I spent the last years of my marriage in the late ’90s and early 2000s addicted to a migraine and pain medication. Like many others, I was trying to numb the pain from many things but mostly from a broken heart and failing marriage. I was able to get help through an outpatient rehab program and therapy. I never knew at that time that my big brother was suffering from the same thing. The only difference is that the depression, emotional and physical pain he experienced through the years overwhelmed him and would take his life.
Let me be clear, he did not kill himself. He lost a lot in life and often used medication thinking it would take the pain away but all it did was scare us and end him up in the hospital. The days before his death, he was experiencing the off the wall effects of the sleeping agent Ambien. The side effects mimic those of an overdose. Unfortunately, we had no idea. Because we saw him overdose so many times before, we thought he wasn’t listening to our pleas for him to stop again and my mom and I got upset with him. I was disappointed because after my dad’s death that March, my big brother promised to take care of me and Mom. His “overdose” led me to believe that he was not trying to get better. I didn’t want to say anything to him and didn’t for two days.
In the early morning hours of June 19, 2009, the police and homicide detectives knocked on our door. Because of the Ambien and other meds in his system, my brother didn’t remember taking his medicine that evening and decided to take it before walking to Walmart so he wouldn’t hurt as bad when he came home. Unfortunately, he never made it home. He died of an accidental overdose in a strangers yard two blocks from home. The abundance of medicine, especially Amitriptyline, Benadryl, and Phenergan in his system caused cardiac arrest as his heart, lungs, and brain filled with fluid. There was nothing anyone could do to save him. Today, ten years later, I still live with the guilt and hurt of not speaking to him the last two days of his life. I have found some peace with it through my faith, but I pray he knew I loved him more than life itself.
I’m only sharing his story so that if anyone out there who may be abusing their medications for any reason, reads this, they can get help before it kills them. Do not take a chance on leaving your family with the heartbreak and sadness of your death when it could’ve been prevented. By the way, my big brother had an appointment at Bradford Health Services the following Monday morning. But… It was too late.
The number to the National Substance Abuse Hotline is 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and the number to the Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Talk to someone, anyone. Call today.
If you feel as if you do not have anyone to talk to or you don’t want to call the hotlines, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or dm me on my FB page Valerie Marie Collins and we can talk.
This is my poem dedicated to my big brother Arthur William Furt, Jr., entitled:
Friendship With Addiction
You took something from me
Something I can never get back
Your selfishness overwhelmed him
To me, there’s no forgiveness in that
How can you show up here?
After all the wrong you have done?
Where is your integrity?
A spirit like yours has none
Do you think we can be friends now?
Am I supposed to need you like that?
I admit I needed you in the past
But now my life is on track
Why did you have to come to live there?
You knew your purpose was to destroy
You snuck in, used us, stole from us
then discarded us like a child with a toy
You should have left him alone
Why didn’t you just take me instead?
You had plenty of chances while I slept
But now my big brother is dead
We were all helpless to stop you
We were afraid of what you would do
You played on all his weaknesses
He wasn’t strong enough to fight you
But my brother didn’t die in vain
He taught us to pay attention
To always look out for the signs
associated with you, Addiction
Now as we live in our soberness
You can never steal from us again
My brother paid the ultimate price
to teach us to be family, not friends
Friends like you Addiction will fail
You are evil and deranged
YOU should have died that morning
Only death runs through your veins
These years without my brother
have been reflective lonesome years
It hurts so bad that he is gone
When I dream of him, I dream in tears
Addiction is a thief in disguise
Lurking but pretending to be true
He stole from us my brother’s life
Don’t wait until he steals yours too
By Valerie Collins
August 21, 2018