Outgoing, playful, beautiful, and fearless
Melanie was an outgoing and fearless child. At four years old, she started going off the high dive. She started cheerleading at five and was a cheerleader all throughout school. She loved public speaking and acting and would try anything once, like doing the Jitterbug, for a dance performance.
Melanie had a love of animals. The family had a Labrador Retriever for 10 years of her life, and other long-term pets after that. Melanie’s mother, Susan, remembers young Melanie watching I Love Lucy. She thought it was the funniest show on television but wondered why the TV was not in color. Her mom explained that they filmed in black and white before there was color. Melanie pondered this, then said, “What do you mean before color?”
Melanie was the person who lit up any room. She made jokes and everyone liked to be around her. Her sister, Amy, reminisced, “We are four years apart. Growing up, it was just the two of us. She’s my only sibling and sister. We had a lot of fond memories together. We also bickered a lot, as siblings do, but we were close as kids.” As they got older and Melanie’s addiction increased, they grew apart. Melanie had a child, Tyson, now eight, who she could not raise because of her substance use disorder. At four days old, Amy and her husband embraced Tyson as their own and have been raising him ever since. “A lot of his personality traits are hers, which is nice and also a little scary,” Amy said. Melanie’s mother imagines her watching Tyson’s ball games from heaven and being his biggest cheerleader.
Melanie’s family was not unfamiliar with addiction. Her biological father had an alcohol use disorder and eventually left the family. That hurt Melanie deeply. Melanie wanted to know her father, hear his voice, and see his eyes. She saw him once at her great-grandmother’s one-hundredth birthday. She introduced herself as his daughter, giving him her cheerleading picture and adding her phone and address, but he never contacted her.
Melanie valiantly, yet unsuccessfully, fought her addiction to drugs. She maintained recovery several times. The week of her college graduation, as she was going to school to take her final exams, she was involved in a three-car accident. Though it was not her fault, it totaled her car, knocked out some teeth and created back pain. She failed to tell the doctor about her previous substance use. The Vicodin he prescribed was a catalyst for getting her back to heavier drugs. She took her final exams and graduated from college, but never used her college degree in Public Communication.
Susan would like people to see the effects of substance use disorder through the eyes of those who experience it, and how it affects their lives and the lives of those around them. “Often people see those who use drugs as bad people, but she wasn’t a bad person,” Susan stated. “Melanie could have done something great with her life. She was smart and outgoing. But, the drugs prevented that. She was lost and couldn’t get out. I want people to know that she was a very kind and giving person.”
Melanie’s Mother Susan Souza and sister Amy provided the information for this narrative.
September 3, 1979–April 5, 2021
Age 41-Lived with the disease of addiction for 27 years.