Losing a loved one has to be one of the hardest things a person can go through. For me, there was an undeniable amount of regret that came with my brother's passing. He'd been abusing prescription drugs for a few years, but it was something that I always thought would get better. Never did I once consider the possibility that he would die from his addiction.
For about the first year and a half after his passing, I blamed myself for him not getting better. I thought about ways I should've tried harder to get him to go to rehab. My mind was constantly wondering what he would be like if he was still alive.
Would he have been closer with our family if he had gotten the help he needed? What would he be like after getting sober? Would he have used his past experience to help others get better? These were all questions that would never be answered.
The signs of my brother's addiction were small early on. It was hard for my family and me to pick up on his problem because he was so good at covering it up. Originally, he started taking drugs to treat the pain in his knees he had from his high school football days. While he hadn't been prescribed any painkillers, he somehow always managed to get his hands on some. What started as harmless painkillers turned into a long nightmare he would never wake up from.
Drug addiction goes beyond the person addicted. It's a poison that affects everyone around them, too. It's been almost five years since my brother's passing, and while the pain never completely goes away, there are a few things I've learned about the battle with drug addiction:
1. Forgiveness isn't easy, but sometimes it's necessary.
I'm thankful that before my brother passed away, I took the chance to tell him how much I loved him. While he knew how unbelievably angry I was with him for what he put my family and me through, I'm glad I had an opportunity to let him know that I still loved him, no matter what he was going through. It's hard to forgive the people who've hurt us, but sometimes, it can ease our minds to just let the anger go.
2. We did everything we could.
As compassionate human beings, it's a natural instinct to try to help people in every way that we can. However, the people we're helping need to want to get help. My parents tried taking my brother to rehab four different times. He was complacent up until the moment he had to actually walk through the door.
It's hard to force help on someone who doesn't want it. We need to learn to accept the fact we did everything we possibly could to help someone get better. That way, we won't blame ourselves.
3. Drug addiction is a force to be reckoned with.
If you know someone who's gone through some kind of drug addiction, you know that it turns your loved ones into strangers. While we'd like to believe we have the ability to cure someone's addiction, we need to understand that it's a disease. It needs to be handled with compassion.
4. A loved one is still your loved one, regardless of what happens.
There were times during my brother's journey with drug addiction that he seemed like a complete stranger to me. Gone was the boy I spent every Christmas morning with. He had turned into a person I barely knew, and that scared me. But at the end of the day, he was still my blood and my family. His addiction would never change that.
5. Time doesn't heal wounds, but it helps.
Getting through each day seemed impossible when my brother first passed away. But as time went on, it got a little bit easier. While I still miss my brother every second of every day, I've learned to come to terms with what happened. I truly believe now that everything happens for a reason. This may be hard to believe when tragedy first happens, but it gets easier. I promise.
We hear stories about drug addiction all the time. We see the rising numbers of prescription drug abuse in the US. But reading something online or watching it on the television is very different from actually going through or watching someone else go through it. If you have a loved one battling drug addiction, just know that person is not alone, and neither are you.