He’s hurting, so he hurts her.

This morning I woke up an read this piece called 7 Days of Heroin. It’s a heartbreaking story written by the Cincinnati Enquirer following 7 days of heroin overdoses, arrests, criminal activities, and death. It’s heartbreaking if you have lived any aspect of heroin addiction. I read it through tears. Heroin causes so much havoc.

Heroin addiction has caused my family so much pain over the past 14 years and it never seems to end. The pain just changes. It evolves into sobriety then rears it’s ugly head with addiction. We are all affected.

My brother, whom I have not seen in over a year is still affected. He is still an addict. He may be clean. He may be trying with Suboxone. But I can’t be sure. I have recently offered him help and when at first it seemed like he would take it, now not so much. My hope had risen for a moment and my ego convinced me that maybe just maybe I could save him. But I can’t save him. All I can do is love him.

I think about this space often. I think about what My Junkie Brother means to people. I read the comments and feel so sad that so many people have been what my family and I have been through. I feel so broken that so many have lived the life my brother has lived these past 14 years. I feel so helpless. I want to do something. I want to make something stick. I want to help my brother and those like him. Those who did nothing wrong, but got hurt and get prescribed a drug that they were immediately addicted to. I want to help the moms who only want to love their kids but can’t because the power of the poppy is too strong. I want to help all of the addicts. And the only way I know how to help right now, is to write. Writing and talking about heroin addiction publicly has changed so much in the past 10 years. When I first started talking about my brother’s addiction publicly I got so much anger and embarrassment from my family, from my friends, and from strangers. Now I get emails and letters and comments that mimic my own story thanking me for sharing my truth. There are so many of us who live this same truth and I believe we should all share with the world what this epidemic has done to those people we love.

I don’t post on this blog enough, I know that. But I think I have a solution for how this blog can help more people. And that solution is you: the readers. the sisters, the brothers, the fathers, the mothers of addicts, and the addicts themselves. All of you can help.

I am going to ask that you share your stories here. You can email them to me and I will post them. You can be anonymous or share your first name. You can change the names of people, I don’t care. Your story, their story will help. It will help shine a light on the immense epidemic that is tearing through our country like a hurricane.

To share your story or someone you loves’ story please click the button on the sidebar to email me.

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6 Months Ago

6 Months ago I watched my brother almost die. I sat next to his hospital bed, held his puffy hands, and prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Selfishly I prayed for me. I prayed that he would find sobriety so I could have him back in my life. So we could make up for the past 10 years we’ve lost. I prayed that he could find enough good inside himself to want a life free from drugs so my kids could be around the uncle that they love dearly. I prayed that he would live so he could find the happiness I found in this life. I prayed that he could live so my dad wouldn’t have to go thru the crushing trauma of losing a child. I prayed for everything I could think of as I sat there an held his puffy hand. I prayed for everything and everyone but him.

I should have prayed for him.

Addicts don’t have the luxury of praying for themselves. They are consumed by the drug and that obsession cancels out any thought of their own well being.  Laying in that hospital bed, my brother felt pain like I will never feel. My prayers belonged with him those days.

Today, 6 months later, my brother is alive. While our relationship is definitely strained, I find myself praying for him daily. My kids and I say a prayer every night for him. We don’t say what we want our prayer to accomplish, we just say we pray for Uncle Andy hoping someday our prayers get answered.

Claws of the Poppy

My brother is living in a shelter.  I am devastated, however a part of me is grasping at hope.  This is the first time in three years that he has been on his on with his addiction.  Usually he is coddled and cared for by some member of my family.  He has been enabled time and time again.  Hitting bottom has yet to happen for him. His addiction has been easy on him.  An addict with a home, food, clothes, shower, and family.  Not bad.  It has only been hard on us, his family.

My stomach aches when I think about the last time I saw him.  He was high.  It was New Years Day.

Seeing him high again six months after the last time I saw him high broke me down physically.  I lost my shit.  I couldn’t stop the tears.  I stopped talking to him in the summer precisely because I did not want to breakdown the next time he did.  I figured if I was not emotionally attached to him I would not feel the hurt I have felt so many times before.  I was WAY wrong.    In fact I think that maybe I should have talked to him, I should have had a relationship with him for these past few sober months so at least I could be a part of his life, but then I think about my babies.  I could not have them around him.  I could not have them begin a relationship with him.

But I always hoped.  Secretely in the back of my mind I prayed that this was it.  He was back.  He was sober. He was my brother again.  He would step in and be my kids cool uncle.  My son’s fantastic godfather.

But he’s not. Walking into my parents house on New Years Day I spotting him on the couch and I immediately knew.  He was gray and he was skinny.  He looked like shit.

It was odd though, because he ate.  In the past when he was high all he would eat was ice cream & candy.  It was one of his tells.  But this day he ate dinner and he could function for the most part.  And then after dinner he disappeared.  He came back, sat down on the couch, and the shell of my brother emerged.

The signs of heroin began to show their disgusting teeth.  His eyes began to roll.  My kids attempting to play with him were ignored.  I knew.  I looked at the Chef.  He knew.  My parent’s knew while they searched his car.  We packed up the kids.

Happy 2009.

It has been three years since heroin began to kill my brother.  My brother, the smart one, the good looking one, the funny one.  My brother the boy who could make me laugh effortlessly.  My brother the goofy amazing athlete.  My brother.  My brother, the heroin addict.  My brother, the homeless man.  I am sad.  I am heartbroken.  I miss him.  I miss who he used to be.  All I can do is hope and pray that somehow he makes it through this.  I want him back.  I want my children to know the boy I grew up with and loved.

My poor father.  The man blames himself.  What parent wouldn’t?

The claws of the poppy sink deep in that first taste and never release.

I need hope but it’s so hard.  How many times….how many calls…how many sleepless nights are ahead of me?  How many years can this go on before it kills my father?  It will.  I know it will.  I can see how much he has aged since this began.  His eyes are sadder now and his voice is quieter.  He is broken.

Fuck.