It is also so much more than that. These women are my lifeline, my heroes, and my healers.
Yesterday, I was moved to tears. I heard one of our ‘sisters’ tell the story about how she became an addict and how she had healed herself. Her story was so incredible. It was powerful. It was not my story to tell, so I won’t even try. But if you heard what this woman has been through in her life, it would tear your heart out. It also reminded me of my brother, who had a very serious opiate addiction in his late twenties.
It was such a dark time for our family. For a span of about five years, my life was haunted with loss and tragedy. I had a miscarriage. I got a puppy. The puppy died. I had another miscarriage. Adopted a dog. The dog died. My husband’s best friend died. His grandma died. We lost our jobs because America was dying too. And throughout all of this turmoil in my life, I was in a constant state of worry about my brother. I was always waiting for the call that they had found him in a ditch or in a crack house somewhere. He had a very serious drug problem. It was agonizing to watch. He just kept slipping away from us. There was a strange vacancy in his eyes. His addiction carved us all hollow. His wife was exhausted, raising two children while the man of her dreams was eclipsed out by a monster. His young daughter was grieving her hero. Her dad was as big as a tree and had always been as solid as oak. Now he was vanishing before her eyes. His son, too small to know what he was born into, began his life in a world of stress.
Every time my phone rang, my heart stopped in anticipation of the news. I thought for sure he would kill himself. I hate to admit this now, but there were times I wished for it. I couldn’t take the pain of watching his family fight the endless forfeiting battle of his sobriety. I just wanted it all to be over. Watching him hurt himself was hard enough. Watching him lie over and over was even harder. But the most difficult part was understanding that the lies were part of his disease. They weren’t him. His brain had been hijacked by a craving so strong, I could never understand. He was like a zombie. I hated him for what he had become. But it was not him, it was his disease. That was a hard concept to grasp. And I feel guilty for the anger I felt back then.
His addiction shredded our family to pieces. I remember watching my mom break down crying in the hardware store when she and my dad had to buy new locks because they couldn’t trust their own son. We argued often about the best way to deal with his issues. I am a fixer. If something is broken, my brain will automatically explore every opportunity in search of a solution. But he couldn’t be fixed. I know, because I had tried everything. I called the doctor who was giving him pills and threatened him into hiding. I gave him healing crystals. I called his therapist. I tried getting him to switch to pot. I was at a loss for hope. His addiction was so strong, it stripped away his ability to feel. He numbed himself right out of our family. He couch surfed or slept in his truck and bounced from house to house. I have no idea what he did or where he slept during most of this time. Sometimes he landed in my home. I liked when he was there, because that’s when I knew he was safe. Dropping him off at rehab was always a relief as well. We were always able to grab onto some hope after he walked through those doors at Sacred Heart.
I believe it took him five or six stays in rehab before a light finally went off. Something clicked. He claims it was Jesus. He got clean. And this time he kept up with it.
Our luck had begun to change. It was at this time that I also carried my fourth pregnancy into the very hopeful second trimester. A pregnancy filled with terror, as I spotted in the beginning. I had to have surgery halfway through. And I slid into home base with a bad case of preclampsia. But in November of 2008, I gave live birth to a very healthy baby girl.
My brother has now been clean for a little over seven years. His entire life has shifted to help others who suffer from the disease of addiction. He works diligently in the trenches of society, serving his lord and savior. He is doing good things. He is doing the dirtiest work of today’s society. I could not be more proud of his ability to mold his own personal tragedy into a healing force that can not be compared.
My eight year old daughter thinks he is the funniest guy in the world. I’m not really close with him. In fact, I usually only see him at holidays and birthday parties. His lifestyle is much different than mine. He disagrees with almost everything I believe in. And that’s okay with me. Because every time I see my daughter and him pick on each other, I am reminded of a time when I didn’t think either one of them would be around. It’s amazing to see a happy ending unfold in a real life. I feel blessed beyond words.