Philip was the best brother a person could ask for. Fiercely protective of anyone he loved, he would give you the shirt off his back. He lived to make people laugh and make them feel loved and happy. He was my best friend and my favorite person.
He started to slip a few months before our mother died. I had finished college and moved to New York while he stayed in Baltimore working in the restaurant industry he loved very much. When our long-ailing mother died, he really took a bad turn – he was using heroin, pain medication, and Fentanyl.
I had driven with Philip from our mother’s funeral and after I got out the car, I told my father that something was wrong with my brother. I wish I'd known what was wrong back then, but even if I had, I’m not sure I could have done much about it. I was too shell-shocked from our disintegrating family and probably not quite old enough or sophisticated enough to know what to do anyway.
However, after a truly awful year, Philip started doing better. He moved back to Baltimore, was working, and seemed to be sober. The night of August 4, he hung out with friends, played pool, and went home to bed. About 5pm the next evening, his best friend called my cell, and with his voice cracking he said, "Margaret, I have some bad news. I just got into the apartment. I think Phil's dead."
That was the worst call I have ever gotten.
Some people talk about finding a person with whom they can grow old, and they’re usually talking about marriage. I had that person from the time I was 18 months old until August 5, 2004. Philip was "my person.” He was not only my best friend and my protector, but my personal entertainment too. And not just for me either – he was that for everyone. In losing Philip, the world lost a great person.
That’s why after Philip’s death I began talking about him and addiction. I realize that if people keep stigmatizing addiction, it’s not going to go away. Ignoring addiction will ruin lives, pull families apart, damage careers, and much more.
However, I remain hopeful. The fact that addiction has been covered in the news so much recently means that it is being brought into the light. I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize that addiction is a disease. I am hopeful that we are changing the conversation about addiction.
If Shatterproof and other organizations like it can have success in their mission, fewer lives will be lost.