My big brother was 25 years old when the drugs finally took his life. He had been an addict of heroin since he was 17 years old, and couldn't kick it. Brad was probably in his early teens when things started going downhill for him. He started smoking weed, drinking, and hanging out with the wrong crowd. By the time he was a sophomore in high school my parents had sent him away to a military academy because they thought it was the right thing to do. After that, he came home and was sent to rehab when he was 16 or 17. Unfortunately, he wasn't ready to make a change. Once he turned 18 and hadn't graduated high school, my mom and I moved to upstate NY and he stayed behind in Pittsburgh.
For the next few years, the drugs took over his life. He went from going to jail, to being homeless, to moving down to Florida and then starting it all over again; back to jail and then on the streets. I really didn't have a brother during this time period. At one point, he moved up to New York where we lived and was doing really well. He was working, not going out, and just living a simple life. But, then he got the itch, and moved a friend from Pittsburgh up and he was back into trouble. My father also took him in once, but kicked him out when he found drugs in his house. Once he was in Florida he was on his own. Eventually, when my grandmother passed away, we finally saw him for the first time in a few years. We offered him yet another chance to move up to New York and make a new life, but he still wasn't ready. He said he had some things he had to "take care of" in Florida. Those things turned out to be more jail time.
Once he got out of jail the last time, my mom offered him one last chance. She had him fly to Oklahoma and enter rehab, and finally he took her advice. In the fall of 2007, he entered rehab for the last time. He went through the program and spent a couple of months there. Once he got out of rehab in January, he moved into a sober living situation out in Denver, Colorado, and started working as a chef in a breakfast restaurant. I finally had my brother back and we started to have an actual relationship. He had a stable living situation, was surrounded by people recovering, and was doing well. But, things weren't moving fast enough for him. He had an hour bus ride each way from his house to work and a long walk to the bus stop, so he decided it would be better for him to get an apartment. Although we weren't completely in support of him moving into his own apartment, at the time, I could understand him not wanting to ride a bus for 2 hours a day. It was only 6 weeks after he moved out into his own apartment before he overdosed on heroin and died. The saddest part is that he was with someone who left him to die. I think it says a lot about what drugs can make you do, or think is ok, when you're willing to leave your friend to die who has just overdosed.
Every day my brother will be missed, especially by my mom. He was my only brother, and a huge part of my future is missing now, especially since we had just started to have a real relationship before he died. It sent a shockwave throughout my life that will never be forgotten. The pain of hearing from the Denver coroner's office in the middle of the night will be something I never forget.
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