My name is Charla Bocchicchio. I lost my only child, 22 year old daughter, Cassidy Aspen Cochran to a fentanyl overdose on November 11, 2016. She died on her bathroom floor, face-down on her knees (like child’s pose in yoga). When Cassidy died we immediately shared the cause of her death, both on social media and in her obituary. Her father and I wanted to bring this issue to the forefront and not hide it away as something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. We felt it was and is so important to shout from the proverbial rooftop in order to remove the stigma from addiction. Cassidy didn’t “look” like what most people imagine a heroin addict might look. She was gorgeous, blond, talented, her whole future in front of her. Her obituary got a lot of attention and local news crews contacted us just days after her death to come interview us and film her memorial service. Her story went somewhat viral. Her obituary has now been shared in legislative sessions and beyond.
But Cassidy was so much more than her disorder, her disease. She was our sunshine! She was the life of the party, she was everyone’s best friend. She was compassionate and kind, wicked smart and witty. She was hilarious and irreverent and could literally make you laugh until you cried. She was talented and beautiful. She was charming and tortured and artistic and adventurous. She didn’t care what people thought of her, and she loved practical jokes. She loved show-tunes and trips to New York to see Broadway shows. She believed in magic and Harry Potter. She loved to snowboard and rock climb. We had a family tradition early on, as soon as she found out the truth about Santa Claus, that every Xmas, we would travel instead of doing Xmas at home. Some of my fondest memories of Cassidy were on our annual vacations at Xmas time: New York, Disney World, Universal Studios, Hawaii, Park City, Quebec, Whistler. She went full throttle in everything she did. There was no half-way with Cassidy. She never stopped playing dress-up her whole life and never missed an opportunity to go to a Harry Potter Premiere in her Gryffindor robe carrying her wand. In retrospect, I think she always used make-believe as her escape from her inside pain. She had so many sides of her and could easily slide in to any group and fit right in immediately. Once she started middle school, social pressures weighed heavy and she struggled with depression and anxiety. I remember when her friends reached out to me because they were worried about Cassidy, and this began a dialogue that, little did I know, would be the beginning of many more serious issues to come. I don’t really want to re-hash all the heartache and pain that Cassidy and this family experienced while she was a teenager and beyond. Just know that, at times, it was wrought with heartache, illness, hospital stays, depression, and dysfunction. It was messy! AND we still loved her. She used heroin for the first time at age 15. Her dad and I did everything in our power to help her. We sent her to rehab, long-term treatment centers, therapy . . . we never gave up on her. It took a toll on our jobs, our family, our whole world. And as you all know, it eventually took her life.
Some of my favorite memories were road-trips to the beach singing at the top of our lungs to show tunes or other music favorites and harmonizing together. When Cassidy was at her best and healthiest, she was the brightest and most beautiful star in the night sky. She has now become her own super nova. Cassidy always had a connection with and deep love of butterflies. To her (and to me) they came to symbolize her grandmother, my mother, who died of cancer 11 years before Cassidy died. We always waited for Cassidy to emerge from her cocoon and to truly reach her potential in life, because we all knew she could achieve anything she ever dreamed of. Truth is, she has now, finally reached her potential, but it meant she truly had to leave behind her mortal covering. I feel her everywhere now.
I miss her smile and her belly laugh. Her irreverent sense of humor that could make me blush and crack her up. I miss her singing voice and beautiful eyes. I miss her incredibly smart brain and her amazing ability to even stump me with her higher reasoning and creative thought process. I miss her intense passion for everything she did in life. She truly lived deeply, she felt intensely, and she loved fiercely. I mostly miss that she never let a conversation end without saying “I love you.” Then this would usually follow as our back and forth … ”I love you more” “Impossible” “KimPossible.”
A few months after Cassidy died, I started writing my story of surviving that loss which included her story of addiction. Eventually I published a book on Amazon on the third anniversary of her death (11/11/2019), called My New Normal: A Mother’s Story of Love and Loss in the Opioid Epidemic. (see link below for more information and how to purchase). I now speak at treatment centers and high schools to spread awareness about Substance Use Disorder, bringing a message of love, acceptance and non-judgment. I truly believe this is the only way to fight the disease: to stop the stigma surrounding it so that one day seeking appropriate and effective treatment for SUD is as normal and accepted as getting treatment for diabetes or cancer.
My New Normal(the book’s website)
The Opioid Epidemic: When 28 Days Isn’t Enough(Podcast interview for SL Speaks)
My New Normal (order the book on Amazon)
Story by Charla Bocchicchio