My little brother: As told by a grieving big sister

By on March 17, 2016

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This is a local family’s drug addiction tragedy as told by a sister who lost a brother to an overdose less than a year ago. It happened right here in our community, and it happens more often than many might think. Identities have been withheld to protect those involved.

I will tell my little brother’s story to anyone who will listen. Heroin killed him. But I want people to know that he was so much more than his addiction. He was a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend to many in the community. That being said, I can’t tell my brother’s story without admitting that I have one also. He was not the only one in our family who has battled this disease called addiction.

My brother and I grew up in an all-American family nestled in the type of suburban neighborhood that is familiar to many residents of Lancaster County. Throughout high school, I maintained excellent grades and played sports. My brother struggled in school academically, but was never short of friends. He was impossible not to like. We were both reared in the same household with the same values instilled upon us by loving parents.

During my first year of college, I fell in with the wrong crowd. I started using alcohol, progressed into marijuana, and then began to experiment with harder drugs. The transition from recreational weekend use to chronic daily use happened within a matter of months. Before long, I was addicted to my drug of choice: opioid pain killers. Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, whatever I could find. I dropped out of college, and short of ending up homeless, I hit rock bottom. After a five-year addiction, I woke up one day and realized that I would die if I didn’t find help for myself. Luckily, at the encouragement of a friend, I was able to gain sobriety via an outpatient program that incorporated counseling with a medication that helped quell the cravings. While this approach is not for everyone, it worked for me.

The only “happy” side to my story is that I curtailed my addiction before it progressed into heroin use, because that is where I would have ended up. Heroin has basically the same effect that opioid pain medications do, but at a much cheaper price. Heroin, unfortunately, is also much easier to find and its euphoric effects are exponentially greater. This is why people transition so quickly from pain medication to heroin.

Every morning I wake up with a heavy heart because the realization continuously sets in that my brother was not so lucky. We have similar stories, but with different endings. He followed the same path that I did — great start in life, but ended up hanging out with some unsavory influences. I cried the day he stood in my kitchen and openly admitted to me that he tried heroin. I cried because I was immediately overcome by the premonition that it wasn’t going to end well for him. I was stricken with fear because I knew what a monster my little brother was up against. Less than a couple years ago, he did amaze us all by successfully turning his life around. He landed a great job, married the love of his life, bought a house, and proudly announced a second child on the way. He even gave his testimony in front of a church of several hundred people, eager to share his experience with sobriety and deter others from the horrors of addiction he’d experienced.

That is why nobody saw it coming. I don’t even think he knew what was happening before it was too late. He had lost his job and we suspect that because of the stress, he decided to tempt fate one more time. His wife found him unconscious and not breathing. Because he had been sober for so long, he underestimated the amount of heroin that his body could handle. Within a matter of minutes, my sweet, loving, charismatic little brother was gone. Though the EMTs were successful in bringing back his heartbeat, it was too late. His heart had been stopped for too long. His brain suffered multiple strokes, and after being on life support for five days, we had to say goodbye.

The day we said goodbye, my brother saved three other lives with his choice to be an organ donor. Someone out there now has a heart of gold, so for that I am thankful.

I will never be angry with my brother for making that final mistake, because I understand how powerful and unforgiving addiction can be. No one wakes up one day and decides to do heroin. Drugs, especially heroin, do not discriminate. It can happen to any family. I dream about my brother constantly. His son talks about him all the time. His daughter was born a week after he passed away. She will only know her Daddy through the loved ones he left behind. I will make sure she knows that everyone always talked about his smile and his unassuming ways. I see the pain written all over my parents’ faces, wondering if there was something they could have done differently. There is nothing they could have done differently. We, as human beings, are designed to seek pleasure, soothe pains, and self-medicate any way that we know how. Addiction is as old as the earth we walk on. We need to try to understand it and not just sweep it under the rug. For every person that turns their back on the reality of addiction, there is a family that is burying a loved one too soon. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone that loves an addict, it is to do just that: love them. And if you are an addict, don’t give up hope. You are not alone.

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4 Comments

  1. Symone

    September 4, 2016 at 12:19 am

    That’s utterly heartbreaking.Im so sorry for her and her Family..Heroin is evil..God save people from its clutch..Amen

    • Sister

      September 27, 2016 at 3:33 am

      Thank you and God bless

  2. Sandra finger

    September 7, 2016 at 7:37 am

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother to this disease may you forever keep the good memories tucked safety in your heart to share with his beautiful children

  3. Sister

    September 27, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Thank you for the kind response.

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