Losing a Loved One to Heroin-An Open Letter to those Struggling with Addiction
December 11, 2017
This post is not my typical home decor or craft post. If you want to see pretty pictures of pretty things, this is not the post for you.
Heroin addiction is both terrifying and heartbreaking. Losing a loved one to this drug is incredibly painful. My sister’s son, my beautiful nephew who I loved deeply, recently overdosed and passed away. He was addicted to heroin. He was 27 years old. He had struggles, he made mistakes. He wasn’t perfect, but he was very loved. He was a handsome, smart, loving and caring and talented person that had so many plans for his life. He loved us too, even through it all, he loved us. Heroin took that away. Heroin has taken his life and the lives of many of his friends. It’s a nightmare that we will never wake up from.
Addiction is a very selfish animal. It consumes the user and doesn’t allow them to clearly see what it’s doing to them and to the ones that love them. Heroin lies–it sucks the user in with good feelings and empty promises. It’s evil. It consumes and kills.
Below is an open letter that I posted on my nephew’s Facebook page. It was written out of grief and anger. My hope was and is that if even one of his friends who is using would read it and understand what this drug is doing, not only to them but to the people who love them, that they would get help. I desperately want them to get help.
December 10, 2017
Today we formally said goodbye to Philip at his memorial service. I still cannot wrap my head around this. It all seems surreal, then reality hits and brings me to my knees. I can’t believe he’s gone. He was with us just the night before he died-we had such a good time together with our family and friends. He went home the next evening and was found dead just a few hours later. How can this happen. Why did this happen? His death is the very first thought I have when I wake up and the last as I go to sleep. I see the pain on his parents’ faces and my heart hurts for them. I see the grief on the faces of my family and it tears at my heart. For me, the grief sneaks in when I least expect it–like a knife to the heart. In my mind, I see him as a baby, a toddler, a sweet little boy, a funny kid who always made me laugh and a young man who had his whole life ahead of him. Until heroin. How do we do this for the rest of our lives? How does anyone lose someone so senselessly, so young, to a drug. It has changed everything.
November 13 2017
Around 2:30 in the morning I woke up to the phone call from my sister. I can still hear the fear and grief in her voice! And I knew, at that very moment I knew. Through her sobbing I was able to make out that PJ (Philip) was found blue with a needle in his arm by his room mate. That he was in the ICU at a hospital in Philadelphia, that he had very little brain activity. All I could manage to say was Oh My God NO, Oh My God NO over and over. She gave me the name of the hospital and I told her to get dressed, we were coming to get her and take her to him. I called the hospital and the wonderful staff gave me directions and told me where to go when we got there. My husband drove–the ride from our home in Brick, NJ to Philadelphia, PA is not very long – maybe an hour and 10 minutes- but it felt like we were never going to get to PJ. Time was slowing down. We drove in silence-praying to God that he would somehow save our boy. What follows is a letter that I wrote to Philips friends. I wrote to keep my heart from exploding with grief and anger and posted it on his Facebook page in the hopes that maybe they would see the reality of what this drug is doing to them and their families. Maybe make them get help.
Dear Friends of Philip,
I see here, on his Facebook page, how much you all loved my nephew Philip. I loved him too, very much. He was the sweetest most adorable, loving, curious, smart little boy. He was a loving, caring, adventurous, and funny adult with a heart of gold. His personality and heart were as big as he was- 7 ft tall! seriously tall. He was smart–really smart. He had his whole life ahead of him, he could have been and done whatever he wanted.
COULD HAVE . . .
But he’s GONE. His life is over! At 27 years old his life is over!
Do you get that? I want you to really know this deep in your heart and soul–HE. IS. DEAD.
You will NEVER hear his voice or his laugh, feel his hug, look into those beautiful blue eyes or tease him about his height EVER Again. All that he was is gone. Memories of who he was, who he really was, is all we have left. His life here is OVER and the only good thing is that he is finally free of addiction and at peace. He’s gone and we are left here with our hearts destroyed because of HEROIN.
Addiction is very selfish, it doesn’t care who it hurts. It has destroyed Philip and the people who love him, nothing will ever be the same.
Because of HEROIN,
We have to face every day for the rest of our lives with the picture of our boy laying in a bed with a machine keeping his heart beating and lungs breathing for him. Wires and IV’s, and monitors all registering that he’s breathing and his heart is beating. He’s still here. There’s hope!
Have you ever seen someone on life support? It plays games with you, it makes you think that he’s just sleeping, or unconscious-not dead. His body is warm, when you hold his hand or brush his cheek he’s warm, his chest is moving up and down, his heart beats-you can feel it when you lay your hand on his chest. You talk to him and whisper in his ear to please wake up, to come back to us! You wonder if he can hear you. You look for a sign, the flutter of an eyelash or the twitch of a finger, you stare at the monitors looking for the tiniest sign that something is changing, improving. You squeeze his hand hoping he squeezes back.
You watch him lay there with machines doing for him what his body can no longer do on its own, and you pray to God like you’ve never prayed before to please, please send a miracle and bring him back to us whole and healthy and addiction free. You beg God, literally beg Him to heal him, because the thought of never seeing him again is just too painful to comprehend. You want to turn to clock back just one day and do something, anything to change what has happened. Make him stay, hug him longer and tighter, tell him how much you love him again and again, that you can’t bear the thought of living without him, say something, do something to prevent this from happening. How could we be so stupid to believe he was ok, just because he said he was. Why didn’t he tell us how he was struggling. You want to wake up from this nightmare. But you won’t, You’ll never wake up!
Because of HEROIN
You watch the doctors-every kind of doctor there is- and the nurses come and go. They cool his body to protect his organs and make it easier for his body to heal (if it can). They slowly warm his body hoping that something has changed. They take him away from you for brief periods of precious time to perform MRI’s and CT Scans. They put him on dialysis to clean the toxins out of his body, they do EEG’s to see if there is any brain activity. They try to get a reaction from different stimuli. They poke him, they stick him, they even inject ice water into his ears to illicit a pain reaction! They’re hurting him and you’re actually praying that he can feel pain! They take tests, and do procedures and follow the protocol that is necessary to declare a person brain dead. “Take your time” is what runs through your head, there’s no hurry. Secretly you’re glad that it takes days for these things because it gives you more time to pray for a miracle. You know that once they have finished their tests that he will be taken from you. His parents-these hours with him hooked up to those machines are all they have left with him. Your heart knows it and you just want it to last, you want to be able to touch him and look at him. He still looks healthy and handsome. Surely God will hear our prayers and give him back to us whole.
The doctors speak softly and explain things as gently as possible. You feel sorry for them because you can see how much it hurts them to tell you that there is nothing of your boy left. Everything that was “him” is gone. The testing is done and they tell you that there is no brain activity and the realization that your boy is gone- your sweet little boy, who grew into a handsome, smart, loving young man who had so many dreams is gone. His body is just a shell, his heart and lungs are connected to machines to protect his organs so they can save someone else. The realization is a physical blow that takes your heart and shatters it into a million pieces and your life goes with it. All the hope and faith that you had is gone in that moment.
Because of HEROIN
Heroin has destroyed him—it has taken everything that Philip was or could have been and killed it! And all it took was just trying it ONE TIME—that’s all, ONE TIME!
HEROIN did that!
You’re Next! Understand this–if you continue to do heroin, if you don’t get help, you are going to die.
One needle full of poison did this to him-ONE TIME! One needle, one time and you are as good as Dead! That’s all it takes for this drug to get hold of you and it will not let go. Don’t kid yourselves into thinking that you are immune to it. You’re not. Even if you do survive for a while, you will have no future! The rest of your life will be spent chasing the next high. You will be so desperate for it you won’t even give a second thought to the fact that the moment you stick that needle in your arm it could kill you. It will drive you to do things that you would never have done before.
The person you were before you started using will become a shadow. The love your family has for you and the love that you have for them doesn’t matter, not to Heroin. The future that you planned for yourself is replaced with the need for heroin. Everything that you had planned and hoped for will be taken from you–EVERYTHING.
Heroin is the DEVIL–it’s insidious and evil. It will kill you just as it did Philip. The people who love you will suffer every day for the rest of their lives because of heroin.
HEROIN WILL TAKE EVERYTHING UNTIL THERE IS NOTHING OF LEFT OF YOU!
You will break the hearts of the people that you love and that love you, because they know how it will end. Your family will live every hour of every day waiting for the call that you were found dead with a needle in your arm. Every time they talk to you or see you their hearts break a little more because they know that when they say goodbye it could be for the last time. The last time that they hear your voice, see your face or feel your hug. THAT is the most hideous form of torture you can put your loved ones through. They will question every action they took, everything they did for your entire life trying to figure out where they went wrong, what they did to drive you to this drug or if they missed something that drove you to it. And they’ll spend the rest of their life asking God “Why”. Could have, would have, should have—those words will run through the minds of the people who love you for the rest of their lives. They will spend the rest of their lives searching for an answer to the question “Why”.
For the people who love you there is no coming back from this loss, shattered hearts can’t be glued back together. That’s what heroin does to the people who will survive your death. Their hearts will be shattered into a million pieces. They will never be the same.
It comes to you with the promise of a good time, a release from your worries and pain, at a bargain price!
What it doesn’t tell you is what comes after. How your body will crave it, how it becomes your single most important focus. How you can’t function without it and that you will be willing to do anything to get it. Your life will be spent getting it, hiding it, wanting it, needing it and hating it. You will pay for it with your soul. It will own you! and then it will kill you.
Heroin will make you believe that you can’t exist without it. It will LIE to you. It will tell you that you can handle it! That you’ll be fine, that one more time won’t hurt. Deep in your soul, you live with the fear that it will kill you, but heroin tells you it will be ok. You don’t know how to stop. You’re afraid to stop. You don’t think you can.
Heroin will make you believe that you are unloved and undeserving of any kind of happiness. That you’re a bad person, worthless. It will make you feel hopeless and ashamed. You’ll think there is no redemption for you, that you can never live a normal life again! IT’S A LIE ! You can be happy, and you are loved-more than you could possibly know, more than heroin will ever allow you to know.
There is hope, there is help for you. It’s there! Don’t buy into heroin’s lies – DO NOT BE AFRAID. Lean on your family, the people who love you, tell them what’s going on, tell them how scared you are, ask for their help. They want to help you! Figure it out together. Lean on GOD, your family, friends, doctors, counselors-anyone who will help you!
Don’t believe heroin’s lies.
All that is left of my sister’s son, my nephew, your friend–who was so full of life just a short time ago–is an urn with his ashes. Memories of him are all that we have left. For what? For a short-lived high! Is it worth it? Phil didn’t think heroin would kill him. He wasn’t planning to die that night. He had plans for the future. He was going to start over, he was moving to Georgia with his Dad. He was getting away from here. He said he couldn’t stay here, it was too hard. He wanted to work in radio or the music business, he wanted to start fresh somewhere else. He could have done anything! But he didn’t. He went back to Philadelphia and for reasons we will never know he shot up one more time. His last time!
“One more time and I’ll stop.” How many times have you said that to yourself.
DO IT FOR YOURSELF, FOR YOUR FAMILY! GET HELP IN MEMORY OF PHILIP
You can beat this, you can be free of this drug, you can have a life. You can be happy and proud of the person you really are, not the person that heroin makes you! If you have even the slightest glimmer of hope, if you can see the truth in anything I have said here, if you ever dream of what your life could be without heroin, then you have a chance. You can turn this around. Don’t let Philips death be for nothing.
If you are reading this and you are using heroin or any drug I am begging you to please PLEASE GET HELP. You deserve to be happy and healthy. You are not a horrible person, you are a good person who got drawn in to something evil. PLEASE go to rehab, call one of the phone numbers below. Talk to your doctor or a friend, get someone to help you find a place to go for help. Get your life back, be happy! Please, do it in memory of Phil, or any of the others you know that have died from this addiction. Please!
Don’t let Heroin take you, your happiness and everything good in life from you. There is so much out there for you and so many people who love you. You can do this.
DON’T LET HEROIN WIN! YOU ARE STRONGER THAN HEROIN!
I am praying for those of you who are addicted to please get help. I pray that the people who love you can hold on to their sanity while they wait and pray for you to see what heroin is doing to you. I ask that you pray for my sister and Philip’s dad.
Philip’s Aunt Karen
There is one spark of light in all of this darkness. Philip has saved the lives of six people through organ donation. His lungs went to two people, his kidneys went to two people and his liver went to a young woman and his heart to someone. Because of Philip and his parent’s generosity six people can be with their families and look forward to their future.
Here are some resources that you can contact to get help recommended by P.I.C.K Awareness. Call one, call them all! Search the Internet. There are more. Do anything you have to to find help!
NJ ADDICTION SERVICES HOTLINE: 1-844-276-2777 (Toll Free)
For assistance and a referral to treatment for a drug or alcohol problem (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). For Indigent clients.
NJ. Crisis Screening locations:
Detox to Rehab- Various resources throughout the United States