My First Encounter with Heroin and How We Fight It

My Brother’s Story

I’m 19. I get a call from my Dad at 3:00 A.M. on a Saturday night while I’m still hanging out with my best friend in his Northern Kentucky University dorm.

“Matt… Floyd’s dead.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I hear my mom crying out in the background on the other end. I felt disconnected from life, but my dad was still talking.

“He died from a heroin overdose. I need you to come over here. We’re at his apartment in Highland Heights. Your mom needs you to be here.”

I didn’t want to see anything. I didn’t want to go over there. I heard my mom still crying in the background on the other end.

I knew I had to leave. I had to keep my composure in the room. I felt my face getting hot. My friend knew something was going on, but he understood when I told him I had to leave. The apartments I had to go to were just across the street. In the same town I grew up in. As I stepped into my car, the reality set in: My brother was gone. There was nothing I could do to bring him back. The world felt a little lonelier; as if a light in the other room had just burned out. I couldn’t help but cry.

As I pulled in, I had to pull myself together. No one is ever ready to look death in the face. As I got out of the car, I could already hear my mom’s cries. My dad greets me at the top of the stairs. “I wouldn’t have called you if your mom didn’t need you.” He grabbed my shoulder and we walked into the room.

My mom was knelt over him. She was rocking back and forth. He looked so peaceful, so young. It was as if he was just taking a nap. As soon as my mom noticed I was there, she got up and hugged me with a warm embrace, soggy with her tears. “He may have not been perfect, but he loved you. You’re so lucky to have had a good dad…”

How We Fight Heroin in Cincinnati

My story isn’t uncommon. I know a number of people from the area who have felt the same thing that I felt that night. My brother and I were very different in so many ways, but he was my only sibling. He was sixteen years older than me, we had different fathers, and we had much different experiences growing up. This is what shaped our outcomes and interaction with drugs.

There’s no way around the fact that those growing up in abusive households face a significantly greater chance of becoming addicted to drugs. The research suggests this across the board. My brother was abused as a child. He was told things he should have never heard. Even as a small child, he was abused by his alcoholic father both physically and psychologically. We have to drive a culture in our communities that provides stable households for our city’s children. Changing this culture is going to be the hardest of my plans to implement, but it’s a necessary one.

On top of the abuse he faced growing up, my brother, who was predisposed to substance abuse, was prescribed OxyContin when he injured his back. The pharmaceutical companies are killing people at unprecedented rates due to accidental overdoses with their addictive painkillers. There are, however, alternative options in treating pain. Methadone clinics need to be established in target neighborhoods, complete with Soboxone and Vivitrol, which helps users battle addiction, and medical marijuana, which has proven to be non-addictive, needs to be more easily accessible so that people don’t slip into the cycle of addiction to pain medication, which many times progresses to heroin use.

Finally, we can’t keep throwing low-level nonviolent drug users into prison. Putting drug users in a loop of going back to prison time and time again helps no one. Prison splits families apart, keeps drug users depressed, and disenfranchises them to the point where they have little hope for a normal lifestyle. We have to seek treatment and understand that addiction is a mental illness. Drug users are humans who battle their addiction each day. We must remember the human side of this and handle this issue with compassion. Anyone who says we should just “let them die” doesn’t value life.

As someone who’s seen the terrible aftermath of addiction in family members both dead and alive, I relate to so many of the people in Cincinnati. This is more than a platform for me: This has helped shaped me to who I’ve become. I promise that I will not stop until we do everything we can to educate the next generation on the plague of addiction and help those already battling along with their families. We have to do everything we can. Drug abuse affects all walks of life.  I can’t sit back for another second while politicians use heroin as a platform and never propose real solutions.