By Brenden’s mom, Chandalar
Aug. 13, 1994 - Feb. 28, 2019
My name is Chandy and my Son, Brenden, passed away from a drug overdose on 2/28/19 at the age of 24. He had been working on his recovery and residing in Sober Living for nine months when he departed the program and tragically relapsed within 24 hrs.
Sometimes the best kids come from the worst places and sometimes the kids that have the best life get caught up in the darkest places. There is no clear cut reason why one person becomes an addict and another doesn’t. Contrary to popular belief, bad parenting or home life isn’t always the cause, at least in my family’s situation.
Brenden was the kind of kid that tried so hard to fit in but struggled making friends because of his size. He never had many friends until he started taking risks. First it was being the “fighter” on his hockey team, then around middle school he started smoking cigarettes, that led to marijuana and alcohol. At the age of 18 he was exposed to opioids. It was a fast descent to heroin and other hard drugs after that.
My husband and I did it all. Helped him get into treatment, counseling, sent him to different places, kicked him out, let him come home, had him arrested, he went through drug court, jail, homelessness, the list goes on, but through it all, we always told him we loved him. Between the fights and the chaos I would say, I don’t like who you are right now, but I will always love you. That’s the thing about this disease, it makes it so damn hard to give them what they need the most, LOVE, because the addiction makes them do and say such horrible things.
Recovery for my son exposed a different side of him, the part I always knew was there underneath the mask of addiction. He was the kind of friend that would drop everything to help. He was thoughtful and loyal. He had a unique perspective of life and always appreciated raw talent in the people he met. If you were a guitarist, he would ask you to play for him, if you made art, he’d buy it and rave about it! He once recorded his friend trying to land a skateboarding move a dozen times until he nailed it. He appreciated every gift, no matter what it was and got excited over the smallest things. He loved being outside, his favorite flower was the Bleeding Heart, and he loved playing hockey. Brenden was a healer, he would often reach out to his friends when they were upset and give them beautiful, kind advice and point out what makes them special. He also loved to talk about conspiracy theories and always sided with the downtrodden when he saw injustice.
The night before my son fatally relapsed, he sent this message to my mother-in-law:
“I love you so much, but I have to tell you your geographical location has nothing to do with your happiness. No matter where you are if you are depressed, you will be depressed, whether you are in Florida, whether you are in Tahiti, whether you are in Croatia, if you have issues with depression they will follow you. You have to start meditating and journaling, and figure out what is making you so depressed. I promise you, and I wish you would use this suggestion, if you start meditating you will eventually start becoming a much happier person. I have been meditating for many, many months now, it’s taken a while but I can’t begin to describe to you the changes that are taking place mentally and physically. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. I have accepted my past, I look forward to my future, and I have an enormous amount of self love. I am comfortable with my body, I love my personality, and I am overall happy with who I am. I am doing what you ask of me, I really hope that you will take my request to heart and start meditating. I can teach you how it is very simple but the impact that it has on your life as a whole is immense...”
He was found by hotel staff at 12 noon the next day.
We will never know why he didn’t go to his newly rented apartment or to our house. His roommate that he was to share the apartment with said she had offered to come pick him up from the airport, but he declined. He told her he would come over the next day because he planned on surprising his family.
Our life has been completely devastated by the loss of our son. My oldest daughter struggles with anxiety and panic, my youngest with depression and hopelessness. Although we have received tremendous support, there is still the stigma surrounding the cause of his death. There is an underlying feeling that people think somehow we failed him. That we are to blame. Or that he was weak.
I am forever grateful for the months of sobriety my son had before he left us. I hear from his friends how he touched and helped them in some way, and it gives me comfort in knowing that his words have given many of his friends inspiration.
I share his story with people because I know in my heart that I did everything I was capable of and everything I believed was the best for him and my family, and ultimately I have no shame in our loss.
Being the parent of a child suffering from addiction can be one of the loneliest, most isolating and sometimes humiliating things to live through. My son struggled for six years, our family struggled with him.
There was a time when no one talked about addiction and its impact on the families, but slowly awareness is growing. Because of the growing number of people willing to talk about their children, spouses, or siblings struggling with addiction, families also affected are realizing there is no reason to be ashamed.
Brenden was a troubled but absolutely beautiful soul. Sometimes the darkness of addiction is too strong and our babies lose...and we all are losing too.