Updated: Feb 16, 2022
Today is my brothers overdose date. He stayed on a ventilator for what would wind up being almost a week, and would be declared legally brain dead two days from today on the 19th of February 2019. That is the date on his mass card as the day he lost his life, but it really is today. Life has changed for all of us, drastically. But, we talk about him all the time, we remember him all the time. We laugh, we cry, alone and together. Some people think we should have moved on or moved past talking about him, as if his love for us and ours for him could ever just not be present. They think it makes us sad or maybe it makes them sad to think about, but we will never not talk about him. Talking about him keeps him alive... it keeps his memory there in our minds and our hearts, close to us at all times. When we do this, we remember things from long ago that we had forgotten, wonderful things that maybe we would have never remembered again if we stopped talking and those memories are so precious... they are like little windows into a time before any hurt or loss.
Last week I saw one of his dealers in 7-11. This was the first time I saw her out of the virtual world of Facebook. I was with my daughter, she entered the store and as fast as I could breath I stopped. This monster was real. She was the one who slashed my brothers tires, who stalked him, who messaged him all hours of the day and night, called him all hours too. I was struck with how could he ever let someone like this into his life. She was horrid, it was like looking at the scary witch in the woods in Hansel and Gretel that you were warned about that would suck your soul and eat you on your way to grandma's house. I was repulsed.
But what do you do? When you have a 6 year old by your side? Do you go up to her and say all the things you have imagined for 3 years? Do you risk a physical altercation that your child will witness because she is being exposed as the despicable human she is leaving your child to be watched after by the employees? Do you pray for her soul and walk away? Do you ignore her? Make eye contact, knowing full well she knows who you are and she probably knows so many details about your life because well, people in addiction aren't the greatest as keeping family things between the family?
You walk away... you walk past her... you don't cause a scene... you do nothing... when you are still living and have your child with you, you walk away.
It was difficult, but I know in the end as it did with his other dealers, karma will work it's beautiful magic and her life will end up where it is was supposed to be. But the fact that she was able to get a big gulp without a care and breath in her lungs, stung, it stung bad.
I know some people wonder why I still post so much about Joey and that's okay. It's not to make anyone sad, it's because people are still dying. People and families are still struggling in secret and in silence. The stigma is still there when it comes to seeking treatment or even talking about the way their loved ones died. I will until forever, fight against that. If your person dies of an overdose or a drug related incident, that DOES NOT make up their life. Their life was more than that. They were made of more than their addiction. The addiction is just a small part of who someone is. We need to remember that more often. It can be all consuming, absolutely, but it's not the only thing you or your loved one is made of.
This week really sucks, but every year since Joey's passing I make it into a week that doesn't. It was the WORST week of our lives (see past blogs)… and I vowed to never let it be again. So we do something every year that requires us to enjoy life, enjoy each other and enjoy something that life has to offer. Because Joey cannot anymore, we do it for him and we truly believe he is with us when we do. We dream of him, we talk to him... just the other day my daughter said how we should leave him flowers on his grave which brought on the conversation that he is not in a cemetery. She's old enough now to understand. It led to a heartbreaking statement by her saying "I'm sad that I didn't know Uncle Joey as a big kid, only when I was a little kid".
These are all things that have happened since he passed and all ways we move forward with the grief. In addition to sad and happy things, big things, changes, offers, always seem to happen around February 16-19 or his birthday in August. I think to think of him with some serious pull helping to manifest the things we want in life. I've had several dreams of him and he's always happy, always a smile. I like to think of him as released from any pain that he had here. I truly think he is.
There are pieces of yourself that are thrust into this strange world where everything can feel urgent and slowed down at the same time when you lose someone you love suddenly. Like the NEED to go and live because time is never promised but at the same time the NEED to slow down and enjoy everything for the same exact reason. Relationships change, feelings shift, things you took for granted before become so important and things that seemed important become meaningless. You can let the grief steer you toward better life or it can consume you into an abyss of sadness and lack of hope. It really is a weird place for a while, in the after. I found help in writing and helping and talking and the comfort of friends. This NPO, this website, the families I've talked to in private, the Narcan passed out, the stories I post, every time I get to talk about Joey and his life and death helps me to work through it. It helps my parents, my husband and I know by talking about him, acknowledging him, and remembering him, it helps my kids.
This isn't a guide to grief, it's just a how we've moved forward. How you keep going. How you fight for people to change their perspective and hopefully implore some empathy and compassion for their fellow human who is struggling.