Sisters Jenni, left, and Christi Colecchi. Christi died of an overdose in 2017.

Bereaved Siblings Share "Instant Bond"

By Jenni Colecchi, Guest Contributor

Seventy-five days into my recovery and exactly six months into our brother’s, our sister, Christi, passed of a fentanyl overdose. As one can only imagine, this tragedy greatly affected our family.

Communication for me was difficult with everyone except with my brother, Christi’s twin, who helped me to help myself. My baby brother was smarter and stronger in his recovery game than I was, and we were grateful to have each other. We shared an unspoken language that only addicts and siblings can both understand. No one could have helped me the way that he did. He slept over every weekend, and we had long talks and shared many tears, as well as laughter, while we shared memories of our beloved sibling. He helped me get to solid ground. 

To this day, I am one of the fortunate ones not to have a relapse in my story. In the 12-step program, YET (You’re Eligible Too) means we are all one pick-up away from a relapse, and I always have to remember to work on my own recovery.

 I have to remember where I was on February 2, 2017, the day Christi died. I have to remember all the moments in each day that I fought through to become who I am today. There is not a doubt in my heart that Christi fought as best she could. I am proud of her for never giving up! It is not about just putting down the substances -- there is so much more that we have to overcome.

Today, I do all I can to be her voice and to help others in whatever way they need me. I sponsor women in 12-step programs, and have spoken in detox programs. I have switched careers and am working on my certification with the state as a recovery coach.  I am also one of the first 2,000 certified peer specialists in Massachusetts. Any addict will tell you that mental health and addiction go hand in hand. Although our stories differ, it always comes down to those two things -- mental health and addiction.

I am also the director of Alone No More, -- a group that was started shortly after her death when I was very suicidal and wanted to try to help as many people as I possibly could before I ended it all. It is a support group for families, friends, and loved ones of those who are trying to break the chains of any addiction or for anyone seeking help with addiction or recovery. There are numerous pathways to freedom no matter whether you are the one fighting to break free from the chains of addiction or the family member, friend or loved one searching for peace of mind. This is a disease that does not just affect the individual with the addiction -- this disease affect everyone we touch. We all need and deserve healing.

Another resource, the peer grief support group Siblings Supporting Siblings, is very unique. When I was approached to join the steering committee, for Siblings Supporting Siblings, I was absolutely elated! I was searching for something for so long to support me in the way that I needed to be supported.

 As I mentioned, there is an unspoken language among siblings, as we can understand the pain each other describes; it’s an instant bond that only we understand. I honestly believe that siblings are the “forgotten” ones. The sympathy immediately goes to the parents. We just lost our entire childhood, and it hurts to look back at those cherished memories that are and will be  no longer forever. There is a different bond between siblings that is indescribable, made of… the inside jokes, the secrets, and laughter that only we shared. It is important for me to support such a group knowing what I battled in my own grief.

I know that being in recovery myself, I understand both sides, and I have so much to offer those who are in need of support. I look forward to continuing to be of service as my grief continues to evolve daily, for I know that it will never leave me or any other siblings completely.