City Girl Gone Mom’s Danielle Schaffer On A Brother Stolen by Addiction and Thriving Despite Generational Trauma

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
City Girl Gone Mom's Danielle Schaffer On A Brother Stolen by Addiction and Thriving Despite Generational Trauma

Danielle Schaffer is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her business and her family, but not even this determined, dynamic Italian "momshell" who hails from New York City could save her baby brother from the grip of addiction. As founder of the insanely popular blog and Instagram account, City Girl Gone Mom, and host of The Mom Confidential podcast, Danielle puts her mind to something and then makes it happen. But sadly, when it comes to addiction, even when you love someone to the ends of the earth, you can't always save them. 

This episode is the second in my pursuit of telling the siblings' stories around families, addiction and coping – a side of the opioid crisis and addiction in general, that doesn't get told nearly enough. Danielle generously shares her family's story and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to grow up in a family riddled with addiction and how she attempted to save her brother Scott, who ultimately lost his battle to an overdose in 2018.

Listen in to this vulnerable and heart-wrenching episode as Danielle shares;

  • what she aspired to be when she was a little girl and how that’s so relevant now
  • her life as a child growing up with a mom who was an addict
  • what it was like dealing with her brother while having a growing family and business empire
  • her relationship with her brother Scott and how her role as "sissy" also blurred with being a mother figure to him
  • how well her brother hid the extent of his use from everyone close to him
  • the constant lies her brother used to cover up his drug use and overdoses
  • the disturbing combination of drugs that showed up in Scott's toxicology report
  • the agony of telling her kids their uncle had died of an overdose and how her family dealt with the blow of their loss
  • the good and bad sides of sibling support groups 
  • some of her COVID coping skills and how she's staying healthy right now
  • why she’s so open about her brother’s death and how he died
  • the questions she asks herself about her brother’s struggle with drugs
  • and how she recently honored her brother’s life 

Settle in for this one, it's so real and so honest. 


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SPEAKERS: Brenda Zane, Danielle Schaffer
Brenda  01:50
Welcome to a very special episode. Today you’re going to hear from someone I look up to immensely in the business world. As an entrepreneur, a mom and a wife. She has literally built an empire from the ground up, which she runs from her beautiful home base in San Diego, California. Danielle Schaffer has four kids ranging from toddler to teens, and she is known as the blonde Italian “momshell” hailing from New York City. She is the mastermind and creator behind the insanely popular blog and Instagram account City Girl Gone Mom, with nearly half a million followers. She is the host of the Mom Confidential Podcast. And she is also the grieving sister to a baby brother who died of an overdose in 2018. I invited Danielle on Hopestream today to share her story and to help us all understand the impact of addiction and the tragic loss that can happen when a sibling is struggling with drugs or alcohol. please settle in now and listen to this very important conversation with Daniel Schaffer of City Girl Gone Mom. 
Brenda  03:07
Danielle, thank you so much for joining me today. I know times are crazy. And you’re homeschooling four kids, and all of the rest of the things you do. So I so appreciate you coming on today and just talking for a little bit about your brother and addiction and the opioid crisis in the midst of everything that’s going on in the world. So thank you for being with me.
Danielle  03:28
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I think topic is crucial for the world. And like I said earlier, we could save a life, then we’ve done our jobs. So let’s let’s get into it.
Brenda  03:42
Yeah, absolutely. Well, before we do that, I would love to ask you just a question to get to know you a little bit more. And that is what did you want to be when you were growing up as a little girl?
Danielle  03:54
Oh, you know, it’s funny, you asked that I was just telling someone the other day as a little girl. I grew up in an extremely toxic environment with two addicts as parents and when I was little I just aspired to be a mom. I wanted to have a big family and everything that I didn’t have I wanted. That was the biggest thing for me was being a mom. 
Brenda  04:24
Yeah, and look at you now!
Danielle  04:27
Four kids, three dogs, 
Brenda  04:29
Right. You’ve got it. That’s awesome. That’s so cool, I love hearing that. 
Danielle  04:36
Yeah. And I had my grandmother, who raised me pretty much like when things went awry with you know, my mom who was an addict, I would live with my grandmother and upstairs for my grandmother was my aunt and she had four kids, and she was so normal. And I remember the American dream, like just sitting downstairs with my grandma. My mother and right upstairs, I would hear all their joyous noise. And I was like, there’s the American Dream right above me. And I was I felt like I was inches away from me so close yet so far. Do you know what I mean? Like, I wanted to be part of their life because I loved that they eat dinner together and they cooked and it was four kids. And it was the, you know, they had siblings, they had each other and my aunt was an awesome mom, and she just was really proactive in the kid’s life and in the kids lives and then there was me, you know, who had the addict mom. And you know, no, dad, it was just, I always wanted something more. I hated it. I hated that. I didn’t have a home. I hated. You know, I just I grew up on welfare. And you know, I lived on the couch. And then when I went to my grandmother’s house, I had a bedroom there. So I always loved being going to my grandma’s house, because I always had a room. 
Brenda  06:01
Wow, that’s so special. Is your aunt still in your life?
Danielle  06:05
Yeah, yeah. Oh, now she has a cell phone. So she texts me now. She gets introduced now to the smartphone. And she’s like, Is this you? And she starts texting me. And now I could send her pictures, which is really nice. I live in Southern California. And she’s in New York. So
Brenda  06:23
that’s so cool. So you had that modeling. Like you saw that, you just didn’t have it at the time?
Danielle  06:30
That’s correct. Yeah, I saw I saw even on my block, like on my grandmother’s block. I loved all those parents and their kids. And we all played outside. And everybody seemed to have the mom, the dad, the house, the dinners, and I just I jumped around a lot. Like I just loved going to everyone else’s house because I was so enamored by their normalcy. It’s like, Wow, this is awesome. This is cool. So that’s, that’s what I really honestly wanting to be was a mom. Yeah.
Brenda  07:09
Yeah. Wow. And so did when did that sort of occur to you like, oh, my life is different than other people’s lives. Because I do hear that, that people say, oh, my gosh, I got, you know, some for some people’s like, I got a high school or I got to college, and I realized not everybody grew up on a couch with their mom passed out. 
Danielle  07:27
Like I knew, honestly, at three years old. I mean, I even remember being three. I don’t even know how that’s possible. But yeah, I have some just like, it’s trauma. You know, like, I remember things not being normal, like, you know, even though it’s hard to mention, but I, my mom would leave me alone in an apartment at three. And we lived in Queens, and I remember, this wasn’t normal. I remember just crying, waiting for her to come home. Oh, I knew right away because there was normal. I had a very normal Italian New York family. And then there was my mom, you know, who was an addict, right? So I dealt with that. And I guess the lack of her being maternal, because I guess addiction wins. And some people are just not maternal. And my mom admits that, you know, that she just doesn’t. She’s really not that maternal. So, you feel that, you know. So I think I knew to answer your question. I knew really young. Yeah. Yeah. It wasn’t normal.
Brenda  08:41
Yeah. Well, definitely. And, and then you have your brother Scott. So when how much older were you then than him?
Danielle  08:49
So like, 10 years later, he, my mom met a guy and they had a baby together, they never got married. And that’s when my brother came along. And I guess I want to say was around 11 when he came along, and gosh, I mean, I was already like, trying to survive my mother, you know. I was in a very survival type of mode. And then he came along. I don’t know, it was it was, I mean, it was hard because I left a lot. You know, I would like I said, I would live with my grandmother and just move around a lot. And I hated leaving him, you know, there. If that makes sense.
Brenda  09:39
Well, yeah, a little baby like that would have been very concerning.
Danielle  09:43
Yeah, it was like, and I was a kid, you know, I was super. If I look at, you know, my, my children now who are, you know, are 12 like that they’re still very young, right? Any sort of, you know, 12 is, 11-12 is a young age and I was a kid myself. So when I already felt like I had a lifetime of dealing with, with all the madness, that I felt bad that he was, you know, going to have to have her as a mother. You know? And I feel bad. I don’t want to like throw her so much under the bus. But yeah, and she’s, she does the best that she can. But addiction just runs on every branch of her nerve endings. And, you know, like addiction is just, it’s she’s been on like, the 20th step for like, yeah, she’s been on the eight step for 20 years. You know what I mean? Like, it just doesn’t end it doesn’t ever end for her. It doesn’t, she really can’t recover. At this point. 
Brenda  10:53
Yeah. That’s so tough.
Danielle  10:56
So tough, so tough. So I remember I when I turned 17, he was a little one. And I left and I moved to Hawaii, and I worked on a cruise ship. And I left for like six months. And I yeah, I was just like, I was out. I got my first apartment when I got back. So 17 years old. I had my first apartment.
Brenda  11:21
Wow. So you move to Hawaii. That’s a big move from New York.
Danielle  11:26
 I know.  You know, it was just the timing of everything. I happen to work at a pizzeria. And just I made friends with these, this family and they worked in the shipping companies and they knew of what I was dealing with at home. They knew how toxic it was for me. And they loved me. And they’re still part of my life. And they paid for my ticket to go to Hawaii with their kids. And I graduated high school and I jumped on. jumped on a plane and went to Hawaii was supposed to go for a couple weeks and I stayed six months. I just worked on a cruise ship. And yeah, it was like a Julie McCoy, it wasn’t Julie McCoy, it was more, I was a waitress. But I yeah, I had a blast out there. So that was good for me. And then I came home back to the same old crazy toxic environment. Like friends became everything to me and I got my first apartment. 
Brenda  12:30
So you’ve had to be a fighter forever. And was Scott the same way? Like what was his experience with your mom? Was it pretty much the same?
Danielle  12:38
I you know, for me, I was like, viewed my brother as like a little baby, you know, like a little man. You know, he had, he grew up with craziness, for sure. And I hate that I wasn’t there for a lot of it because I was trying to survive, you know, and I’m trying to get out of all of it and get away and you know, get myself in college and all that. And I did I eventually put myself through school and the master’s degree and all that. But he you know, he, it was different for him. I just feel but that I think he started to smoke pot, like very young. And nobody corrected it. You know, nobody cares to correct these things. And that’s where that’s where it started with him. You know, so it started with pot probably in high school. And it wasn’t just dabbling with pot. It was like a lot of it. You know, completely like getting shit faced type of pot. 
Brenda  13:46
Well, and he’s because he was doing the same thing, probably just trying to sort of survive and navigate for himself.
Danielle  13:52
Right. Right. And his father was great, though. His father really, um, you know, financially was there for everything for him. So he did have, he did have it a little bit different than I did because his father had money. So he was more so like, you know, like he had a car waiting for him a brand new truck when he turned 17 type of stuff. You know, he’s really, he had his own bedroom. You know? The only thing is my mom, my mom left at 14, when he was I want to say, I want to say he was around 12 years old. My mom left the house and got herself an apartment and gave the house to his father. And that I think traumatized him, because what mom leaves their kid, 
Brenda  14:47
Right, and that’s such a influential age. 
Danielle  14:50
I think so too. And it was I think that did damage for sure. You know, I can’t say for certain but I do think that at some point points in his life. She did do drugs with him as well. 
Brenda  15:05
Hmm, yeah. And I actually have found that that is more common. I don’t know, maybe I’m just really, really conservative. But I have found that that is not so uncommon that parents will do drugs with their kids. Whether that’s just marijuana, which, you know, here, at least in Washington State is legal. I think they’re in New York. In obviously not at that time, but so, yeah, and how confusing for a kid to have that experience, right?
Danielle  15:36
Yeah, it’s just, I feel terrible. I mean, there was there were moments when I had my own apartment, and I was working in New York City where he called me up and he’s like, they’re crazy. You have to come get me and I, you know, and he was a child, and I picked him up. And I brought him to my apartment. And he stayed with me for a few days. And I was starting to think like, maybe, even though I was young, I was in my young 20s. I was like, you know, what do I do? Like, do I just, maybe, maybe he lives at me and goes to school here? I don’t I didn’t know. You know, I was so young. You know, and I wasn’t prepared to be a mom. So but I always felt very maternal with him, like, I wanted to save him type of thing. He called me a wrecking ball. Like I would never stop, you know? You know, I definitely tortured him for sure. Like I tried to stay on top of him. And he has told me many times that I was more of a mother to him than her, you know.
Brenda  16:44
Danielle  16:45
Yeah. And she tried, there was I know that there was moments where there was not all bad, you know, like, there was good times where she helped him get a job at a bank once and and at one point, my mom was clean for like, a year. And that’s when she got that house. But then I don’t know, she just went to shit. When she relapsed, you know, which always happens. And then she gave up her house and her child, which was just just that that was the demise, I feel of my brother. 
Brenda  17:14
And that just, I think that goes to show you even if she wasn’t terribly maternal, I think that just goes to show you the power of these substances and what they can do, because even if you’re not, even if you don’t have a huge maternal instinct, I think, you know, picking up and leaving your 12 year old child is not normal. And and the power that these drugs have over people is just incredible.
Danielle  17:40
Right? Right. Like who does that? It’s just not like, there’s a lot of things where you just question I just, I’ve always looked at my mom with one eyebrow up. For some reason I don’t have this gene, for some, whatever the reason is, I mean, they expected me, my entire family expected me to grow up to be nothing. You know, they’re still in shock that I’m successful. But I, but I just really had my eye on the prize since a little girl like I wanted everything I didn’t have. And I made sure it happened. Like, you can’t tell me I can’t do something like, I remember, you can’t go to Wagner College, because it’s private. And it’s so expensive. And my answer would always be watch me, right. You can’t make six figures with your blog, well watch me, and it’s just and now here’s the one thing I can’t have. And you know, I want my brother back. Like I that’s out of my reach now. So he’s gone. And I’m crushed. Definitely crushed by the loss of my baby brother. 
Brenda  18:49
Oh, my gosh, yeah. No, it’s just so it’s so devastating. And did you know that he was still struggling with substances at at this age?
Danielle  19:01
I know. So, what happened for him like in his path is that he was smart, very, very book smart. And he got into Arizona State. He went to college out in Arizona, and he was the head of the fraternity. You know, he was like the president of the fraternity and that became a disaster. Like he just partied like no end, you know, I’m sure he I don’t know how many overdoses he had there. But I was told by his friends there were a couple of overdoses there, but it was it became the demise of him being at that college and you know, still not really having – he never really had supervision and dad always helped him financially. So there was just no reason to really straighten his shit out. You know? This he who he called me sissy. I was like, biggest pain in the ass in his life. And I would just call them all the time and be like, you can do better than this. Like what the hell are you doing? And it turns out like the lies were just crazy, like he would just, he was the president of the fraternity but he ended up never graduating. And he lied to his friends. You know. So here he was in school, and they like pretty much kicked him out. But he ended up staying at the fraternity for years after. I’m not kidding you. Like, so he just like had that same lying ability, like my mom, you know? And just, people do what they have to do, you know, and he just, I don’t I don’t know, he didn’t. I tried to help him to get back into school, but he felt like it was there was no chance like, he just messed up so bad in college that he couldn’t go back because it would take years and years and years. He felt like he couldn’t do it. But you know, I knew the truth. And then from Arizona, he moved to California. And he was out here for a while and his life was bartending. My mom was a bartender, I even bartended through college. And he just bartended in Hermosa, on the pier out there. And he just that’s what he was doing. And he just wouldn’t answer the phone. And there was really no getting – I’ve lived on the East Coast a lot too. So both both coasts, West Coast, East Coast. And when I lived on the East Coast, I mean, he wouldn’t answer the phone. So I jumped on a plane and flew to LA and flew to the bar, pregnant with my kid. I’m not And I showed up at the bar and said, you gonna answer the phone now? So he was like, oh, my god, she’s like, I was relentless. I was the wrecking ball in his life, for sure. But there was no listening to me, you know, and I can only do so much because now I had a family and I started, you know, my own path of survival and whatnot. And I didn’t live that close to him. And yeah-
Brenda  22:00
well, it’s almost like you had taken on that mother role. And, and I think this is what so many parents feel – moms and dads – is that helplessness of what can I do? What can I do? Yeah, he’s not picking up the phone, or he’s not answering the door. And I think a lot of that, and I don’t know if you experienced this with him was his that shame that they have of, you know, I’m ashamed of what I’m doing. But a lot of times that gets masked as anger or distance or, you know, excuses and lies. And so here you are trying to like, manage your family, but then you’re also trying to kind of be a pseudo mom to him, which being the mother of an addict is not easy, even if they came from your womb, let alone if it’s actually your brother. So yeah, that must have just been on your mind all the time, I would think.
Danielle  22:50
Yeah, I mean, I I loved him so much. I mean, my husband’s been with me for the past 20 years. And he knows, like, all the struggles I’ve had with him. And of course I loved him so much and wanted, you know, more for him because he did like, he had the best score on th SAT. It was like, you know, a the highest score back then was 800. He scored like 900. He was very, very, very book smart. And it just amazing to me that he didn’t graduate. It’s shocking that he didn’t graduate college and that, you know, partying just took over. Completely took over. And then, because I was so tough, he definitely hid a lot of things from me. You know, and he wouldn’t share, wouldn’t answer and it just, it took me to have to show up at the bar. And then still, it just never changed. And then I kept having kids and he was just distant. And you know, and then I guess I got a, I would say the couple months, like six months before he died, his girlfriend called me because he came out here with his girlfriend, and showed me the girlfriend. And I mean, he was so embarrassed of our mom that he told the girlfriend that my mom lived in Italy. So he had his own story. And in hindsight now, I could say that he probably did out of sheer embarrassment. You know, for how she was and he, you know, she’s just a little cuckoo right? Yeah, so he had his own stories for sure. About like a fantasy upbringing, and was wild listening to his friends tell us like, you know, he’s like, how’s your mom is she’s still working at what do you call it? And I’m like, I’m just like listening to this and how my mom lived in Italy and the father was the head of Amazon like all these crazy lies. It was just like, and I realized now that it was fantasy, like he really wanted more too probably. 
Brenda  25:06
Right, he kind of constructed a world that he needed. He probably needed that in some way to just to move forward.
Danielle  25:16
100%, 100%. Yeah. And I, you know, when I met the girlfriend to when they were talking about Italy, and I just went along with it, because I didn’t want to throw him to the new girlfriend. I was like, Yeah, she’s busy out there. You know, we would joke and I would walk, talking ahead of the girlfriend. And I’m like, Scott, like Italy, right? Like, yeah,
Brenda  25:38
like, what else should I know?
Danielle  25:40
What Yeah, what else do I need to know here with this conversation? Yeah, we had some laughs for sure. We had those secret. You know, just sibling love. You know that. Only things that we would share together about our mom. I mean I can tell you stories. There was crazy stories. One story was, you know, one day we were at the beach with our mom, and he was young, and I was young. And you know, well, he was a lot younger than me by a decade and we’re on the beach. And my mom was like, such a lunatic that she was like pretending to drown so that she had to be saved in the ocean. And we just were like, Oh my god, she’s pretending to drown right now. And we’re both so embarrassed by her. We just closed our eyes and pretended we were like sleeping on the beach. And she would just go from different blankets to different blankets grabbing any alcohol she can, like walking up to strangers, like, hey, do you have any more alcohol? Like it was just ugh, the things we went through.
Brenda  26:46
Well, and at some point, you just that becomes your your mode is you kind of expect crazy. And so it definitely puts you in, you have put that to good use, and you’ve put that into, you know, a constructive place where you’ve really benefited from it and that your kids will see that as well. Whereas, you know, he didn’t have that whatever it is, you know, whether that was something from within or something external, that he didn’t quite have that same motivator to take that into a good place. And it sounds like he also did inherit, you know, some of that addiction gene, whereas maybe you didn’t?
Danielle  27:29
Yes, for sure. He would tell me, I’m just like, Mommy, I’m just like, Mommy, and I’m, no, you’re better than her. And I would scream at him, you know. And then, in the end, you know, he needed a car and we thought, I don’t know how he survived in Southern California, with no car for over a decade.
Brenda  27:49
That’s crazy.
Danielle  27:52
Absolutely crazy. I finally called his dad, I was like, look, you got to buy him a car. I think it’ll change his life. And you know, he was looking into maybe he maybe he could be an Uber driver or something while he figures his shit out. And he honestly, we, his father bought him a brand new like car, just, I mean, and he died like 10 days later. Just shocking. Like, he just like, I thought this was going to change everything for him had a car and being able to get himself to and from the bartending gigs, because he was working big concerts, and he was spending so much money in Uber, then. Yeah, so we were trying to, you know, maybe a car would change everything and it just didn’t. 
Brenda  28:38
Well, so he was living in California, and you’re living in California now finally? And then were you aware that he was using substances as powerful as fentanyl or what was sort of the what was going on with you guys, you know, in the last couple years.
Danielle  28:55
So I would say I didn’t, you know, I showed up to his apartment. I would just show up and knock on the door. And he would be just high. and like heyyyy, you know, and you’re like, and there was like eviction notice on the door. You know, it’s just an I would call his father and be the middleman between them and trying to figure shit out. And there was times where I remember he was, uh, I guess one of his friends and that was a girl or an ex girlfriend took them in and she called me up screaming your brother’s a drug addict. You need to fix this. And I was like, I…
Brenda  29:37
 Sure let me just get on that…
Danielle  29:39
Yeah, like, I have four kids, you know, and I have a business and I and it mattered to me, but I was like, I don’t, what the hell, he won’t to listen to me, right. So, you know, that was crazy. And then, you know, once he was with her, then she was like, he’s got to get out of my house. I don’t want him here. So I would call the father and finally we got him the apartment. Got him the car, the apartment, every – I mean…
Brenda  30:06
Yeah. All the scaffolding.
Danielle  30:08
Yes, yes. So we, I finally was able to get all that but then I think like six months or four months before he passed his his girlfriend called and said your brother, I just want you to know your brother overdosed in the house, in my house yesterday, and he went to the hospital, he’s fine. And I guess they gave him Narcan. And I called him up and I was like, Scott, are you effing kidding me? You know, like, did you overdose and he’s like, Sis, she’s a psychopath, and she’s a liar. And this is what went on all the time. So he, I was like, listen, I would make jokes with him. Because that’s just how we we were very joking. You know, siblings, and I was like, You think you’re gonna die and leave me with our mother? I’ll kill you. You know, like, I would talk to him like, you cannot leave me with her. Right? You know, and he’s like, I would never, you know, and we would just joke around and maybe I took it too light that he overdosed, but I did call his dad and tell him what, what I was told. And he did the same with his father. He lies you know, just says that this didn’t happen. And that the girlfriend is insane. And it sure enough it did happen.
Brenda  31:31
Yeah, unbelievable, yeah. So he did end up overdosing on fentanyl. Right?
Danielle  31:40
I yeah, I actually, let me just pull it up. I have it in my phone, his toxicology. Because what was in his system is like almost shocking,
Brenda  31:52
Right? It’s usually never, it’s never just one thing.
Danielle  31:58
A lot of fentanyl mostly fentanyl. Right, and then you ready for this? Xylazine, a muscle relaxer, sedation for animals.
Brenda  32:11
Oh, wow.
Danielle  32:13
So there was xylazine and fentanyl. And according to his friends, his close knit friends, his people, he didn’t know what he was taking. 
Brenda  32:24
No, of course, 
Danielle  32:25
I was the one that had to clean out his room. When this happened, so the police, you know, they basically, after I found out from the roommate, it’s all very disturbing, the whole thing is disturbing, as he died in his room, and the roommates didn’t know for three days, and I I was traumatized that the roommates didn’t know for three days that he was in his room.
Brenda  32:50
Yes. That is extremely disturbing. 
Danielle  32:54
Extremely. And they they blamed it that he worked night shifts, and they work day shift. So they were like a teacher and an accountant, right, the two roommates. So they work in the day and my brother worked at night. So they just I guess they just didn’t check on each other. And his clothes were in the wash. And his phone was in the downstairs couch. And I was – so it really bothered me, you know, when they said he had so many phones and he was like a phone collector. And he would like, you know, just he was really into like, gaming and things like that. So he was really smart with like, building phone kind of thing. You know what I mean? Like he did that stuff, so they felt it was normal that his phone was downstairs.
Brenda  33:42
Wow. Yeah. So he didn’t know. And that’s, I think that’s something that I always try to get across to parents is to talk to their kids – tell them about fentanyl. It’s not a fun conversation to have but you know they could take their very first pill ever not be addicted not have any, you know, substance use issues, but just take one pill at a party and that could be the pill that kills them. 
Danielle  34:08
It’s the truth. And that’s what happened to that one kid. I remember that family that two boys are playing video games took their first pill and die. And the aunt lives close to me here. Yeah, like I I know from his room and from his phone, because I was able to break into his phone. It took me seven days and I was able, his phone, his phone tracked him, he had one of those Google Pixels, so I found the drug dealer. I found everything like Sissy, you know, like he would expect from me. It just, uh, he definitely did not mean to die. Like he was listening to Joe Rogan podcasts the night before and googling how to get stains off of your sheets. Like he was just having a normal, you know, a normal thing and because it was fentanyl, but the cop said that they I had to go in and clean it. So after they took them away, I guess you know, the I went into the room to clean out this room. I did. 
Brenda  35:20
Oh, that had to have been so horrible! 
Danielle  35:22
I had my cousin with me and my husband with me for support but it was, I mean, it was annoying. Like he finally got his license and it was on his license. So I was just, are you  kidding me? And you could tell like, he I guess he crushed pill and, you know, crushed the pills and like to snort them. You know, you could see that there was still lines there to do. So like he was just going to get high, you know, and it just didn’t expect that lethal dose of fentanyl would just freakin kill him. 
Brenda  35:57
Yeah. Yep. And it really is, you know, we call it overdose. But I think a lot of times, it should just be called fentanyl poisoning. Because you know, it’s not what they’re intending to take. They don’t know that that’s going to happen, obviously. And so yes, it is technically an overdose, but it really is a poisoning where it’d be like, you know, if you had a beer and oh, there’s just half of its cyanide, by the way, you know, it’s that kind of unknown, kind of Russian Roulette that they’re that they’re playing. 
Danielle  36:32
I think he thought he was invincible too, like most people that use drugs think that, like, I don’t think he thought he was gonna die. Right? It’s just very, very sad as he was a beautiful boy. And they were I felt I you know, as the older sister, I felt like there was always hope for him because he was so smart. And I was like, What the hell? Like, how could this happen? And it just, I guess he really, really hid a lot of things. For me, the only thing I know from the girls that called me, you know, like, he just right, you wanted to impress me, because I believed he had more in him. Like, he could do better. And I was just very strict with him. And so he lied to me. Always. Always, and always wanted me to think he was okay and doing good. And then sometimes he like, in the end that last summer, you know, we had really hard to heart conversations via text, so I’m glad I have those those texts. You know, he’s like, I don’t know what to do. And I just kept trying to motivate him, like, you know, hey, you need to do this for a job. And my husband has a dental practice. Maybe you come in and try this job. You know, like, we were trying to think about things, and he appreciated the guidance I was giving him but ultimately, it just didn’t even matter, because the use of drugs was just, and it was hidden, it was hidden from the roommates. The roommates didn’t even know he used drugs.
Brenda  38:06
Danielle  38:06
He kept it hidden from everyone. 
Brenda  38:09
That’s, I think, a really important point. Because I think a lot of times people assume oh, well, you know, they look at people that they see on the street that might be like living in a tent, and they think that’s what drug addiction looks like. And I think it’s great that you just said that, because you don’t know a lot of the times and you know, you might be living with somebody or next door to somebody. And they are really, really struggling with some powerful substances. And you might not know so having those conversations is so important. And to really not to really not focus on the shame and the stigma, but to say, hey, if you are struggling with back pain, or whatever, you would reach out and get help. And let’s try to make it the same. 
Danielle  38:56
Right. Right.
Brenda  38:58
Yeah. So then you had to tell your kids, how did you how did you navigate that with your kids? Because that’s such a difficult conversation.
Danielle  39:10
It was disturbing to me that I had to, you know, have this conversation. I mean, first of all, they were, when I found out, you know, of course I I completely – like I found out through a DM on Instagram, you know? Hi, I’m Scott’s roommate, it’s an emergency, can you call me? That was like the middle of the day. And I was like, I just fainted. Like completely collapsed because I knew, I didn’t even have to, I knew, I just knew and, and then I got up with them. And then I started to scream on the top of my lungs and my daughter, my kids were outside with my husband. So they saw- there was, I just was not composed whatsoever in front of the children. I was gone.
Brenda  40:00
there’s no composure at that point. 
Danielle  40:02
No. So they saw, you know, and then we had to talk about it, you know that uncle Scott overdosed, like it was just shocking and I was terrible, it was crazy. And out of the four kids at the time, he was six, he just took it so bad. He just took it so bad, my middle – third child. And, you know, so I just tried to do things, like I printed a picture of him. And then I framed it. And I said, you know, Scott will be your angel now. And gave them little jobs to do. Like, I don’t, it’s all a little bit of a blur for me, but I made them help me with the arrangements, kind of thing that gave them jobs. I thought that was the best thing and then write you know, write them a letter kind of thing. And, you know, it was just really hard to navigate. It was it was like, how do you tell your kids that their uncle overdosed? You know, so? He was young, you know, he was only 33, like he jus turned 33.
Brenda  41:22
So tragic. And hopefully, you know, with that, your kids will be so much more aware than a lot of kids. You know, unfortunately, they are. But hopefully that has opened up a dialogue for you to be able to share with them. You know what the real risks are?
Danielle  41:41
Right. with drugs. I know. I konw, I hope it sticks. You know, it doesn’t work like that. I know that, you know, it doesn’t matter. Like the kids are still going to experiment. I feel, it’s so nerve wracking. And then I belong to a sibling support group on Facebook. And it’s so depressing. Like, it sometimes helps me to feel like I’m not alone. But the amount of people that join a day because their sibling overdosed accidentally is disturbing. Right? So disturbing, like, right it doesn’t end, and you’re just like, and you look at the pictures, and sometimes somebody will post like, Hey, can you share your picture of your sibling, and then you scroll through it and you’re like, these people all normal. All normal. It’s like so heart wrenching. Death is part of life but, you know, in this case, I just feel with overdosing, it just could have been avoided, you know, or could it have been avoided, you know, and I just don’t have the answers.
Brenda  42:52
Right, no, it’s the club that you do not want to have to be a part of, and I know that that’s how the moms in my community feel that way. Like, oh, I’m sorry, that you’re, I’m sorry that you need to be here. But yeah, sometimes it can be, it can be helpful to have, you know, a little bit of support around you. But that grieving process has got to be just so hard while you’re – because you can’t just do that – you’re living your life and business and kids. And, you know, it has to sort of gel with all of that I would imagine.
Danielle  43:28
Yes, yeah. It’s just, it’s difficult. And I think that, you know, it’s funny, like, I’ll talk to my doctor, and if my doctor tells me that you should only have seven glasses of alcohol in a seven day period, right? You’re only allowed to have that. Because then you go down the slippery slope, if you start, you know, increasing that and and it’s just, it’s so easy to just go down, and especially now during COVID, yeah, like, there’s so much increase in alcohol right now with parents. It’s mind blowing. It’s mind blowing. And it’s because a lot of people don’t know how to cope, you know, and we’re all stuck at home and it’s just a lot. And so that intake is just increasing. And, you know, you just have to know your resources and get help if you need help. Right?
Brenda  44:28
Yeah. And not be ashamed to say that, to say, hey, I’m either feeling unhealthy about my drinking or whatever your coping mechanism is – online shopping. I have a couple friends who I think they’ve like tripled their closet size and during COVID. So it doesn’t really matter what it is obviously, right? Alcohol and drugs are going to be more dangerous, physically, but yeah, the coping during this time is just incredibly, incredibly hard.
Danielle  45:03
I have to agree with you. It’s really, really difficult. I’m, I’m very open, though about what happened to my brother and I just feel like I would never – I’m not ashamed, you know, as more as I wish he was here. I wish this didn’t happen. Of course, I question what could I have done differently? How could I have saved him? Those are my own issues. But I just, I just hope that people know that this runs in many households this addiction thing. And, you know, and like you said, it just takes one lethal dose. And it’s, yeah, it’s done. You’re done. So people, you know, make a choice here like not to, you just can’t say not to use, but you know, you are playing roulette, like you said,
Brenda  46:01
Yeah, you are in and that, you know, it isn’t, you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Whether you’re 33, or whether you’re 17, or whatever, you know, to, I think, even if you have to reach out to somebody else, that is not a family member, you know, if that feels shameful to you reach out to somebody and just say, hey, I need some help, because there are so many resources now for help that, you know, but I think the latest statistic is that only about 10% of people who are struggling with substance use actually get help. So that’s ridiculous. I mean, that just, it makes no sense if that was diabetes, like only 10% of people with diabetes actually get help. That’s crazy. So we need to up that number. And I think what prevents that is stigma and shame and embarrassment. And so the more people like you, who can just say, Hey, I’m not ashamed of this, I’m going to tell the story. That’s, that’s what helps more people be able to get, you know, get into treatment. So
Danielle  47:04
I agree that you shouldn’t be ashamed. I mean, it’s, this is life, you know, and you just got to figure out and navigate, what could we have done differently? What resources out there to get help. And I mean, just don’t – if anyone’s going through this, just don’t give up on the person. You know, the alternative is this, and I can’t go back in time. All I can do is just, you know, like, right now, we just sprinkled his ashes, it took me a year and a half to do so. But I went to like seven national parks, and sprinkled him all across the country. So that’s how I’m honoring my baby brother.
Brenda  47:48
That’s so beautiful
Danielle  47:49
Doing things like that. And then just be just being an open book about it, like you said, You know,
Brenda  47:56
I think that’s the most important is just to talk about it and just show that it doesn’t matter. You know, fentanyl, heroin, all of those, they don’t care. Alcohol doesn’t care what your income is, or what your zip code is, or what your education is, or your name doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. It’s going to take you and so the more that we can put that message out there, because my son said the same thing. It took him waking up in the hospital after a fentanyl overdose to say, he said, mama, I finally realized the drugs are bigger than me. And it took that for him to stop.
Danielle  48:33
Oh, then you can you consider yourself lucky!
Brenda  48:37
Oh, I I am like the luckiest mom on earth because my son is still with us when he shouldn’t be he had two fentanyl overdoses in the same week, Wednesday and Friday. And you know, he was on life support on the second one for three days. They basically just said get out your family here. So, but it took that because until then he thought that he was bigger than the drugs and he thought he could control it. And he didn’t, you know, which is what everybody thinks, because it’s just this little pill, right? Or it’s this powder. And it doesn’t seem like it could take your life. And it clearly can. So well, thank you so much for your voice and putting this out there. And for your honesty, I think it’s going to help a lot of people just sort of say, okay, I can talk about this. And also if they’ve been through it to sort of find that, you know, another voice of somebody who’s been there and to understand that the grieving process is hard, and it does just take time and…
Danielle  49:45
Right, but thank you. Thank you for having me and listening to some of our story. I appreciate it because it’s important that we continue to have conversations. And that’s what’s important.
Brenda  50:04
Yeah. And that these are good people, your brother was, and every single person. 
Danielle  50:10
Yes, very good. And he had, you know, like 500 people at his like memorial like he just was extremely loved. And it was just shocking. It’s just all of it, shocking. And, it could happen to you. It could happen to anyone.
Brenda  50:26
Yes. All right. Well, thank you so much, wish I could give you a virtual hug but I will do that sometime when – my son lives in San Diego so maybe I’ll see you sometime down there. 
Danielle  50:37
Yeah, that would be amazing. And if anyone wants to read more about our story, it’s on my blog on And you could look it up if you want to read more. 
Brenda  50:48
Absolutely. And I’ll put a link in the show notes to that. And I also know that you’ve written a couple of articles on Today’s Parenting. So I will link out to those. And we’ll make sure people can get some resources there.
Danielle  50:58
Ok! Well, thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you.
Brenda  51:04
I can’t thank Danielle enough for spending this time to share her story and to give us some perspective on the immense tragedy that is the loss of a sibling. It’s a piece of the opioid epidemic that I think just doesn’t get much attention. So this was very, very special. And I also really appreciate her vulnerability to share not just about Scott’s tragic death, but also about her mom and her difficult childhood as well. You can find Danielle’s blog, if you just Google City Girl Gone Mom and her Instagram account is by the same name. But I’ll put all that also in the show notes along with some other resources for siblings. 
Brenda  51:46
If you’re a mom listening to this and thinking, there must be other moms out there listening to, I can tell you that there are thousands of other moms that are searching for this same information. And for a more personal connection. You can find me and a bunch of these moms by going to my website, And there you will get lots of information about a really special online community of moms called The Stream. We have regular calls and chat sessions. We do a monthly yoga class for stress and anxiety. And it’s all positively focused. It is not on Facebook, and it’s completely confidential. Membership is on a pay what you can model, so if you want to join this community, and you need the support, you are in. 
You might also want to download my free ebook called HINDSIGHT: Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs. It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll meet you right back here next week.

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