After his brother died from a drug overdose, Stephen Wood shared a powerful message about addiction on the Love What Matters Facebook page.
"This isn't easy but I want to speak directly to Brandon's friends and enablers, and anybody else struggling with addiction," Wood begins.
Last week, Wood was enjoying a normal dinner at his grandmother's house. He and his new wife had just returned from their honeymoon. He recalls that the phone rang and, when his grandmother answered, he almost immediately knew the reason for the call. Wood writes that he rushed to the apartment of Brandon's girlfriend, where she and his mother were standing in the parking lot "losing it."
"I kept it together pretty well until I climbed in the ambulance and looked at my little brother lying there, knowing he was gone," Wood writes. He describes picking out his brother's casket, arranging his funeral, and buying a suit to wear. "These things shouldn't have to be done for a 21 year-old," he continues.
But Wood doesn't want his brother's death to be in vain and he has a powerful message for anyone struggling with addiction.
"So, to his friends who are doing the same things he was, what I want to say to you is: How badly I want you to use his life to turn yours around... It's too late for him, but there is still time for you!" Wood writes. "You think the drugs are only affecting yourself; but what you don't know is how much it impacts everyone around you."
He goes on to describe the toll his brother's addiction took on him: the sleepless nights, the fear every time the phone rang, the guilt for not being able to prevent his death.
"[D]on't let him die for nothing! Get the help you need and get clean—if not for you, then for your family. You're not invincible, you're time is short; and as much as you don't want to believe it, you're next," Wood urges Brandon's friends and those who are struggling with addiction.
Wood also has strong words for his brother's dealers, who "are murdering people for $20 bucks a pop." Although he says he's furious and he hopes they feel terrible about their actions, he wants them to turn their lives around as well. "I want you to know this isn't why you were put on this Earth. If you turn your life around, there is so much you can do. Think of the people you can help! Get a real job, make your own money, do something for which you can be proud," he writes.
In conclusion, Wood urges everyone reading to reach out — whether they're struggling from addiction or they know someone who is. "It may be too late for Brandon, but don't let him die in vain," he writes.
In June, The New York Times reported that drug-related deaths are rising faster than ever. An estimated 59,000 people died from overdoses in 2016 — a 19% increase compared to 2015. Drug addiction is a mental illness, but recovery is possible.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.