Making A New Normal

In 1993 my brother Bret overdosed on $10 worth of heroin he’d bought off the street. By the time a friend discovered him the next morning, he had suffered an anoxic brain injury; he spent the next six weeks in a coma.

When he woke up, he could neither speak nor move. After years of hard work at rehabilitation, he has regained many abilities, although walking is not one of them.

I started photographing Bret immediately after the accident. The process of photography gave me a much-needed sense of control, as well as an emotional distance that provided a brief respite from confronting a previously unthinkable reality.

Over the next 15 years, as I continued documenting Bret letting go of his old self to make room for his new self, and our family struggled to make its own adaptation, the purpose of the project evolved as well.

It became a testament to the effect of the opioid epidemic at a personal, intra-family level, a story I could tell visually when words failed me. It was also a deeper answer to the periodic queries from friends and acquaintances about how Bret and family were faring.