A reoccurring theme has presented itself in the tenure of my brother’s heroin addiction. For the past 5 years, my brother has spent Christmas in jail or rehab. This year, it seems it will be jail. I got the call today. He’s in jail. I wasn’t surprised. He’s been living with a co-dependant who has supported his addiction for the past year and a half. It was only a matter of time.
After I got the call I realized that more than once my brother has spent Christmas in jail. I read through this blog and a journal that I write in to confirm this realization. 5 out of 5. He’s spent 5 Christmas in jail.
It got me thinking that somehow, subconciously he is still in there. I’m not sure if this will make sense or not but I’m going to try. Since my brother’s addiction began, he has spent 1 Christmas with my family. He was high, and gave my 2 year old son a pair of 10 year old Burton snowboarding pants, tags on that were obviously stolen. Since then, he hasn’t been to any family holidays. Every now and then my dad will have him at one of his holidays but if my kids are coming, he doesn’t. We never want to take the chance that my brother is fucked up around them.
Heroin isn’t a fan of family Christmas.
Which is what leads me to believe that somewhere, way down, deep inside, the old Andy still exists. The Andy who used to come to all the family gatherings and play cards, tells stories, and have fun. When Christmas comes around, the old Andy momentarily battles the demon Andy (my junkie brother), realizes that the only family he has is heroin, and instead of spending Christmas with heroin, he somehow lands himself in jail or a hospital for the holiday. To me, it’s like the old Andy is subconsciously punishing himself for his addiction.
I know. I’m reaching. Addiction is addiction. Jail is part of addiction. Living with a co-dependant psychopath who feeds you pills and drugs all day is a part of addiction.
I just hope he’s still in there somewhere. I hope someday we get the old Andy back. I’m not sure we ever will but at least for now, I can hope. I can hope that someday he will be in my house, with a family of his own celebrating with mine.
A sister can dream…
6 Months ago I watched my brother almost die. I sat next to his hospital bed, held his puffy hands, and prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Selfishly I prayed for me. I prayed that he would find sobriety so I could have him back in my life. So we could make up for the past 10 years we’ve lost. I prayed that he could find enough good inside himself to want a life free from drugs so my kids could be around the uncle that they love dearly. I prayed that he would live so he could find the happiness I found in this life. I prayed that he could live so my dad wouldn’t have to go thru the crushing trauma of losing a child. I prayed for everything I could think of as I sat there an held his puffy hand. I prayed for everything and everyone but him.
I should have prayed for him.
Addicts don’t have the luxury of praying for themselves. They are consumed by the drug and that obsession cancels out any thought of their own well being. Laying in that hospital bed, my brother felt pain like I will never feel. My prayers belonged with him those days.
Today, 6 months later, my brother is alive. While our relationship is definitely strained, I find myself praying for him daily. My kids and I say a prayer every night for him. We don’t say what we want our prayer to accomplish, we just say we pray for Uncle Andy hoping someday our prayers get answered.
2 months ago I watched my brother almost die. I am still watching him die. Since that day in the hospital, we have learned so much about the past year of my brother’s life. His girlfriend has essentially been keeping him high. She provides him the drugs and he uses. After my brother’s stay in the hospital we all rallied around him in hopes of getting him into a long term treatment program. At first his girlfriend seemed supportive but then we realized that she is the biggest hurtle in his recovery.
She keeps him high.
I have no idea why she does this especially since she is a mother. But she does. She has told us that she knows “what meds” he needs to be on. This is why he carries 10 bottles of psychotropic pills, benzos, xanax, and anything else she will get him in his book bag that never leaves his side. She provides him the demons that fuel his 12 year addiction.
She is sick. He is sick. Together they are a co-dependent tsunami just waiting to destroy.
Last week on my birthday, my brother got on a plane and went to a long term rehab. Today she flew him home. At the rehab he was combative and on all sorts of drugs and had little interest in even trying to get clean.
I am sad but I am not sad. He isn’t the boy I know. My brother died a long time ago and I think it’s about time I get used to that fact.
On Tuesday I found myself racing to the hospital thinking that it would be the last time I saw my brother. This is the first moment I saw him. It’s not an easy image and it was the hardest moment of my life. I put this picture up here because this is what heroin use leads to. This is not an easy image to put up here for all the world to see. People may judge. People may shake their head in disgust. But this is the reality of heroin addiction. It’s not pretty. It’s not glamourous. It’s not cool. It fucking thrives on human life and it takes no prisoners. No matter who you are. I put this image here to remind me that the moment I thought that my brother was going to die was the worst moment in my life. I put this up here because I want him to see it and never forget it. I want him to remember what it did to him. I may not be able to save my brother but I know that using my voice to talk about heroin addiction is important in this very public health crisis. I put this up here because maybe somewhere someone else’s sister thinks their brother has a drug problem and maybe this image will help someone else. I put this up here because I want him to save his own life.
For 10 years I have been preparing for his death. Over time I have distanced myself from him thinking it would be easier when the heroin eventually took his life. I enjoyed him when he was sober but stayed away when he used. Now I know that I was wrong to do this.
On Tuesday I picked my daughter up from school. My son had to stay after so we went to go get a snack. My phone rang an unrecognized number, and as I answered I felt my stomach drop. The man on the other end announced himself as a doctor. My brother was in the hospital for a severe case of pneumonia and couldn’t breathe properly. They needed to put him on a ventilator. And because my father was out of town, I needed to give them consent. I asked the doctor “Is this life threatening?”
“Yes it is.”
My breath stopped. “Yes it is.” My stomach ached in pain. “Yes it is.” I pulled the car over, told my daughter I needed a moment. “Yes it is.” I got out and sobbed. “Yes it is.” Barely able to say a word in between sobs of pain and shaking beyond control, I quietly muttered into the phone “yes, do whatever you have to do to save my brother’s life.”
I didn’t know what to do. My body just stopped working. I couldn’t breathe. I could’t move. I slowly got back in my car trying not to scare my daughter but she knew. She knew it was him. We went back to school to pick up my son and quickly made our way downtown to find my brother. The ride was horrible. I have never felt so much pain or hurt. Losing him at the moment was unimaginable, yet I had been preparing for it over the past 10 years. How had this happened? I knew what heroin could do to him. I knew. I kept myself away just so I could avoid feeling this way. You know what? I was wrong. I can’t avoid feeling pain when it comes to my brother just because I keep my distance. I was wrong. I was so wrong.
I love him. I love him for who he once was. I love him as an addict. He is a part of my soul and no matter what I want him to live. Please God let him live.
If he pulls through no matter what, using or clean, I will call him everyday. I will text him everyday. I will tell him I love him no matter what. He deserves that. No matter what.
I am beyond devastated to write this post. You see for the past year my brother had been clean. He was part of a drug court program that drug tested him weekly and had him meet with the judge weekly. This, I believe helped him more than any rehab he has ever been in. He had to be accountable for his sobriety or else he would be thrown in jail for his full sentence of crimes he previously committed. He was doing great, working out, interacting with our family, and really seemed to be on the path of a sober life. It was awesome having him back in my life. I believed he had changed. I believed he had fought the devil and won.
He didn’t win though. As I write this my brother is back to the needle. The lies began about two months ago (weeks after he finished with drug court) as his social media posting began to quickly disappear. You see, my brother has a few tells when he’s using. The first is his lack of social media presence. When he is clean and sober he works out and when he works out he posts lots and lots of pictures. When he doesn’t post, we all know the dope is back in his life as his #1. The second tell is his anger and meanness. Normally he is pretty kind. However on heroin he is a complete asshole. My last interaction with him over text ended with him basically telling me to fuck off. I knew then, he was back only a month away from his 1 year clean date.
I’m bummed of course because for some reason this time it was so different. He was so happy and so alive, I thought there was no way he could reach those dark places that call his name over and over. But he did. And just like that my brother is gone. Heroin wins again.
When the news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose hit the web, my stomach turned. My brother’s face immediately appeared to me in all the PSH news feed and everything I read about the father of three’s overdose felt like I was reading about my brother’s own death. Knowing an addict does this to you. Each death attributed to heroin should have been my brother’s, could have been my brothers, and still could be my brother’s.
Addicts don’t live long and happy lives.
Sober for 23 years and he dies with a needle in his arm and 70 bags of heroin in his house.
Heroin doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t give a shit if you are white, black, famous, poor, married with kids, or a boy who never grew up. Heroin wants you dead. From the first use to the last, the only goal of heroin is to kill you.
When I was growing up I always knew that heroin was a death sentance. I saw Trainspotting in 1995 and the dead baby scene sealed the deal. I would never ever do heroin. I did other drugs though and luckily I made it through the haze. I grew up and left my experimentations with drugs behind.
Others are not so lucky. My brother was not so lucky. After a soccer injury my brother’s doctor prescribed him oxycodone for the pain. He became addicted to the pills and when he couldn’t get any more refills he started buying them on his college campus. His habit was expensive though and when a ‘friend’ introduced him to the cheaper version aka heroin he indulged. That choice has cost him the past 10 years.
Heroin addiction is so hard to understand. Even coming clean doesn’t really mean you are clean. That desire to use never goes away and the addict battles that desire daily. It’s not their fault. The drug takes over the brain and they have no choice.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman had no choice. That lingering pull of the drug never went away and the battle he fought daily to stay sober ended up being a losing battle. The heroin won, it rarely loses.
RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014