September 23, 1998
My little brother was born when I was only seven years old. I thought of him as my baby. I carried him around, fed him his bottles and baby food, changed his diapers, and held him whenever we went anywhere in the car.
My little brother was a cute, happy little kid with blonde hair and a big brother who loved him very much.
Because I was older than my little brother, I read him stories and taught him things that I had learned in school. Outside, we'd run around and play together all the time. Sometimes, I'd ride him on my bike to Mooney Park, about four blocks from our house, so he could play on the swings, the slide and the monkey bars.
On Saturday mornings, I'd play "restaurant" with my little brother. He'd sit at the kitchen table and "order" his breakfast from me. Then, I'd cook and serve him some pancakes or frozen waffles, or some toast and a bowl of cereal -- whatever he wanted.
My little brother and I shared a bedroom, while our sister and our older brother each had their own bedrooms. We never felt jealous of them, though, because sharing a bedroom made it easier for us to talk to each other every night before we fell asleep.
When I got older and started to drive, I took my little brother with me wherever I went. When I went to see my friends, they became his friends. When I practiced with the band that I played with, he became almost like a mascot to the band. When I went to McDonald's to get a hamburger, he was always happy to go along.
My little brother and I had a special kind of friendship -- we were both closer to each other than either of us was to our sister or to our older brother. I was his "P.J." and he was my "P.J." The letters "P.J." didn't stand for anything -- it was just a special nickname that we had made up for each other when he was about 5 and I was about 12.
When I got married, my wife and I moved about 400 miles away from my little brother. I thought my little brother would be fine.
What I didn't know, and what I didn't find out until a couple of years later, was that my little brother started drinking and taking drugs the year I got married -- when he was only 12 years old. He told me later that he had felt lonely and didn't have any friends of his own, so when some kids at school started being friendly to him, he was glad to do whatever he had to do to be their friend. When they wanted to go out at night and do some vandalism, my little brother went with them. When they offered him some alcohol, my little brother drank it. When they offered him some marijuana, my little brother smoked it. When they offered him some pills, my little brother swallowed them. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he really wanted to have some friends, so he did whatever his friends wanted him to do. One night, his friends got him so drunk that he passed out in their car. His friends opened the car door and pushed my little brother out of the car, causing him permanent injuries, and leaving him lying unconscious on someone's lawn all night.
My little brother started doing very poorly in school. My little brother started getting in more and more trouble with his friends. My little brother started taking more and more drugs, and drinking more and more alcohol. When he was 14 years old, my little brother told me that he was too shy to even talk to a girl unless he took a drink of alcohol first to help him "relax."
My little brother learned that, once he started taking alcohol and drugs, he started to need more and more alcohol and more and more different kinds of drugs to "help him relax." That's because, when you take alcohol and drugs, your body starts getting used to it -- in fact, eventually your body starts thinking that it NEEDS the alcohol and drugs in order to feel "normal." That's called "being addicted" to the alcohol or drugs. Every time he got caught with alcohol or drugs, my little brother cried and said he was sorry and that he would never do it again. He never stopped doing the drugs, though. Instead, he just got sneakier about drinking and using drugs. He learned how to act like he was sober, when he was really drunk. He learned to act like he was normal, even when he was high on drugs. There were times when hardly anybody could tell that he was still using alcohol and drugs.
What my little brother didn't know until he got older, was that using drugs and alcohol can damage parts of your brain, and keep other parts of your brain from ever working correctly. The part of my little brother's brain that was supposed to learn how to make new friends, never learned how to make new friends, because he always used the alcohol and drugs to try to make new friends instead. The part of my little brother's brain that was supposed to learn how to solve the problems in his life, never learned how to solve the problems in his life, because he always used alcohol and drugs to try to help him forget his problems instead of solving them.
My little brother learned the hard way that any friends that you make with alcohol or drugs aren't real friends. My little brother learned the hard way that the problems in your life aren't going to go away just because you use alcohol and drugs to try to help you forget about them for a couple of hours. My little brother learned the hard way that alcohol and drugs will give you even more problems in your life.
Several different times over the years, my little brother tried to get professional help to quit using alcohol and drugs. He was never able to quit, though, because he had damaged his brain to the point that he didn't feel normal unless he was on drugs and alcohol. Every time he tried to quit, he ended up taking more and more alcohol and drugs soon afterward. His addiction got so bad that he even started going to doctors and pretending to be sick, just so that they would give him prescriptions for more and more drugs.
My little brother learned that he couldn't find a woman who would want to marry him, because every time he found a girlfriend, he'd end up using drugs or getting drunk, and then he'd do something stupid or weird, and she'd break up with him. My little brother learned that he couldn't get good grades in school, because he had damaged too many parts of his brain with drugs and alcohol. My little brother learned that he couldn't get a good job, because he hadn't learned all the things in school that he had needed to learn in order to be able to get a good job. My little brother learned that, because of alcohol and drugs, he was never going to get a good job, a fancy car, a nice house with a big yard, or a loving wife and children of his own.
My little brother learned the very hard lesson that drugs and alcohol can ruin your life.
I'm sure that my little brother would have been happy to tell you all the important lessons that he learned about using drugs and alcohol, but I'm sorry to say that he can't do that any more.
You see, when my little brother finally realized how much he had messed up his life, and that he was never going to get the people and things that he really wanted in his life, my little brother stepped in front of a freight train and killed himself.
So, when one of your friends tries to get you to drink something, or smoke something, or swallow something, or sniff something, or taste something, or take a shot of something, or use any kind of drugs at all, please don't do it -- not even one time.
Remember my little brother, and what happened to him.
I know I do.
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