Name: Kymber Brown
His Demons, My Guilt
Growing up being extremely family oriented, and in a small town, has led me to appreciate the little things in life, and the quality time that is spent together. My older brother taught me all the necessities of life…or the necessitates of an eight year old. He taught me how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, and by the time I was thirteen he taught me how to drive a car around the block. Living in a small town everyone knows everyone, especially when your grandfather is the mayor, word spreads like wildfire.
My older brother, James, was my best friend. We spent every free second together, whether it was working on his college homework together or washing the dishes, I wanted to be just like him. James was astonishing, he had a masters degree and was working on his second one and he was adored by everyone. What I didn’t know was the battles James fought every day.
August 19, 2016 I walked into my middle school lunch room and a gut feeling hit me like a freight train. A small voice in my head kept repeating “text James, call James, he needs you.” I was thirteen and I did not understand the meaning of “having a gut feeling” I had never had a gut feeling before and did not know if I should listen to the voice in my head or not, so I ignored it. For the last six years, I have regretted ignoring that gut feeling.
The next day my dad sits me down and explains the battles that James has fought…his battle against heroin. My dad told me that James was “in the part of the hospital where no one could visit him, but he was okay now.” I believed him and tried to live life as normal as possible to hide from my younger siblings that something was wrong. Two long days later, my parents called a family meeting and sat everyone down at the kitchen table. “So after a long battle, James does not have to fight his demons anymore,” these words have never left my brain, “James lost his fight, he is no longer here,” these words ripped my heart out. I soon found out that at the same time the voice in my head begging me to contact James, was at the same time James decided to use heroin one last time. I stopped eating and refused to interact with people, it felt as if my world fell apart.
For the first several years after James’ death life felt dark. I distracted myself in school and sports in order to not think about James. I never properly dealt with my greif, I always pushed it to the back burner. Throughout high school, I would go through many achievements wishing he was there. I would wish he was in the stands at my first varsity volleyball match, I would wish he was at my senior nights for volleyball and wrestling, I would wish he was at my crowning for homecoming queen, but what I wished for the most was for him to watch me graduate and continue to play volleyball in college. Being in college without him helping me move in and to help me with homework is when I realized I never properly dealt with his death.
My first semester of college I realized I never dealt with James’ death and I began therapy. I’ve known many people who have gone to therapy, and I figured if it works for them it might as well work for me. Therapy was working…until it felt as if it wasn’t. I would go back to my ways of not eating or interacting with people like I did right after James’ death. It has been six years after James’ death and I still struggle every day.
“I wasn’t even the one who was using, why do I feel this way?” I have learned some very difficult lessons these last six years. The first lesson I learned was to always trust my gut feeling and listen to the little voice inside my head because you could regret it if you don’t. The next lesson I learned is that when someone is addicted to a substance, it isn’t just the addicted that is affected by their usage and the aftermath. I am affected and I will always be affected.
At first I was ashamed of James’ story because I was scared of the judgement from my peers. “Her brother died from a heroin overdose…whose to say she doesn’t do the same thing?” I was thirteen years old, trying to grieve my brother, but I was scared of the judgement from others if they found out. I, now, am not ashamed of his story, I know that he would have wanted me to learn from his mistakes, and I have done just that. I appreciate everything James has taught me and continues to teach me. It never gets easier, everyday is a battle, but I am able to share James’ story, which has quickly became my story. I know I’ll continue to have milestones in life that he will miss, but I know I will always have his ghost watching over me.