The following guest-post was written by Christine, who lost her brother due to an overdose last year. It is an open glimpse into her mind and feelings. Thank you for allowing us to share this, Christine.
As the year-mark of my beloved brother Andrew’s passing approaches, I wanted to write about some forth-comings and thoughts I've been dealing with this past year and am wanting to express. I want to write this for my own therapeutic sake but most importantly to raise awareness of this current drug-overdose epidemic in the US. Please no judgment as I am doing this in hope that my family’s troubling experience can be used to help others in a positive way. I will first start off with a little background.
A few days before my family received news that would change our lives forever, I was riding in the car with my dad. He informed me that my other brother’s good friend had just passed away due to a motorcycle accident. My heart ached for the pain my brother must have been going through. I told my dad how bad I felt for his parents and family who had to go through such a tragedy right before Christmas, a time of year that is supposed to be full of joy. My dad nodded and said “I couldn't imagine”, and I agreed.
Fast forward to December 19th, around 5:30-6 AM I am awakened by a yelp. I run out to the kitchen and to find my dad on his knees sobbing with his phone in his hand saying “no!...no!”. I thought to myself “No, it can’t be. Is this the call I have been fearing for so long? Is this a dream? I want to wake up right now.”
When he finally collected himself he told me my uncle had left a voicemail saying my brother was found in the bathroom and that we should head on over. All I can remember in that moment is dropping to my knees with my face on the floor, holding my head.
Then we had to make the call to my mom who was back in North Carolina. There was no right way to say this over the phone to my mother whose whole world was going to be turned upside down, so I just said it. I could hear the shakiness in my mom’s voice and then she had to hang up. I felt helpless and the weakest I’ve ever been.
We arrive at the house to be greeted by policemen who refuse to let us go inside. I am told to get back in the car as my dad talked to the deputy. All I could see in the side view mirror was my dad sobbing over the police cars hood as the deputy seemed to just go through the motions, almost with ease. I remember getting mad for his almost careless demeanor but then I remembered this is his job. The rest of the day was numb, it was a blur, it was silent and empty. I couldn't speak, all I could do was blankly stare ahead of me. All I could see was the pure emptiness in my dad and brother’s eyes as we sat there in silence. As days went by it only seemed to get harder, more confusing and I became more lost. All I could think about was how is this happening and how my family would ever recover.
I worried for my family. What about my parents? They’re going to think they didn’t do enough; They’re going to blame themselves. What about my other brother? His good friend just died and now this, he can’t handle this, it’s too much. I thought about myself and why was I so mean to Andrew? I am an awful sister, a disgusting human being. I thought but why God? Why did it have to be my brother, my parents’ son? My family? My life? I lost all faith and hope in God.
Over the past year I’ve had time to reflect on what has happened and the times leading up to my brother's passing.
First of all, I have learned to hate the addiction, not the person. For so long I had so much resentment towards my brother for all the troubles he caused my family and the pain and worry he inflicted on my parents. There were so many instances where he completely devastated my family and seemed completely okay with it. And so, I chose to hold onto my anger and continuously express it very openly toward him. I purposely went out of my way to let him know I was mad at him and I refused to let go of his past mistakes.
Unfortunately, it took till after he was gone for me to realize that this was not my brother, this was not the Andrew I knew and loved. This was a man who was lost and bound by the tight grasps of addiction. He was not this manipulative monster, who I saw as a cruel, mean and careless human being. He’s the boy who is in these pictures. He was the boy with THE biggest heart of gold, the most kind, accepting, protective and loving brother a little sister could ask for. And all I want is to tell him I am so, so sorry and that I love him more than I could have or could ever express in words.
But I know that he is now with his eternal Father in Heaven. Free from his addiction, free from his pain, free from his hurting. God gave him a new start, a new life, one that is perfect, peaceful and happy. Knowing that this is what Andrew always wanted, I find peace in knowing he finally has it. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness, your unconditional love and your acceptance of us even when we don't deserve it. I can’t wait to be reunited with you one day soon brother.
Some days are harder than others and sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with sadness I can hardly handle it, I can hardly function and get a gasp of air. But, I just remind myself of the notes you wrote in your Bible. My family was told by the people he lived with that two weeks before his passing Andrew had randomly been spending lots of time in his room reading and highlighting and studying the Bible. When asked if he was going to come and watch football like they usually would, he said he was busy reading his Bible. Later, we found his Bible with verses written down, all dealing with “Jesus is Lord”.
Wow. I truly believe that during this time, God was calling Andrew and preparing him for his final trip to his eternal home. Being able to physically hold this and see this is such a blessing and gives me great comfort and peace in knowing Andrew is truly at peace and up there with God. I love you brother.
That being said, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends: don't forget about the person they really are. Trust me, I know it’s frustrating as all get out, I know you feel like you might as well give up on them and that they just DON’T seem to get it! That there is not enough patience in the world to keep you from giving up on them due to their countless relapses. But please, please do not give up on them.
While it has to be their choice to change and their choice to fight and hopefully conquer, never let them feel alone or given up on. You don't have to put your whole life on hold but let them know you believe in them. Let them know you support them. Let them know that it’s not them that you hate, but the drugs which are controlling them.
Think back to the good times in their innocent days. Remember their charm, their inner beauty, their unique personality and their innocence. Now try to understand that they are fighting a great, uphill fight. Addiction is a disease, it takes over every aspect of your life, altering your choices and harming your relationships. Like most diseases, they are hard to get rid of. But like any disease, giving and receiving help is the only way to relieve or rid of the disease.
Addiction doesn't just disappear, it's a fight. You can only do so much, you are only in control of your own actions, THEY have to choose for themselves, THEY have to want it just as bad as you want it for them. No one can make them. Even if you've tried all the rehabs, therapy, counseling, physiologists, medications, half-way homes or treatment centers possible, never let them believe that there is no hope for them. Be the foundation they need to make a change in their life. All you can do is spread your love and support, then it’s up to them. This way, no matter the outcome, you know you did all that you could. Try taking them to do something they once loved or go do something they once were passionate about, invest your time and effort into these things.
SHOW them your support, it goes a longer way. Whether it’s for the first time or after countless relapses, let them know “ Ok, you can do this, I believe in you and I LOVE you.” Remember that you and your family are not alone. So many other people are in the same boat. Reach out to one another, encourage one another, share your emotions and experiences with one another, relate to each other on a level that no one else can. Each of our stories and backgrounds are unique but one thing that unites us is the shared pain and struggle. There is great power in numbers. Look for the positives and remember the good times. It’s better to rest in what we do know rather than worrying about the unknown.
For those of you dealing with addiction: Many others are dealing with the same conscious and physical struggles as you are and while being clean seems impossible, it’s POSSIBLE.
I know it’s so, so hard, I witnessed my brother deal with it for years and saw the resilient fight he had to put up just to get by that single day. 24 hours to him probably felt like 48. I know its tiring, it takes a toll on you in every way imaginable, it destroys any spirit or liveliness you have inside of you. This is no way to live. Living is what life was before this awful drug took advantage of your life and now holds your precious life in its hands. WHY should a drug have the ability it does to take over your entire life and turn your precious life into its brain washing, weak, fragile, withered and sad puppet?? This is not okay; this is NOT what your life is all about!
Your life is a gift just like the lives of those whom you love! You are not the scum of the earth like media and the world portrays you to be. You are human and every human deserves a chance, prove them to be terribly mistaken. Take heart, take action, fight against this killer, I promise you CAN do it. It’s never too late and you’re never too far gone, there is ALWAYS time to change until there’s not, DON'T let that happen to you. Try to find encouraging people who have come out of this very same problem and now can lend you a hand. No one on this earth is without a purpose. No matter what, God is there with you every step of the way.
Remember your actions do not just effect you but it effects everyone around you. Seeing the person we love morph from a happy, joyful person into a person who is so lost, depressed and withered away, is one of the hardest things to witness. You become almost unrecognizable.
Please, understand your loved ones love you just as much as they did before all this happened, but it’s hard to communicate and have a relationship with this new person the drugs have turned you into. We do NOT want to hurt you or get you in trouble, we eagerly want to help you in any way we possibly can. I cannot stress this enough, that's what families DO.
Try to overcome this, seek help, WANT to change, WANT to not become another statistic, WANT a sober/clean lifestyle. And WANT change for the sake of your own life at stake and for your family who has been with you every struggling step of the way.
Lastly, for those of you who are involved in this drug business: Overdose is now the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50. This is insane. You must be aware of these drugs’ effects and the lives they are taking in high multitudes. Let me ask you, was taking someone’s life worth your $40? Is your money just so important to you, that you can be confident and content with killing another human being, killing a family member? What if this were to happen to your sister, your brother, you mother or your father? Don't tell me that you wouldn't care because that's a lie. Or that this could never happen to someone in your family. No one is invincible and at this rate it just might.
How does it make you feel knowing that once this drug leaves your possession, you very well may have just ruined multiple people’s lives? You can always make money through a legal, beneficial way. Get a real job that has purpose and gives you fulfillment while contributing to the greater good of society. Don't be another person who claims more victims lives by toying off their addiction. Let them get their lives on track and be clean. Please, get out of this now while you can before another life is lost.
I would like to end this with a quote from the book Daily Hope for Hurting Hearts by Greg Laurie. “If God explained to us everything we wanted to know, it still wouldn't satisfy our hearts. His answers would only raise more and more questions. In the end, we don't need His answers as much as we need Him. His presence. His peace. Philippians 4:7 tells us about his peace that surpasses, or transcends, understanding. One translation calls it a “peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. So there are innumerable things we could ask God as to why this happened or that happened. But the bottom line is simply this: Our lives are in His hands, and we must trust Him.”
Thank you for reading. I hope if anything this at least makes people to think about their choices and their loved ones. I hope it makes you reconsider your priorities and makes you want to change your current lifestyle or help be the change this world desperately needs. Lastly, I hope it helps those currently dealing with this crisis or have lost a loved one already. Remember that God is always with you and for you and NEVER against you. You are his beautiful, and wonderful creation <3