Now two years in recovery, Jacob shares the powerful story of his brother’s overdose death – and how that has inspired him to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic.
I wasn’t willing to say ‘I’m never going to smoke weed again. I’m never going to drink again‘. I still had those reservations and they were strong. I really could have gone either way, I was on the fence.
But I woke up one morning, went up the street to pay my cellphone bill, get a coffee and I got a phone call from my brother’s girlfriend. She said, “Jake, I don’t know what to do. I can’t wake your brother up. I poured water on him. I smacked him. He’s not waking up. I don’t know what do. Get over here”.
She called me because she knew that I’d been through it. I’d dealt with addiction. I was in recovery. I was in a better place.
But when I got there, there was nothing I could do. He was already gone. And I just remember my nephew Lincoln (my brother’s son) telling me upstairs at the house, “Daddy’s sick, Daddy’s sick. He’s downstairs, he’s sleeping”. And that killed me. After going through that – as traumatic as it is and was for me, smashed any reservations that I ever had about staying sober. And I never looked back.
We ran together and that’s all we knew…
We started running and using drugs together, my brother and I. I was selling drugs and using drugs and glorifying that lifestyle and he followed directly in my footsteps. We ran together on and off our whole lives. I was using with him; he was using with me. I was selling to him; he was selling to me. We ran together and that’s all we knew.
Losing him was one of the biggest moments in my recovery. That and my experience at Green Mountain Treatment Center are why I am sober today and doing what I’m doing (raising awareness about the opioid epidemic).
There’s no bigger blessing than catching people at that age–before they have a chance to start, when they’re young. It’s so much different because you’re not speaking to a room full of addicts. You’re speaking to kids that haven’t been through it, haven’t done it or lived it.
What I try to get across to these students is that you don’t have to use a substance or a drink or a drug to get out of yourself. These kids think it’s harmless to drink, smoke weed, experiment; but it isn’t always harmless. One of the biggest red flags is if you find yourself using drugs or alcohol as a crutch. I tell them, ‘There’s so many other options and there’s so many things you do can at this age to avoid that road, to avoid what we’ve been through (as addicts)’.
I’m trying to spread the message of hope, that there is a way out. It’s a legacy for my brother: to carry the message and show that the opioid epidemic is real. People are out here dying; people are losing loved ones. I tell them, ‘you guys are at an age where you can prevent it. You can make a real change. And you don’t have to go through this, the pain and suffering’.
My brother never had the chance to work the 12 Steps or go somewhere like Green Mountain Treatment Center or a GRC drug rehab program. They say ‘Real People, Real Recovery‘, but that’s exactly what I got. That’s exactly what I experienced.