"One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, my dear, is to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive"
Growing up, I had two siblings both close in age, living in a single parent household. Naturally, because of the all the hardship we faced in our younger years my siblings and I grew rather close. Me being the middle child and the only girl I took on the mothering role and the role of the protector at a very young age. I would defend my older brother in any shenanigans that he was up to and I would protect my little brother from really knowing the truths of our childhood. Both I loved very dearly and each in their own special ways. My older brother and I were closest in age, only 15 months apart. So, just like any other annoying little sister, he was my best friend. I looked up to him and I believe he looked up to me to. Whatever one couldn't do, the other could and we always had each others backs.
It wasn't until our early teens that things really began to change. We each started becoming our own person and showing interests in separate activities. Each of us had our own coping mechanisms to deal with what was going on in our lives at the time. Not only were we dealing with the hormone changes as teens and trying to be what we thought was "adult" but we also didn't have a very stable household (to lightly put it). I was a "goody-goody" and focused on school/extra curricular activities. My older brother, he focused on trying to fit in somewhere, making not smart choices, and self medicating. It was at this point the disease took him over. It was easier to "be cool" and self medicate than to deal with real life. He also has mental illnesses, like a lot of people do, that required him to take medication. Those medications he HATED. They made him feel like a zombie and not feel at all. That is why I refer to "self medicating". Really he was just using drugs... First it started with huffing duster in middle school, then smoking weed, then taking muscle relaxers, and just kept escalating from there. Knowing what I know now, after getting to know him as an addict and talking to other addicts, there is nothing like that first high and you are always searching for it.
His addiction and our unstable household tore the family apart. It continued to escalate. I don't quite remember what low he hit for him to decide to go to rehab the first time around, but I remember the day we picked him up. My brother had to been about 20. The whole car ride home he would not stop telling stories, the things he learned, and his plans for the next steps in his recovery. He had so much hope and light to him. It had been so long since the last time I had seen him like this.
While he was in rehab I got the serenity prayer tattoo on my shoulder for him because I was so proud of his recovery at the time. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Now I realize, this is a prayer that everyone should live by.
In the beginning he did really well... Went to meetings, was open about what he was facing, got a job, and seemed like he really wanted to get his life together. Unfortunately, sobriety didn't last long and he started using again. I could feel him slipping away. He stole, lied, manipulated, anything possible to get a fix.
I distinctly remember after he came home from another stay in rehab he confessed to me about his heroin use. I was in shock. MY brother wouldn't use hard drugs. MY brother would never do anything so idiotic as to risk his own life for a high. That's when I started to realize... he wasn't MY brother anymore. Addiction took him from me and my family. It breaks my heart to say that I haven't talked to my brother in almost two years. There were a few times up until the point we stopped talking that he was sober, and my brother was back. That was only a glimpse of the person he once was because shortly after that addiction took back over and he was gone again. Our falling out was not dramatic and there wasn't a big scene. I simply stopped replying to his messages. There is not a day that goes by that I don't miss MY brother but I know that man rarely walks this earth anymore. I have to live with that.
It angers me when people insert their opinions about addiction without opening up themselves to understanding it. I fully admit I was closed minded and I thought everyone had a choice. My brother chose drugs over his family. I was wrong...
I will always be thankful for my first "love" for opening up the opportunities for me to gain insight on what addiction is about. He himself was an addict and when he chose to be in recovery I was there every step of the way. I went to Nara-Non meetings (for the family members off addicts) and I went to NA meetings (for the addicts). This opened up my eyes to new perception on addiction. Addiction doesn't care if you are black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight, single or married, loving household or broken house hold, it is not biased. I have seen the look in the addicts eyes when they talk about what they have done, learned and what their plan is. You can see in each one of them the haunting of the demons that plague them and the fear of their possible return. I myself am not a religious person and chose not to discuss my beliefs. However, I could see why God or a Higher Power is so important in recovery. You need support greater than yourself to overcome what was greater than yourself.
Addiction is a disease, not a choice.
Now, some may call me a hypocrite or ignorant and that is okay. Just because I understand that addiction is not a choice, does not mean I have to allow it into my life. My family is plagued with addiction; drugs and alcohol. I have made the choice to set healthy boundaries and detach from the addicts in my family. I am a co-dependent and the presence in each others' lives made no one healthier.
To my older Brother, I miss you. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about you and wish you well. I hope one day, when you are fully in recovery we can reconnect and be apart of each others lives. I love you.
The federal Center for Disease Control reported that more than 72,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses, a record number. In Michigan, The CDC estimate 2,662 Michigan residents died from drug overdoses in 2017, a 82% increase over five years and an 8% jump from 2016.