Mike Drop

Mike Drop

I have some sad news. Many of you know that I have two beautiful sisters who, because families can be effed up sometimes, I was not very close to for much of my life. I always loved them, but we didn’t always get along. Of course, many families are like that. A bunch of overachievers, we took our childhood grudges and adulthood differences to extremes that never matched what they should have been. I missed out on lots of special times with my sisters and I’m sorry for that.

Over the past year, since my father became sick and quickly died of cancer, we have become close again. My father’s dying wish was that we would reconcile. Ultimately, our love for our father overcame our silly angers toward each other. They forgave me. I realized that I needed forgiving. We have become more like a family again and I am so thankful and blessed to have them in my life.

Especially now.

What I haven’t shared much is that there is another sibling. We grew up in different families, another one of those things that happens, by no fault of anything but circumstance. Though Mike and I grew up apart, he did wander in and out of my life. But we were never close. On one hand, he reached out to me to be a good big brother. On the other hand, he was angry at me for not being that big brother. I was too selfish to allow him to become close. He lashed out at me and I took it personally. I failed as a brother. While I was busy living my life, I missed out on how sweet and funny he was. I turned a blind eye to the demons that haunted him. I judged him from afar when I should have been helping him.

At about the time that I began to reconcile with my sisters, I reached back out to Mike. We may not have been best buds, but we loved each other. I cared about him. But I kept him at arm’s length. The truth is that I did not want to get too involved because I knew it would be too much work. Nonetheless, we met up a few times and would text and talk on the phone every once in a while. This most recent holiday season, he came to my home for Thanksgiving. I visited with him at Christmas. We met for a dinner a few times.

Mike had a disease that I was afraid to admit to. Mike was an addict and  I was powerless—or just too busy with my own life—to help him. And rather than get involved in his life, I chose the easy route: I pretended that I believed that he had stopped doing drugs. It was the easiest route for me. It was the cowardly route. Meanwhile, I let my sisters deal with him when he was thrown in jail. I skirted my responsibility. I let my sisters deal with him when he stole a car and wrecked it because he was too high to drive. I let my sisters deal with him when he OD’d the first time. And the second time. And the third time.

And this time, when he OD’d, it was the last time.

As I think about it today, since he died two days ago, I’m reminded that addiction is a demon that comes from deep within the addict: it is not a reflection of how bad a brother I was. Addiction is not a reflection of how good his sisters were to him. God bless his mother who tried, through it all, in all the ways that a mother knows, to cure him. His death is no reflection of her love. That he lived as long as he did is, doubtless, the reflection of her love and perseverance.

While his addiction may have affected our family dynamic, there is not much we could have done to cure him. Like my father’s cancer, the attempted medications can sometimes be as painful—as toxic—as the disease. For my father, the chemo made him just as sick. For Mike, it didn’t matter whether we met his disease with acceptance and mitigation, or with tough love and anger, with jail or with trust. The addiction continued to grow. It continued to eat him up from the inside. It took his sweet and generous heart and filled it with uncontrollable anxiety and immitigable detachment.

Addiction is an awful disease. It makes good people do bad things. It distorts the addict’s way of interacting with the world. While I am very sad about losing him, I am also heartened that he is no longer in the grip of that deadly, unforgiving disease.
While I know that addiction comes from the inside, just like that cancer, there is one truth. If he did not have access to drugs, he would not have tried them. If he did not have access to drugs, he would not have become addicted to them. If he did not have access to drugs, he would not have overdosed. If he did not have access to drugs, he would be here today.

An easy answer is to prevent access to drugs: to stop the supply. The truth is, addicts will find a way to get their drugs. Suppliers will always supply.

So, perhaps, I have given myself more of a pass than I deserve. Perhaps I have given my sisters and his mother more of a pass than they deserve. We could have been more assertive in preventing the drugs from getting into his hands. Alas, he was a child with a proclivity toward addiction. He became an adult, blessed with free will, and, ultimately, cursed with an addiction. We could have locked him in a room, but we also had to love him for what he was. We had to treat him like an adult. Jail, after all didn’t prevent him from getting drugs. Poverty didn’t prevent it. Nor the hospital rooms where he found himself far too many times.

I will not make excuses for his decisions. But I also know that what he had to battle was bigger than him: bigger than many otherwise sweet and generous human beings. Every human life is special in its way. Mike was a special person with a horrible disease.

As long as there are people who are addicted to drugs, no matter how much they’re loved by the people around them, they will always be victimized by people who give or sell or provide those drugs. The providers of drugs, those who profit off of the diseases of others, those who deal--swapping sweet and generous hearts for a couple quick bucks—are the people who seem to act without regard for human life; they have enabled my brother’s self-destruction.

Perhaps these people don’t know the consequences of what they do. I pray that they might read this and know that a speedball is not a gift to give a friend who’s down and out: it is a tool of death to an addict who is robbed by internal and external demons of the ability to, “just say no.”

I know there’s more that I could have done to help him fight his disease, his addiction: his demons. I know that I could have loved him longer and deeper and without interruption. I will carry that burden for the rest of my life.

At the same time, I will use this to love the people in my life who have their own kinds of demons. I will not judge people for their demons, but I will also speak strongly—I will call out those whose demons need their own tending—about those who profited off of and provided a gravely sick, addicted—sweet and generous hearted—young man the drugs that took him from the people who loved him.
Perhaps those peddlers to broken souls have their own diseases. I know, we all have our demons. I am a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to mine. I’ve done drugs. I drink more than I should. But for the grace of God, I was not afflicted with addiction. So, it’s one thing when your demons destroy you and something far more sinister when they are allowed to manifest the destruction of others’ lives. My brother was not blameless. I am not sinless. I pray that we can cauterize the souls where those diseases live before more peoples’ brothers die.

If we didn’t need to fight a war against the outward manifestation of drug dealers’ internal demons—the providers of the poison that killed my brother—we could spend more time fighting the internal disease: like we do cancer: like we do diabetes: like we do heart disease: like we do poverty. Perhaps, if we didn’t have to face the external demons,  we could spend more effort fighting the internal demons instead of cleaning up the wake of their destruction.

I’m not saying that drug dealers are somehow better or worse than my brother, but that their own disease—sociopathy—needs to be addressed as well. Like my brother’s disease, addiction, and like my father’s disease, cancer, we are responsible as human beings for acknowledging it and working to find a cure. If we, as individuals and as a society, mustered our resources to combat sociopathy like we do cancer and diabetes and heart disease and poverty, then we will have made strides in preventing people like my brother from dying of their disease.

Perhaps I will forgive the people who profited from my brother’s death. Perhaps I will develop a sympathy for their disease. Perhaps it may take me a while, but I know that it’s the right thing to do. I kept my brother at arm’s length for too long. If his death has meaning, maybe it is to call me closer to my neighbors who are suffering from invisible diseases—to help squelch the supply of drugs instead of ignoring the problem away. I may not have the answer for this, but I do know that more good is accomplished with love than with anger: with compassion than with judgment.

In the meantime, I will love my sisters even harder. I’ll hold them closer. In the meantime, I will appreciate the goodness of people in my life. I will hold them closer. In the meantime, I’ll appreciate even those effed up things that turn out to be pretty unremarkable when viewed through the lenses of forgiveness and humility. In the meantime, I will honor the memory of my father who paved the way for reconciliation. In the meantime, I will honor the sweet and generous heart of my brother who, despite the demons—the disease of addiction—wanted nothing more than to be loved and accepted.  

Please join with me: remember love as the most important thing in the world. Look past grudges, appreciate the good in the people you come in contact with. Know that beneath the disease—whether it is cancer or addiction or sociopathy—there is a creature that God created and that has a purpose.

I love you Mike, and I’m sorry I didn’t say it enough. I love you, friend, for reading this note and sharing in my sorrow. I love you, God, for giving me an opportunity to reflect and learn from sadness: for giving me the capacity to love.


  1. This is absolutely beautifully written. I learned how to forgive a very long time ago. It just makes life easier. Mike was my step granddaugnter's daddy. She loved him with all the love her sweet, innocent heart could hold and my heart is broken for her. I pray for peace for you and your family.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your essay is heart wrenching; I'm sure so many can relate to it in some way including me. God bless you and yours in this most difficult time. This was beautifully written; I truly wish you find the peace you require. Enjoy your sisters and your family.


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