Dear Charlotte,

My younger brother overdosed and died recently. Though this has been a long-standing fear, and he was always in denial, but the fact of his death is staggering in countless ways. None of us saved him. The helplessness, and the sense of inevitability, is bloody impossible to make sense of. We keep trying to convince ourselves that there was an inevitability to it all, but there was and there wasn’t. His ending, did it have to come to this? Not necessarily. It wasn’t written in the stars. Had he lived differently, this wouldn’t have happened. He made his choices, but so did we. 

By we, I mean my family and my brother's friends to a degree, and the various treatment centres. Having said all that, ultimately, it was up to him. I sound selfish making it about myself, but I don’t want to lose myself like this. It wouldn’t be drugs for me. I smoke a bit of weed, and maybe that dulls me a little, but it’s not a huge issue. It’s the tragedy of my brother, and I don’t want my life to be a tragedy. Everyone is fascinated by people with lots of money who mess up. There’s a kind of ghoulish interest in it. Probably how it is with celebrities too. We’re all messed up and hurting. The generational pressures and plights. What’s clear to me in all of this is that this is not where the story ends for me. I don’t want to be a little boy for the rest of my life. My brother was a sad little boy his whole life, and now it’s over. That’s it. I'm in therapy already, but I sometimes feel my therapist doesn't grasp these issues. I crave more conversation, or maybe I just want to tell my story to more people.

Thanks for reading.

I am so moved by what you've written, and I became tearful reading and re-reading your message. I'm deeply sorry about what happened to your brother, and the immense impact on you. I applaud your courage in writing about it with such candour, grace and insight and want to assure you that you're already in a vastly different place from your brother who remained in denial. You are seeing and facing numerous painful truths. None of this sounds easy, and I applaud you for all that you recognise. Your life is not a tragedy, and it's up to you to insist on that, however upsetting and beyond our control terrible losses may be. You say you don't want to be a little boy for the rest of your life, and again, that's a noble pursuit and I have a lot of people come to therapy wanting help figuring out how to be grownups. If only more people got therapy for this reason more often, we'd have healthier relationships and maybe even a healthier world in so many ways.

You've implied from your message that you come from a privileged and wealthy background, which can be immensely complicated, and you may be emotionally deprived, however much you've been given in other ways.

You say your therapist doesn't grasp these issues. I beg you to bring this up directly, and if you still don't feel understood, it may be time to find a therapist who gets these issues and can support you effectively. No therapist is perfect so it may be worth working it through together, but in any case, speak up.

The loss of your brother was indeed beyond anything you could have done if he was unwilling to be saved. But it sounds dreadful. Please keep doing all you can to live the life you want.



Do you have a question for Dear Therapist? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line and Charlotte Fox Weber or Kelly Hearn will get back to you.

Further reading

Addiction: a psychoanalytic cure?

Identifying and resolving complicated grief

The causes of addiction: from a counsellor and recovering addict

How I switched one addiction for another, and how I recovered