Saturday, January 27, 2007

He Ain't Heavy (Pt II)

I wrote another post in response to this really great one over at whitenoise's place. But, in all honesty, I'm getting tired of blowing my own horn, hearing all about me, the superhero and I'm nauseating myself so I want to talk about something else. I'm sick of me. So I'll save it and we'll see later. I sometimes need to shut myself off.

Now that my brother's coming up to a year clean, I want to relive some of how he got there. It kind of ties in to that other post, which is what got me thinking about it. And I want to document it and maybe even show it to him one day (maybe), because he remembers none of this.

A bit of history - "D" and I grew up in a pretty good family in a little fishing/farming community. Everyone knew everybody else and the parents all drank together. The kids would be thrown together in the basement to riot. We loved it.

Looking back, I don't know what happened to us all as we got older (teens). Drugs ran rampant through our crowd and several from the old neighbourhood have since died...most OD'd (some leaving children behind), two shot themselves and one hung himself. And then there was my bridge jumping friend who remains a mystery...he was found under a log boom.

I won't go into details, but mine was a very tumultuous past of which I came out unscathed. I was lucky. Let's just say I went from a straight A goody goody to a holy terror that shouldn't have ever survived my teen years. We'll leave it at that.

I always thought my brother was "the good one", "the quiet one". I certainly wasn't. But D sort of slid under the radar. Went unnoticed. When he was young he was a star athlete - captain of the lacrosse team, QB of the football team (and he was tiny) and pitcher on the baseball team. As he grew up, he was loved by all..he was so personable and had a wicked sense of humor. He was a talented artist, focusing mostly on nature and wildlife. A marksman. A dead eye pool player that could hustle anyone down at the local bar. And continued his pitching into adulthood to be a known pitcher who was always being picked up by teams to play in tournaments throughout the province. He had it all going for him. And I was the wild one. Or so I thought.

FF and D found himself a nice girlfriend, had a child and bought a little house. And things went to shit. I didn't know why - it wasn't my business...but I'd learn years later. D was an addict.

Years of denial (both on his part and ours) lead him along his path of destruction. And he and I fell out of touch a bit - not for any other reason than I was wrapped up in my own life/kids and we never seemed to have time to connect, other than the occassional football game together. But he knew I loved him. I did special things for him and always made sure I celebrated his birthdays/Christmas with him. But, eventually, D was pretty much gone out of my life other than this and I really didn't know why or how it happened. It just did.

I sometimes resented him because he wasn't there for our parents through the rough spots as they got older. He was totally wrapped up in himself. And it all came to a head a couple of years ago when we got Dad's cancer diagnosis.

I had turned into a responsible adult. Don't ask me how, but I did. I focused on my (then) husband (that's a whole other story), my kids, my dog (who had a stroke) and my parents. D apparently focused on nothing.

Dad's ordeal was traumatic - we damn near lost him. And as he lay dying (we thought), D bottomed out. Badly. As I nursed Dad through his chemo I fought D and his addiction. I was quickly learning how bad it really was. He lost his job and moved into a crackhouse with a girl he'd met there. But he'd alternate back and forth between living at home, in the parent's basement and staying at said crackhouse. And he'd drag "her" along with him.

It was stressing Dad out. Drug dealers were calling the house, threatening him. She was stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. They were running up bills/debt. Dad eventually threw them both out...tough love, as they call it. And they went to the crackhouse and probably would've finished their days there. But one day Dad called me and said, "we've gotta' get them out of there. Stuff's going down". And it was.

I borrowed my neighbour's van and we headed over there. As we approached the driveway, a dude came out and behind him limped a dog, paw bleeding. I immediately asked what happened and he said there'd been a "showdown" the night before and it was ugly. That the guys would be back and they were all clearing out. Another guy came from out back and I knew him from the old neighbourhood. He'd also been in the treatment centre I'd worked in and he obviously had relapsed. He told me guns and baseball bats would be involved. No more info was needed - the broken windows and pandemonium convinced us to hustle out of there. I remember that she was taking hits inside as we were tying stuff onto the roof of the van and ready to leave....D was calling her and telling her to get her ass out there or we were leaving. She stumbled out and we flew out of there. I was driving/crying over the dog that I'd wanted to take with us. There wasn't room.

D and she found their own place and not much changed. Different address, same shit. Getting worse each day.

Again them "running" and eventually coming back to Mom and Dad's. Dad was still involved in chemo and was having some complications. And D was a fucking nightmare.

Without the details, I threw him out when Dad returned to hosptal for a stint. He was supposed to be "helping" me care for Mom and I was having to care for them instead...they were a mess. He was defensive, belligerent and completely wasted. It was a really traumatic scene, the day I had him taken out of Mom and Dad's house. But it had to be done. Literally, I was finished after that for awhile. Done. Deflated, sad and angry. He was my brother and I loved him but he was killing us. And himself.

He didn't want help so we couldn't do a thing...that's how it works. We had to cut ties (Mom never could). But somehow, over time, he still managed to work his way back in and come home in a pinch. And the dealers always knew to call/threaten him when he was at Dad's. They easily tracked him down there. Several times Dad (and I - he didn't know that I followed him in my car to make sure he was alright) went and paid them off in dark alleys. And told them to stay the hell away from us, that it was the last payment they'd get out of him. The last interaction like this I remember all too well - it was right up the street from their place and I sat in the parking lot at the DQ across the street, crying in my car and thinking how awful it was that my Dad had to do this. A 70 year old man who'd done chemo that day, standing in a dark back alley, waiting to pay off crack dealers. Bullshit, that's what it was.

Life was very confrontational at that point. Dad and I were the glue that held each other together. Mom - well you know her situation. But she never judged/turned on D. She'd never do the tough love shit. That was her son, matter what. She handed him money and pleaded with him to quit and he'd make her laugh then head out the door to get high with her cash. When I'd say "Mom, why do you give him money, he's killing himself?" she'd say "well I know that if he doesn't have it (the drugs) he probably will. He's my son". She's always been completely devoted to her kids, no matter what. In my insanity she stood by me and although we'd battle it out, she never desserted me. She'd cry and plead but never turn on me (us).

I got tired of hearing stories of D through people he'd been friends with. I didn't want to know anymore - I just needed to know that he was alive. I knew he was bad but I didn't want all the details. They'd all left his side and he was with his "other" friends, the ones he owed money to.

I'd pretty much resorted to the fact that my brother would be gone and I could do nothing to change that. And then something happened. A crisis in his girlfriend's life made her eventually go straight. She got into a program that worked for her and cleaned up and told D he was history..."g'bye". Moved out on her own, close to where she'd received treatment. He chased her around and tried to "hide" his using from her but hey, she'd been an addict. He wasn't fooling her.

And then his son's mother decided it was time to pull the plug and deny access. So he was losing it all. He'd already lost us. Now everyone else was following. And he dropped.

So, here we are now and D's been clean (seriously - no halfways here) a year in May. Not the "clean" like before - where he'd run out of money and supply for a few days. Or try it on his own and fail. Clean all the way. Working some kind of programs (and fully commited to them). Meetings every night...but he loves them - it's not a "I HAVE to go" thing, he wants to go. He sits up at the dyke and pours his heart out in a journal. Draws again. Hunts again (not like the drug hunting - where he and his buddy would ditch Dad and go kneel down in the long grass to get high). Fishes. It took a few months to convince us that he was really in this, that it wasn't just to win back his g/f. But he is - I see it. We talk of some of the incidents that he obviously has no recollection of and he shakes his head and says "was I that bad?". He swears he never wants to be like that again.

But it's never a "done deal" - it's an ongoing thing. And we're quite prepared for the fact that he could relapse some day. But I think we'll know how to right his ship again if he does. For now though, he's just so happy to have his life back - his "real" life. He disconnected from that whole other world and cut every tie - he had to. No turning back. And, at his new job, he's just been promoted to foreman and is raking in the dough. He's happy as shit and has befriended his boss and a couple of other guys there. He's buying himself nice stuff (just bought an HD entertainment system) and he laughs and says "yeah and I'm KEEPING this stuff", meaning he won't pawn it like his other stuff. He's even gone to the pawn shop and got back some of his treasures that were still there. Things can change. And, while we're going through all this stuff with Mom, one of the positives I take out of each day is that I have my brother back!

(This picture was taken at his place on my last birthday....he'd surprised me with a whole bunch of stuff, including this football jersey/team hat that he knew I really wanted. I was completely overwhelmed and I commented to Dad that D had really spoiled me and asked him why he'd bought so much. Dad said he'd told him that he was making up for lost time and for all those years I'd stood by him and never missed his birthday - that it was all the presents he didn't give me. I cried my little heart out. But the best present was having him back)


Anonymous gledwood said...

You're right about the possibility he could relapse any day. That's why NA say ... "I AM an addict" not I used to be.

But hey better to live on a supposed knife-edge than to know you've relapsed!!

4:44 AM  
Anonymous gledwood said...

"A 70 year old man who'd done chemo that day, standing in a dark back alley, waiting to pay off crack dealers. Bullshit, that's what it was."

Actually I don't know what to say to this.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

What an amazing story, Deb. I can't believe how resilient your family is. I wish you all the best.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Gledwood said...

Yes I agree with Barbara (why you looking away from us Barbara?).

Debs I've put you in my links I'm sorry I took a coupla days to do this I can be a bit lame.


8:39 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

hey gledwood....yep, that's the reality of it all, isn't it. never out of the woods. the good part of it with him is that the drug friends at the end weren't really people he enjoyed being with..they were there for one purpose only. so there's not that pull to hang out with them for social purposes like some have.

that was a sad moment watching as Dad tried to clean up the mess that day.

Barb - actually my story is quite common with people from here. Except my parents were involved whereas most others aren't as directly related to what's going on. Resilience would be our strong point now...when I look at the big picture I think I'm fairly strong and could handle just about anything. Funny thing is, not long before this I'd gotten out of my abusive relationship and thought it would be smooth sailing! Didn't quite turn out that way.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

(oh and i should thank you both now for suffering through this long post. and this was me doing short?)

10:30 AM  
Blogger Toccata said...

That was an amazing post Deb. I wish you and your brother all the best. I really hope he makes it.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

thanks toccata...i hope so too. something tells me he will - might be some bumps in the road, but I think he'll be ok.

1:45 PM  
Blogger mellowlee said...

OMG, that WAS an amazing story. It helped me to read about someone else going through some wicked shit too. Congrats to your brother, and big hugs to you xoxox

6:56 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

Mel, so glad you're here. Yep wicked shit about describes it. If I survive this decade I think I'm good. Almost there.

Hey, you know I'm very negligent with emails but feel free to shoot me a line anytime you like...I've actually checked them on occassion lately. Please, I mean it.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

oh, and i forgot a big XXXXXOOOOOOO

(this wv is a funny one)

10:25 PM  
Blogger whitenoise said...

Thanks for the inspirational post, Deb. I was touched and I know your story will linger in my mind over the rest of the day.

I could share some stories, myself, but will save those for another time.

8:13 AM  
Blogger busterp said...

That's certainly a fine line we live with. Could tip either way. Good luck.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

thanks's somewhat "cleansing" to do this...i'm releasing some stuff that's been pent up and then it's time to file it and move forward. i look forward to your stories. i'm kind of tired of hearing myself talk so much.

it is Rob, it is. But life's that way, isn't it? I mean nothing's a day at a time is a good thing to live by. Take nothing for granted.

7:56 PM  

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