My Brother Is An Addict, And He's Going To Die

by Brooke Wilkerson
Originally Published: 
Black and white silhouette of a man smoking
Sylwia Klatka / EyeEm / Getty

My brother is going to die.

That is the reality.

And, although, he doesn’t have cancer or ALS or, even, a prognosis that includes a “months-to-live” estimate, he is going to die.

And this, we know, for sure.

But, the truth is that he died a long time ago.

How is that possible? How can he, both, already be gone, but still be alive?

Well, if you’ve been in a similar situation, then you’ve already pegged his diagnosis.

And if you’re confused right now, then say a little “thank you” prayer, because, these days, you are in the minority.

My brother is going to die.

And for many, they will say that he deserved it. Many will say that he should die. Many will say that he brought this upon himself and that he is worthless and useless and unimportant. Many will say that he’s not worth saving. Many will say that they don’t want to “waste” their tax dollars helping him, because he brought this upon himself.

And, to that, I say, “You’re right.”

You are absolutely right. He did bring this upon himself. But, that’s all that you’re right about.

Because, while your statement is solely about his kind, your impact does not reach him. In fact, the harshness of your words only effects the people who don’t deserve to see him die.

When you write these things on social media or shout them for the world to hear, your purpose is to shame the user, but your opinion only brings sadness to the people who love them and who are already bearing the burden of their decisions.

My brother has been revived with Narcan, at least, two times (that we know of).

Ah, here’s a good situation that many, many people have strong opinions about.

They say things like:

“Narcan only enables addicts.”

“Narcan is a waste of money.”

“Just let them die.”

And I hear your anger, I really do.

Because, you know what?

I am angry, too.

His parents are angry, too.

His little girls are angry, too.

Whatever emotion you have about an addict, I guarantee you their family has felt that emotion tenfold.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been angry about his addiction, his actions, his reluctance to stay sober or to get help.

It is beyond angry — this emotion that we feel.

But, it doesn’t just stop at anger.

It flows into sadness, because when we look at him, we see who he used to be. We see the sweet little boy who, once, talked with a lisp. We see the big brother who once made his little sister a “dream hat” (that resembled a dunce hat) to wear at night so that she didn’t have nightmares anymore.

We see the daddy who, we know, loves us more than anyone else, even though that love is not enough. We see the son who we lost and who we have yet to get back.

We see the shell of a person who we used to love, who we still, can’t help but love.

And, the emotion doesn’t stop at sadness, either.

No, the emotion flows on, into full-fledged anxiety. And every time that we read about an overdose, our heart skips a beat, as we skim the article to find the name or the location.

We sit on this ledge of anxiety, swinging our legs as we wonder what will happen next and when it will happen.

Will he continue living this way?

Will he get help?

Will he stay sober?

Will rehab work this time?

Will he give up?

We inch forward on the ledge when we get that phone call saying that he overdosed, as we hold our breath to hear if he is still alive. And when we find out that he was revived, we scoot back just a little, still peering over the unknown. Somewhat relieved, but still fearful of the future.

While he is suffering with things that we cannot understand, his family is suffering even more with things that we cannot control.

It is a special kind of hell.

And, I beg you to be careful with your words.

Would you tell an addict’s small child that he deserved to die?

I won’t ask you to show sympathy, only compassion for a sad, sad situation, that I struggle to sympathize with myself.

I don’t know what the solution is to this epidemic, but I know that it is one (an epidemic).

I know too many people who have gone down this path, and who do not come back, and I am not too naive to understand the reality of his demise, shall he continue on.

Nonetheless, that does not make it any easier.

While his life has spiraled out of control, we have tried to (reluctantly) detach, because while he still holds the same name and the same DNA, he is not the same.

He is not himself.

He is not the person that he could’ve been — that he still could be.

He doesn’t see his own worth, like we do. He doesn’t realize how hard we rally for him or how hard we pray for him.

And, even with his troubles, he is a person deserving of saving, deserving of help, deserving of forgiveness.

Your opinion does not matter. It does not solve the problem. It does not contribute in a positive way, because at the end of the day, he is gone.

He is here and he is gone.

And it will be a glorious day if he ever comes back.

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