Twenty-three years ago today, my oldest brother Steven died from a grand mal seizure in a detox center caused by withdrawal’s. My mother had flown out the night before to visit both of my brothers who had moved to Colorado about a year earlier. My middle brother M was getting married and my oldest brother Steven had moved into an apartment. He was a long time abuser of drugs and alcohol. He knew my mother was coming and desperately tried to get himself together before she arrived. It was not going well. I guess it dawned on him he was going to need help, so he checked himself in to detox. My mother arrived that night, spoke with him on the phone and told him she would see him in the morning. She was going to make it happen no matter what. He died that night alone in his bed. They did not discover him until the early morning. My mother was devestated. She blamed herself. I can clearly remember having a mom before Steven’s death and after Steven’s death. The “after” mom was not the same woman. I miss the “before” mom.
I remember my father calling me, crying so hard I could barely make out what he was trying to tell me. My first thought was…I new this call was coming. My first feeling? Relief and then an assault of crippling guilt that I felt relief. My brother was not going to suffer anymore because make no mistake he suffered like so many of our addicts. My parents were not going to cry and wonder where he was and how he was doing. They would not have to take any calls in the middle of the night. They would never have to pick him up at the police or pay for another lawyer. I was so young and immature that I truly thought everyone’s suffering would end? What the hell was I thinking?
I have wondered if God tested my faith with J. Forcing me to learn a lesson that I could not grasp at the time. I had no hope for my brother. The only brother I new was the one that tortured my parents and the rest of us by his behaviors. I thought he was selfish and if he loved us he would just stop. Now I realize, where there is life there is hope but I had given up on him long ago. I didn’t want to have hope…I just wanted it all to stop.
I don’t believe that addiction is a choice anymore. Maybe that first initial experiment with drugs or alcohol is a choice, but at some point for many a switch is thrown and it is not about choice anymore, they are sick. Many of us experimented with no consequences…why do some fall directly into a downward spiral into hell? Who would choose to live in hell? It has to be a disease.
I think I cling to hope with my son because I gave up on my brother. I realize now I let him down. I was 8 years younger then he was, I would like to blame it on that but I am not sure that is fair. I think I just wasn’t ready to forgive. I judged and condemned my brother. There was no room for hope…and for that I ask God to forgive me. Lesson learned.