Today is my sister Bryanna’s birthday. She was 19 months younger than me. Growing up so close in age was really nice for the both of us - we always had a friend in each other. All through high school, we were super close. We grew up in a large family and would spend every holiday together. Bryanna and I dyed easter eggs together and afterwards would have egg hunts, we did big Christmas get togethers with lots of gifts, and we had family reunions each year in the mountains, where we would cook out, laugh, and go on hikes. There was absolutely nothing to complain about during our childhood.
Bryanna was the type of girl who always had a boyfriend. This was one of her downfalls - boys and the need to have a boyfriend. Up until late middle school and early high school, my sister was happy, funny, super confident and smart. Then she dated a guy who put his hands on her and after that, her self esteem plummeted. I'm not sure when or where her drug use began, but it did not start with heroin. Bryanna used pills, alcohol, and hung out with the wrong people. We never knew any of this until her addiction progressed further. We were uneducated about the warning signs of substance use and addiction.
When Bryanna was 18 she started dating a new guy, who was not a good influence on her. This is when Bryanna was introduced to heroin. I don't know if he was already addicted or not, but after their relationship ended, Bryanna was addicted to heroin. They ultimately dated for a few years and later went their separate ways. Bryanna started dating another guy who also used heroin. It was because of this relationship that she finally realized she needed help. I will never forget the day that she called and said, "I need help." I was at work and after I hung up with her, I immediately started looking for places for her to go. From that day forward, my mom and I did whatever we could to try to help Bryanna. My mother and I fought very hard to help Bryanna as much as we could - no matter the circumstance. But, I can honestly say that I feel like I did everything I could to try to help her do what she needed to do to get clean.
When Bryanna was 20, she got pregnant.She gave birth to an amazing, perfect, stunningly cute little boy. The father was around for a few months and then that was it. She didn't care what it took, she wanted that little "family." When Bryanna’s son was born, we thought things would change. They didn't. When we found out Bryanna and her boyfriend were taking their son on drug runs, etc., my mom stepped in and took custody of my nephew.
Bryanna went to treatment at least six times but only completed the program once. She walked out of every other place before completing it. During one of the instances she quite treatment, Bryanna left with a guy she met there and disappeared for over a week. The toll that week took on my mom and I was horrible. The gut wrenching thoughts, the worrying. The silence was deafening. Bryanna eventually found her way home, and then was gone again. She was always in and out; nothing else mattered but chasing that high. Bryanna had a few jobs in between all of this - all of which she lost by either walking out, coming in late, not showing up, etc. Bryanna burned a lot of bridges that way. Bryanna did get vivitrol shots after one of her treatment stays, and it seemed to work really well for her. Bryanna didn't keep up with the Vivitrol shots like she should have, and eventually stopped getting them at all. She never made her recovery a priority - that was another downfall of hers. Bryanna was so focused on helping other people, but never herself.
Bryanna met another guy, got pregnant again, and her boyfriend assaulted her. Bryanna called my mom crying her eyes out and the cops were called. He was later arrested and my sister came back home. She always knew she had a place to call home - the door was never fully closed.
Bryanna’s second son and my son are about five months apart, so we were pregnant at the same time. During her pregnancy, she met another guy who was also in recovery. They were both clean in the beginning of their relationship, so everything seemed to be okay. Then he got into an accident, was prescribed a narcotic, and relapsed. Bryanna stayed strong for a little while, but the temptation was too strong. The weekend prior to her death, an acquaintance gave her meth and then they went on a binge in Baltimore. My sister knew she messed up and told my mom she wanted to get the vivitrol shot again. She had a bed ready for her at another treatment center on Thursday, December 17, 2015. On Tuesday, December 15, Bryanna and I went Christmas shopping with my son and her oldest. We went to the mall and she said she wasn't feeling well. Bryanna ended up making me take her home before I was done shopping, so I was irritated with her.
Bryanna ended up going to her boyfriend's house, and they met up with a dealer close to Baltimore to get heroin. She used as soon as they got it, and shortly later they got into a car accident - the car hit a pole and popped a tire. Bryanna called my mom to tell her what had happened, and that she would be home when the boyfriend's mom came to get a new tire. Bryanna got home around 7:30 PM and everyone went to bed around 9:30 PM. The next morning around 10:30 AM, December 16, 2015, I got that phone call. The one that I had dreaded for so many years. The one no one wants to get. Bryanna was gone. My only sister. My best friend.
Bryanna was clean for a year, and for that year, I had my sister back - the girl I knew and grew up with. The sister who could scream and yell at me and then start laughing with me five minutes later. The sister who made fun of me for stupid things, who helped me dye my hair, and went to the store with me when no one else would. Bryanna and I spent so much time together. We laughed, we fought, we made new memories. Memories that I now have to cherish. When my son was born, Bryanna lit up. Bryanna loved him so so much. She loved being his Auntie. Bryanna changed when he came into this world and it's so sad to me that neither he, nor her two sons, will ever get to know herr. They will never get to touch Bryanna, hear her, smell her, love her. All they have is pictures and videos.
Bryanna was a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a mom, a cousin and a friend. Addiction stole ten years from us and now we are the ones who have to continue on without her. I used to wonder what would it take for her to stop. Why wasn't her son enough? Why weren't we enough? It took me many years to realize that person Bryanna was during her addiction didn't care about anything other than getting that fix. The Bryanna I grew up with and loved was somewhere in there, longing to be present. Losing my sister has been the absolute hardest thing I've dealt with in my life. I still don't know how I will go through the rest of my life without Bryanna. I can only hope that she is now at peace, no longer fighting the devil every day. I hope Bryanna loves herself and is happy.