People used to called my brother names – and I did too. I grew up knowing and seeing that drug use is bad and is something to be ashamed of. Still, I felt how those labels made him feel, how the way people looked and treated him wounded him. He was the most caring and loving sibling and from him I learned how to live simply, because he withstood whatever came his way.
My mother tried to remove him from temptation, sending him to places where she thought drugs were not accessible. He was a generous and kind young man who would do whatever his friends would ask of him – my mother thought he was too gullible. The wider family also looked down on him, including my uncle, a police officer.
We grieved for the death of my brother’s dreams, for the death of hope in him. His dignity died, and a part of me died too. I was that little sister who saw her brother’s agony, who only wanted to see him happy and safe, whether he was using or not. I loved him for all that he was.
My brother was only thrown into jail when my parents had him arrested for his drug use – and in 1999, he was murdered.
I’ve been told it was due to a drug deal he messed up. The family did not even seek justice for him. There probably wasn’t much point, since his case would receive no sympathy or even a fair hearing.
Death is not just physical. We die in many ways, and we kill without intending to. Addiction kills when we make drug users feel unworthy, helpless and hopeless; when we treat them with animosity, stigma and prejudice. The war on drugs creates greater wars inside the people who need care and support.