My brother gave up 19 years ago on this day. He had actually given in many years before, given in to alcohol and drug use, given in to stealing from family and abandoning his child, given in to a selfish life that promises everything and delivers nothing. He didn’t begin with those goals, no one does. He also didn’t grab the help that was offered, he didn’t fight for himself, for a life that included the ability to look others in the eye. He gave up on this day 19 years ago but it all began with his first beer, the first time he smoked a joint. I am not convinced how much choosing he did after that, I understand the genetic component. Sometimes it works that way for kids. Others can try it out and walk away. Some kids try it once, not believing the warnings, and find themselves on a path not glamorous or exciting, rather it includes such disillusionment that they themselves become the warnings. They are the mugshots, they are the newspaper obituaries.
When my Arrow was in rehab we heard the mantra that addiction leads to one or all of these three places: jails, institutions, death. We are thankful that we have only experienced the first two with our son, my brother lived out all three. I have many friends who visit the gravesite of their children, not so lucky as us. The substances my brother chose back then were not so lethal immediately, more of a slow destroyer. Today a first dabble can be the last. Terrifying.
I heard a story this week of a young man who dabbled and lost. A young man who did not fit any addiction profile, a guy with everything ahead of him. Well-loved, highly educated, active in sports, he made the choice to experiment. One time. That one attempt led to a bad trip which escalated quickly, he grabbed a gun from the family home and now his community mourns the loss of all that he could have been. They mourn the suddenness, they grieve the finality. My heart is aching for this family and so many families across our nation. I wish I had some answers, some way to break the spell that drugs and alcohol have on our young people. I have nothing.
Nineteen years ago my brother closed himself in a garage and stopped fighting the demons that had taken over his life. He couldn’t find a way back to the person he wanted to be, he couldn’t find any way to transform his soul into something good when the last 2 and half decades had been so ugly. I can’t honestly say I would have been able to guide him back, I had taken his calls too many times and was too angry myself. Yet I still mourn the loss of him, the him he could have been if he hadn’t started using at age 12, the potential he never saw. I think that part is just a dream for me, wisps of fantasy that surround the memories of my brother. I no longer really know who he was, the real stories are just so horrible.
My Arrow sent me a picture this week of the rehab center he attended several times, said he drives by it everyday on his way to work. Today I am grateful for that, the gift of a route that takes him by what could be, what has been. Today I am beyond thankful that he is still able to send me pictures. I am praying for all those who are not so blessed. I am praying for all those who are still in the struggle. I am praying especially for all those who think it is worth their lives to give any of it a try. I also am beseeching our God to show us a way out of this. To help us support those on the front lines, the counselors and providers, and to unite our country around the goal of saving our children.
What used to be a nasty little family secret now is so prevalent that it no longer shocks. That is shocking in itself. I don’t have any other answers, I only have memories. I know that 19 years ago my brother gave up. There are many others that still have a chance.