Below is a tribute written by a sister for her brother who passed April 29th, 2016 from a heroin overdose at the age of 31. Just three years apart, they were not only brother and sister, but best friends. After battling addiction for years and becoming sober, her brother passed into eternal life after a recent relapse. She’s shared her last words to the public in hopes to not only honor her brother, but to speak truth to how addiction does not discriminate. Tara hopes to continue sharing her story to shed light on the problems behind addiction and to remind others that we need to spend less time judging and stereotyping, and more time working together to understanding this epidemic that is taking away so many of our loved ones.
I’ve held off on writing my last words or making a speech in front of everyone about my brother, because I still cannot believe this is real. But it has finally hit me just how real this all is. That I will never laugh with him or see him again. But I’ve felt the need to share these words. How do you go on to write about the greatest person you have ever known, and get it right? As he would say.. Here comes the Novel!
I think it’s fair to say Jeff was one of the most unique human beings we have ever had the chance to know. His sense of humor, loyalty, huge heart, protectiveness, patience and craziness is what attracted so many people to his life. He was probably the only one calm enough to deal with half of his family/friends. As he would say,
“This is my family?”
“These are my friends?”
He was always the voice of reason, diffusing any situation with love and laughter. For those that know the real Jeff, you know he was one of the most selfless people. He would drop anything to be there for someone he cared about, no matter if the circumstances were in his favor or not. He always told me I did too much for those who didn’t appreciate me, but to never lose that about myself because that is what made me special -to always know my worth. He was someone who always had the right intentions and knew what he wanted in life and who he wanted to be …. naturally smart and socially inept….always the biggest heart, a dreamer with a deep crazy soul and an undeniable love for music. I have always admired the person he was.
The energy he had was one of a kind. He was someone who was always ready to go, whether it was a random road trip, concert or cooking a random feast with me for no reason but we #fuckinglovefood. At one point he made #WineTastingWednesday an official day of the week. I would walk in to a table set with plates of tomato, mozzarella and balsamic glaze and his favorite cheeses. He would be sitting at the table waiting for everyone, dressed in his button down and tie just to make us laugh and want to join. He also may be the only one who would say yes to me kicking open his door at 11:30 am with my robe on in a blizzard and tell him we are going to Tacobell for a feast. Then have to shovel my car out of a snowbank because we should have never left the house.
Some people thought it was weird how Jeff and I were so close, but I never took a moment for granted because I feared this day might come. I cannot sit here and say the past 10 years were easy. There is so much heartache in a family that deals with someone with an addiction. You blame them. They blame you. You blame each other. Not one solution works the same for any addict/family. There is so much said and done that will scar you for life. Many relationships have suffered. People choose what kind of family they want to be around. The people that sit here and just want to rant about whether it’s a disease or not clearly haven’t experienced it first-hand. Who cares what the definition is. You don’t just lose all compassion for these people and act like they are not good people. Nobody wants this life. It does start with a choice for maybe a good time, a surgery, a mental health issue, but then it becomes a battle within yourself when you realize you might have taken it too far. It happens to the best of us-so many with a college education, a great job and a family who cares deeply about them. Addiction does NOT discriminate. To witness that struggle… You always think it’s just one more time-one more shot-one more drink-one more pill-one more night. You think it cannot happen to you. But it could be that one last decision that sets you over the edge. Before you know it, it’s been years.
To see him at his worst, and to know the end was far from his worst. THAT is what is heartbreaking. To see someone who had everything going for them and more to live for than most of us go down this road-is the WORST pain. To see them on the street going through the trash, or eating ketchup packets on New Year’s eve while the rest of us are drinking champagne celebrating with the ones we love. THAT is pain. To see him sleeping in shelters or on the street because no detox has space for him and he isn’t allowed home, THAT is pain. To know that you are one of the last people that has not stopped believing in him, is PAIN. Those few people who were there for him know THAT pain. To have your own life in shambles to protect his, THAT is pain. To have people walk out of your life because they don’t want to be around it or a family like this, THAT is pain. To see him get sober when Alycia, the love of his life, passed in a car accident because he wanted to attend her funeral was truly a blessing. When his close friends and family took him back into their lives and showed him what it was to live again, something changed in his mind. Something changed when he realized he had something to live for. THIS is what helps people. THIS is what gives them hope. It is NOT the answer, but it does give them hope. For some that is all they need.
To see that person come back and be himself again was one of the happiest times of my life. I am blessed to have met the people in Jeff’s life over the years and will forever cherish them, as they have become my best friends now too. Our friends became friends. These are some of my best memories. I never thought I would see the day of planning his 30th birthday, and know it was one of his best memories these past few years.
But depression is a scary thing. To make a change in your life but realize everyone else has moved on with their own cannot possibly be easy. Always being judged, watched and stereotyped cannot be easy. To know you probably shouldn’t participate in some things because it could trigger you, but you just want to feel NORMAL. To fall off track a few times and slowly start to believe less in yourself. It pained me to see him sad. To spend holidays in a shelter without his family because he messed up again. To be asked if he wants to call anyone but he says nobody probably wants to hear from him. It was hard to convince him how loved he was, that people mess up and this is a long road…. that we have faith in him. But despite it all, he never lost that soul of his. There were few times he would let people ever see his sorrow. His sadness.
Even visiting him in the hospital after a recent overdose, he gave me that smart ass grin of his as I walked in and we just laughed, and I said, “what the heck are we doing here?!?! This isn’t you. You are past this!” We joked and made light of where we were, that this was just an accident, and there were people far worse off- but I was very worried. I knew he was very depressed. You think narcan is some miracle drug, but people don’t realize after you receive this, you are more susceptible to another overdose, and what if you are alone that time? I asked him what is going to happen if he dies, -the lives this will effect. He asked me, “who’s?” He said how depressed he was and he made a mistake. I expressed how upset I was and we needed to make a plan. That we are not going down this road. I thought THIS was one of the worst days of my life. You just never think it’s going to happen to you. And depression is not fixed in a day. There is no way I could have prepared myself for what was about to happen that next week. To be woken up with those words. To know I missed that last phone call.
If there is one thing I have ever tried to tell people after dealing with this for over 10 years, is to not say hurtful things out of anger. To never leave angry. You never know what your last words will be and how they will affect someone. You never know what that person is going through until you are in their shoes. And now it has never held more true. He believed the same and always said wasting time being mad or hurtful and having that much pride is a horrible thing. Living a life of regret and guilt over your own words is NEVER worth it. Disease or not, he always said if it was any other health issue he would be treated with respect. You just never know if you are that last person of the day to push someone over the edge. We need to have more compassion. Addicts are PEOPLE just like you and I, and this should never be forgotten. You can still LOVE someone without enabling them. Don’t even think for a second that they CHOOSE this life. My brother did not CHOOSE this life.
Jeff was — and is — one of the greatest people you will ever meet in your life. As I am one of those who spent their day to day life with Jeff, this was a horrific loss. To walk in the house knowing he won’t be coming in shortly after me. To not have the one person I know was just always there for me and truly cared about me–I’m not sure you could ever describe this kind of pain. I have always said no one lived life more than Jeff. 31 years of his life is more than most people will ever live, but as the words come out of my mouth I am in tears because he was that young and is gone. My only regret in life is that my future family and kids will never meet Jeff, but I will always teach them to live a life as full and loving as Jeff did. I’m pretty sure there is no one on this earth like me and Jeff, and maybe it’s better there’s just one of us now. You always said 2 lanes never made a right. Until we meet again…
Tara Lane is a 28 year old who currently lives in Brockton, Massachusetts and works for the National Association of Government Employees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences Degree with a concentration in Corporate Communications, and a minor in Psychology. Her family dealt with the struggles of someone addicted to opiates for a little over 10 years. After his passing, the family had a party in Jeff’s memory rather than a funeral, where all of his family and friends were invited to celebrate his life. The night was filled with videos, slideshows, music and food that he loved. The party included two speakers, the Mayor of Brockton and the President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, who spoke truthfully about addiction and the growing epidemic in this country. Tara and her family plan to continue to share their story to not only educate and raise awareness, but to let other families know that they are not alone in this battle.
RIP Jeffrey Lane 2/20/1985 – 4/29/2016