“Man this breaks my heart,” wrote one commentator.
“I'm battling addiction right now and it's not easy at all,” shared another. “But I pray to the Lord everyday all day to keep me strong. To all of those battling the illness, I send a prayer for you all to get through the day. Not only through the day but it's a moment by moment process. Keep strong.”
And this: “I lost my baby sister to heroin in 2012. I gave everything I had but I am not a savior...I got sick from the stress but crawled out of it. Co-dependency is real. We are all human.”
These are just some of the voices of concern, compassion and commitment inspired by a recent video of young people who lost brothers and sisters to substance use and overdose. These voices, the conversation — all on Facebook — show just how deep and wide the tentacles of addiction can reach, and how important human connection feels.
The video, produced and originally published by Youth Today and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, was shared by Upworthy on Feb. 15, and, since then, more than 407,000 people have viewed it. Close to 3,500 have commented on it, and more than 1,700 have shared it.
Clearly, it struck a nerve — and touched hearts.
“Heartbreaking, drug use hurts hurts so far beyond just the user,” commented Janet Hayes.
“What they are saying here is really important,” wrote Robyn Annala Sleeper. “When people are using drugs, you lose them, whether they are alive or not. … What I wish people would really take in, is if you're addicted or doing drugs, it's not just you that's experiencing that, it's affecting people that love you, too. And if your loved one is affected, know that there is really nothing you can do. They have to want to do it for themselves, that is the bottom line.”
It is impossible to watch the video and read the thousands of comments without feeling the young people’s pain.
Produced in black and white, the video shows three young women telling their stories about losing a sibling to addiction. “Why can’t you stop?” one recalls asking her sister.
The range of comments online shows not only how pervasive addiction is but also how families and siblings try to understand — and how deeply they love and feel for their family members.
Looking at the comments, it makes us wonder about ways to enhance greater understanding of substance use disorder, as well as ways to help those young people who are not struggling with the disorder but who are impacted by those who are.
While there are 12-step programs geared to families of people who struggle with addiction, are there enough for those who are dealing with siblings and friends who are using drugs and alcohol? As evidenced by the comments (edited here for punctuation), there is a great deal of pain, frustration and sometimes anger from those affected by addiction.
“Too often drug addiction and mental health issues go hand in hand. They are both tough on the entire family,” commented Patricia Young Murray. “You try to do the best you can, and you have to forgive yourself if you couldn't save them.”
Sandro Haro commented: “I'm proud to say that every time I would see my sister, who was using drugs. I would hug her and tell her I loved her with all my heart. That's all I could do.”
“It's not something you ever get over — especially at how judgemental people became. I have had people’s face lose their empathy when they found out how she died,” commented Emily Jarrett.
A young person who has struggled with addiction wrote that she feels bad for the family members affected: “... to anybody who has lost a family member due to the awful disease of addiction I pray for you and for who you lost. I overdosed 2x and it still didn't make me stop. But finally I did and I am so thankful to still be here today,” commented Jennifer Ross.
Another young person with addiction wrote that she had not stopped to think of how her addiction had affected her family: “That made me cry. Never thought of how my family members felt. As an addict u always think ... they don’t understand or they just don’t care. My family became so co-dependent on helping me it was crazy. All they want is for me to get better. Thank god I’m slowly getting there with 10 months clean. I owe my family the world,” commented Jill Dalgleish.
And many, many others shared personal stories of loss and grief, asking people to understand their siblings — and them.
“My big brother Asa took his life over 10 years ago after losing his battle with meth. Before he died, there were many nights I would think how much easier life would be without him and his addiction around us. If I knew then how much pain he was going through I would do anything to take my thoughts back. I never thought I'd have to go through life without his goofy big heart around. If anyone knew Asa they knew what a loyal loving person was,” commented Floyd Kobler.
“I lost my baby sister to heroin in 2012. I gave everything I had but I am not a savior … I got sick from the stress but crawled out of it. Co-dependency is real. We are all human,” commented Victoria Stephens.
We would love to hear from you: your experience, your take on how best to foster understanding and how to support young people who clearly are in pain from the effects of substance use. Share the video and your voice.