A Facebook post by a South Carolina man is making waves across the internet this week in an effort to spread awareness about the impact that drug addiction can have on its victims, their families, and those around them.
Stephen Wood and his wife, Keri, tied the knot on October 21st in a beautiful ceremony followed by a weekend honeymoon. But their newlywed bliss was cut short when they returned to devastating news about Stephen’s younger brother, Brandon.
“Tuesday night I was at my grandmas house for a normal visit,” Stephen wrote in a soul-bearing Facebook post on October 26. “My new wife and I had just gotten back from our honeymoon the day before. The phone rang and my grandma answered with a sarcastic ‘what.’ But the mood quickly changed and I knew what the call was.”
It was the call that nobody ever wants to get. The call that marked a massive, unwanted change in their lives forever.
Stephen rushed to Brandon’s girlfriend’s apartment where she and his mom were standing in the parking lot in hysterics. Heartbroken, confused, shocked, and lost for words, sobbing in grief and pain.
“I kept it together pretty good until I climbed in the ambulance and looked at my little brother laying there knowing he was gone.”
“Yesterday I went and planned his funeral and picked out his casket.
Today I had to go look at him again and I bought a suit to wear to his funeral.
These things shouldn’t have to be done for a 21 year old.”
Stephen writes the post with a message specifically to the friends of his brother, who are trapped in the same toxic addiction that took his life.
“I want you to use his life to turn yours around. It’s to late for him but there is still time for you. You think the drugs are only effecting yourself. But what you don’t know is how much it impacts everyone around you.
You don’t know how many sleepless nights I’ve had worrying about him.
You don’t know how many times he has told me he is going to beat his addiction, he won’t be a statistic.
You don’t know what it’s like to feel your stomach drop every time the phone rings, because I’m scared it might be about him.
You don’t know how it feels to know time is running out for him, and not being able to do anything to help.
You don’t know the guilt I feel for not doing more than I did.
You don’t know how I’ve heard every one of my relatives the last couple of days say “If I would have done this, or I would have done that, I know he would still be here.”
You don’t know what it’s like watching grown men who you thought were invincible, standing over a casket crying.
And you don’t know what it’s like to know that you’ll never be able to kick a soccer ball, play Xbox, argue over football, or any other little thing we take for granted with my brother ever again.”
His plea is followed by a brutally honest call to action that is far too powerful for ANYONE to ignore.
“So Don’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.”
Stephen continued his post with a message to Brandon’s dealers, explaining just how hard he tried to escape the deadly cycle of addiction, and how their persistence played a hand in his death.
“I want you to know how hard he tried to help himself and to find help, and every time he did and got clean, you were lurking in the shadows calling his name.”
He warns that their actions will eventually catch up to them, but does what most grieving brothers wouldn’t. He encourages those who sold drugs to Brandon saying, “I want you to know that this isn’t what you are on earth for. That 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 you can be proud of.”
Stephen closes his post with a cry for anyone who knows someone who is struggling with addiction, urging them to do whatever they can to help their loved one overcome.
“It may be too late for Brandon, but don’t let him die in vain.”
Brandon’s story, and Stephen’s powerful message has been shared tens of thousands of times since he first posted it last Thursday. His desperate plea, and authenticity has resonated with people all over the world, who have reached out and shared their own stories with the grieving brother.
“I’ve had messages from several rehabs and prisons telling me they have printed it and have it hanging somewhere and have read it to hundreds of people who are all battling addiction. I got a message from a man who has OD’d 5 times in 3 months and a girl who is pregnant and said she read it at the perfect time and Brandon has motivated her to change for her baby. I wish you could read all of the messages. It’s unreal,” he wrote in a follow-up post on October 28.
We each have the power to save a life.
Brandon shouldn’t have had to die as a result of drugs and addiction. And his loved ones shouldn’t have to live with a missing piece of their heart, and the grief of wondering what more they could have done.
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, contact the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline now by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).