BARBARA O’BRIEN: My brother is a [homeless] heroin addict and a human being.

The Patriot Ledger: On April 2, before an overflow crowd in the State House, 16-year-old Barbara Lynn O’Brien of East Bridgewater spoke before judges, legislators, and Attorney General Maura Healey, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and Gov. Baker. Her voice shaking at times, other times breaking into sobs, Barbara told the members of the Governor’s Opioid Addiction Working Group the story of how addiction has affected her family. When she finished, the room exploded into applause. This is what she read:

BARBARA O’BRIEN: My brother is a [homeless] heroin addict and a human being.

My name is Barbara O’Brien. I am 16-years-old and I go to East Bridgewater High School. My brother Shayne is a heroin addict and has been struggling with his addiction for eight years. Not only does Shayne’s addiction affect his life but it affects everyone around him more than he probably realizes. The time and tremendous amounts of effort it takes to try and help an addict makes you feel hopeless.

Although I am very young, this issue has affected my life dramatically. There would be nights when my mom would not come home because she would be out looking for Shayne to try and help him get into treatment. There were nights when I would cry because I didn’t know where my brother was because I hadn’t heard from him in over a month.

People don’t take this issue of addiction as seriously as it needs to be. Schools need to be more involved in educating students and providing resources for the students in the school who struggle with their family members who have addiction issues.

I used to be embarrassed to say that my brother was an addict because kids would look at me differently or think something was wrong with me just because of my brother. My feelings on why this happens are because kids in high school and adults think that anyone who is a drug addict is a bad person which is absolutely false!

The D.A.R.E program was only mentioned to me in seventh and eighth grades when I would go to a classroom for about an hour and listen to an officer tell stories about the situations he dealt with on the police force. There was no explanation given as to why and no one would ask questions because they were afraid.

If more people were educated on this topic, kids would not be so afraid to talk about it because they would realize they are not alone when they are struggling with a family member who is an addict.

I often talk to people about my brother’s addiction now because I want to educate people and let them know that it is OK. I try to tell them that it’s OK and that I know how they feel dealing with all the drama and stress they have in life because one person in their family has made a mistake and they don’t realize how much they are actually affecting the people around them. Just hearing that from me is not enough. I don’t have all the answers.

For reasons like this, resources need to be available in all towns to people of all ages so that the problems the families are struggling with can be fixed and, more importantly, the struggling addicts are dealt with faster.

For example, my brother from East Bridgewater had to go all the way down to Florida to be in a program that he is actually successful in just so that he can be alive and not have the disease of addiction take his life from him. I know that there are a lot of good treatment places in the local area but not enough.

I am trying to get across to all who are listening that I think there needs to be more resources for families and addicts to get help because if there were, people would have more hope for their loved ones struggling and the people who are not educated would not feel all alone. No one should feel alone.

I used to feel alone but now that I have taken the time to educate myself, I try to be there for the people around me because they have no one to go to.

barbara-obrienBarbara Lynn O’Brien is a sophomore at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School. She is the daughter of Lynnel Cox, founder of Hand Delivered Hope, a statewide group of concerned citizens affected by substance abuse who work to educate the general public and raise awareness to break down the walls of stigma and shame.

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Attitude.

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