Tammy Lofink, of Eldersburg, Md., is author of Reclaiming My Life, a just-released non-fiction book about the tragic loss of her 18-year-old-son to a heroin overdose. Tammy is president of Rising Above Addiction in Westminster, Md., near the Baltimore area. She also operates and owns two sober homes in her community.
Question: Tammy, as president of Rising Above Addiction, you raise funds for urgently-needed addiction treatment. How have you helped people who are dealing with addiction?
Tammy: Rising Above Addiction opened one year after the death of my 18-year-old son, Robert Mason Lofink. He died in our home, on his bed, on the morning of September 14, 2014. Words cannot express how devasted our family was. I don’t want other families to go through this nightmare.
Rising Above Addiction (RAA) has helped men and women, including teenagers and adults, since its opening in 2015 on the one-year anniversary of Rob’s death. RAA provides funds for detox; covers deductibles for inpatient treatment; and helps people who are entering sober homes, financially. RAA donates additional clothing to people who are going to treatment with just the clothes on their backs, and provides shelter and food to those who are struggling to make ends meet. RAA helps to navigate treatment for individuals and family members. Over the years, I have developed relationships with treatment centers. I have spoken with legislators, and I have become a community partner with our health department and state’s attorney’s office, among other organizations.
Question: Tell us about those with whom you work and how people reach out to you for the help that they need?
Tammy: RAA meets the needs of people affected by addiction around the country. People are looking for financial assistance, to include coverage for treatment. They may have exhausted their own funds, or may have been denied insurance coverage. I get frequent calls from hospital peer support specialists, family members, individuals, and from members of community partnerships, who put folks in touch with me. Word of mouth referrals and social media are also some of the ways in which people reach out.
Question: How do you feel when you get a call from someone who needs help?
Tammy: I feel blessed to be able to help. I am honored by the trust that people place in me. My work with individuals and families helps me to heal because I believe that Rob’s death is helping to save lives. What could be more beautiful?
Question: What makes you most angry or frustrated? What are you trying to change?
Tammy: What frustrates me is when someone is ready to get treatment, but must wait days or weeks for a bed to become available. When somebody’s ready, there is a short window of time. What kind of help is it when a bed is available days or weeks later? The person could be dead or no longer willing to get help. I am frustrated that hospitals release people too quickly. It makes me most frustrated that insurance companies deny coverage, even after all the necessary documentation for care is provided.
Here is what I am trying to change—the fact that people who want help cannot afford to get it. I don’t want a lack of money to keep someone who wants help from getting treatment. My mission is to, in some way, change that. Based upon the positive feedback which I receive, I feel like I have become a source of guidance for others. I was struggling with Rob, and I didn’t know where to turn. I offer people somewhere to turn.
I want to help in some small way to change the trajectory of the lives of people with addiction—if they want help and are willing. I can’t force help on anyone. I know this. Yet, overdoses are a tragedy and can be prevented. I have been to many other funerals of young people since Rob passed away. It’s tragic. The addiction that took him away is killing people every day.
Question: Tell us about your book, Reclaiming My Life.
Tammy: I just released my first book, Reclaiming My Life. It is about my personal journey of losing Rob and how I have survived and coped. I share details about my growing up, becoming a parent, and how I eventually became a better version of myself. Readers can find the book at www.risingaboveaddiction.com/BOOK
Question: You like to say that addiction never sleeps. What do you mean?
Tammy: My book co-author, Sylvia Blair, once said this to me—addiction never sleeps. What we mean is that the problem of addiction is always present. In a world of pandemic, politics and economic problems, the challenges of addiction don’t go away. I think many people in our communities forget that. I want to keep awareness of addiction elevated, especially when other issues are grabbing the attention of the public.
Question: Sometimes, parents blame themselves when things go wrong. How long has it taken to get past your regrets?
Tammy: I still have regrets. There are many things I would have done differently. I wish most of all that I had trusted what I knew to be best for my child. It has taken me some time to stop being so hard on myself; however, I know that I did the best that I could with what I knew at the time. Regret is not a bad word—for me, regret is a powerful tool for change and growth.
Question: Why open sober homes for women, when your son was a boy?
Tammy: Simply put, it is a matter of appropriateness for me. I am very involved in the operations of the houses. Although I have house managers that live at each house, I am frequently there and sometimes I arrive unannounced. If there are situations in which I am needed, I drop what I am doing and head to the houses. This can include suspected drug use by a resident, for which a second urinalysis needs to be performed, for example. I respect the need for women and men to be in the safest of spaces, where recovery can be most successfully achieved.
I opened the first sober home in memory of Rob in 2017 and called it Reclaiming My Life, using Rob’s initials, RML. I opened a second one for women in 2019 and called it Keeping My Serenity. The home is named after a young girl named Kristin Marie Spurrier (KMS), who died of an overdose. The sober homes offer a chance to continue recovery, bridging the gap between treatment centers and going back home. I know the women personally. Every Christmas, I invite them over to my house for dinner. I enjoy being in their lives. I am also grateful to the generous donors who made the sober homes possible.
Subscribe now and receive a FREE download of Russell Brand's interview with Dr. Gabor Maté (3/22/20) as they discuss: The Coronavirus, the infodemic, fear, acceptance, addiction, good books, and turning crisis into opportunity. Courtesy of Addiction Recovery eBulletin® with permission from Russell Brand and Dr. Gabor Maté.