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Craig’s Story (told by his brother Stewart)

Craig (left and Stewart (right)

The Early Years

Based on patterns over the last few years this day was likely inevitable, but I kept telling myself that things would change and that Craig would find the help that he desperately needed. On July 23rd, 2019 I woke up to several missed calls from Scotland, which in itself is quite uncommon. Thinking the worst, I quickly checked Facebook, as you do when you think there might be some bad news: it was there that I first learned of my brother’s death.

Messages were flooding in on Craig’s page: “R.I.P Craig,” “You will be missed,” “I can’t believe you’re gone.” My heart sunk and I began crying in bed beside my wife.

But just how did we end up here and how did a young 36-year-old man end up dying well before his time? My goal in writing about Craig is to bring more awareness to the multiple issues that people with mental health and addictions issues face and to try and end the stigma surrounding these marginalized people.

On October 20th, 1989 our mother was killed in a tragic car accident. Craig was 6 and I was 8 at the time. A loss at this young age is heart-breaking and the childhood trauma that ensues is challenging to overcome without the right guidance and support. The next ten years were very unpredictable and unstable at times; this made school very difficult and something that neither of us particularly enjoyed.

I joined the Army at 17, which provided a stable environment to be a part of; this helped to form a clear path in my life going forward. Craig, however, had a difficult time finding his way in life and left home when he was 16. He then became involved with recreational drugs and alcohol, which resulted in him associating with others in similar situations. Craig was desperate to find some form of social belonging and feel like he was a meaningful part of society. After several different jobs and living arrangements Craig moved to Belfast with me in 2006. This was the most time that we had spent together since going our separate ways in the late 90s. I will always really value this time as it helped us to develop our relationship and enjoy the time we spent together. We often went out for morning walks, where we spent a lot of time talking and just enjoying the outdoors. Craig was able to find a stable job in the heart of Belfast and seemed to be doing really well.

Stewart and Craig (Belfast)

In March 2008 I left Belfast for a new life in Canada. Craig was able to secure his own apartment in Belfast and kept to his routine of being healthier and staying away from recreational drugs. As time went on, Craig had a hard time living alone and moved back to the Annan area towards the end of 2008. Once he moved back to Annan he quickly re-established himself with his old acquaintances and relied more heavily on alcohol to try fit in with others around him.

After I moved to Canada we stayed in touch but didn’t have the same connection we had during our time living together. We always enjoyed my yearly visits and the time we spent together was so meaningful. In my next post I’ll talk more about the struggles of his later years.