Heroes of the Opioid Crisis: “Remove the judgement, and walk in my shoes for one day and I promise you it will become your priority”, with Megan Megale of American Boy
How in the world can 197 people die a day of this, and it is not the most paramount priority on the minds of American’s? This is not a Democratic, Independent, or Republican issue, it is a human issue. Treat it as such rather, remove the judgement, and walk in my shoes for one day and I promise you it will become your priority.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Megale. Megan is a mother of three and began her career working in the operating room for Johnson and Johnson and then transitioned to biotech giant Genzyme Genetics selling 142 genetic tests to hospitals and infertility clinics. She now is the president of American Boy, a project that was the result of the loss of her son to an opioid overdose.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
That’s easy, the abrupt loss of my son Matt. Matt passed a little over two years ago after a ten- year struggle with the disease of addiction. This was not any job I ever envisioned I would undertake, but one that at this juncture in my career and in my grief, is necessary.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
My younger daughter Shea presented us last Christmas with a manuscript. Shea is an author by trade, so we all assumed it was another book and frankly we were happy she was writing again. We all began to read it and her writing was a very difficult for all of us. She writes about Matt’s struggle through her young eyes. We knew there was a horrific epidemic, but we had no idea the response this project would ignite. As a “silent” disease, we became a place of support and safety. The book AMERICAN BOY: The Opioid Crisis and The Sister Left Behind came out November 4th and it is a must read for everyone. The people who struggle with addiction will understand every sentence, and those that have not, will conclude the book with compassion rather than judgement
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Thinking I could navigate formulating a 5013-C! The paperwork took me four times the effort than someone equipped to undertake that.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact? This is a no brainer.
I wrote an article for The Today Show, it went viral. I started a Facebook group called The American Boy Mother’s Summit, it is a robust group of mothers helping one another through the struggle of addiction, not as experts, but as women. I spend hours a day replying to people sending me private messages not courageous enough yet to share their story but struggling terribly. The group has successfully mentored an addict to treatment, and we are only a month old. I am very proud of these women and wish I had that group when Matt was struggling.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
A young mother who had three young children and found out her husband had a problem with cocaine. She reached out to me and we spoke, then I anonymously put it to the Mother’s Summit where the level of support was what she needed to muster up the strength to give him an ultimatum. He too entered treatment the next day. Addiction is not just the addict. Addiction is the family that surrounds them as well.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes, they are the three directives of American Boy. Twenty- eight days in treatment is not enough. We need aftercare that keeps the client in treatment while moving towards returning to a life of sobriety. We need to recognize addiction as the disease it is, and we need to create better resources than the internet to vet the quality of care for these programs.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Someone who opts to defy what is expected of them and embrace what matters to them. At whatever the cost is.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I could not have the influence to help Matt that I thought I could, only he could do that. That marijuana is not a gateway to other drugs. Matt often said to me, “It’s just pot,” and I thought “well thank Goodness it is not hard drugs.” All treatment centers are the same. They are not and the questions you need to be aware of can help determine those that don’t have the only thing you care about in the forefront of your priorities, getting your child back.
Lastly, I had nothing to be ashamed of. Matt fought harder for his sobriety than anything I ever fought for. I ran into a neighbor in the food store who I knew had a son that was also using heroin. Hoping to find someone who I could confer with, I introduced myself and asked about her son. “Oh yes, Robert went to boarding school.” Boarding school? Please. He was in rehab.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
To address this epidemic as the disease it is. How in the world can 197 people die a day of this, and it is not the most paramount priority on the minds of American’s? This is not a Democratic, Independent, or Republican issue, it is a human issue. Treat it as such rather, remove the judgement, and walk in my shoes for one day and I promise you it will become your priority.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
To the world you may be just one. But to one, you may be the world.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I am at a point in my life where people don’t much impress me. My breakfast with a mother who also just lost her son would be my choice. To hold her hand and remind her that even knowing the outcome, parenting our sons was a privilege given to us by God, and we would not change that gift, as little time as it was.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!