All One Team speaks with Russell who graciously shares his story in hopes of helping others struggling with addiction and its fallout.
“On April 2nd it will be nine years since I lost my best friend – my Sister, Lisa Ann.
I was hesitant to go on social media and openly discuss the issue of Addiction.
I was hesitant to open my heart and discuss the struggles of addiction while conscious of the rewards of recovery that many never make it to.
I was hesitant to talk about the pain of the disease of addiction that taunts the victims and the families daily.
In honor of my Sister, maybe her story can help others.
The day we laid my Sister to rest, the phone was ringing at our home in Joliet, illinois.
I reluctantly walked into the house and answered.
The caller was a counselor with the in-patient division at the addiction treatment center. They were calling for Lisa to let her know that a space for her had finally become available and that she can begin treatment.
My Brother and my Dad can confirm this as we had all walked into the house together only minutes after returning from her funeral.
All I could say to the caller was “you’re a day late. My Sister passed from a heroin overdose. She was alone in her car at her favorite park (in Joliet).”
We think the final straw for Lisa was struggling with the loss of our mother who suddenly passed 10 months earlier.
Lisa and our mom had a rocky relationship. She regretted never patching things up.
Six months after our mom passed, Lisa was told that she had cirrhosis of the liver. She was told that if she did not stop drinking she would only live another 6 months.
Lisa shared this news with me only. I was Lisa’s ROCK, she knew that I could handle it.
Lisa was very depressed; as we all were. We spoke every day for those 6 months.
The Wednesday before Lisa passed, she called me at noon. It was rare to get a call from Lisa at this time because we always talked after dinner.
She told me that she was reading an article in the local newspaper about the problem with heroin in our city.
I immediately stopped her and said “Lisa even if you need to take a shot of brandy to keep away from heroin – please do so.” This was hard to say knowing about her liver condition.
Lisa was talking about her wanting to be with mom.
I have kept all of this to myself for 9 years. If our family reads this, it will in fact be news to them.
Lisa and I had a tentative phone call scheduled daily. After years of meeting on the phone, I missed our first daily call. It was Thursday, the day following the conversation with her about the heroin problem in our city. I was not able to call her back that day.
The following day (Good Friday) I received a call from a lifetime family friend who lived in the neighborhood. We all grew up together. We went through good times, bad times, and more, together. He couldn’t articulate his words on the phone with me. So I handed the phone to my Dad.
My father got off the phone, and it took all the strength and courage he had to be able to say “Lisa’s dead”.
Days later I was holding my Dad up at Lisa’s coffin. Just as I did when mom, his wife of 51 years, passed 10 months earlier.”
The disease of addiction can claim other victims of the same family.
Russell’s own recovery did not start off easy for him.
While beginning his own hard road to recovery, his daughter flat-lined in their home due to a heroin overdose. Thankfully, Russell’s wife Cheryl, was able to give CPR and saved her life. She struggled over the past year but just about a month ago she entered a rehab facility and will get her 30 day coin Saturday (March 23).
Russell is a survivor of addiction. He’s been through addiction personally. As a distinguished Marine Veteran (1976-1996), the VA (Veterans Administration) had him on prescription pain management medication for 22 years.
At the time of writing, Russell celebrates one year of successfully getting through detoxification on his own.
Russell is now an advocate for helping fellow Marines and their struggles with addiction.
Initially, there was far too much loss and far too many painful memories that weighed heavy on his heart for Russell to have the wherewithal to help.
What summoned the strength to put his pain aside was his love and devotion to honor Lisa Ann, and all the other souls who are touched and affected by addiction. This is when Russell vowed to continue, to persist, and reach out to those in need.
“I am Lisa’s older brother, her keeper, the brother who held her hand walking to school. I couldn’t save her life from 1000 miles away.”
Even if someone claims that they “don’t want help”, he knows all too well there is much more to it than that.
“Do we ignore them? – NO! Reach out. Reach out as many times as you can. Do all you can to let them know that they are not alone. Don’t put yourself through the guilt wondering “what if“. You can choose to make a conscious effort to help.
At a minimum, you can live with the fact that at the least you did try to help.”
Even the strongest survivor is aware that there are tough cases.
Stick with it. Don’t give up; they already have.
All you can do is your best, and sometimes that’s really all you’ve got.