Imagine your younger brother passed away of a drug overdose. This reality, although unfortunate has led Eric to opportunities to share his story and brother's legacy and furthermore help families and addicts in recovery who share similar experiences. I was introduced to Eric through a professional networking app called Shapr. It takes courage to share the not-so-great times in our lives with a stranger, let alone the world. -Jessica Lea Nolette (blog creator)
Did you have an "aha moment" to become an advocate or an instinctual desire to start sharing your story?
I wouldn't say it was an ‘aha’ moment, but about 7-8 months after my brother passed away, I found myself reflecting on how he changed as a person and the “Hell on Earth,” as I like to call it, our family went through with his addiction. He eventually morphed into a stranger. He didn't look, talk or act like the Brendan we knew growing up. The drugs controlled every possible aspect of his life. This morphing, along with the emotion my family and I felt while standing by Brendan’s bedside in the hospital to say our last goodbye, brought me to think that this should never happen to others. Maybe I could do something to help other families? No person or family should have to go through what we did and watch somebody they love and care for have their life cut short from addiction. I feel strongly about sharing my family's story to help prevent people from going down the same path as my brother. Addiction is a growing topic affecting so many around the world. I will do everything I can to help with this fight.
"I think it's important to see what Brendan looked like while he was using."
What are you the most passionate about today?
My passion, drive, and reason for being are to make a positive impact on the world by helping people who are struggling and need a hand.
I have developed this thought process and mindset from my brother’s death. It opened my eyes to realize what is important in life. I used to always think about how I could make myself better - what I could do for me. Now I find myself thinking how I can positively affect other people's lives and make an impact. Now I find myself thinking how I can positively affect other people's lives and make an impact.
What has been the most challenging struggle you've overcome and what lesson did this teach you?
The biggest challenge I've overcome in my life is the eight days I spent in the hospital while my brother Brendan was in a comma before he passed away. I knew there was nothing I could do. I was helplessly waiting and knew there was nothing I could do but wait for his fate. All my family and I could do was hope and pray. At that point, Brendan's fate was up to a higher power, and he was in God’s hands. I would have done anything the doctors asked of me to help bring him out of that comma, but it wasn't possible. The biggest lesson I learned from this was some things you have no control over. No matter how badly you want to determine the outcome, you must leave it up to whomever has control of the situation and let your faith take over.
Can you give one single piece of advice for family or friends who want to help rescue drug addicts they know and love?
The one piece of advice I can give you is to never ever ever give up on that loved one, or friend. It’s a lifelong battle that will bring you on a roller coaster of emotions, with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. You may feel as though you can’t do it anymore - that there is no hope for this person, and their addiction will eventually take them. But know their soul is inside that body somewhere. Although in that moment it seems lost, it is there, and they need your continued help and support. The addict may not say it or act like it, but deep down in their core, they are screaming for you to help them. When the soul is found, and the person comes back to life, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. It's worth every ounce of energy you have put into helping revive that person back to the human you once knew them as.
"This is my brother Brendan, clean."
Are there go-to resources you recommend?
I highly recommend going to a support group like Al-Anon for alcoholics or its counterpart Nar-anon. For drug addiction, another excellent group is called Learn To Cope, and they have meetings all over America. Although you may not be the one going through addiction yourself, it affects your everyday life tremendously. People attending the meetings are in similar situations. They can relate to the addict’s life and circumstances. It’s a place to let your guard down and let out anything you want to say or share about any situation. These groups are very supportive, helpful, and judgement-free. As far as getting an addict to recovery, I feel it’s essential to get them to a detox center, then rehab to eventually a sober living home with a 12-step program. I think the best resource, aside from meetings, rehabs, and detoxes, which are all tremendously helpful, is surrounding your loved one with unconditional love and support. After all, it's your goal to work with them, not against them to get them better. The addict must want to get clean. The drive has to stem from within, and the support and love of family can have an immense effect on an addict’s recovery.
What is something uniquely Eric not many people know about you, perhaps not even your family?
I wouldn’t call it unique. I would call it my duty. Every Sunday afternoon, rain, shine or snow, I drive into Boston (I live just outside Boston) and buy food and drinks for the homeless at one of the downtown 7 Elevens. I have forged a special bond with a homeless couple named Maloney and Leroy. The smiles on their faces when they see me approaching with food is like children on Christmas morning when they discover presents. They are so happy to see me, not only to eat because they haven’t eaten all day or have had a limited amount of food, but they are most excited to talk about life. They usually ask me right off the bat "Get a girlfriend yet?" I mentioned I’m looking for a 2-family house, and they suggested places I can look for loans and gave me advice on setting up a retirement plan. I started doing this about a year ago. It makes me feel great to know I am helping people in need.
Aside from advocating, what do you enjoy doing most?
Aside from advocating, I absolutely love spending time with my family. My family is the world to me. Ever since we lost Brendan 2 years ago, we have become much tighter as a family and cherish each other’s company every chance we get. Almost every Saturday night my father and I go out to eat and talk about life. I feel so blessed to have my parents and brothers. Even though Brendan isn’t physically here I know, he’s smiling down and looking over us. He has pushed us to be better people.
What is your proudest personal accomplishment to-date?
My proudest personal accomplishment to date was being one of three people to read my brother Brendan’s eulogy. I was so proud of the fight he put up against his addiction. I can’t imagine the battle addicts go through daily. I was very happy to have the last two and a half sober years with him, and I was honored to stand up on the stage to talk about my feelings and how proud I was to call him my brother.
I believe by manifesting our dreams we have a better chance of having them come true. What stage do you see yourself on in the next few years?
In the next few years, I see myself as a person who shares my family’s and Brendan’s story in schools, support groups, and meetings with parents. I hope to help prevent kids from starting the use of drugs. At the same time, I aim to be a resource for kids struggling and parents who may be going through what my parents did. I also see myself helping people who may have self-esteem and confidence issues, may not be getting the most out of life, and may feel hopeless. I want to help people who are struggling in life, maybe due to something tragic that has happened to them or someone in their life, and are looking for help. I am trying to positively impact the world and the people living in it in many ways. I want to prevent, and one of them is preventing people from going through the nightmare my family and I went through with Brendan and continuing to provide hope to those who may be struggling.
What message should I repeatedly share with the world on your behalf?
Drug and Alcohol addiction can affect anyone regardless of your age, wealth, or gender. It doesn't matter where you live. Nobody is an exception to addiction. You may think “what’s the big deal, I’m just drinking and smoking marijuana." This was Brendan's mentality, and look what happened to him. You shouldn’t need drugs or alcohol to change who you are to have fun, or for others to accept you. You are beautiful and perfect the way God made you. You are great without the use of substances. People go through struggles, and tragedy is a part of life, but this doesn’t give you a reason to start doing drugs or drinking. Doing drugs won’t boost your self-esteem, confidence, or fix your problems - it only makes things worse. With strong will and courage, we can all become a positive influence on the lives of those suffering.
What is your favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
"Make the best of a lifetime opportunity in the lifetime of the opportunity." -Eric Thomas
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