My cousin Tom missed many family celebrations because of his addiction, and we missed him too.
When my cousin Tom was struggling with addiction, he frequently missed birthdays, graduations and holidays.
To me, it was apparent something was going on. I had an instinct, even from a young age. He was changing. He was no longer the fun and smart Tom that I knew.
But our family wouldn’t talk about it. For more than five years, my aunt kept everything going on with her son to herself. Whenever I tried to bring it up, my parents would change the subject. It became the topic we just didn’t speak about.
Later, my aunt would share that he was missing family parties and celebrations because he was away at treatment. But, for years it was hidden.
In 2018, after an incredible year in recovery, my cousin experienced a relapse and passed away from an accidental overdose. I don’t know what happened. He had a great job with the railroad. He had a great girlfriend. He had a big and close family. And then he was gone.
I didn’t understand. What was going on in his head? It made me so angry.
When my cousin was alive, my aunt was nervous to tell us about his addiction because she was afraid of being judged. She was embarrassed. I can’t imagine the fear she felt of, “what is my son doing?” or “is he going to come home tonight?” She was doing everything for her son, but at the same time, she was alone and didn’t have anyone around her giving her the support she needed.
Today, she isn’t shy when talking about Tom’s addiction. Every year we celebrate his birthday and honor his memory. She even encouraged me to run the TCS New York City Marathon as a member of the Partnership to End Addiction’s #PartnersforHope Team. As a member of #PartnersforHope, I’m raising funds so that parents like my aunt can find support when faced with this disease.
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