"There is a before and after when you have lost a loved one to overdose." - Cece

There is a before and after when you have lost a loved one to overdose. It changes your reality and your heart. 

You love just a little more, because you know that minutes count. I had the influence of a positive mom who believed that all people held redeeming traits. I carry that same passion in my life. It's who I am. So, my passion is hope in humanity. And my love, is family and friends.

The minute I see the smiling faces of my boys makes this Nonna smile. My family IS my heart. I have my son and daughter-in-law and love them both and respect their wisdom! 

And my faith is at the center of my life. It is "Faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love." 

In June, Bobby and I will be celebrating 40 years! Here's to 40! 

This photo is a happy moment with them that I'll never forget. For me, it's not what you're doing, it's who you are doing it with that brings fulfillment. And then, there's gelato! No better way to enjoy life!

On a Friday night, you'll find us around our kitchen table or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. It started as a tough night to get through. But spending time with those you care about, can help you make it through. Now, we've turned a sad night into a good place to be on a Friday night. I have, Denise, to thank for helping us laugh again on a Friday night. 

So for me, I've learned a few life lessons. I believe that happiness is a choice. Forgiveness is a healthy choice, but a hard one. And prayer helps a lot. 

I have learned that happiness and sadness can live in your heart at the same time. Memories become a part of you. And that's ok. As long as you don't forget to smile. Over time, smiles come more often.

I think the best thing we can teach our children is resilience-"how to get back up." I've had to learn this lesson myself.

When I started down this path, I lost "me". So I have been healing and reconnecting. This healing happened when I made a decision to be silent no more. 

I lost my youngest son, Ryan, April 25, 2014 to an overdose in Macys bathroom. He was 27 years old. He struggled for seven years with addiction. I sent him to college for a degree and he came home with a heroin addiction. 

He was a bright, funny and talented young man with potential. He had four overdoses with the last one costing him his life. He was on a wait list for two programs when he died and received his Medicaid card just three days before. THIS is why I fight for opportunity. 

When we lost Ryan, I said that I don't want to lose one more. Since then, we founded Ryan's Hope and the WV Overdose Awareness Day Tribute, advocated for two years for a fund to increase access. I'm grateful to many who have helped. 

The Ryan Brown Prevention and Recovery Fund is bringing 450 more treatment beds to the state. We are so grateful to see these new resources to save lives. We support many efforts to make a difference. Last fall, we had the honor to speak to 7,000 plus youth at the Mark Wahlberg Youth Summit at the Charleston Civic Center. 

I tell you about these things to say that each of you CAN make a difference. That we plant seeds sometimes and believe they will grow. And they do. 

Our message continues to be "we are hopeful, not hopeless". Hope is not just a word. It's a state of mind, a belief in change, knowledge that things can get better, positivity and gratitude. 

Adopting HOPE as a life-guide can create opportunities beyond our dreams. None of us have to stay where we are. We can move forward. 

We carry our experiences with us and it molds the person we are today. The view from the bottom can change an attitude. Bad things do happen to good people, but we have the ability to climb out of the valley with HOPE. 

My heart was broken when I lost my son. A parent does not expect to lose a child. I can't change that. I could have sat on my couch, looking at four walls. 

I chose to get up. It wasn't easy. But I had hope. Hope that I could help in some small way. I could not change what happened. I guess that's the Serenity Prayer in real-life.

When Ryan relapsed, I told him "another day is a day of hope". 

I chose to not let that hope die, but to share it through Ryan's Hope which we founded to raise awareness. 

Originally, I was angry just like anyone else. I have learned to forgive; To love unconditionally; To promote compassion; To speak out; To have gratitude; To encourage others to help; To let youth know they can make a difference; To let others know that people dealing with addiction are beautiful people full of hopes, dreams and potential; And that people can heal. 

April 25th is coming soon. Please light a candle for Ryan. We miss him terribly. We feel so blessed to have met such beautiful people along the way. If you are one of them, thank you for being on "Ryan's Team". 

Let's all make a difference! We are all #morethanaddiction.