Taylin McCarver: Champion for the Cause

The Addiction Prevention Coalition (APC) hosted its Eighth Annual End Addiction Walk (EAD) on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at City Walk Amphitheater. This event was curated to help raise awareness of the substance use epidemic taking place in communities across the state and country. Since its inception, APC has been on a mission to reduce the rate of death by overdose in Alabama and the stigma surrounding substance use disorder (SUD) by educating the community about the dangers of all substance use. With over 109,000 overdose deaths in America in 2022, this walk allows the community to remember those who have passed and those who are in recovery. This year’s Champion of the Walk is Birmingham’s very own Taylin McCarver. Taylin is a true champion for the cause since losing her brother, TJ McCarver, to his 8-year battle with substance use disorder in 2018. Taylin understands first hand the lasting impact of having family members experiencing SUD. Since his passing, Taylin has made it her mission to speak out and connect with families who have experienced similar struggles. Below is the speech that Taylin presented at the walk:

Good morning everyone. My name is Taylin McCarver and I am one of the leaders for Team T.J. If you have been to any of the previous walks, you probably already know about me and my family. If you are new to the Walk and the Addiction Prevention Coalition, it is nice to see you here! Before I say anything else, I want to say that I am proud of each of you for being here.

Team T.J. was formed in memory of my brother, T.J. McCarver in 2018. My brother battled an 8 year stint with addiction starting with smoking marijuana in college, and ending with heroin. T.J. passed away on August 19, 2018 after driving into the back of an 18-wheeler at about 90 mph.

He was driving erratically, weaving in and out of traffic, and speeding. Truthfully, a car wreck was not the way we thought that T.J. was going to pass away. We braced ourselves for the news that he had overdosed, been killed in a drug deal gone bad, or a different form that was directly related to his addiction. On the day that T.J. passed away my parents were with me in Tuscaloosa, AL. We were in the parking lot of Walmart and got a phone call from the sheriff department of Jefferson County. Unbeknownst to us, T.J. had already been dead for about three hours. The sheriff wanted to try and give us this news in person. He went by our house, he went to my dads work, and went to other places that we could have been. The worst feeling I have ever experienced, and witnessed, was seeing my parents’ hearts quite literally crumble right in front of me. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to advocate for other individuals in active addiction, recovery, and for those that we have lost to substance use disorder.

The unspoken community that I am in is “the sibling who picks everything up”. The sibling who was never told they had to pick up the slack of their brother or sister, but did it anyway. The sibling who was never supposed to look after their parents at a funeral and all that came with it, but did it anyway. The sibling who was never supposed to think about her future without her brother until they were old and wrinkly. The sibling who has to tell stories to her children about their Uncle T.J. in Heaven instead of having him here. The sibling who gets married in seven months and will not have her best friend next to her. I am here to say this directly to siblings in my position: it. is. not. your. job. You cannot continue to push off your own self care to try and fix everyone and everything around you. It is okay to be vulnerable and weak! It is okay to share your story! The more that we share our experience, the more relatable we are to others needing help.

One of the biggest challenges of losing someone in any capacity is grief. Grief comes in so many waves and types of emotions. Some days I am sad, some days I am angry, some days I am numb, and some days everything is normal. To those who have not lost someone to addiction,or any other cause: understand that not everyone grieves the same as you and that is okay. To those who have lost someone to addiction, or any other cause, understand that as long as your grief is not causing you, or anyone around you, harm, that is okay. Be there for those who are in this position, but know that sometimes they want to be left alone and not talk about their loved one. Some people, like my family, find comfort in talking about their loss and all of the memories, but for others it is too painful. Be respectful of their wishes and coping mechanisms.

My family and I use every opportunity that we can to share our story in hopes that we can prevent the same fate that we had. We understand that some people may not get it. We understand that some people may not agree with it, but we continue to do it for the individuals that call, text, or email us saying “me too”. To everyone that is in recovery now: we are so proud of you. You have taken a huge step in your journey and we cannot wait to see what recovery can bring you. To everyone who is in active addiction and ready to get clean, but not sure where to start: we are here to help. There are multiple resources and groups available TODAY to help you. To everyone who has lost someone close to them: we empathize with you. Your loved one did NOT die in vain. You should be proud of their journey. You should be proud that you can use their story to save others. You should be proud that they are YOURS. They were not a lost cause. YOU are not a lost cause.

Before we get started on our walk I want to leave you with a few phrases that I have lived by for years to help memorialize my brother. You are not hopeless, you are worthy of recovery and redemption, and you are capable. You are loved, you are prayed for, and you CAN beat your addiction. Team T.J., APC, all of the teams here today and myself are in your corner rooting for you. Every step of the way.

To my brother: thank you for giving me the strength and courage to use this uncanny platform. You are missed every single day. Until I see you again, I will always be your punk.

Thank you.

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