Recovering addict tries to say something meaningful before more families have to say goodbye

Updated: Oct. 14, 2019 at 10:57 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One Cleveland woman is trying to reach addicts before it’s too late.

“I’ve lost a lot of people to overdoses,” she said.

Last year, Sara Szelagowski lost a close friend.

At 30 years old, her boyfriend’s brother, Justin, died of a drug overdose.

“It could have been me,” she said. “It could have been me many times.”

She’d just gotten clean after being hooked on heroin for years.

As she and Justin’s other friends were mourning the loss last September, she found comfort in an insect.

“The sun was shining. It was warm, and there was this white butterfly that just kept flying around the yard,” she said. “I just had this overwhelming sense that Justin was okay-- wherever he was now he was okay.”

That little white butterfly now stands for so much more.

This summer, Szelagowski started a non-profit called Project White Butterfly.

For the last two months, she and other volunteers have been writing addicts personalized notes.

She then puts them in public restrooms and other places she herself used to use drugs.

According to the Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office, fatal heroin overdoses were down in 2017 and 2018.

However, as of May, the outlook wasn’t good for 2019.

The office expects the number to go up this year.

Meaning, there is still a need to be out trying to help addicts before it’s too late.

“It hits a special nerve, and I just know from my experience that the right words at the right moment can make the whole difference,” Szelagowski said.

She came home from rehab to a pile of notes nearly four years ago, and it made all the difference.

“I don’t think this is going to be a huge game changer, but it can make a difference in somebody’s life,” she said.

If you want to help Project White Butterfly, you can buy kits to write notes for addicts.

The information on how to get them is on the organization’s Facebook page.

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