Drug addiction not only strikes the individual, it also hits family and friends just as hard. The first time I saw my cousin do heroin was in my grandmother’s basement. I had just come back from a tour in Iraq. I had taken a month of leave as part of my ‘reintegration’ after spending a year in the Middle East. My grandmother decided to have a welcome home party, but honestly, I didn’t want to be around anybody. To get away from everyone, I decided to hide out in the basement. When I got downstairs, the door to my cousin’s room was slightly open, so I did the customary knock and walked in, something we always did when we were growing up. I wish I hadn’t.
As I walked in, my cousin Shawn was just lighting up a glass pipe. He didn’t even break stride, just looked up at me and lit the pipe and took a hit. I was frozen and did not know what to say. All I remember was the emotions of horror, disappointment, and anger all colliding together at once. I did my best to keep cool and apologized and left the room and ran back upstairs. I think I must have skipped two or three steps at a time to get back upstairs to my welcome home party. Needless to say, I was not at all in a festive mood. I wanted to say something to someone about what I saw, but I couldn’t. I just sat around looking at all the family and friends who were there to celebrate me.
The next day I told my brother and that’s when he told me what was going on with my cousin while I was away. Turns out that my cousin had hooked up with a girl who ran with a very seedy crowd. Overtime, he began hanging out late, missing school, and had a number of run ins with the police. That’s when I realized that my cousin’s drug addiction was really serious.
The Signs of Drug Addiction
Change in behavior was the most obvious sign that my family members saw. Hence the late nights, poor school performance and brushes with the law, but there were others. Missing money and valuables or always asking for money whenever he came to visit other family members, his constant lying and secrecy, and of course the little baggies laying around in his room where the other indicators. Unfortunately, many in my family refused to believe that he was doing drugs even though the signs were there.
On July 17, 2010 my cousin Shawn died of an overdose while partying with his friends.
At his funeral, I was amazed at all the people who knew about his problem and the expression of regret they felt for not doing anything to get him into rehab. I can remember wanting to slap a bunch of them because to me they were complicit in his death by their not saying something to him and trying to get him help. That frustration compelled me to research and write this guide to help families who are dealing with a drug addicted family member going through the rehab process.
It is my hope that my words will offer the help, encouragement and provide some rehab and counseling resources for those in the situation my family was in.