Drug overdose victims wrestled with addiction

In this 2014 photo, Narcotics Detective Bill Velek displays a box of drug paraphernalia he uses to show parents what to look for around the house. Signal photo by Jim Holt.

Two Santa Clarita Valley residents, a man and a woman, who had each mapped out a future for themselves of helping others, died of apparent drug overdoses this past weekend having failed to save themselves.

Nadia Inez Esmaeel, 29, of Santa Clarita who had graduated from nursing assistant school at the top of her class, died Friday night at the house of a friend in Sylmar of an apparent drug overdose.

“She had a bright future ahead of her, and then she was introduced to heroin,” her mother, Deanna, told The Signal Tuesday. “She was a bright light upon the earth that burned out way too soon.”

Three days after her death, Edward “Eddie” Neil Sorensen, of Castaic, who spent his adult life saving the lives of drug addicts – scores of people struggling with drug addiction in the SCV, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Sorensen, 33, born in Los Angeles and a graduate of Saugus High School, was found Monday morning dead inside at the house of a friend in Littlerock outside of Palmdale.

“It was reported a possible drug overdose,” Ed Winter, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner told The Signal Tuesday.

His time of death is listed as the day a Palmdale Sheriff’s Station deputy found him, at 9:05 a.m. Monday, at a home on the 9000 block of East Avenue T, Winter said.

Helped others

Sorensen was remembered Tuesday as a big man with a big heart.

“How does someone who helps so many people, not help themselves?” Pam, the mother of one struggling teen girl told The Signal Tuesday.

“He had such an impact on my daughter’s life.”

As a recovering clean and sober addict himself, Sorensen brought experience, empathy and understanding to the people he helped who, like he had done, struggling to stay clean themselves.

Sorensen worked for a while at the Red Rock Canyon School in Utah, and was slated to begin work at a addiction treatment facility in Newhall, according to its website, provides care and treatment to people working to overcome drug addiction.

Within 24 hours of his death, before his name was officially made public, more than two dozen people posted their responses on Facebook – some of them testimonials for Sorensen from the people he had helped.

Some of the people he helped and worked with devoted time Tuesday planning a candlelight vigil for him.

“He was a great person,” said Sorensen’s sister, Jen. “He was sensitive, loving and caring.”

“He was changing the world and he wanted to help others and sometimes even before (helping) himself,” she said.

“He was a good man who, unfortunately, made some bad decisions,” she said.

Sadly, Nadia Esmaeel also made some bad decisions.


“We tried for years to save her,” her mother, Deanna Esmaeel, told The Signal Tuesday.

She summed up her daughter’s struggle in a testament posted online:

“She was an attractive and vivacious girl who was loved my many people,” she wrote.

“She had graduated from nursing assistant school at the top of her class and had worked as a cruise line booking agent, earning awards within her company.”

“She had a bright future ahead of her, and then she was introduced to heroin.”

“Nadia had just passed her 29th birthday when she died,” her mother wrote.

“My daughter never wanted anyone to know she was an addict, so I was not allowed  to discuss the topic with anyone but my closest friends.”

“She was ashamed and embarrassed of that fact, and how the world would perceive her. This is the stigma most addicts face.”

“If a person has a disease like cancer, others might immediately feel a good deal of empathy – whereas the disease of addiction usually brings up thoughts like- ‘Oh that person has no will power.’ Why can’t they just stop” or “try a dose of tough love to get them to hit rock bottom, that will work.”

“The perception of, discrimination against, and misinformation about addicts and their disease is just one part of the challenge toward getting help for this epidemic level scourge that is sweeping our nation,” Esmaeel wrote.

“One of the most dangerous  times in the life of an addict is not when they are in active addiction.  It is in the time directly after they have had a clean period, either been through detox and/or rehabilitation.”

“During this time, their  tolerance level  is very low, and if they enter a period of relapse or try to go back to their normal dose of their drug of choice, it can be deadly.  This is what happened to Nadia.”

The Esmaeel family posted the tribute on the fundraising website GoFundme, in an effort to raise money for a “decent burial and service for this beautiful girl.”

Autopsies are planned for both Esmaeel and Sorensen.


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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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