July 19th 2014, after an enjoyable day with my friends at the lake, I arrive home to be greeted by two cops, an ambulance, and a fire emergency vehicle. The first thoughts to emerge in my head were that my brother, Tyler, was dead or he had hurt my mother. As I urgently ran up the sidewalk, I passed my uncle who sadly stated, “It’s your brother and its bad, find your mom.”
While I felt as if my stomach had dropped to the ground, I walked into the kitchen to meet Tyler face to face. His skin the color of a blueberry, his face sunken in, and his eyes wandering around as if he had no idea where he was or what was going on. He was being supported by two paramedics and being followed by another who was holding the fluid bag that was connected to the IV in his arm. I moved out of the way so the paramedics could lead my death-like brother to the ambulance. Rushing to the living room to find my distraught mother with her head in her hands. She slowly looked up at me with tears in her eyes and wept, “Call your dad, tell him he needs to come home now, your brother overdosed and had a heart attack.” With tears swelling in my eyes I began to call my father, who was in Great Falls for work. I explained to him what I knew, which was slim to none. I then drove my mother and myself to the hospital to meet my brother.
That day was the end and beginning of two very different struggles for my family. The story begins long before July 19th, but to make it short (but most certainly not sweet), Tyler was diagnosed with a blood disorder his freshman year in high school. This caused him to have to give up physical contact activities, including wrestling and snowboarding. This massive change in his life led him to depression and he made going to parties a routine. His grades began to drop and eventually he was kicked out of his high school. My mother enrolled him into an alternative school, and after a few months, he was kicked out of there as well. Tyler spent less time at home and more with his friends at parties and doing drugs. It began with alcohol, then to marijuana and eventually Tyler got ahold of meth. Once he got ahold of hard drugs, it was an immediate down-spiraling nightmare.
Our family’s house was a full-out war zone, no matter the time of day. I began to spend as little time around my family as possibly. When I was around, I would either have to listen to my mother and brother fight, or have Tyler in my face yelling and screaming. Home was the one place his drug use was confronted, and with him being in denial of the problem, it forced him to be in a constant bad mood. Tyler’s addiction took control of his life, and affected everyone he came into contact with.
The traumatic day of my brother’s overdose was followed by two equally miserable days. A constant fight emerged out of whether Tyler would go to rehab or not – since he was 18, it could not be forced. Eventually he accepted that his life was out of his hands and he needed help to get control of it. Within 72 hours of the overdose Tyler was on a flight to Desert Hot Springs, California, accompanied by our parents and aunt. My mother had found a rehab, The Ranch, and luckily they had a room open for my brother. While he was in rehab I had little communication with him, besides a letter or phone call every once in awhile.
60 days into rehab, Tyler was certain he was no longer benefitting from the program and needed to move to the next step of his recovery. Knowing he wouldn’t remain sober if he were to come home, my mom and aunt searched for a sober living for him to move to. After hours of research they stumbled upon a house in LA which housed young men who were overcoming addiction. The house was called New Life House and the reviews were incredible. My brother moved from The Ranch to New Life House in September of 2014. New Life House has been, hands down, the greatest blessing my family has ever received. Tyler has learned how to live in a world corrupt with drugs, and remain sober and healthy within it. My family and I have also learned a great deal from New Life House.
Tyler’s addiction has had a huge impact on not only his life, but my family’s and mine as well. While my brother was using drugs, my parent’s relationship was deteriorating dramatically. They constantly fought, because they both blamed each other for Tyler’s problem. Neither of them wanted the blame for their son’s meth addiction. Now they are the happiest I have ever seen them together. My brother at one point was a person I wanted absolutely nothing to do with and I could have cared less if I ever saw him again. He and I constantly bickered, and the arguments almost always turned into a full on screaming match. Currently he is my greatest inspiration and role model. Being a high school student, surrounded by drugs and alcohol, I have grown to look at things with a new perspective. Without my brother by my side, I would see the drugs, alcohol and parties without realizing the impact they can have. After watching drugs nearly tear my family apart, we have had to grow and learn to appreciate one another on a new level and I am forever grateful for that. Tyler’s addiction and recovery has been full of high highs and low lows, but the person he is now and the positive impact it has had on our family is worth all the trouble in the past.
My brother’s drug use, overdose and recovery has been quite the rollercoaster ride. Even though it was the worst and hardest experience of my life, I would not change a thing. Addiction, something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, has brought my family together more than ever. Before Tyler’s downfall, we were an average family, but we didn’t take the time to appreciate each other and spend time together. Now we realize the importance of love and connection between a family. Tyler is currently 15 months sober and thriving with excellence. “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.”