patient, kind, [not easy.]

17 Sep

If you asked me a few years ago what I thought my brother’s heroin addiction would teach me, I never would have answered, “love.”

You could probably say that he was always the problem child. In fact I bet my parents would say that. My mom says he was the only one of three kids who did not sleep through the night as a baby. I can remember fits of rage early on; by the time he reached middle school he could easily be described as angry. He would stomp and groan and sometimes hold his breath until he passed out, just to spite my parents for their chosen punishment.

And he would flip so quickly that sometimes I would do a double take. One minute he would be laughing or telling a joke, and then all of a sudden he was angry, yelling, cursing at anyone in the room. His vivacious personality was a curse like that; when he was good, we were all good. When he wasn’t, well, the world didn’t feel right.

I think it started out as bipolar disease. How weird is it when someone you know and love becomes symptoms on a page? Like the situation is as simple as the black ink on the white paper. His mood swings were volatile. Even before he reached high school we all knew it was going to be very hard taming his fire.

I was too involved in my high school drama to spend any spare time investing in being his older sister. We fought a lot and he knew how to pierce my soul in the tender spots; the fat jokes or the threats to tell my parents about my boyfriend were enough to make me vomit bricks of resentment.

And oh, how quickly that wall builds.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with him, and I didn’t really ever ask how he was doing. There is no way to say for certain what could have been prevented by my efforts, but the question remains – what more could I have done as a big sister? That thought alone is enough to tear walls inside of my heart.

I remember he stole some items from a nearby pharmacy. They didn’t press charges, but they trespassed him from their property. That was the first interaction we had with the police. Soon they came to know my parents by name because of how frequently they visited our light blue house on the corner.

He became depressed a some point in that cloud of time. He would just cry because of his fears or worries or anxiety. He saw therapists, swallowed pills, and progressively got worse. I think it was the slow progression of his downfall that eroded my family’s spirit. And they drew lines, to keep him in check. But I watched those lines fall shamelessly. They wanted to help him but they didn’t know how.

It got really bad once I left for college in a different state. I almost never kept in contact with him; I heard about his whereabouts from my parents. Slowly the news from them became laced with stories of marijuana usage and the inability to hold a part-time job. By the beginning of my sophomore year he got expelled from high school for drug possession and behavior issues. It felt earth shattering and I remember falling on the floor in my apartment and telling my roommate that my family was falling apart. I had no idea it was about to get a lot worse.

They say marijuana is a gateway drug. I don’t like the word gateway because it sounds welcoming and warm. Marijuana paved way for my brother to try anything and everything else. It’s unclear when the heroin took over; I’m sure he has no recollection either. This part happened quickly and fiercely with the inexorability of a freight train. And it does everything the experts say it does. And the addicts behave every way the experts say they will. Denial, secrets, lies, bouts of anger. Then comes the money-stealing, the mixed stories, the scars on the wrists and elbows. The pale skin, the sunken eyes, the unbelievably thin frame. It’s all true. It’s the most painful thing in the world to watch someone so precious to you slowly deteriorate in front of your eyes.

My parents’ love never faltered. They gave of themselves in a way that amazes me: steadily and consistently. They allowed him to live in their house with certain restrictions. They set up rules in order to restrict what he could and could not be exposed to, in order to protect him. They answered when he called; they helped him when he needed it.

They were always there. They never interrogated him when he messed up; simply offered their sound wisdom and compassionate help. They desperately tried to get him involved in something he could be passionate about. They bought him a guitar in hopes of its music resounding louder than the cry of his veins for heroin. They never gave up, even when he pawned the expensive gifts for drug money. They disciplined him when he disobeyed, no matter the size of fit he threw. At its worse, they did not allow him into their house. It felt cold to me to try and grapple with understanding how a parent could deny their child space to stay.

But love looks different sometimes.

And grace wears different hats.

Their love sought to correct his path, not always soften the blow. Their aim was to be patient and kind, but firm and guiding. And their grace made it possible to believe that there would be good to come from all of this. But it was so, so hard.

I’m sure when they decided to be parents, they had no idea that this could be a possibility. I’m sure they thought it would be hard at times, but overall it would be easy.

Love is not easy; it is relentless. My parents have taught me that.

Sometimes I think about the internet, and how forgiving it is. It’s like the perfect parent. You can ask any question, type in anything, and it finds you the answer. It doesn’t demand a good reason for your question but rather allows you to explore the questions, easy and hard. It doesn’t interrogate you about the answer you choose. And it doesn’t ask you to prove what you do with your findings. It simply asks how else it can help. And it’s always there. It gives you helpful tools to find answers to life’s hard questions. It allows restrictions on what you can and cannot be exposed to, in order to protect you.

I think love is a little bit like that. Always accepting, always searching, always trying tirelessly to find answers. Placing restrictions when we are too weak to know what we should and should not be exposed to. Always forgiving, and always protecting.

I wish this ended with a sunrise. I’m sure there will be one day. Or maybe it’s already warming our cheeks and we are too distracted to see it. But I guess that’s the beauty of a sunrise: you get another chance to see it every day.


2 Responses to “patient, kind, [not easy.]”

  1. Joel September 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Some of your experiences with this hit somewhat close to home with me as some friends and non-immediate family members have very similar issues. I’m keeping your family in my heart and know that God has his focus on reconciliation and healing for you and your brother.

  2. sarasmitty22 September 23, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    i love you, your family and your words.

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