By Rod Colvin –
I wrapped my birthday gift and left it on the kitchen table. As I headed to work, I pondered where to take my brother Randy for his birthday. The upcoming evening was to be one of celebration. Not only was Randy turning 35, he had just completed his college degree in business. But around noon, I got a telephone call at my office. It was a nurse from a nearby hospital, informing me that my brother had just been brought in by rescue squad. He was in critical condition.
Terrified, I jumped in the car and sped toward the hospital. Minutes later, I was in the emergency room, frantically scanning the bays of bed, looking for Randy, but I didn’t see him anywhere.
Just then, a nurse approached me, “Are you Randy’s brother?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Let’s step out into the hall,” she said.
My heart sunk. At that moment, I knew the worst had happened. “Is he dead?” I asked, not wanting to hear her response.
The nurse dropped her gaze and nodded.
Randy was gone.
The death of my brother-and only sibling-was one of the most profound losses of my life, but I must tell you, his early passing was not a total shock. For years, Randy had battled a prescription drug dependency that started at age 20 when a psychiatrist first prescribed tranquilizers to help him cope with anxiety. The drugs made him feel good, so he started using them more and more. Over the years, he became very clever in obtaining Valium, Xanax, Percodan, Percocet, and other painkillers by a common scam known as “doctor shopping.”
My parents and I had long feared the toll this behavior was taking on him emotionally and physically. Repeatedly, we had pleaded with Randy to get help, but he always denied that he had a problem.
Still, at times he appeared to be leaving the drugs behind – he would be clearheaded and showed no signs of abusing drugs. He even enrolled in college. Each time we observed such positive changes, we thought he had beaten the problem.
In fact, just before he died, he had been drug free for nearly a year. However, as I later pieced together the last hours of his life, I learned that he had relapsed-prescription drugs, mixed with alcohol, a dangerous combination, had contributed to Randy’s death. He had gone into cardiac arrest at a friend’s house.
My brother’s long battle-our family’s agonizing battle-with prescription drug dependency was over. Sadly, we had lost. Randy died on October 19, 1988 -his thirty-fifth birthday.
In the years since my brother died, I’ve healed from the acute pain , but I still feel the loss deeply. Left now with only memories, I’m especially grateful for an experience I had with him shortly before his death.
I’d had minor surgery, and Randy drove me home from the clinic. He fixed me a bite to eat and stayed close by while I napped. He seemed to enjoy being the caretaker, the role I was so used to playing with him. “It’s so nice to have a brother,” I said. He just smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
It’s a memory I’ll treasure always.
Rod Colvin is author of Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction. This article is excerpted, with permission, from that book. For more about Rod and his work, visitwww.prescriptiondrugaddiction.com