It was a Saturday night. My husband and I sat down to watch the 10 o’clock news for some reason. I don’t know. And it was, like, breaking news, and they showed my brother Joey’s picture, and I almost fainted. I screamed, and my husband and kids came running.
He had been on a binge for maybe two or three weeks. In the middle of that night, he had held up a pharmacy and robbed it.
He has no recollection to this day that he even did it. He was so high on heroin that he had no idea.
My brother was married eight years ago, and he had a little boy, and he built a house, and he had a wonderful job and was on top of the world.
And every day the pressures got to him. He never came out and said it, but I could tell on his face he was just going through the motions of daily life.
He started to party with friends a lot on the weekends. He started doing drugs and just spiraled out of control.
That night, the police were on the hunt for him. We were on the phone with him all night long. I wanted to keep him on the phone; I just wanted to hear his voice.
We talked about anything I could think of: life in general, my kids, him getting help.
They ended up catching him, but he didn’t have any weapons with him, and thankfully they didn’t have to shoot. But he served seven years in prison for that.
He graduated from a rehabilitation program and with two certificates to be a personal trainer. He was doing great. He got his GED. When he got out, he was doing really well for over a year.
And then it started all over again.
I don’t know what he tries to run from. He’s said before he’s running from demons, but I don’t know where they’re from.
It is an absolutely helpless feeling knowing that someone you love goes through struggles like this from day to day, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
When Joey and my other brother, Tony, were around 13 and 14 years old, they started to dabble with marijuana, and then it was pills, and then Tony was drinking, and Joey had started with heroin.
Tony loves to drink, but he would never admit to being an alcoholic. He’s functioning, though. He gets up and goes to work every single day — he’ll never miss a day of work. But he still drinks every single day.
There was nothing really bad going on back when the boys were young, so I don’t know if it was just their choice all of a sudden to pick up and start experimenting with this stuff.
Our mom went through a nasty divorce, but they didn’t really realize what was going on because they were so much younger than I was. I’m 12-13 years older than them, so I sheltered them from a lot of that.
There were years between when the divorce happened and when they started getting into trouble.
I wish I could just slide inside their heads and figure out what their lows are. I don’t know what they try to run from.
I try and help them as much as possible. We keep in touch and have positive talks. My family and I FaceTime my brother Joey when we can — especially around the holidays.
When Joey does well, he’s so happy. It makes me happy. I love to see when he’s got that confidence.
He’s a people-person; people just navigate to him; they want to talk with him. Anything he says, he’s just hilarious. He’s so funny, and he’s smart, and he’s such a good-looking guy.
Then all of a sudden, after a few months of him doing well, he’s right back out again.
The night Joey was on the run, he never left Indianapolis. When we were on the phone, he led me to believe he was on the run.
My mom was the one who told me differently. She said, “You know a drug addict never goes far from their drug dealer.”
I didn’t know that. You could find drugs anywhere. I still don’t know if it’s true or not, but Joey didn’t leave wherever he was, so there must have been something keeping him.
Maybe he’ll decide here in a few days that he needs help, and he can walk into any rehabilitation center. He lives in Boston right now; he had job opportunities there after he got out, and most of his family is there.
He has access to some of the best rehabilitation facilities in the U.S.
I’m just hoping one day that he will find something that will give him the passion to turn this addiction around because I don’t know what it’s gonna take.
I hope he doesn’t become a statistic, but that’s on him. That’s his decision if he wants to stop. In this game he’s playing, it’s either you live or you die: one or the other. I hope he gets help before it becomes too late.
We tried finding him help here in Indiana before moving him back to Boston, but there’s no resources here. If we had more resources to help people, it would save a lot of lives.
We need more facilities in Indiana to help the heroin epidemic. There are a few places, but the waiting list is just too long. There are no rehab centers for people to go, and that’s why they end up on the street again.
The families here are tired and have no means to care for their family. It’s extremely frustrating to me.
Addicts and alcoholics: They don’t just wake up one day and decide this is what they want to do. Nobody’s going to say, “Oh doing drugs or drinking alcohol was the best thing I ever did.”
You’re not weak; you’re not a lowlife or a loser or an idiot because you do drugs. That’s not the case. It’s a sickness, and it’s an illness, and it’s a disease that they can’t help.
There can also be underlying reasons for addiction. I believe Joey has depression, anxiety and ADHD that was never treated. And he could also be bipolar because when he’s up, he’s up, and when he’s down, he’s very down.
But I think until those issues are dealt with, alcoholism and that drug addiction are never going to stop.
I used to think, “If they would just stop drinking or doing drugs, then…” but you can’t “just stop.” They can’t do that.
I don’t want somebody looking at my brother like he’s nobody. He has loved ones; he has a family that cares about him.
And that goes for all addicts and drug users. They’re people with families, children, careers and very bright futures. But they made bad choices, and unfortunately, not everyone who tries drugs can kick that habit.
I wish things were different for my family. I wish we were closer, and I could be more involved with Joey and Tony. I made the decision to move to Indiana 23 years ago to start my life with my husband, and I don’t regret that.
But my mom called me almost 20 years ago and asked if my brothers could live with us, but at that time, we didn’t have the means to take care of them.
I sometimes wonder if things would have been different in their lives if we had taken them to live with us.
This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Dr. Adam Kuban and the Louis E. Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.