Submitted by Jessie’s mom, Kelly Almasy 
Jessica and her son, Joseph

Who Jessie was

My firstborn. 

Jessie was very determined — she was walking at just 7 months. She was generous, kind and funny. She had a smile and a laugh that could light up a room, and people gravitated toward her. She was artistic and creative, and loved to be spontaneous — Jessie was always up for an adventure. She could never pass a dog on the street and not stop to pet it. She was a certified dog groomer; she had just finished her apprenticeship the day she died.

Jessie struggled with substance use from an early age

Jessie started to use drugs as a junior in high school, but she admitted to using alcohol as early as 12 years old. She had her first Percocet at a party her junior year and said she routinely used it on weekends for a while before it became a problem. She went to treatment for the first time at the age of 19, and she died of a xylazine and fentanyl overdose at the age of 32.

She tried very hard to beat her addiction. She went away to treatment several times — she was involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and had several sponsors. After her last treatment, she came right out, got a sponsor and worked the 12 steps. She was still active in AA and spoke to her sponsor the night she died. We still don’t understand why this happened, and probably never will. 

How our relationship changed

Jessie and I were extremely close. We had normal mother-daughter ups and downs during her adolescence, but things got really bad after she became addicted to opiates. We argued a lot, and I tried every way possible to try to control her behavior — of course, unsuccessfully. We both hurt each other very much with things we did and said. I am grateful that eventually I became involved in Al-Anon and AA. I was able to learn to love and accept Jessie in her addiction — things got better. 

After she sought out treatment, we were able to rebuild our relationship and make amends with each other. I am so grateful that happened. 

Jessica and Joseph on Snapchat

Being a mom is the job she loved most

She loved her family and her son, Joseph, with her whole heart and always tried her hardest to be a good mom. When she went away for long-term treatment for the final time, she was on “blackout” for 30 days and could not see or talk to her son. So she made a journal for him and wrote him a letter every day — she filled it with drawings, stickers and Bible verses so that he would know later that she was thinking of him the whole time. 

Joseph and Jessie loved to take photos together on Snapchat with all the silly filters. They would sit on the couch for hours laughing. 

This is what she would want to be remembered for. And she would want to be remembered for her smile and laugh. Every happy memory I have of her involves those two things. Those are the qualities that defined who she was.

The last time I was with my daughter, Joseph and she and I were playing a pretend game of rugby on a beautiful summer afternoon six days before she died. She was in recovery, sober and happy. I will never forget that day as long as I live.

How substance-use disorder affected our family

I want people to know that Jessie was a kind, sweet soul who was tortured by substance-use disorder. That she was sick and would never have hurt a single person were it not for her disease. I want people to know that the hole in our family is no different than the hole left by someone who dies of cancer or from a car accident. It doesn’t hurt less because she was a drug addict. 

If I could say one thing to her now, it would be

I love you, Jessie, and I’m sorry for any way I ever hurt you. My life will never be the same without you.