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  • Shamus Flavin

My Brother's Grief

Updated: Apr 2

I lost my father, brother and the business we owned in thirteen months. There’s only so many things you can say to a twenty four year old at that time before he mentally or physically explodes but I got really good at taking condolences.  So good in fact that I didn’t know how to express my sympathy to those who lost loved ones after that (I wish I could of been there for you, but I wasn’t even there for myself.) It could have been because I needed a pint of vodka to get out of bed and face the day. I needed to always be fucked up in order to function and if I didn’t have it I was restless, irritable and discontent. Just like my lord and savior Bill W says about alcoholism. I was raised in a bar, several bars to say the least, and I realized at a young age how much I wanted that life, to be a bar owner. Alcohol was good to me for as long as it could, until it turned me into a person I was afraid of. I treated my body like a test dummy and I have plenty of scares on my face and head to prove it.

A bar patron at the Bahia Cabana (the hotel/restaurant we owned) told me one day “I hope you make peace with your grief.” Its been a decade now and I finally know what he meant by saying that. I am grateful for time, I got to spend six months with my father after his first stroke, I was able to cry with him and have some meaningful conversations with him before he took his last breath. I got to spend twenty three years with my brother, maybe that’s as much time as we deserved but now rightfully so he lives inside of me. I was always jealous of his confidence the way he could walk through a room. My confidence came in a form of powder and or a bottle of vodka and when I was sober I was a scared shitless young man.

I still feel at times that the bullet that ended my brothers life is engraved into my brain. I will always think about suicide, think about my own death and how quickly that could of happened if it wasn’t for my brother dying first. So, to be grateful for the thing you wished not happened changed your perspective in the end. Made you come to terms that your brother took his life so you can live yours, because I would of followed him to the end of time even if that meant jeopardizing my own life.

One of the main stages of grief is denial. I wasn’t in denial that my father or brother were dead, I saw them both in their caskets several times. Facebook profile pictures turned obituary photos makes you realize how quickly your life can change. My denial was my alcoholism and that how three life events turned me into a soulless dysfunctional human being. I looked at my teen years and twenties in different phases. Like my high school phase, we were just figuring out how alcohol can make you feel invincible. Then my college phase, this phase made me realize how awesome life was, you can sleep in all you want, stay up all night but then it turned me into an alcoholic. Then College Dropout into real world phase, my friends are still in college and I’m still in my early twenties so drinking this much is still necessary. Then lastly came my grieving phase, my brother just put a bullet through his head, leave me the fuck alone and let me drink in peace. This so called phase never ended though. It became a lifestyle and no, not a flashy one. The toilet every morning was my friend and my shakes were uncontrollable. I knew I couldn’t kill myself, the traditional way. So, I decided, I’ll let alcohol kill me. It’s hard to try to get sober and love yourself after years of being at peace that you want alcohol to destroy your liver, that you want alcohol to end your life.

I am now fourteen months sober and it took me several rehabs, several detoxes, several rock bottoms in order to figure out this is the life I want. I thought I would spend my thirties in and out of rehabs, continuing to disappoint my mother every Christmas with a new sobriety date. My sobriety date now is a few days after my fathers death date and just like Billie Joe Armstrong (Frontman of Green Day) I always wanted someone to wake me up after September ended, but now I’m a huge fan of September. I like it because its the month before the holidays, pumpkin spice season is in full swing and its the month I came to the realization that the life I was living was going to kill me with relapsing on fentanyl pills and alcohol. I remember I watched Thor: Love & Thunder and was so depressed in which how the MCU was heading that I decided to enter treatment the next day. I guess I can thank Taika Waititi for making such a shit film to make me feel like rehab is the safest place for me to be at that moment. Its a humbling fact, you are making great money working for a company you don’t believe in. Then you make a few life choices and wake up in a dark, den room and come to the clarity that you are in Detox and fucked up. When I drink, I continue to drink, the only way to stop me is by locking me up in a room for a month or so. I hate that feeling of guilt and shame but it comes with choices that you make and the realization that what you are doing is wrong. The first time I went to rehab in 2019, a nice young man told me you will never drink or do drugs the same way after this. He was right.

If you are reading this, this far in and haven’t lost someone really close to you yet, you will eventually. Time will stop for you, but everyone else will continue to live their lives. Your motivation will decrease and things you once enjoyed will have no meaning, no purpose. Once that person is gone, you will wish you had done more with them when they were alive, because we do take things for granted. We especially take people for granted . I’m not a grief coach in anyway, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I’m just going to tell you what I wish I did. I wished every time my mother asked me to go to church with her I said yes. I wish I was more involved, less isolated and went down a different path then the one I chose. When you let God control your outcomes for you a lot of beauty can come to it. I have met some amazing people here, some I want in my life forever and its only because I surrendered the outcome and I let God take the wheel. You can say I’m born again Christian even though I just took a ten year hiatus, but I am proud to be an Irish Catholic and I know a lot of risk comes from saying that, but you got to come to terms with knowing that there is something greater then yourself out there then just saying Fuck God every time someone close to you dies.

My brother JJ owned the moon in my eyes, everything he did I wanted to do. Every band he introduced me to I still listen too. Every movie he showed me I still watch today. Even though he had a drug addiction, I still loved him. It's always going to be hard to tell someone they need help, when you need help yourself. The only difference between me and my brother is that I picked up the big book that he put down, I have done the work to heal but heal on my own terms and its because of that, that his death is not in vein in my head anymore. It’s because of that I was able to write this. I spent a year trying to figure out how to write my grief, it took many drafts but I finally felt ready to share it. If you are struggling with suicide and or substance abuse just know I’m here for you.

Shamus Flavin

(954) 654-1541



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