- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Hi, my name is Munchie M. I live in Delaware with my husband, our rescued pit bull Lola and our turtle Molly.
On April 1, 2014, my younger sister – my only sibling – killed herself 17 days before my wedding day. While my (then) fiancé and I were finalizing plans with our florist, Sarah walked upstairs in the house where we grew up, grabbed a gun I never knew was there and shot herself in our mother’s bedroom.
Now, over a year later, I’m putting my feet on the ground every day and trying to find hope within the heartbreak of addiction.
She was 29, and she was beautiful, smart and hilarious, and she was loved. Her laugh was infectious. She sang like an angel. She was a voracious reader. She loved animals more than she loved most humans, and she was never without a smile on her face. It was like she gave people hope just by smiling at them, that’s just the kind of person she was. She loved without boundaries. My sister had one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.
But, she had been struggling with demons for years, and they were bigger than her and obviously bigger than the rest of us and our love for her. My sister wasn’t mentally ill. She was an addict. She started with prescription painkillers after a car accident, was introduced to OxyContin by her boyfriend at the time and moved on to heroin soon after.
When I first heard about her addiction, I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I had never been around drugs like that much less been tempted to try them. I heard the word “heroin” and immediately thought it was all a lie. I associated that drug with homeless people or the mugshots you see on the news. The idea that my little sister was using something like that was so far out of the realm of possibility to me that I simply refused to believe it.
And then she admitted it to me. Here was my gorgeous, headstrong, full of love and life little sister telling me she was hooked on dope. Here was the strongest person in my world telling me she wanted to stop putting a needle to her arm, and she didn’t know how. For the first time in my life, I questioned her. I questioned her strength, I questioned her integrity, and I questioned myself for not seeing the signs before she spiraled out of control. I turned my back on her. I told her I didn’t know her anymore, that I didn’t think I ever knew her, that she wasn’t the person I thought she was, and I walked away.
I didn’t forget about her though. I worried constantly. I checked in with her friends, and I regularly defended her blindly. She was still my sister after all, and part of me still refused to believe the truth. Questioning Sarah’s heart for the first time was breaking me every day, but what else was I supposed to do?
I read two books. In Beautiful Boy David Sheff talks about dealing with his son’s addiction, and his son Nic’s book Tweak is his story of being an addict. Everything made sense. I realized that Sarah was as strong as I’d always known she was, that she was fighting, fighting as hard as she could, that addiction was in fact a disease and that with our family history, she’d pretty much been set up to fail since she was born. I realized that it could have just as easily been me sitting in front of her telling her I didn’t know how to fly anymore.
I told her I’d help her fight. Instead of breaking her down, I started trying to build her up. We started talking more. Instead of checking in with her friends, I checked in with her. On Christmas Eve four months before she died, we had the most candid conversation we’d ever had about her addiction. I thought things were looking up. I thought she’d finally beat it.
She came to my bridal shower on March 23, and it seemed like she was finally back to her old self. The color was back in her face, and the light was back in her eyes. She told me how happy she was to see me so happy, and she couldn’t wait for the wedding. I felt closer to her than I had in a long time if not ever.
A week later I had my final dress fitting. I texted her some pictures of me in my dress, and she told me I was the most beautiful bride she’d ever seen, and she couldn’t wait to see me walk down the aisle in a few weeks.
She killed herself the next morning.
I started writing. When my sister was alive, I didn’t speak about her story because it wasn’t mine to tell. The morning after she died, I posted about it on my Facebook page. I didn’t sugarcoat anything. I needed people to know exactly what had happened. I was sick of seeing “RIP” status updates met with silence whenever anyone asked what happened and seeing people say things like, “She died in a car accident” when everyone knows the person died of an overdose. I needed people to know that this could happen to anyone. Within three days I had over 500 messages from people all over the world thanking me for my honesty and sharing their stories with me. Every single message broke my heart all over again but brought me a huge sense of comfort and strength at the same time. One girl told me she lost her sister the same way four days before her wedding, and she managed to walk down the aisle. Her family was able to be happy for her, and the day was perfect. At that moment I realized I could do it too, and I did. The day was even better than I ever dreamed.
I still write about it all the time. It’s therapeutic to me, and the messages I get from people tell me that it’s helping other people too. Every time I start getting discouraged or thinking I don’t have the strength to talk about it anymore, someone sends me a message letting me know how much I’ve helped them or their loved ones just by writing. It’s pretty humbling and pretty amazing at the same time.
In the months since Sarah passed away, I’ve been trying to educate myself on the topic of addiction. I’ve gotten involved with a group started by a couple who lost their son to an overdose right before Christmas 2012. The people I’ve met within that group have become my saving grace through all of this. There’s a lot to be said for finding yourself in the company of other people who just “get it” without you having to explain yourself. There’s a lot to be said for finding yourself surrounded by people who have been right where you are or right where you were nine months ago when you were so consumed by your grief you didn’t know how you’d even get out of bed in the morning.
I struggle with the “what ifs” on a daily basis. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, but in my heart of hearts I know we all watched, we all tried to help, we all prayed, we all hoped and we all wished she would get through it and come out on the other side. She didn’t, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t one of the strongest people I’ll ever know. That doesn’t mean she didn’t try. That doesn’t mean she didn’t hate seeing the hurt she inflicted on everyone she cared about. That doesn’t mean she didn’t wish she could get through it too, and that doesn’t mean that’s what we need to remember about her. But we do need to remember. I’d like to think she loved each one of us a little too much, and that’s why she took her own life, because she didn’t want to be our burden anymore. I just wish she’d known that she wasn’t that, she was never that and she won’t be that now. She will be a sister and a daughter, a granddaughter and a niece, a cousin, a friend and a girlfriend. She will be all of those things, but she will never, ever be our burden.
Now all I can do is share her story and share her battle, and hopefully someone, somewhere will gain some strength from my loss. Someone, somewhere, will wear Sarah’s story as a medal of valor. Someone, somewhere, will be able to stand up where she fell and hang on to this life a little longer than she did. Hopefully everyone, everywhere, will remember Sarah the way I do, with a smile on her face and a heart bigger than the world.
I just hope I make her proud.