“Friday the 13th. A day that many fear, but never fazed me. I always enjoyed the day really. Not anymore. The night my parents called telling me my brother was missing. The night I spent driving desperately in my car searching for him. The night I was frantically calling every hospital and police station within a 50 mile radius asking if my brother was there. The night I was screaming at the top of my lungs in my car ‘Bryan, wake up! Wake up, I need you. Don’t leave me.’ I was just hoping something inside him would here me.
The night I fell asleep praying he was OK, but was awoken the next morning by a phone call so many dread.
Friday, April the 13th, 2018. The friday my brother ingested a lethal amount of carfentanil and never woke up again. The day my nightmare became my reality.
Bryan was an amazing person. He was born in Bloomington, Indiana. Grew up in Washington, Indiana and died in Knox County, Indiana.
He was a loving father of two beautiful children. He loved his family dearly. Bryan graduated from Washington High School where he played basketball on the state championship team. He travelled the world playing on the Indiana Elite Basketball team.
He was an Indiana Basketball All-Star and played division one college ball. Bryan graduated with a Bachelors of Science from ISU. He was also a grad student working toward his masters before he decided to enter the workforce.
He attended church every Sunday with his parents and children. He had a love for God, history and politics, Bryan is painfully missed every moment of the day.
All of the above is so very true, but that is not all my brother was.
When someone dies from drugs, I think people expect you to pretend like it didn’t happen. You type up a paragraph about what the world sees as acceptable and hide the rest. You lock it away like it’s something you should be ashamed of. Accept the sympathy, hide the truth and move on. Say they died peacefully in their sleep. Not me. I refuse. That is a lie. There was nothing peaceful about that night. There was nothing peaceful about what my family went through that night. What my brother went through. I’ve lost too many friends and now my brother. The majority of funerals I’ve been to the last 10 years have been for people under 35 My friends. My classmates. And now my younger brother. I’m done. I’m over hiding.
That is the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction in this country. That is a huge reason why people don’t ask for help and recover. People don’t want to hear about it. There is a lot more judgement than there is compassion surrounding addiction and mental illness. People ask why someone suffering from addiction doesn’t just stop and get help and then the same people call addicts weak and hopeless when they do. They shame them. They continue to judge them on their past. That’s the stigma and that needs to stop.
That stigma is one of the reasons behind why my brother is no longer here. I am not ashamed. I love my brother and I am so very proud of him. Not just certain pieces of his life. All of it. I’m not going to give you some cookie cutter image of him. I’m not going to hide certain parts of who he was to make him appear to be someone he wasn’t. If I did that, I would be making the stigma worse. I could bite my tongue and make everyone comfortable, or I could speak up, trying my hardest to make others aware.
His death will not be just another sad story that people whisper about for awhile and eventually forget. His death will save others. His story will. I will make certain of that. He would want that. His children deserve that.
Bryan was an amazing person. Bryan also suffered from addiction and battled mental illness his entire life. As a child, Bryan suffered from severe separation anxiety. School was painfully difficult for him. He would get sick at the thought of going. That anxiety stayed with him his entire life. He didn’t ask for help. Even when he went to college, my parents had to rent an apartment and stay there because of the anxiety.
He went to a couple different colleges hoping to adjust better, but the anxiety wouldn’t allow that. He felt very ashamed of that.
I guess he did eventually get medicine for anxiety while in college, but they just gave him the same highly addictive pills. He wasn’t properly treated for anxiety or addiction, he was just medicated with whatever would put him in the classroom and on the court the next day. He had a legal addiction at that time. He needed real help, but the doctors just gave him pills to hide his anxiety away even more. To push it down further. The same type of pills would show up years later in his toxicology report.
I haven’t even mentioned that before now but it is important and it is the truth. It is my brother’s truth. It’s the truth of many out there. We live in a society that tells boys to ‘be a man.’ That boys don’t cry. We are taught to hide our emotions, but sometimes those emotions are tied to mental illness. You can’t just get over it if you have anxiety or depression. You can try, but it won’t work.
I believe Bryan pushed his anxiety down until one day he took a highly addictive pill that took that anxiety away. It treated his anxiety, but triggered his addiction. That was it. The sad thing is I believe that first anxiety pill he took as a 15-year-old boy was also the same type of pill that killed him. It looked the same, but it was a counterfeit one made with a deadly drug.
Bryan fought his addiction many times but I think he always hid away the anxiety. You can’t fight one and not the other. It won’t work. You will end up like my brother if you don’t get the proper treatment. He had been clean for a couple years. He graduated college. He had a good job. He was such an amazing father. He was doing so well. But, that anxiety was still there. It took a couple years, but it finally got too much for him again. He didn’t ask for help and began self medicating his anxiety. Things spiraled after that.
Ask for help. I’m begging you. A few weeks before my brother died I begged him to ask for help. I suspected he relapsed and I called him out like I never had before. I told him he was going to die and I was going to shatter when he did. That I couldn’t live without him. That his end would be the beginning of mine. He was my person and I couldn’t do it without him. I broke in front of him until he broke down too. He told me he would never leave me; he promised. He meant it. He wanted to be here forever with me. He promised and told me everything was going to be OK. I left and knew it wasn’t. I knew every word he said was the truth, but I also knew he would wake up the next morning and the addiction would still be there. The anxiety would still be there.
Maybe I should’ve done more. Something. Anything. I don’t know. He broke his promise. He didn’t ask for help and he died. Ask for help! Now. If someone that loves you tells you they want you to get help, listen. Get the help. That was the beginning of my brother’s story, now, let’s get to the day he left. Bryan more than likely died from taking a counterfeit anxiety pill that contained a drug meant to tranquilize an elephant, carfentanil. That drug can be found in anything from heroin to a fake Xanax made with a pill press bought off the Internet. Research it. Bryan’s toxicology report read a non lethal dose of prescription medication, THC and a lethal dose of carfentanil. That’s it. Not a large amount of pills. Not meth, not coke, not heroin. A couple pills and weed was all it took to kill him. That is it.
It was hidden in something. You don’t just go out asking for carfentanil. Was it in a pill? Was it broken up on the weed? Was he involved in things he shouldn’t have been? Did someone know what they were giving him? I don’t know. I am not naive and I know my brother was far from perfect. I think he got deep in over his head in a series of bad decisions that lead him to the day he died.
To be honest, I will probably never get all the answers I deserve to know about that night. For awhile, I thought I didn’t want to know anything else. I thought it would make things worse. But, I now know it can’t get any worse for me. My brother is dead. He’s gone. No matter what I find out, it won’t bring my brother back. But, it might save someone else. It might save another family from going through what we went through that night. I will tell you what I do know about that night. I know there is more to the story. i know he didn’t go there to die. I know he planned on coming home to his children and family that loved him dearly. I know what we went through that night was not just tragic like most people think, It was horrific. I know when I was calling those hospitals and police stations desperately looking for my brother, someone told me to go to bed and my brother didn’t deserve my tears because he was probably out there high.
I know my parents got Bryan’s phone records late that night and started calling every recent number desperately searching for their child. I know when someone finally answered, they laughed and taunted my dad when he said he was looking for his son. They laughed. I know 30 minutes after that person answered, we got the call from the hospital saying he was there and still alive. I know by the time my parents arrived at the hospital, he was gone I know his phone, wallet and shoes were never found. I know a member of law enforcement had the nerve to tell my mom she didn’t deserve her son’s items back because he made the choice to go to that house. A mother that was just told her youngest child died was also told she didn’t deserve his belongings.
I know my brother spent his last hours of his life laying on a couch with no one helping him. No one picking up the phone to call 911 until it was too late. I know he wasn’t alone. I know he laid there for up to 8 hours. I know when I was out frantically searching for him, he was laying on a couch dying. I know when we were doing everything we could, the people that could’ve done something did nothing. Those people are still not doing a thing. That is what I know.
I often wonder what if I found him? What if someone called 911 earlier? Would he still be here? Would it have made a difference? What happened in those hours he was on that couch? Why are his belongings gone? Why did it take until my parents made that phone call for someone to call 911? If they didn’t get his phone records and start calling, would we have found him randomly dumped somewhere? Would we have ever found him? Why are we expected to move on and not ask questions? Why aren’t others fighting for answers? Why is any of this okay? Those are the questions that will haunt me forever.
There is one more question I have and that is for you. You know who you are. You laughed at my dad. You that told my mom she didn’t deserve his belongings and answers. You that let him lay there for hours. How do you sleep at night? How? Is staying out of trouble more important than saving a life? Is taking a gamble on someone else’s life by messing around with carfentanil worth that money you make? Is it? I just don’t understand. He was in the wrong, but so were you. My family deserves better. If you have answers, give them to us. If you can find answers, do it. Finding those answers could save another family from ending up like mine.
My brother put an illegal drug into his body and he died. I know he was in the wrong. What he did was illegal and my brother got the death penalty for his crimes. And my parents, his children, the mother of his children, his siblings and the rest of his family are serving a life sentence because of this. We will never be the same. Never. That’s my brother’s story. At least parts of it. But, his story is far from over. His death is not the ending. You see, his story is my story. It’s a part of who I am. I’m not going to start an entire new story because he is no longer here. I’m going to keep fighting for answers. I’m going to keep fighting for others. I’m going to make certain his story continues and his life and death saves as many as possible. That we save as many as possible. He will be right by my side the entire time. Since Bryan has died, I’ve found out Bryan’s story is not a unique one. My families story isn’t. The more I share his story, the more people I have contacting me saying they lost someone by the same deadly drug. That the same thing that happened to my brother that night, also happened to their loved ones. People telling me that they were once living the same life as Bryan. That they could’ve ended up like Bryan.
The stories are endless and more are happening everyday. I’ve also had just as many people, if not more, tell me they have no clue these types of things are happening around them. Those that haven’t experienced the pain that addiction can cause, but want to help. That have a compassion in their heart to get past the ugliness that most see in those suffering and do what they can to help. I’m not certain how yet, but we need to create a bridge between the two types of people that have been reaching out to me. The ones that have lived it. and the ones who haven’t but are willing to help. If you’re over here with me, please share your story. Share your loved ones story, let others know the true pain behind this epidemic. That there is more to each story than what there appears to be. And if you’re on the other side. . . .
Please, keep listening with a compassionate heart. Urge others too. Keep praying for more understanding and ways to make a change for the better in our community. Maybe if we start becoming more aware and fighting together against the evils out there, less families would end up like mine. We need to do something. We need to come together so we can save those drowning Those that are trapped under that bridge. For those children out there that might one day be. They need us. Our children need us to fight now so one day they aren’t the ones fighting. It can happen to anyone. For those of you out there that are lost right now. For those struggling to keep your head above water. I want you to know you are not hopeless. You are not a lost cause. Your past does not define your future. There is help out there. You can fight this. I have faith and I believe in you. This….what I am doing….is for you. I am someone that has been through hell. I am living the nightmare that your family dreads. I lost my brother. I couldn’t save him. I have been through it all. I lost the biggest battle of my life, my best friend. But, I am still fighting this war for you. For complete strangers. That is how important this is and how much I believe even though I couldn’t save him, I believe others can be saved.
That you can be saved.
I keep getting told people have to hit rock bottom before they truly ask for help. Well…I want you to consider this very moment to be your rock bottom. Right now. You are at rock bottom. I don’t care if you are a kid that just bought your first pill and considering taking it because all your friends and half the school has already tried it. That you haven’t put it in your body yet, but you might. Consider yourself at rock bottom.
If you are someone out there that just takes a small amount of a drug and you still maintain a job, a family, a life, consider yourself at rock bottom. If you only do drugs randomly at a party a couple times a year, consider yourself at rock bottom. If you are taking your hundredth pill or doing your hundredth line, but you’ve never been in trouble. Consider yourself at rock bottom. Rock bottom is no longer someone who just got busted sitting in a jail cell. Rock bottom is no longer someone homeless living on the streets. Rock bottom is no longer someone who lost everything. Rock bottom is now the kid taking that one pill someone gave him for the first time. A good kid just trying to fit in with others. A pill he is planning on only trying once just so he can say he did. In that one pill, he could hit rock bottom. And he could never wake up again. That is rock bottom. You don’t get any further down than death. You might think you are nowhere close to rock bottom. That you have everything under control. You need to think again. There is no control over illegal drugs. The smallest amount, the most innocent of drug could kill you.
If you are a recreational user…just stop right now. If you suffer from addiction….get help right now. You are risking your life with every drug you take. You are at rock bottom. Just one pill. Just one line. That is it. That is all it might take. Your family needs you. No matter what you have done, no matter what you are thinking about doing, they are not better off without you. Trust me. You could die and your family would be trapped in a nightmare forever. Ask for help. Don’t do those drugs. Don’t take that pill. Just one pill. That’s it. That’s all it might take to turn your family into mine.”
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