Story shared in hopes of helping others

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dear Editor,

I am writing this because my sisters agree with me. If it helps one person or saves one life, then the sharing of our pain and our Brother’s death due to an accidental drug overdose will not be in vain.

Our brother was the baby of our family, the youngest of five and the only boy. There was 16 years’ difference in his age and mine. He was the pride and joy of our Daddy and the heartlight in Mama’s eyes. He was a beautiful baby and little boy with long, curly golden hair. When he was 3, he got his first haircut. To say Mama wasn’t pleased is a massive understatement. Her silence was deafening. But he now looked like a little man. As time went on and he turned 4, I graduated and got married (sidenote- he LOATHED any date I had. He would always grab my hand and give the boy a fierce look as Brother exclaimed, “MY Sissy!!!”).

When he finished school, he joined the military. Daddy and Mama had different outlooks about it. Daddy didn’t like him to be so far away, Mama’s words to him as he got on the bus for boot camp were, “Give them hell, Son.” During his time in the military, he suffered a severe back injury that ultimately led him down the wrong path so many have trod. He became addicted to strong painkillers. As time went on, he married and then divorced. There were no children. He came back home to Mama and Daddy. It was the one place he was truly happy.

Mama had a bout with a most aggressive type of breast cancer. She faced it down and won, although we never doubted the outcome. If Mama said a thing, you could take it to the bank, but the fear of losing her, preyed upon Brother’s mind. We found out later that he had been suffering from mental illness since probably junior high. Mama died in 2009 and Brother lost his way. She was one of the two most important people in his life and the closest to him. Two years later, Daddy died suddenly and Brother was devastated, as were we all. But his sisters had all moved on with their lives and had homes and children of their own. He lived alone in the family home, with memories of happier times. The demons in his mind took over. He spiraled down to the point he was a danger to himself and others. We took the heart-wrenching step of having him committed for mental evaluation. At that time we learned from doctors that he suffered from several forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression with delusions and paranoid personality disorder. He was put on medication and voluntarily put in a group home for rehab for his drug addiction.

For a time, he did well, but with the closing of one of only two state mental hospitals in our state, Brother was deemed fit to live on his own and manage his own meds. He was given an apartment, and as soon as the door closed behind the social worker, he began to fall by the wayside. We tried so many times to tell the powers that be, he needed to be in a structured setting. Time after time our concerns were brushed away, falling through the cracks of an overworked mental health system.

He would always, always fall back in with people that enabled him. He was beaten within a inch of his life, his leg broken in three places, he was robbed many times, and so his paranoia grew. His delusions consumed him. Yet, when he was taking his meds properly and supervised, he was the same sweet, loving baby brother we had always known. As time went on, we once again had to have him picked up. We thought that now after all that had happened, they would see he needed to be supervised by trained people at all times. Again, we were overwhelmed when they simply released him. I had an official tell me, “Well, when he gets out, he might kill 15 people and that is something I will have to live with.” I was appalled to hear such a callous thing. The facility that was holding him quickly got him out the door because he had a severe infection in a broken foot that they did not want to be obligated for his medical care. These things are not my opinion or view of what happened, they are all facts.

He had friends that tried to help him, but he would always ruin it with his need to get or do what he wanted, when he wanted. There were so-called friends and even family members that used him shamefully and then shunned him was his money ran out. He was in nine different places and was either dismissed or he walked away from.

But finally, FINALLY he had began to pick himself up, to try and take charge of his own life. He had, on his own, sought and was receiving the help he so desperately needed. On Monday at 8 a.m., he was due to go to the VA and into rehab. He had an apartment lined up and the funds to go to a technical school in another state to begin life anew when he finished rehab. But sadly, he would not get his chance. He died Saturday, alone, far from home and those who loved him. He did not commit suicide. I do not say this just because I am his sister. The coroner ruled it an ACCIDENTAL overdose.

I share this all to state the true facts of the death of our Brother. Also, my sisters and I feel strongly if this will save one life, spare one family of what we have went through, then it is worth the loss of our privacy to mourn our beloved baby Brother.

Marsha Phillips