The vision of the CHAN Project came through the deep and personal loss of my son Chandler Lee Fritts. Chandler's nickname was Chan, and one evening shortly after we lost him, the vision of the CHAN Project came to me as a program of Compassion, Healing, Awareness and Nurturing in order to help other families through the horrific experiences our family had just experienced. As the vision grew, the project evolved and my hope became that anyone who is struggling from anything less than wholeness, whether from loss of a loved one, personal substance struggles, low self-esteem, depression or anxiety, or any other struggle, that the CHAN Project could be a significant resource and toolkit.
Chandler, forever 23, was a brother, uncle, and a son. He was a second-year apprentice in the Plumber's and Pipe Fitter's Union who proposed to his fiancé, on bended-knee at sunset in Maui, and was renting his grandmother’s home with his fiancé and their dog Diesel, doing well...so we thought. Chan was liked by instructors and peers and planned to become a skilled welder and travel the US with those skills. He had big plans!
However, on August 9, 2019, Chandler was rushed to Northwest Hospital's emergency department after being found nonresponsive. Only later did we learn it was due to a drug overdose...a drug overdose…how could that be? As a union member Chan had random drug tests...that lent my mind to the same question over and over..." how could he be using drugs?" Sitting in that waiting room, we learned he had taken Fentanyl in a street purchased oxycodone laced pill (M30 - counterfeit oxycodone: AKA - Percs, Mexican Blues, Blues, M-Boxes etc.), YES - the Purdue Pharma, Sackler drug, regulated by the DEA today. Only at that time in my life, I knew so little about the whole pharmaceutical opioid epidemic! Our entire family was dumbfounded, not one of us knew of Chan's using little less his addiction.
Chan spent the night in the ED and was released without ever speaking to a social worker, no offering of Suboxone or other drug to curb his craving, and no list of resources. He was basically thrown back to his same life yet expected, or maybe not expected, to have different results. What is that called in the real world - insanity?
Chandler fought to access resources in the following week, and our family gathered around him trying to offer support as well. However, our son and brother did not accept our support well, and instead pushed us away. This, as we knew - his sister and I both working years in the behavioral health field, was a very typical behavior of addiction...only as a family, was so difficult to experience. Simply just finding out about our beloved Chandler's struggle with addiction, we felt helpless.
On August 17th, Chandler lost his battle. We lost our battle. He once again overdosed and was found at home at approximately 3:30 am, my son had passed away from what was later learned to be full Fentanyl poisoning. Although it was expected that he took the exact same M30 pill(s), the autopsy found only Fentanyl poisoning. These M30s, although marketed illegally on the streets as a Percocet type drug, can be 100% Fentanyl – possibly known or unknown to the seller – as there is no science to this street drug. Ongoing drug busts in King and Snohomish County uncover millions worth of Fentanyl, weapons and drug paraphernalia, yet more and more pop up. Our children and loved ones continue to die and Covid continues to isolate us. Numbers are on the rise for addiction, suicide, overdose, mental health breakdowns, and so much more. Something needs to change, and it started here at home.
As the days progressed following Chandler’s loss, my family was numb. We cried, we gathered, we sought out support, and we grieved. We did this with no support found in our community, little knowledge, and literally swimming upstream. And yet, my daughter and I came from a field in nonprofit, human services and even behavioral health programs. Yet we lacked the resources in our community to support our healing. There is no instruction book for death, loss and grief of a loved one. Mostly, we are not experienced in a sudden, traumatic loss and know not how to maneuver the journey. However, what I have grown to learn is that my grief and loss from a death is in line with grief on so many other levels. Whether loss of a job, a breakup or divorce, stress and anxiety, a friendship, isolation and depression - so very common in these days of Covid, abuse or many other issues, individuals and families grieve in so many ways.
This is what evolved my journey and creation of the CHAN Project. Experiencing my own grief journey and watching my family and loved ones, with intent to provide support to those on a similar path with grief, grew a mindfulness program in the making. The CHAN Project’s purpose is to compassionately provide tools that help others build courage, strengthen healing, grow awareness, and find nurturing ways to reclaim their spirit, in whatever way it might have been lost. Ways to make you whole from the inside out. I believe, just as with me, much of this is within you already, you just don't know it maybe. Allowing us to lend a hand through our programs to open your heart to a tool or two that we have found healing to one's soul, can create peace on your journey. We will guide your very soul through a variety of mindful practices in hope that through our programs, individuals of all sorts, whether journeying through grief, struggling with self-awareness, mental well-being, or any other situation that makes your spirit and soul less than whole, you will find a practice of wellness, nurturing and healing.