Today is my brother's birthday and this morning I find myself missing him dearly. He is celebrating his birthday in Texas where he is in the midst of a personal war with addiction. Although I haven't seen him years, we used to be close. I have scores of precious childhood memories shared with him. Then addictive substances entered into his life, and the brother that I knew growing up vanished, leaving a monster in his wake.
I haven't written about my brother in the past, telling myself that it was out of a quest to reserve his privacy. It is only recently that I realized that my silence was stemmed in shame. He should have known better; he should have been stronger; we should have intervened sooner. In some situations, hindsight only increases the pain. Letting go and letting him battle his demons has changed everybody in our family.
I have come to accept that I need to let him fight his battle and hope that someday he will return to my life. I will always keep my arms open but my heart guarded. The pain of watching him slip into relapse is torturous. I will never give up hope because in this situation, that is really my only option.
I turned 40 and realized that I no longer have a need to hide behind social conventions. So many are living through similar battles in our families, yet we are mute on the issue. In my situation the silence stemmed from embarrassment. I'm not embarrassed by my brother. I have seen him journey through hell as he fought to become and remain sober. I realized that the embarrassment rose from the desire to convey a mythical vision of family life.
Our family is not perfect. We are a group of flawed individuals who are trying to muddle our way through life. We are most certainly not the Cunningham's (from Happy Days, my standard of familial perfection as a child.) I'm tired of trying to conceal our dysfunction. Hiding in shame and embarrassment is only perpetuating the isolation that those who love an addict suffer.
My brother is fighting addiction, and I still I love him dearly. Sometimes I am so angry at him I want to pull my hair out. At other times my heart breaks when I reflect on the potential that is lost. Through all the tears shed and sleepless nights, I will always hope that this time he will find his way to recovery. I doubt he'll have a birthday cake this year, so I'll make his birthday wish on his behalf. May this year be the one in which he recovers.
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