My brother is an addict.
When I was in high school, he lived with us in our mid-sized, split level home tucked away in a cozy cul-de-sac. I remember my mom begging him to stop, I remember police officers knocking on our door, I remember finding needles in his room while looking for good CD’s to borrow. I remember all of the times he got busted, resulting in weekend trips to the jail to watch my brother chant with 30 other men while they were shackled to each other. I remember being so happy to see him. I remember one time when my mom and I took him to get money from “a friend” one Saturday afternoon, she ending up throwing him out of the car because he hadn’t gotten money, he scored drugs instead. All of these things continued and situations escalated until one day, he disappeared.

For three years.

When talking to people, my mom would mention her daughters, but never that she had a son. If someone asked, she turned the conversation I a different direction. For three years, I had no idea if my brother was alive. Was he? Or was he in jail, or running from the cops, or homeless, or what? I didn’t think of him every day, but I thought of him often. Honestly, though, I moved on with my life. I fell in love, moved in with my boyfriend, got a dog, got another dog, and had a badass career as a flight attendant. If I ever saw him again, I don’t even know if I would have any questions to ask him. I was at peace, for the most part.

One day, when I was taking my new puppy to the vet for her check up, I got a phone call from my mom. I answered on Bluetooth in my car, and she said: “Hi. Your brother called me. He’s alive. He’s doing really well, and he wants to talk to you.”

My heart nearly stopped. All these years, and my brother had not overdosed and ended up in a ditch like my mom morbidly verbalized over and over again. She said he was “doing well?” What did that mean? Interestingly enough, this isn’t the point or even the meat of the story.

Turns out, my brother had come to the realization that he needed to get himself clean, and as my family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional, there was no way that he could successfully get clean while under my parent’s roof. So he left my parent’s house, he worked the system, and he got clean. He had been sober for over 2 years, and he had a job where he was making enough money to pay for a lawyer, get all of his felony charges down to a misdemeanor (thirty thousand dollars, from my understanding) and start a new life. At this point, he was already almost 40 years old, and he knew that he could live a normal life if he buckled down and did it for himself. He had it in him, and he wanted to get help, to get clean. So he did.  

Years later, my brother and I talk often. He’s got his own apartment, his own group of non-recreation-drug user friends, a job where he is comfortable, and I’m proud of him.

But here’s the problem-

My sister is an addict.

More specifically, my sister is an alcoholic.

When she was 19 years old, my sister married the love of her life. He was 21. They’ve now been married for 22 years. A couple of years ago, I started getting phone calls from my mom and dad. They would ask me if I had spoken to my sister in the middle of the day because her boss called (her boss is a family friend of my father’s) and she had not returned to work from her lunch break.

That day, my mom went to her house and found her sleeping in her bed. She was just tired, she said. Didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Following that, her behavior started to become increasingly troubling. She would stop showing up for work, she would have bruises all over her body from “running into something” on her jog or “falling” on her bike ride or while walking her dogs. She stayed tight-lipped about what was going on in her life, and critical of everyone else’s lives.

One week in September (in south Florida, it’s HOT) the A/C took a dump in my second floor condo that I shared with my boyfriend and our dog. Being that it was unbearable to stay in a house that got up to 90 degrees, we packed a bag and went to my sister’s for the night. We played a board game and had cocktails. Before we went to bed, my boyfriend was pouring a final drink for himself. (Note: he had a drinking problem too, but this story isn’t about that.) My sister watched him pour the vodka into his glass, she took the glass out of his hands, she mumbled “sorry” and she chugged. The. Whole. Thing. All of it. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I let it go, not knowing the extent or the severity of the problem, or how exponentially it would end up growing in the coming years.

My boyfriend turned into my husband and then eventually the cheating bastard became my ex-husband, and I confided in my sister, but my sister never talked about her problems. But she did tell us when she had a miscarriage. She was in her mid-thirties, and her husband and her had never had children. They claimed they didn’t want them, but when she got pregnant, the energy changed. Everyone was happy. I was thrilled for them! Unfortunately, her body failed her and they lost the baby. The devastation was insurmountable, but we banded together as one big dysfunctional family and we loved each other fiercely and we kept going.

Only, she got worse.

Fast-forward to after her multiple weeks of missing work. She eventually got fired after 20 years of working at the same office for the same boss doing the same job. Shortly after this, her husband and her sold the house that they had lived in for over 18 years. My sister was crumbling and everything in her life was spiraling downward.  

When I got pregnant, my sister shut down with my completely. She said nasty, hurtful things to me, and eventually, I had my sweet Wesley and my sister continued to put drinking on her list of top priorities, added to lying, stealing, and being an outright monster. Eventually, she disappeared, too.

Then she came back, this time, with an even worse drinking problem. She has now been in and out of rehab seven times, she’s tormented my parents while they tried to help her, and she’s chosen to frequent the local Walmart garden center and sleep in the mulch rather than get herself up and get help. She says she doesn’t need help, and she says she doesn’t want it. Her husband left her. He’s turned into a bitter, angry asshole, and he wants nothing to do with her or anyone associated with her. Sometimes, she will get two or three days sober, then, she will start repeating herself and acting like a mentally incompetent idiot who doesn’t know how to form a sentence, and all is lost again.

Somehow, I gained my brother back and lost my sister, and part of me doesn’t even know why I’m writing this. I have a full-time job working for a part of the government (a City) and I have the most amazingly precious little boy and a (fairly) supportive partner and a roof over my head, but I WORK for it. I work my ass off. I battle anxiety and I constantly have to talk myself out of my sadness. I’m so mad. I’m mad at her, and mad at her disease, and mad at everything. And I don’t want to be mad, I want to be supportive, but it’s so hard. My priority is my son and keeping him safe, and not allowing him near any volatile situation. I’m at a loss.

My life has been full of happiness and sadness, it ebbs and flows just like everything. Writing helps me to put the pieces together, but I still haven’t figured out what kind of puzzle I’m working on. As for me now, I’m going to continue to make my son my priority. I love my sister, but I don’t know the real her anymore. I will miss her, and I hope that one day I will see her again.

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