My Brother's Overdose Death Turned Me into an Advocate

Jaclyn Brown
A childhood photo of the author and her brother

My younger brother, Marc, struggled with substance use disorder for many years. It all began back on November 17, 2010, when Marc was hit by a drunk driver and he was ejected from his vehicle. He broke his pelvis and was forced to a wheelchair for almost 3 months. Like many others with injuries, he was given prescription opioids to help with the pain and once those ran out, he turned to other drugs. My family and I always advocated for him to get professional help. Throughout the years, he tried to do recovery on his own. He was convinced that he didn’t need help and he had could manage his addiction. He eventually went to rehab a couple of times and although he had moments of recovery, the hold that addiction had always drew him back in.

Addiction was like a roller coaster ride none of us wanted to be on—very few high points and an overwhelming amount of lows. When we hit those high points of recovery, it was like the weight of the world was lifted. I was able to see the Marc I knew so clearly—the funny, charismatic, fun loving boy that I had always known. However, when addiction would take over again, they were the lowest of lows. All the hope we had for a better future for Marc was taken away every time and the lows that I felt each time became more and more heartbreaking. Then, November came.

On November 16, 2018, we lost Marc to a heroin overdose. For several years, I always feared I would get this phone call and I thought I could somehow prepare myself for it. As it turns out, nothing could have ever prepared me for the complete devastation of losing him. In the first 48 hours after his death, I was awake for about 45 of them. I spent hours scouring the internet, looking for some guidance on how to handle such a loss. And somewhere in those 45 hours, I found Shatterproof. The mission of Shatterproof hit me on such a personal level. Finally, I thought to myself, here’s an organization that recognizes that there’s so much more to addiction and the stigma alone prevents so many people from getting the help they need. I vowed that when I was ready, I would become an Ambassador to raise awareness, on behalf of Marc. On behalf of me. My family. All of those who are affected by this terrible disease that need a voice.

The author and her brother hugging in a kitchen

On January 12, 2019, I had my first Ambassador Welcome Call. In the last few months, I have realized my passion for advocacy. I am currently in the middle of my first fundraiser and my first event, Marc’s Mile, will be held on May 5th. At that point, it will be just under 6 months since we lost him.

The grief is still very fresh—I think about him constantly. I shed tears for him every day. They say that grief is just love with no place to go—however, I am trying to channel my love for Marc into being an advocate, in hopes that I can help reduce the stigma, and have Marc live on by telling his story. My short time as an Ambassador has already helped me heal and I know it will continue to do so.

I love and miss you more than words can say, Marc. I hope I can make you proud.

Woman in a support circle

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