Submitted by Kimberly’s daughter, Mackenzie Gilliland-Earle

The story I tell is that it could happen to anyone

Kimberly Gilliland and her daughter, Mackenzie Gilliland-Earle
Kimberly Gilliland and daughter Mackenzie Gilliland-Earle

My mom loved to scrapbook everything. She scrapbooked everything I did. She had seven kids altogether — I am her oldest daughter. She loved to shop and go out to eat. She was so full of life. She was so smart — she had two degrees, and she was a teacher. 

There isn’t just one memory that tells everything someone would need to know about her. She was just such a beautiful person. Everyday we’d watch TV together after I got home from school. She always made sure I felt beautiful and loved.

When she was introduced to opioids

My mom had a back problem, and she was prescribed opioids for the pain. She was on them for years, but when her mom died is when she became addicted, at least in the sense that that’s when it became apparent she had a problem. 

On the surface, it simply appeared to make her happy

I remember when I was in high school she would take them, and when she would, she was happier. When I was 16, she offered some to me for the first time, and I thought they would make me happier, too. She wasn’t a drug dealer; she just wanted me to feel OK. Eventually, we were both actively addicted. Because of my own issues, I feel like I didn’t help her when I should have.

We took pills together

That made everything more complex. I had, and still have, a rare kidney disease that got me opioids from a doctor, as well. We shared whatever we had, and it made us resent the other for drug-related issues.

She tried to get help

She went to rehab for a few days but decided to leave shortly after arriving — she convinced herself that she didn’t have a problem compared to the other people. She struggled with opioid-use disorder — actively addicted — for six years before she died of an overdose.

The day before she died, she sent me a long message 

She told me how beautiful I am. She said I was smart and a great mother. She said how proud she was of me. She did this quite often, but the last time she did it is what stuck with me. She said I was a wonderful daughter and that she loved me more than anything.

I think she’d want to be remembered as who she was before addiction took over 

She has seven kids who love and miss her every day, along with so many friends and family. She loved her husband and children and was proud of us all for anything we did. She made us feel like even the smallest thing was important and made us feel special. She loved people in a way that felt unlike anything I’ve ever felt since the day she left. That feeling of how much she loved me is how I remember her. I will never forget how her love felt.

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

I love you so much, and I’m so sorry I didn’t help you. I’ve been clean now for two years, and I think you’d be so proud of me and the life I have created for myself. I miss you so much.