‘I was standing in line at the grocery store when I heard, ‘Excuse me, could you turn around? I would like to read the front of your shirt.’: Woman loses brother to addiction, reminded ‘you’re not alone’ by kind strangers

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“I was standing in line at the grocery store this morning when I heard, ‘Excuse me, could you turn around? I would like to read the front of your shirt please.’

At first I didn’t think anything of it. I said, ‘Of course!’ When they saw it, they crossed themselves and explained they had had a family member suffer from addiction. I explained briefly about Dale, my little brother, and they went on to say they could relate to the situation and that I wasn’t alone.

You’re not alone.

I think one of the most difficult things I dealt with after Dale died was talking about it with people who weren’t close to him. Not that I was ashamed of how he had died, but because I was ashamed of myself for not being able to do more for him.

Whenever I would talk about what had happened, I would be thinking in the back of my head, ‘They’re wondering why I didn’t do more, or how I couldn’t see the signs of what was going on. Why didn’t we force him to go to rehab or show him tough love and kick him out of the house? Why did you just let this happen?’

It affected me to the point (and still does) that I often have dreams about him. In these dreams, I’m in my car or on foot running around town looking for him because I know the ‘bad guys’ are looking for him and they’re going to kill him, or I’m somewhere with him and I know there’s a storm coming and he keeps saying how he wants to leave, that he has to go – but I plead with him that he has to stay, he can’t leave because there’s a big storm coming and he won’t listen to me. He never stays and I never find him.

I know it stems from the arguments we would get into before he died and the things we did together after one of the times he overdosed. Taking him to the store to pick up his prescriptions, bringing him clothes to the hospital, talking to him about making changes in his life. Sitting in the hospital at his bedside and watching him as he lay glaze-eyed and coming down from whatever cocktail he had come up with, thinking to myself of what to do to help, what to do to make this better. And he turned and looked at me and said, ‘You were supposed to help me.’

I know it was the drugs talking, but sometimes words will still cut into your insecurities. You can’t take them back.

Before I left the store, the person said to me, ‘Please keep wearing that shirt.’ Of course, I will.

If you have a family member or loved one suffering from substance abuse disorder, please know you’re not alone. It’s not your fault. If you need someone to vent or talk to, even if you don’t know me well – believe me, I get it. I remember the anxiety, the anger and frustration, the arguments and the guilt. You can always message me.

If you are suffering from a substance abuse disorder or are recovering, know there are people (like me, even if I don’t know you!) who are rooting for you every day to either continue your journey (and are proud of you for coming so far) or rooting for you to seek help.

Not all of us think of people suffering from addiction as ‘junkies’ or ‘dirtbag drug addicts.’ Not all of us get into that ridiculous debate of ,‘Well, why is Narcan free but insulin isn’t?’ There are people out there to support you. You are important and your life matters.”

Courtesy Sandee Shepherd

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sandee Shepherd. Submit your story here. For our best love stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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