Two years ago today, my brother lost his best friend Mike to a drug overdose. I wrote about his death, and the positive side of death, the day before his funeral to try to provide some comfort to his girlfriend and family.
Two years went by very quickly.
And today as we are remembering and celebrating Mike’s life, my brother is remembering and missing Mike like he would his own brother. He is doing it from a drug rehab facility in San Diego. He has been clean for almost 4 months now, and we are all very proud of him and providing as much support as we can. Mike’s family is too.
If you have never been around an addict, or seen an addict deep into their addiction, let me tell you that it is not easy. It is so hard to watch someone you love hurt themselves over and over again. To throw away everything and not care about anything other than drugs. They lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate. They make promises that they cannot or will not keep. They swear up and down that they do not have a problem. And you just want to bang your head against a wall because they won’t listen, no matter how much you beg and plead. No matter how much you threaten.
The day that my brother hit bottom we thought he was going to die. He hadn’t slept or eaten in days and was talking about crazy things. He thought everybody was out to get him. He thought he was having a heart attack. He was out of control. He was so dehydrated that the hospital couldn’t even get a urine sample to do a drug test to find out what he was on. It was terrifying.
And yet, he didn’t go straight to rehab. He refused. We all knew he needed help, but he is a grown man and we couldn’t force him to go. He was good for a few days, and then went straight back into his personal hell.
Turning away someone that you know isn’t well is one of the hardest things to do. And towards the end of my brother’s downward spiral that is what we all had to do. It’s scary to know once he leaves the safety and security of his family that we didn’t know where he was or what he was doing. You worry about who they are with and what they are doing. We were in a constant state of fear and every time the phone rang, I said a prayer that it wasn’t the phone call telling me he was gone forever. We actually hoped that he would get arrested for something so that at least we would know where he was and that he wasn’t doing drugs.
Addiction affects everybody around the addict. Addiction is a life sucking asshole.
The day my brother finally agreed to go to rehab, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off of our family’s shoulders. It wasn’t easy for him. We were told that he’d be very excited and happy the first few weeks of rehab (after drying out) because being clean after being on drugs for so long is almost like a high in itself. We were also told that at the 2 month mark it would be very hard, and that that’s when many addicts want to leave rehab. That’s what happened, too. But my brother stayed and fought through it. And now at 4 months, though he can’t wait to come home, he says he has never been happier or felt better in his life. He has a new focus on life and new priorities. We are proud of him and hope that he keeps his strength and determination.
So while today we are grieving for Mike, we are also celebrating my brother’s second chance.
I wrote this poem for my brother back in 2008. I never gave it to him, even though I wanted to. So I sent it to him a few days after he went into rehab. I don’t ever write poems, and I have not written one since. But the words swirled around in my head and wouldn’t go away. I hope they mean something to him because they meant a lot to me.
There is light within your darkness
there is hope within your fear
You can break free from the ties that bind
and the devils that stay near
You can destroy your self made hell
you can leave your self made prison
You can decide which way to steer
the direction that will help your mind clear
It won’t be easy or pain-free
but you can’t afford to just let it be
There is a catch, a price to pay –
you must let go of your self hate
You need to find out from where it comes
why it’s here and why it leers
into your life
into your heart
How it’s gotten so damn smart
It figured out how to make you tick
it figured out how to keep you sick
Because you are no longer you alone
you now have a legacy
Part of you is your beautiful boys and
as they grow they’ll sense and feel your misery
I will not finish these words I write
because this is not an end
Your journey is far from over
the decisions lie in your hands
Here’s to second chances!