It was right in front of the whole time, but I couldn’t see it. Rationalization. Denial. Insanity. All words you hear thrown around before reality sets in. However, the best word to describe that point in my life, confusion. How did our relationship get so bad? What the hell is wrong with me? What is wrong with him? Try harder? Try less? Give him his space? Don’t give him space? It was a tornado of emotions that blinded me from seeing the truth.
I recently came across a letter I sent to my family a few years ago I feel is worth sharing. I was finally at the end of my rope. I remember feeling completely helpless and heartbroken as our relationship continued to dissolve and we continued to grow apart. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to help him. The following is from April 11, 2014, before we had any idea what my little brother was going through. How did I not see the red flags?
“I know how difficult this has been for you. Trust me. Being an older brother has its own unique set of challenges accompanied by an exceptional amount of heartache. Obviously, we all want the best for him. It’s important we keep our heads high and look toward the future. If he continues down this path, any hope of him living a happy and successful life will be dead…
Don’t let him pull at your heartstrings with all of his “issues.” He has to learn to be grateful for his amazing life. We all have social anxiety. We all don’t feel like we are in the right place in life. We all feel left out. We all have insecurities. We all envy someone else. We all compare ourselves to others. We are all human. He has to realize everyone struggles. I, certainly do. He has to learn that life sucks sometimes. I think he might be stuck in the good ol’ days. There isn’t anything wrong with reflecting on our awesome childhood, but being stuck in it is a different story. Coming to the realization childhood is over is difficult. It was great, and I wouldn’t change a thing, but it is over.
He has to start taking responsibility for his life. I don’t know what happened to his motivation, but its gone. He’s constantly isolating himself and isn’t doing anything. He has to learn to prioritize. There is a time to work and a time to play. No one can party all the time! The kids that look like they party all the time are either failing at life, or you just don’t see how hard they work behind closed doors. He has to learn to take responsibility for himself. Grocery shop, clean his room (or at least clean himself), do his laundry, do dishes, get himself water… just basic survival practices would be a good start. He has to learn to make use of his downtime. This is the time to do all of the above… not just lay around on his phone watching YouTube or whatever all day.
I can’t stress this next part enough. Stop. Stop. Stop. Please stop with the prescription drugs for his “anxiety,” or whatever symptom he comes up with. He doesn’t know how to regulate any portion of his life, the last thing we should do is give him something else to regulate. I like to think he looks up to me as a role model, and I believe he used to. Living together has put a serious strain on our relationship. I have transitioned from older brother, to an authority figure he has lost respect for.
The point I am trying to make; it’s not too late. We have to keep that in the front of our mind. Look at the flip side. We could be saying, if only we had done something we would still have him, or he wouldn’t be in jail. It could be worse. Let’s all come together for him.
There isn’t another human being on this planet I care about more. I have, and will continue to put my heart and soul into my brother. Deep breathes. It will all come together.”
A few months later we discovered he was abusing pain medication and heroin. His mental and physical health continued to decline as quickly as our relationship. He manipulated everyone and coasted through a number of short-term rehabilitation programs that promised full recovery in 30/60/90 days… Long story short, these programs proved to be an absolute joke. They provided a simple short-term solution for a complex long-term problem. He had everyone convinced he was sober, but he couldn’t fool me as easily. Like most brothers, we have a special bond, an indestructible closeness; it’s a relationship that endures. I told the family something still wasn’t right. It was only until every member of the family got on the same page, and accepted the severity of his situation, that we were able to send him to a long-term treatment program. Long story short, it was the best thing we could’ve ever done for him.
Fast forward to present day.
I’ve watched my little brother grow into a man I look up to. A man I respect and admire. I no longer fear going through life without him. Instead, I look forward to sharing a future with him. I can’t give New Life all the credit, he had to do the work and bust his ass to get where he is today. However, I can say he wouldn’t be where he is without New Life House and the incredible relationships he has forged within their community.
Derrick, I am blessed to have you in my life.