I’m not even 100% sure about writing this or sharing my story because it’s devastating. It’s devastating for people to hear, for me to write, and for the ones who have lived it. But I know that there are people out there who can relate to my reality. So this is for them: the family members who have “survived” an addiction massacre.
I was born with two parents and three older siblings, and today I have one living parent and one living sibling. I think it’s important to know that I didn’t have an awful childhood. We weren’t very well off but we certainly didn’t go hungry or without clothes or transportation or anything, really. I could show you shelves of sports trophies that my oldest brother had collected throughout the years. And I could show you all of the academic awards my sister received. I can tell you stories about my dad and how funny he could be, how much he loved us, and how everyone loved being around him. I can assure you that my mom was (and still is) amazing and such a hard worker. She’s seriously my biggest fan. My other brother, who is closest to me in age, has always been the peacemaker—the calm one—the genuine one. I envied his calmness because, as the baby of the family, I just wanted to strive for everything all the time.
Much like every other family, we had our issues. Being the youngest, fortunately I don’t remember too much of the bad stuff (my therapist thinks I may just be blocking the memories—she’s probably right). But even at a young age I knew what drugs were. I knew that my dad did them and I knew my mom didn’t like it. I knew that my oldest brother had also been accused but I didn’t quite understand what he was being accused of. I know that my sister started getting in trouble for hanging out with not-so-good people, doing not-so-good things, and I know that my calm brother was becoming a bit too calm, shutting down. I knew that something bad was happening but it was just the beginning.
I can’t remember how old I was the first time my dad overdosed and I can’t remember how my mom explained it to me. By that time they had divorced. I can vaguely remember him being in the hospital, but everything changed when he was released. He wasn’t funny any more. He was emotionless and it was terrifying. I didn’t know him anymore and I didn’t even care. He didn’t seem sorry, he just seemed sad. My brother and I had to spend one night every other weekend with him at my grandma’s. We begged my mom not to make us go—but we went and we hated it. We watched as a seemingly lifeless person sat on the couch and did absolutely nothing. That was probably when addiction killed off my dad, mentally.
By the time my sister graduated high school, she wasn’t making the best choices and by that age I knew about it. I would get so angry with her and my little 11-year-old self would try and stand my ground, but I couldn’t stay mad. My sister was beautiful, inside and out. When someone made fun of my weight, my glasses, or my weird hair, we talked about it. She would get me to stop crying and we’d do makeovers, play dress-up, sing and dance, have fun and laugh. I really loved my sister. I wanted to be just like her. She was a few weeks shy of turning 19 years old when drugs took her from me. She was at a party with her friends and I was at a sleepover with mine. We were playing pretend and I was pretending to be her—to be my sister that night. I really loved my sister.
I think it was my sister’s death that pushed my already ‘seemingly lifeless’ dad over the edge. We were all a wreck, but looking back I can only imagine how awful he must have felt. Less than a year after my sister passed away, my dad overdosed on Oxycontin. At that time, addiction physically killed him off.
My oldest brother was 10 years older than me, so when I was younger, I only knew him as a long-haired teenager who had loud speakers and an extremely off-limits room. As we aged, he opened up so much. He got married and had a beautiful baby girl. He had a very good and steady job. I believe there was a long time where he was genuinely happy. I’m not sure when his problems started, but I knew there were problems. By that time I was a full-blown teenager and well aware of the people he hung around with. Sure, I was worried about him but he was not a “druggie.” He had an awesome job, but mainly he had his baby girl. I still can remember the glow he had every time he held her. He wasn’t just a good dad. She was his whole world. Besides, there’s no way he’d put my mom through this again. Right? Wrong. In 2008, my oldest brother died from a heroin overdose. Once again, addiction came into our lives and took another one of our family members—but it wasn’t finished with us yet.
I can’t speak too much of my remaining brother because he’s still here. Well, he’s somewhere. He’s in recovery and it’s going to take me a very long time to not feel like the ‘only child’ again, abandoned by the only sibling I had left. And trust me, I’m working on it. I will try and remain positive and I do trust that God has his situation under control. But let’s face it—the odds are pretty apparent that, mentally or physically, he’ll become another victim. I pray every night to consider him as “surviving” with my mom and I, but I pray even harder that I’ll be able to consider him at all.
Please know that when I say ‘victim’, I’m using that for lack of a better term. I don’t think drug use is something that many people fall victim to. I do, however, think addiction can be victimizing. I mean, just think about it. Do you know any person who said as a kid, “When I grow up I want to a be an addict?”
I know my oldest brother was an awesome welder and would’ve likely stayed on long enough to retire from his well-known company. I know my sister had dreams of owning her own salon and being a mother. I know my other brother has always wanted to work in the automotive engineering field. While their choices played an obvious role in my family massacre, I don’t believe they planned it.
I’m not telling my story to debate whether or not addiction is genetic or environmental, whether it’s a disease or a choice. I’m telling my story because it’s important to know that there are families out there who have been massacred by this epidemic time and time and time again. If you’ve lost someone in your family to drugs, please don’t think that you’re safe from it happening again. I thought that a few times myself. Every time, I was wrong.
My mom and I are hardly “survivors” of a family massacre, because in all honesty we’re not surviving. We’re exhausted, we’re grieving, and we’re worried. We each have our struggles in dealing with everyday life.
To anyone who has lost a family member to drug addiction, please know that you aren’t just a “survivor” of the massacre. You’re also at risk of becoming a victim. Help is available and 100% necessary. Talking with a therapist could be the difference in whether or not you “survive” the addiction massacre.