most importantly to share these stories and experiences with one another. We don’t have to fight these battles alone. We must come together and stand together.

Addiction is a disease and we must de-stigmatize it and to do that we must continue the difficult dialogue that surrounds this epidemic.

2/03/19

I’ve been doing a lot of recording pieces of people talking about their experience through addiction. I realized I never really talk about my own personal experience through it so I’d thought I’d record myself and talk about what it was like losing my dad. I hope this is a piece that some of you can relate and connect with and I’d love to hear what other’s think on losing a loved one to addiction or just the struggles you have had from this disease.

1/12/19

I haven’t seen my brother Justin in over three months now. I miss him a lot. I won’t get into the specifics of where he has been the last few months  but he has been working on himself, dealing with issues he’s had to face for a while now. I wanted to write and say how proud of him I am. He has been through a lot to say the least  this past year and into this new year. He is probably one of the strongest humans I know to be able to still stand on his two feet and face his problems head on. I really don’t know when I’ll see Justin next and I know it probably won’t be anytime soon but I wanted to share that I see him for who is and his true potential in life. I’m proud to be his sister.

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1/10/19

Today, I watched a  touching video about apologizing to someone you love. When I thought about who I would apologize to, someone immediately came to mind. That person is my Dad, it made me sad because I can’t just call him up right this minute and say what I’d want to say to him. So I decided I would use this platform and share what I would say if he was still here.


Hi Dad,

I miss you a lot, so much so that it is hard to even put into words and describe how much I miss you.

I wanted to tell you something. Something really important that I’ve wanted to tell you for almost four years now.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for not understanding the tremendous pain you were in. And I’m sorry I never gave you that chance to let me understand. I’m sorry I didn’t try to spend more time with you even when you tried. I know we had a rough relationship and I know that I am not responsible for you being gone but I’m still sorry. I’m sorry I never apologized in the first place. Before you were gone I didn’t understand, I wouldn’t understand. But I do understand now and I know it’s too late but I want you to know I see you. I see you for who you were and I love you.

It is so important to be forgiving and to let the people you love know that. We can’t predict the future and trust me you don’t want to lose that chance to say something.

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1/06/18

“I’ve never been so sick in my life,” Mark said. “It was like the alien in the movie was going to pop out of my chest, things I’ve never experienced going through detox before.” They tried dosing themselves with Suboxone, a synthetic opioid that eases the pain of withdrawal. They had used it before to get sober. Now it wasn’t helping. The addiction was too powerful and the withdrawal too excruciating. “I knew then that I wasn’t going to leave,” he said. “That we couldn’t leave.”

I highly recommend that everyone take a look at this article, it is a very intimate perspective on the opioid epidemic in a Philadelphia neighborhood. It speaks truth and shows how big of a crisis this epidemic has become and that ways it can affect an entire neighborhood.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/10/magazine/kensington-heroin-opioid-philadelphia.html


1/06/19

Yesterday a friend reached out to me and shared a couple poems he had written about addiction and depression. I found them to be quite beautiful and powerful to read. I wanted share them with all of you. Enjoy :)

1/08/19

I hope everyone is doing well on this fine Tuesday.

Today I wanted to share and reflect on what I’ve learned since starting The Cost of Being Free project back in 2017 to now, 2019. It has been a journey of self-discovery and a lot, a lot of learning.

When I began this project in 2017 I was originally going to focus solely on other people and their stories. I didn’t think that it was necessary to focus on my own family story and I honestly was afraid of sharing something so personal with so many people. I came to realize very early on that in order for others to be willing to open up and be vulnerable, I needed to be open and vulnerable myself. This is when I decided to start focusing on Justin’s struggles with addiction and the parallel between my dad and Justin.

When I opened up about my family and our struggles within addiction I was surprised by the outpour of support from others and shocked at how many people were dealing with very similar issues. I came to realize that it is so critical to share, to be open, and to not hide from others.

We all constantly deal with difficult situations throughout our lives, yet we are all so afraid of speaking up and talking about it. I’m not sure if it is because we are afraid of being judged or if there is this idea that we all have to be perfect and not have problems. Either way through this process I’ve learned to not be afraid to share my imperfections and that once one person opens up it makes it easier for others to open up as well.

I remember as a young girl, I thought we all had to have secrets and that our personal lives had to be very private. I was an anxious kid and I think the root to this anxiety was holding back on how I felt because I didn’t think I was aloud to speak up and have a voice about it.

My advice to everyone in this new year is to not be afraid of what others think and for everyone to be their authentic selves. Do not hold back, do not keep secrets, do not be scared to share because you will learn many people are going through very similar things.

Let’s all be there for one another, let’s care for one another and spread love and kindness. <3


01/05/19

This is a photo I’ve been hesitating to post because I’ve been unsure if it is really something I want to share. But I’ve decided to share it anyways because it is a crucial piece to this story. It is the truth.

I picked up Justin that morning and we came back to my home in Detroit. I hadn’t noticed that anything was off with him at the time until we had already gotten back to my place and we were sitting at my kitchen table. He had started to slur his words and was nodding out. I had taken a couple shots with my camera and then realized that this really wasn’t the time to photograph and that I needed to take care of my big brother. Seeing him in the state that he was, really scared me and I told him that. I knew he wasn’t okay. He started to tell me that he was fine and not on anything which was a lie, a very obvious lie from what I could see. We sat in silence for a couple minutes before he started apologizing to me and saying that he made a mistake and took something. I told him there was no need to apologize and feel bad about something that had already been done. I stayed and hung with him for a bit, got him some food and then dropped him back off at home to get some rest.

In situations like this I find myself scared, unsure of what to do or believe, and  afraid that everything I might do will enable him further. I try my best to stay strong because I know that at the end of the day I really don’t have control over what Justin decides to do with his life. I only have control over how I decide to react to it.

Have any of you been in a situation like this? If so, what do you do?

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12/08/18

Justin wakes up and brushes his teeth. He gets dressed and then sits on his bed for a minute, looking at his childhood teddy bear. Photographed in Detroit, 2016.

These images were taken a couple of years ago when I documented a day in the  life with Justin. I think back to this time and how different things seemed to be for him and I both. It seemed to be a time where things weren’t as bad and there wasn’t as much of a struggle to just be. It’s weird to think about how much situations, people, and places can change so quickly. It is a reminder to stay in the present and enjoy what is now. To not worry about what ifs or what may or may not happen.

12/03/18

“More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year alone, according to the CDC. That number marks a nearly 10 percent increase from 2016 and the highest ever in the United States for a single year. By comparison, only about 17,000 people died of overdoses in 1999, the earliest year for which the CDC offered data Thursday.”

A friend shared this article with me about the decline in life expectancy because of the crazy amounts of drug overdoses as well as suicides. Please give it a read and let me know what you think.


https://www.npr.org/2018/11/29/671844884/u-s-life-expectancy-drops-amid-disturbing-rise-in-overdoses-and-suicides?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2058&fbclid=IwAR3HCk8AUNyp_svpFxAmPqmBAuD80zKSD5g4e6SW5qHVRO2lNepGMD83nQs

12/01/18

A thought.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and imagine my skin melting off. Melting off my face and body. Then I think about having nothing, nothing physical, just my mind, my thoughts. I take myself out of the “real” world. There are no boundaries, no rules. I can say, think, feel anything in the world. Everything is possible. Nothing matters and nothing really ever will matter. Nothing is real but nothing is unreal. There is just this, right now.

It is stupid to be afraid, to have anxieties. But what about to just live. To just breath, to just see, to just feel. To be aware of now. There is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow.

If you feel something let yourself truly feel it. If you want something explore and navigate that want.

Don’t hold back.

Be passionate about everything you do.


11/30/18

“The recent increases in drug overdose deaths have been so steep that they have contributed to reductions in the country’s life expectancy over the last three years, a pattern unprecedented since World War II. Life expectancy at birth has fallen by nearly four months, and drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for adults under 55.”

Another article about the increasing issues involving the opioid epidemic. I highly encourage everyone to read this article and really think about where we are at  as a society in the U.S. I question everyday why? Why do we want to use such deadly mind altering substances that can kill us, because we don’t want to feel? That’s extremely scary that we are so numb to death, that we care more about feeling nothing than the possibility of death. I’d like open up the dialogue to the group and know what everyone else thinks of this?

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html

11/26/18

As many of you know I’ve been working on a documentary project called The Cost Of Being Free. This project is about the current opioid crisis and bringing awareness to the extreme climate of this epidemic. The Cost Of Being Free is an incredibly personal project as my father passed away 3 years ago to a drug overdose and my brother is fighting this disease himself. About a year an half ago I decided I wanted to do something about it because I was and am sick of seeing people suffer with a disease that we can control and overcome. In addition to this online platform I have plans to make an intimate long-term documentary film that really shows people and their experiences through addiction as well as what the community is doing to stop this epidemic. The reason I’m making this post today is because I would like to open the dialogue up and am asking for people who have or are dealing with addiction to share those stories with me and get involved in The Cost Of Being Free. If you are interested or have questions pertaining to the project and want to know more or if you are ready to share your stories please feel free to email me at thecostofbeingfree@gmail.com. Everything that is sent and shared with me is private and only seen by me. Hope everyone has a lovely Monday!