Last Friday was a victory for a woman named Cheryl.

On Jan. 6, 2010, Cheryl died of an opioid overdose on her kitchen floor. She was 52.

Last Friday, 161 Maine lawmakers – Democrats, Republicans and independents – joined together to tell our governor that Cheryl was not an addict, but a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a neighbor and a friend who happened to have suffered from a disease called addiction.

They told him she was a small-business owner who started her own nail salon, a volunteer at her church, a gourmet chef who loved to entertain and an animal lover who found joy in walking her dogs, even when she barely felt like getting out of bed. They told our governor that she had value, that her life was worth saving. They told him how much she still loved the world, and that she still meant the world to the people who loved her.

I wonder every day what more my family could have done to save my mother’s life. What if someone had checked on her 30 minutes sooner? What if my dad had quit his job to care for her? What if we’d had a supply of Narcan in the house?

And ever since Gov. LePage vetoed a legislative proposal to make Narcan easier to obtain, I’ve spent every day wondering how the governor of a state – a man who was elected to represent 1.3 million human beings – could suggest that my mother should have been left to die, as Narcan only would have extended her life “until the next overdose.”

It doesn’t matter that my mother lived in Texas instead of Maine, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that where you live determines the value of your life. Nor does it matter that she died from prescription painkillers rather than heroin, because it would be ridiculous to suggest that the form that your addiction takes has any bearing on your worth as a person.

So, too, it would be ridiculous to suggest that my mother’s life was somehow worth more than that of someone who fits the “junkie” stereotype the governor is so fond of disparaging. Dying at home with a bottle of pills by your side is no different than dying under a bridge with a needle in your arm.

We should do something about the opioid epidemic not because it’s affecting suburban middle-class white women who don’t conform to the clichés we associate with heroin addicts. We should do something about the opioid epidemic because no human life is disposable, and because we are all fundamentally the same.

I don’t think of last Friday’s vote as a victory for my political party, as people of every political party struggle with addiction. Rather, it was a victory for my mother. It was a victory for every one of us who loves someone at risk of overdose. It was a victory for our state. And it was a victory for humanity.

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