Wednesday, May 18, 2016


The past few years I've been very, very close to addiction.  My brother, my only full sibling, is a meth addict.  He has been for years.  I first learned of his addiction almost 9 years ago at a birthday party I had thrown for my aunt.  His then-wife came to me and told me that he had been arrested, that he was in trouble.  Until that moment, I really had no idea what was happening. 

My brother and I grew up in the same house.  He was 4 and a half years older than me.  We were never close as children.  We did not spend a lot of time together.  My brother was rebellious.  He didn't like school.  He had lots of friends, but they weren't my friends.  I was a rule follower.  I didn't like conflict and I wanted desperately to please my parents.  When he was 18, he moved out and worked a few jobs before my dad helped him get a great job.  He excelled at the job.  He made lots of money.  He married his high school sweetheart and had a few kids.  I was closer to his children that I ever was to him.

Fast forward.  I went away to college and then law school.  I never again lived in our hometown, which he never left.  The friends I made as a child were no longer my primary support system, and neither was my family.  I built a life, a family and community elsewhere.  I married, and started my own family.  I would spend time with his children, but he worked a lot, so we didn't really connect very often.  When we did see each other - the occasional wedding, funeral, Christmas dinner, we made small talk.  We didn't dislike each other, but we had very little in common.  We never really knew each other.

Then, everything changed.  In 2005 he quit his job and decided to operate a strip club.  He began actively lying to our parents, but somehow thought he and I should be on the same page and I should help him deceive them.  His behavior seemed increasingly erratic.  One moment he was talking a mile a minute and the next he seemed to be so tired he couldn't stand up straight.  He seemed volatile and unpredictable.  Still, I didn't really suspect drug use. 

In early 2006, he showed up at my house late one night to show me a contract.  He wanted me to review it.  I was 8 months pregnant with my son.  My brother was all over the place.  It was then I first got the eery feeling something was really wrong.  He came to the hospital the day after my son was born.  He was again all over the place, ranting and raving about how he wanted to kill our father.  I knew then something was seriously wrong. 

In June, 2006, I found out he had been using and selling drugs.  His wife told me.  In the car, on the way to try and see if I, as a lawyer, could see my brother.  She was crying, and knew things had spiraled out of control.  I had no idea just out of control things would get.

My brother spent the next year continuing to use, lie, hide from the authorities, and ultimately he was sentenced to federal prison.  The rest of the family spent that year trying to get him help (my parents paid for a lawyer and rehab) and trying to understand how things ever got this out of control.

I was at a distance from a lot of it.  I still lived an hour away, and while I spent time with my parents and niece and nephew, I wasn't living it every day.  I went to see my brother sporadically with my parents when he was being held, and ultimately in the federal prison camp he went to.  I listened to him talk, and hoped he had beat his addiction.  But, I had my doubts from the beginning.  He talked a lot about the raw deal he got.  About the dirty cops and the dirty lawyers.  He talked like he was still using.  It was everyone else's fault or issue.  I worried about what would happen when he was released.

After he was released from prison and living in a halfway house, I hoped that perhaps he had softened some.  And it seemed he had.  But then the cycle started all over again.  The signs of his use, the lying.  But now, add to it the stealing, manipulation and blaming.  He has stolen from my 84 year old father, his 17 year old son and probably from various others I don't know about.  He manipulates the truth, and has cut off ties with me to the degree he can.  He treats my mother, the one person who has continually tried to support him, with disdain and contempt.  He will likely wind up back in prison as he is on probation and has tested positive four times for drug use. 

What I'm about to say probably seems harsh.  And it is.  And I have no excuse for it, nor do I want to feel this way.  But there are days, more often than I'd care to admit, that I wish my brother was dead.  The havoc he has wrecked on my family and in particular his own children and my parents is something I can't quite forgive.  My parents have systematically sold anything they think he can steal, sell or otherwise ruin.  They lock their home now.  This is something they have never done in my nearly 40 years.  They lock it so their son won't steal more possessions from them.  He has stolen money, my dad's guns (which belonged to his late father), but mostly he has stolen their peace.  My mother doesn't sleep well.  My father worries that he will bury his son.  And what's worse is he tries to guilt them at every turn so he can manipulate more money from them.  He lies to them continually.  He has told his son that if he stops using meth, he will kill himself.  He has told his daughter she is a worthless piece of trash. 

And honestly I'm tired.  I'm tired of worrying about our next family event and whether my brother will (1) show up or (2) show up high or (3) steal something or (4) make everyone feel bad.   It's a strange place to be.  I don't know my brother.  Perhaps I never did.  But it's extremely hard for me to find compassion for him.  I want my parents to have peace in their lives.  I want his children to have peace in their lives.  And at this moment, I don't think that's possible if he's alive.

I suppose more than anything I wish I knew how to magically fix it all.  What could I do to make him see that he needs to get cleaned up?  Is there something I'm missing?  I wish I didn't feel the way I do.  But I also know this is no time to be dishonest about where things stand. 

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