One word to rule them all: CLEAN
Where to start?
I have never been a drug addict myself, but I know the topic all too well. Mourning the loss of one sibling and celebrating the strength of another has given so many the inspiration to persevere in their own lives. Including my own. This is never an easy topic to discuss, however I do feel it's necessary to shine some light on it. If you know an addict or are an addict yourself, it's not too late to stop the cycle. I hope that by the end of this article, you will be inspired to see the light in all the darkness.
Mourning the sudden loss of one of my younger brothers
December 31,2014 I received a phone call from my step-mom. Assuming that this was a phone call to count down the New Year, I answered cheerfully. The voice on the other end was anything but cheerful. She was calling to tell me that my younger brother had passed away. Shocked, I asked her what happened. She said that it was a heroin overdose. I had a hard time believing this news at first because my brother had never used heroin...to my knowledge. We had grown apart over the years (as most siblings entering adulthood do) and having not seen or heard from him in about three years, I really had no idea what was going on in his life. Now, I wish I had. My family rang in the New Year in tears that year. Thinking about the summers we all spent together; swimming, running and pretending to be wizards (Harry Potter had just come out). I even remember a time when we duct taped our other brother to the bedroom door. (Photo included). I have so many fun memories with him and our other siblings. And now, that's all I have left of him. I never want to experience that kind of loss again.
I come from a rather large family made up of 6 boys and 4 girls. Some of us were born into the family and others were brought in by marriage. Either way, we're family. I have always felt that no matter how often any one of us talked or saw each other, we were still close. Learning that my brother had this addiction was shocking to say the least. Knowing that it was too late to help him was down right heartbreaking. Once they're gone there's nothing left to do for that person except to tell their story and hope that someone out there going through it will stop and listen and hopefully start their journey to recovery.
Losing my brother was one of the greatest heartaches I've ever experienced in my short 23 years. But, there is a light that keeps me going. A strength and a beauty that moves me to live my life. My older sister.
That time we duct taped our other little brother to the bedroom door...and left him there
Road to Hell for my sister
For as long as I can remember she has struggled with addiction. We're seven years apart and haven't always been active in each others lives. To my knowledge, my sister had only used marijuana and pills. It was no secret that she was using and it was hard for my family to watch the changes in her. There was so much more to her addiction than any of us had ever imagined.
Timeline of My Sister's addictions, from my sister herself
Drinking and Smoking Pot
During High School Years
Acid, Shrooms, Pills
Heavily Addicted to Pain Pills
Experimented with Meth(didn't last long)
23(post meth use)
Back to Pain Pills
"Woke up, had to have it. Went to work, had to have it. Went to bed, had to have it. Just had to have it to even freakin function. If I didn't have it I was puking in bed sick. Just not capable of doing a damn thing".— -My courageous and inspiring sister-
From rock bottom to being on cloud nine
After using heroin for a while, my sister's boyfriend decided to start selling. This of course, made things 100% worse for them. My sister would soon lose her three young kids and would be arrested. That was the worst and yet the best thing that could ever have happened to my sister. Was she upset and hurt being arrested and not having her kids anymore? Of course! But, if not for that day, she may never have gotten help, she may never have found the strength to change for herself and her kids, she may not even be here today to spread her story and to help other addicts. That day, as horrible as it was at the time, that day saved her life!
She has since been through rehab and I could not be more proud to say that she has been sober for over a year and has fought with blood, sweat, and so many tears to get her three kids back and she has!
- She is currently working two jobs
- Trying to go back to school
- Has her own apartment where her kids get ready for school, eat dinner, do their homework, and play
- Has full custody of the three of them
- Best of all, she's clear minded and healthy
My sister's story. If you need help, or know someone who needs help, this is the video to watch!
Her journey was never easy and still isn't. They say that the urge will always be there and I'm not sure if that's true or not. I like to believe that she's stronger than her addiction now. I believe that she would never have gotten out of the addiction and gotten help if she hadn't lost her kids. I know that a year of sobriety is only the beginning of the rest of her CLEAN life and I know in my heart that she will live the rest of her life respecting herself and enjoying the life she has now. Their stories are hard to listen to/read and incredibly hard for me to write about. But, I know that my brother's story and my sister's story will help someone somewhere and that's worth the pain I feel writing about it.
If you didn't watch her video I highly suggest you do! Her story in her own words is much better than reading it from me (her little sister).
Highly recommended book!
What is Addiction?
When a drug user can't stop taking a drug even if he wants to, it's called addiction. The urge is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm.
When people start taking drugs, they don't plan to get addicted. They like how the drug makes them feel. They believe they can control how much and how often they take the drug. However, drugs change the brain. Drug users start to need the drug just to feel normal. That is addiction, and it can quickly take over a person's life.
Addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. The urge to get and use the drug can fill every moment of a person's life. The addiction replaces all the things the person used to enjoy. A person who is addicted might do almost anything—lying, stealing, or hurting people—to keep taking the drug. This could get the person arrested.
Addiction is a brain disease.
- Drugs change how the brain works.
- These brain changes can last for a long time.
- They can cause problems like mood swings, memory loss, even trouble thinking and making decisions.
Addiction is a disease, just as diabetes and cancer are diseases. Addiction is not simply a weakness. People from all backgrounds, rich or poor, can get an addiction. Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young.
Stop and Take the Poll Please!!!
Do you or someone you know struggle with addiction?
Effects of Drugs
Drug abuse hurts the people who take drugs AND the people around them, including families, kids, and babies who aren't yet born.
Drug abuse hurts the body and the brain, sometimes forever.
More than half of people who have drug problems also have a mental health problem, such as:
- Depression, which makes them feel very sad and tired.
- Anxiety, which makes them feel nervous, worried, and afraid.
- Bipolar disorder, which makes their moods change back and forth. They might be full of energy, excited, or even angry, then feel sad, tired, and hopeless.
- ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), which makes it hard to pay attention, sit still, and not act out.
- Antisocial personality disorder, which makes it hard to have good relationships and care about other people's feelings.
And, people with mental health problems like these are twice as likely to also have drug problems. This is partly because drug abuse and mental health problems affect the same parts of the brain.
If someone feels really bad, they might try to make it better by abusing drugs. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually work for very long. Instead they may become addicted to drugs, and then feel even worse than before.
The drug problem can make the mental health problem worse. And the mental health problem can make the drug problem worse. Someone with both types of problems may need treatment for both in order to get better.
Treatment programs - these typically focus on getting sober and preventing relapses. Individual, group and/or family sessions may form part of the program. Depending on the level of addiction, patient behaviors, and type of substance this may be in outpatient or residential settings.
Psychotherapy - there may be one-to-one (one-on-one) or family sessions with a specialist.
Help with coping with cravings, avoiding the substance, and dealing with possible relapses are key to effective addiction programs. If the patient’s family can become involved there is a better probability of positive outcomes.
Self-help groups - these may help the patient meet other people with the same problem, which often boosts motivation. Self-help groups can be a useful source of education and information too. Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. For those dependent on nicotine, ask your doctor or nurse for information on local self-help groups.
Help with withdrawal symptoms – the main aim is usually to get the addictive substance out of the patient’s body as quickly as possible. Sometimes the addict is given gradually reduced dosages (tapering). In some cases a substitute substance is given. Depending on what the person is addicted to, as well as some other factors, the doctor may recommend treatment either as an outpatient or inpatient.
The doctor or addiction expert may recommend either an outpatient or inpatient residential treatment center. Withdrawal treatment options vary and depend mainly on what substance the individual is addicted to:
- Addiction to depressants - these may include dependence on barbiturates or benzodiazepines. During withdrawal the patient may experience anxiety, insomnia, sweating and restlessness. In rare cases there may be whole-body tremors, seizures, hallucinations, hypertension (high blood pressure), accelerated heart rate and fever. In severe cases there may be delirium, which according to the Mayo Clinic, USA, could be life-threatening.
- Addiction to stimulants - these may include cocaine and other amphetamines. During withdrawal the patient may experience tiredness, depression, anxiety, moodiness, low enthusiasm, sleep disturbances, and low concentration. Treatment focuses on providing support, unless the depression is severe, in which case a medication may be prescribed.
- Addiciton to opioids – Opioids are a class of drugs that are commonly prescribed for their analgesic, or pain-killing, properties. They include substances such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and methadone. Opioids may be more easily recognized by drug names such as Kadian, Avinza, OxyContin, Percodan, Darvon, Demerol, Vicodin, Percocet, and Lomotil. During withdrawal there may be sweating, anxiety and stuffy nose – symptoms tend to be mild. In rare cases there may be serious sleeping problems, tachycardia, hypertension and diarrhea. The doctor may prescribe methadone, or buprenorphine for cravings (alternative substances).
I also reccomend checking out this website for more information about The Treatment Center
The effects of the drugs aren't always noticeable. The addict may be really good at hiding their addiction or they have been using for so long that they seem normal while they're high. In my brother's case, we never knew he was using. He had pretty much separated himself from the family and got caught up in the wrong crowd. This is very common for addicts. They are more concerned with their high than their family and friends. If we had known about his addiction, we could have stepped up and gotten him the help he needed. Unfortunately, it was too late by the time we found out. I for one don't want this to happen to anyone else. If you have someone in your life that seems distant or is showing any of the signs of being high and you suspect that they are using, please step up. My family is lucky to still have my sister, and her kids are lucky to still have their mom. Addiction hurts everyone involved. I have lived hundreds of miles from my brother and sister for a long time and I can honestly say that their addictions have changed my life.
Please stop the cycle. Know your worth and the worth of those who love you! Destroy what is destroying you!
R.I.P. Little brother