If I had a magic wand, I would skip March 16th every year from now until forever. On that day in 2014, my family received the call that my younger, only full sibling had been in a car accident. I arrived at the hospital well before my parents and the look on the receptionist’s face told me we were no longer going to be a complete family. In the morning hours, my brother at the age of 26 was killed in a car accident less than five miles from my parents’ house.
Once the funeral was over, I came to the realization, in my mind he was gone way before March 16th. Yes, before the traumatic day that made us a family of three instead of four, I had lost my brother. Physically he was walking around on the earth, but the brother I knew and loved was no longer in that shell.
I didn’t know that person in the casket very well.
I didn’t have much of a relationship with him for years although I really wanted to. There had been glimpses of him throughout the years but the new him was just someone I didn’t want to be around.
He grew up with the same parents I did. I kept asking myself, how could he have chosen this path? Looking back, my brother struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues and began to turn to marijuana. When that didn’t suffice the pain, he turned to harder drugs. The me of 2020, could save him. I know all about mental health issues after going to school to be a counselor. But the me of 2010-2014 had no idea and became very frustrated very early with his drug usage when I noticed the toll it was taking on my family. What I quickly learned is that his addiction did not only affect him, but my whole family.
It was like we were all spiraling out of control.
I was the sibling of the drug addict.
My parents, who are amazing, questioned their every move and where they went wrong. They protected their belongings, they bought him food and clothes only, and never gave him a dime. It was a cycle of hopes and nightmares. The many promises of him getting clean and then falling back into the drug scene.
During his drug usage, he caused a lot of damage and even though I prayed for him to return to normal, I became very annoyed with who he was. To be honest, he was a burden, not a brother. The stealing, the lying, the calls of broken promises, the amount of money he spent—they all drove me crazy.
I wanted my sweet brother back who used to ride in the Power Wheels with me in the backyard. I wanted him to get better for the son I had at the time and my future children. But none of that mattered to him.
In February of 2014, my brother and I had a long conversation. We sat down, we laughed, we sang “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker, and he started to be his old self again. I was so hopeful. He wanted to get clean. He wanted help.
It finally felt like the moment I had been waiting for. He had called rehabs and was ready.
Then came March 16th. The dreaded day I hate so much. I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m sad. Drugs ruined our sibling relationship. Drugs hurt his relationship with our parents. Drugs ruined his relationship with his family, who he really did love. Drugs caused him to miss out on family dinners and holidays.
If you love someone who is an addict, my advice to you is this: love them so hard it hurts.
We always told him we loved him and we would help him. We would remind him he was worthy, but in the end, we couldn’t save him even though we tried so hard. Addiction didn’t come with a field guide. There was no quick fix.
If you are the family member of an addict, I understand exactly how you feel when people downgrade them even though they don’t mean to offend you. Yes, there are some really bad people in this world, but not all drug addicts are awful humans.
My brother had an amazing heart and a good soul. Heck, there were times he would steal from my parents to give to the little old lady up the street who needed something. Twisted. I know. But he was caring and thoughtful and he loved kids. He would have been an excellent dad in his clean state.
Drugs stole my brother away not the accident that officially led to him leaving this earth. And to be honest, six years later, I’m still mad at the drugs, not God.