“That is our only regret” says Suzanne.
Her husband, John, looks over at her from across the table and nods, matching her deep melancholy at every level. They had not attended Brian’s graduations from rehab programs. That was their only regret.
“We never realized how important they were.” Suzanne says. For Brian, a college graduate that had gone on to become a district manager in retail, yet another rehab program graduation seemed like a trivial accomplishment. And yet, that is the only regret Suzanne and John have.
In many ways, Brian was unlike the others that walk through the doors of Free At Last. He came from a place of privilege. He attended good schools, went to college and got a well paying job. He had parents that were willing to write a check of any size if only it could make him better. “We promised him, he would never have to live on a minimum-wage job…. That he could live with us as long as he was clean.” Suzanne shares. But that enticing offer helped little as he struggled with the disease of addiction.
“He was a proud man.” She says recollecting Brian, with his gentle smile and the perfect pair of glasses, “We should have known it was out of his control when he was homeless and sleeping on the ground.”
In and out of jail, in and out of rehabilitation centers over a period of five years, the disease had indeed taken hold of him, destroyed his life as he knew it and had, at the end, consumed him entirely. The disease played with him in a cruel, heart-breaking way. It took him from a stable, happy long-term relationship to joblessness to rehab centers to short-term jobs to jail to debt to rehab centers and so on. With every success and every failure came a huge emotional upheaval for not just Brian but his whole family as well.
It is hard to say what the initial trigger may have been. What anxieties and overwhelming emotions initially tempted him into alcoholism during his college years and early 20s, we will never know. But, we do know that he recovered from it successfully and went on to seek and maintain a stable, productive life. But, again, more than a decade and half later, more powerful anxieties may have taken hold of him. And his split-second decision to try the highly addictive and risky behavior of huffing, turned his life upside down. These tendencies may have been magnified by his bipolarity.
Brian passed away in November 2015, leaving behind many that hold on to his memory dearly. John and Suzanne, in a loving and thoughtful gesture, asked for all tokens of sympathy and condolences to be sent to Free At Last. “Of all the places, he had been to, Free At Last, was the one that he (and we) connected with the most.” They shared. They praised Randy, FAL’s Men’s Residential Director, for his stern but supportive approach that helped Brian grow beyond his comfort zone. Brian had been making progress – slowly but surely.
Today Brian lives on through his friends, family and organ donations.
Thank you, John and Suzanne, for sharing Brian’s journey with us. You are in our prayers. We will take to heart your advice to help families discuss their struggle with this disease. Finally, we will redouble our efforts to convey to families, the importance of graduations in the journey back to self-sufficiency, health and happiness.