- Friends & Family
Submitted by: Margaret Phillips
On September 10, 2016, I ran my first Heroes 6K in Leiper’s Fork, TN in honor of my brother Trey who is in recovery from the disease of addiction. I love my brother dearly, and I am amazed at his strength and the courage he displays in his desire get and stay clean. We were very close while growing up. We were raised in Detroit, MI and lived in an area where you wouldn’t expect someone to be a heroin addict. I’ve since learned through my brother’s journey that the disease doesn’t care about where you live, how much money you have or don’t have, or what your family life is like. It doesn’t discriminate.
When Trey was actively using, he didn’t have a personality. He couldn’t be with us physically, and if by chance he was, there was no engagement. It was like he was there, but not “present” with all of us. At some level, I knew he used drugs, but was under the impression he was a “recreational” user.
He moved in with me at one point because my parents said he couldn’t live in their house any longer. I asked him if he was using drugs, and he told me that he did use heroin, but not to worry because he wasn’t shooting up. As if somehow, in his mind, and perhaps mine too, that fact made using heroin less dangerous or problematic. I knew the friends he was hanging around with used heroin and eventually he did start shooting up. He believed that nothing bad was ever going to happen to him even though he had seen his friends dying from overdoses or getting shot in a drug deal gone bad. Eventually, he too encountered significant consequences.
The first time I think it really hit me that Trey was addict was when he missed my college graduation. He didn’t show up and no one in the family knew where he was. We all got together for dinner that evening and eventually Trey came by but I could tell– we all could– that he had been using. This level of addiction really came as a shock to the entire family.
One positive thing that my brother had on his side was the love and support of his family. Though my parents had to “cut him loose” to save their own sanity, he knew that whenever he was serious about getting help they’d move heaven and Earth to get him that help. If he didn’t have that level of support, I don’t know what he would have done (although I’m sure he would be dead).
I actually went with him one time to get into treatment. He was so sick that he couldn’t complete the paperwork. I had to do it for him. To this day, it makes me think about all of those out there who are still suffering and don’t have the support that Trey did. How do those people get help? My fear is that a lot of them don’t get any help and die in the addiction which is really sad. I feel like the system is broken on so many levels.
During my brother’s first treatment experience, he only stayed 14 days. When we asked why he was being discharged, he responded that insurance wouldn’t pay for anything more. My brother needed more than 14 days! He was there because of his addiction to pain medication, but during that short stint in treatment he learned how to use heroin and it was all downhill from there.
In January 2015, my brother went into treatment, but that time I could tell something was different. First, he didn’t leave after a few days. Second, my parents were moving from Michigan to South Carolina and told him that if he wanted to go with them, he needed to stay in treatment for as long as it took. I think that motivation helped him stick it out because in previous treatments he’d come home and go right back to the same places to hang out with the same friends and, of course, he would eventually end up doing drugs again.
That time he stayed in rehab for five months and when he was discharged, he moved to South Carolina to make a fresh start. He did, however, relapse in South Carolina—he overdosed on heroin and almost died. I really feel like if he had not had those five months in treatment prior to the relapse he never would have made it.
I’m so proud of my brother, although I can’t exactly put how I feel into words. I simply can’t imagine how difficult it was for him to reach out for help, to get clean and ultimately stay clean. Watching him go through withdrawals, I honestly can’t imagine how sick he must have felt physically. He knew getting another fix would make it all “go away”, but he chose not to.
I’m not sure if he has the awareness yet—the awareness of how difficult this has been on the whole family. During Trey’s active addiction, my mom and I would go to twelve step meetings and found that talking about what was going on provided us a great deal of comfort. We had support from others who had faced similar challenges, which was great, because in the midst of everything we felt very isolated, as if no others were having the struggle. I personally felt like I was going crazy because I let his disease consume my thoughts all of the time. I couldn’t fix him, though I was wishing I could. Having the group to share my struggles with was so helpful and took a lot of weight off of my shoulders. As a family, we continued to love and support him through it all but at times it meant he couldn’t be an active part of our lives.
The story hasn’t ended yet as he’s facing a felony charge in another state because of his relapse in 2015. My sincere hope is that the judge will allow him options other than prison. He has been doing so well, and to me it would mean a setback for him to be put back into a system that doesn’t encourage recovery. Trey means the world to me and I’m so very proud of him.