And I’m sitting at my office. It’s 4:15 p.m., almost time to head home for the night. I plan to cook up a good pot of black eyed peas (apparently good luck for the new year, a southern tradition), straighten the house a bit, pour myself a good sparkling water with lemon in a fun glass, and prepare for our friends to arrive. I have mixed feelings about having company, but I can feel the true me in there, who simply wants to share some good moments with friends and who doesn’t care about alcohol. I was that person, once. Even if I was a teenager, she’s still in there and I am going to channel her.
In the middle of my day, I received news from my parents that my brother (who has been a chronic alcoholic, methamphetamine addict, et. al., to a level of extremity that I’ve never come close to) has completely deteriorated into meth and alcohol abuse again. We all expected that he was deep into drinking again as he blew off the family (including his son, who my parents have full custody of since he can’t get his shit together) on Christmas and has not been responding to calls. But meth?!?! Again? I couldn’t believe he would already sink so low when he was only out of the program a couple of weeks ago (he started drinking again three days after getting home but now has lost 20 pounds and has dropped into oblivion.)
To make an agonizingly long story short, this type of news is not unexpected with him. This time, though, we all had more hope as my parents had put him through an expensive, longer term residential rehab program just a few months ago. It was probably his seventh time, but we all had more hope this time. He had gone to the emergency room for a cut finger (which he almost severed on a broken beer bottle) only to lose it in the ER and attack a bunch of medical staff and end up in jail, where he had mulitple seizures and was taken to the hospital again to suffer more seizures and an extremely painful detox process. When I went to the hospital to see him, the nurse told me that if he ever has to detox like this again, he is likely not to make it because he has done such severe damage to his system.
I hadn’t been in touch with my brother before that, really, because of this crazy roller coaster he’s put us all on over the years. Watching him disrespect my parents, not caring when he lost custody of his disabled son, not caring about anyone. Constantly waiting for the phone call that he’s dead or in jail. But this time I felt moved to visit him in the hospital and I wasn’t sure why. I spent the whole day with him and it was like I saw the true him shining through. He told me that he had attempted suicide in the jail because the detox hurt so badly. He told me he cried out to God, and that soon afterward he was embraced by a warm light and a feeling of peace. He said that feeling saved his life and that he would never drink again. That he knew he had a purpose and a reason to live. I believed him, even though I usually wouldn’t. So we sent him to the program. “One last time,” we told him, our hearts full of hope.
It’s hard not to scream, to run, to cry, to pull my hair out, to be so angry at him. It’s hard not to drink. Why the hell not? It’s certainly not ME who has given up my child, who has been convicted of felonies, who has shot up drugs in my arms. It’s not ME who has lost all control, lost all my friends and family, who has been to rehab seven times and never stayed clean. My issues are not even a wildflower in the landscape of my brother’s problems. It almost feels even more like I’m being ridiculous for entertaining the thought that I have a problem in the shadow of all that. But here’s the thing. I still get to choose to not drink if it’s not right for me. I still get to love myself that much, even if my brother can’t find love for himself. I can choose to let him live his life his way and know that I have done what is possible to help even if it has not worked, even if it hurts.
Lots of challenges today between this sad news, hearing my parents’ despair and being unable to help, and having a party to host tonight. But in this moment, I get to write stuff down and put it out there, and that does make me feel stronger. And if I can make it through today, I can truly make it through anything. Tonight will strengthen my sober muscles. Gonna be a good workout but day 4 awaits me on new years morning. 🙂