Remembering Francesco

I write to share my brother’s struggles with drug addiction

Francesco

Francesco was a talented, loving brother.

He had a thirst and love for life that inspired others. He admired his friends and family more than anything. As an older brother, he was always aware of his role to be my protector. He taught me all the important life lessons any older brother should teach their younger sister: how to explore and get out of my comfort zone, ride a bike, skateboard, rollerblade, play baseball and importantly, suck it up if anything ever went wrong.

Francesco had a passion for his work. He loved working as an ironworker for Local 721. He was willing to share his passion with anyone willing to learn. When it came to welding, Frank was anything but humble. He was proud of his work and exhibited this on a daily basis.

Somewhere along the way he lost himself.

Francesco was a happy, outgoing 27 year-old. Yet, behind his joking demeanor was a heart full of pain and anguish. Somewhere along the way he lost himself. In his path to destruction, he let his family down more than words can describe. Francesco struggled with drug addiction for 11 years. He started using drugs at the age of 16, when he began experimenting socially with several drugs including cocaine and ecstasy, but his main drug of choice was marijuana.  A month following his 18th birthday, Francesco was arrested for drug possession with the intent to sell marijuana and paraphernalia.

Drugs were always a part of Frank’s social environment.

His life ultimately spiraled out of control and his addiction grew stronger when my uncle died. Frank had an inability to cope with loss and tragedy. When our uncle died from a massive heart attack, we all lost a piece of our hearts, but Frank was extremely stricken with grief and pain and did not vocalize his struggles with the tragedy. Instead, he searched for any means to cope and mask his pain. In his quest to find some happiness, he began to mask his pain with anything that made him feel relaxed and numb. First, he turned to oxycodone to help him reach a state of euphoria. When that failed to satisfy him, he moved on to fentanyl patches. Eventually, those too became obsolete and he turned to heroin.

He often referred to his addiction as a love affair.

Frank started using heroin at the age of 22. At the age of 25 he went to a Methadone clinic for a year to combat his opioid drug use. He often referred to his addiction as a love affair. Frank’s love affair with heroin lasted for 5 years and completed robbed our family of joy and continually tested our strength. This drug had infiltrated itself in every aspect of Frank’s life. He spent every waking moment devising where to get his next high and how to obtain it. Heroin made Frank completely unrecognizable to anyone that knew and loved him. It caused him to lose everything- his job, his condo, his car. He hit rock bottom and continued to use heroin to escape from the cruelties of reality.

After losing his job, at the age of 27, Frank tried to check himself into a rehab in December 2015. In order to get into the facility he needed to be clean for 7 days. His goal was to begin detoxing on December 24th, 2015. In the back of his mind, he wanted to prolong his drug use as long as possible before the detox to continue his love affair. The days leading up to the detox, Frank continually used.

When he finally did check into rehab, he did not complete his 35-day program - he only lasted a week. Then, his drug use escalated.

Frank was kicked out of the household in January of 2016 for refusing help. In February 2016, he contacted my dad asking for support and help to combat his addiction. We took him to the Canadian Centre for Drug Addictions.

He completed his 45-day program and was doing great post-rehab. On a Tuesday morning, Frank appeared happy and was hopeful as he was preparing to start a new job.

I will never forget the call we received on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

Francesco overdosed in a local community center washroom and was found unconscious by a bystander. When the paramedics arrived he was in cardiac arrest and it took an hour to find a faint pulse. Despite the efforts of the doctors that cared for him, Frank was already gone.

I feel like I lost my brother twice - when he started using drugs and when he died of an overdose.

 I often questioned why Frank turned to drugs. He had a great life and loving parents who would do anything for his health and happiness. I wondered why he let his life spin out of control. I watched my brother fall into a pit of despair and become a monster while using heroin.

Witnessing his struggles to get clean and falling back into the cycle of drug abuse, I can confidently say that he hated every moment that he was using drugs.

Together with my parents and younger brother Vincenzo, I supported Frank wholeheartedly in his recovery. Despite all efforts to take his life back, this battle was far to big for Francesco to fight.

Despite everything, Francesco was my hero.

He fought his hardest but in the end, he knew we could not handle being let down again. During his second attempt at rehab, I shared this quote with Francesco: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”- Christopher Reeve. I hoped Francesco would find strength in these words and put his heart at ease. I prayed that Frank could overcome this demon, face the obstacles presented to him and persevere.

Drug addiction is a difficult battle to face. In raising awareness and sharing Frank’s story, I hope that others can find strength and hope to overcome obstacles in their life.

If you’d like to contact Jessica about her story, or if you have a testimonial to share, please contact us at: info@drugfreekidscanada.org