A sister recounts her experience of growing up with her brother, denying his drug use and coming to terms with his progress in recovery.
Growing up my brother and I were never friends, we were never close, we never hung out. I always attributed our arguments to just being “regular siblings.” Once we got into high school things got really bad. I would tell myself that if it came down to the wire he would be there for me, as I would him, but deep down I didn’t believe it. I had a brother, yes, but I didn’t want anything to do with him. When my friends would ask about how my brother was, I would say he sucked and he was the worst brother ever. I often wished I didn’t have a brother; I figured one less self-absorbed jerk in my life would be great! Once he left for college though I found myself missing him, I wanted him to come home and to see him. The same thing was still true when I left for college. Anytime I would come home, I would ask my parents if my brother was going to be there also.
I would always be excited to see my brother, until I actually got to see him. Things would be great for about 5 minutes, and then I would realize that he was still a jerk, and I would be ready for him to leave. One time I do remember him being a decent brother was when he was drunk. We had been talking about movies earlier and he offered to load up my hard-drive with a bunch of movies and music from his files. I was really excited because this was one of the first nice things he had offered to me in a long, long time. He was normally a pain while around, never thinking about anyone but himself. Each time he left though I would always find excuses as to why he was a jerk and wish I had more time with him.
My parents had known the reality of his addiction for a long time; they just chose to keep me in the dark about it. During the summer of 2011 they were finally able to get my brother into New Life House, and they still hadn’t told me anything about it. I kept asking if he was going to be able to come home for summer, even for a weekend. Finally they sat me down and told me the truth about him and where he was: a drug addict who was in a sober living home. I didn’t really know how to react, I was floored by the information that I had so easily pushed out of my mind for years. Everything made sense in that moment, all the dots finally made a picture. I wanted to see my brother, to see for myself the reality in which I had avoided.
I honestly don’t remember how I felt the first time I went up to see him, my mind was running. I do remember thinking that he looked the same, though. I had created this picture in my mind of my brother being the stereotypical junkie; sunken eyes, blotchy skin, and unhealthily skinny. He just looked like my brother to me. I sat through the meetings, heard the stories of other families, and saw various guys getting talked to about their addiction. After a few times of going to the house and seeing my brother I had some confidence that he might actually be changing.
I was excited, but at the same time scared that it was only temporary and he would relapse. Late one night I was lying in bed thinking about the possibility of a relapse and realized that I didn’t want to go back to that life, having an addict brother whom I didn’t want around. I finally had begun to have a real relationship with my brother, one that I had wanted for so long. I was so scared, and so unsure of what would happen, the thought of losing my brother again was unbearable. Crying and afraid, I woke up my parents. They reassured me that he was in a good place, and not to worry about him. The house would take care of it all. They said they were scared too, but this was something that my brother had to do on his own. I hated that I couldn’t help him, but understood.
Over time the fear subsided, I saw new guys come into the house and I saw older guys move up and graduate. Slowly my brother kept moving up, his sobriety strengthening, our relationship growing. Now, 5 years later, I find myself with a healthy sibling relationship. I can talk to my brother about our lives, how things are going and know I can go to him if I ever need anything. Just the other day he was giving me career and life advice and I took it. Four years ago I would have never thought twice about any advice he had tried to give me, yet here I am now taking it.
Though the road he has taken has been tough and sometimes I wondered how he would ever get here, he’s made it. He never gave up, and my family and I never gave up on him. Today I have a recovering brother whom I love very much, and I’m so grateful to have him, version 2.0. Our relationship is still growing, and I can’t wait to see where the future takes it.
– Alex B., Member of the New Life House Community