“‘Your brother is dead. Pick up the phone!’
That was the text my sister sent me. I was studying at the time and I saw the message late. I was ignoring my calls thinking I was too busy to chat.
My twin brother had just died from a heroin overdose.
I simply couldn’t register what I had just been told. I felt a deep, cold fear – a fear that comes with the last bits of innocence leaving your life, forever. I felt unsafe and alone. The next few days, I couldn’t talk to anyone. After I told my two closest friends what happened, I collapsed in one of their beds for the entire day. I cried the whole time. For the next week, my friend drove me to the ocean every day and we stayed there for hours. When I was a kid I’d frequently go to the beach with my brother to play in the water, so the ocean reminded me of him. My friend and I just sat there and stared at the waves. I continued to cry.
Sean and I shared an early childhood that was vibrant and filled with laughter: having watergun fights and playing basketball in the backyard, blowing out the candles together during our birthday parties, blasting Linkin Park while playing Sonic, and level-ing up in the countless video games we played together. When we were young, Sean was always so joyful and alive.
As we reached adolescence, I could see that light slowly start to leave him. Bullies picked on him relentlessly, girls cheated on him, and his own friends would take advantage of his kindness. I could see his spark start to fade. It was clear to me how depressed he became, and his outlook started to become more pessimistic. ‘Nathan, everyone hates me’ and ‘I feel so worthless’ are things he would frequently tell me. Unfortunately, being so young and naïve, I didn’t know how to help him.
Things got worse when Sean started abusing drugs. After a couple of years of dabbling with different hard drugs, he wound up addicted to heroin. He had a hard life. He frequently spent nights out alone on the streets. His own friends would, on multiple occasions, rob his place for everything he owned, leaving him with nothing. At this point, I noticed he developed a permanent slur in his speech and he never seemed to be in the moment. His depression was at an all-time high. Sean was so sad all the time. While our early childhood was filled with laughter, this period of his life was filled with suffering. He was crying almost every time I saw him. He always told me how depressed he was, but I was too clueless to know I could do anything at all.
Sean would tell me how badly he wanted to turn his life around, and every time things were going well he would always tell me how excited he was. And for a while, it really seemed like things were going well for him; he was so excited to be going to school again and he was making good progress with the support he needed.
That’s when my sister called me.
Throughout his life, Sean always maintained a kind of selflessness that was unrivaled by anyone I have ever met. I remember at one point he offered me a ton of money – it was probably everything he owned at the time – to help me through college. I didn’t even ask for it. His reasoning: ‘You’re doing great things man, and you deserve all the support you need.’ He always went out of his way to support me in everything I pursued. During his funeral, one of our mutual friends approached me and said, ‘Your brother really loved you, you know that?’ I said, ‘Yeah I know.’ He continued, ‘You know one time I told him I was gonna hang out with you and he got really angry. He told me that I better watch my back and that he’d kill me if I somehow got you to start using, too. He told me you’re working hard for a great path and that you don’t deserve to be screwed over by some druggies.’ I almost cried right there.
My life was so closely intertwined with Sean from the start, and, while Sean may have passed, I do not think this will suddenly stop. Sean continues to be very much alive through the countless memories I have shared with him. It may be because he and I are twins, but I could feel him sometimes, and I feel him strongest when I’m feeling sad. Being twins, I don’t believe that Sean and I are that different on an emotional temperament level. I think the main difference between us is that I happen to have the conditions in my life set up properly enough to help me avoid sinking down into that depressive state. Yet, every time those conditions start to slip, I can feel myself sinking back into it. In a sense, I would start to feel the same sorrow Sean felt. As I said earlier, near the end of his life, he was almost always crying. Every time I feel that biting sorrow start to take over me and I start tearing up, he feels more present than ever.
When I think of Sean, I think of a flower which continues to thrive and inspire, despite being stepped on multiple times in countless ways. Sean is nothing short of a hopeful ray of light in a chaotic world. He continues to inspire me to be selfless and caring towards the people I love, to love unconditionally, and to strive to be cheerful in all circumstances. I believe the best way to take his death is not to mourn, but rather, to look towards Sean for inspiration: to become a better person, to find the self-love we deserve, and to love others enough to help them find the self-love they deserve as well. Through this, he continues to live on in my heart. I truly believe that’s what he would have wanted.
Not a day goes by without thinking about Sean. I will always love you brother.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nathan Soufer of San Francisco, California. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more compelling stories of loved ones fighting addictions:
SHARE this important story on Facebook for other struggling families to know they are not alone.