“My brother, my best friend, has been taken away from me.
As the older sister, I felt it was my job to protect my younger brother. Little did I know, he would be my protector so often throughout life. However, all of that has changed over the last 3 years. I can remember the memories so vividly like they were yesterday. Sitting on the living room floor, playing Mario Kart for hours, constantly fighting over the controller, dodging our dad’s darts in the basement as we threw them at one another thinking we were invisible, creating chewing gum jewelry that was impossible to take off, planning our so-called ‘runaways’ from home when we would get in trouble, or even communicating through the AC vents in our bedrooms after bedtime, not realizing that our parents could hear every word. What about the many times I got told I had to include my brother with me when I was a teenager, or I had to allow him downstairs if I had any friends over. Well, today, I would give anything to relive those memories with him.
You see, addiction has taken my brother from me and I don’t know if I will ever get him back. Almost 7 years ago, I found out I was pregnant with my first and only child. Josh was ecstatic. He was so excited that he was going to be an uncle, let alone an uncle to a little girl. He made the decision to uproot his life and move 1,200 miles to become our full-time ‘manny.’ From the moment he held Annalise in his arms, the love he had for her was indescribable. As a teacher, I had to go back to work in six weeks, and he took on full duty and care of his niece. I would come home, the laundry would be done, bottles would be clean, she was bathed, dressed, fed, the apartment was spotless, you name it, he did it. There was no question in my mind that he was the most amazing brother and uncle that could ever exist. He taught her to crawl, walk, and even mutter her first words. I knew I could count on him and she was safe and sound. Sadly, today, I wouldn’t dare leave her in his care, and this breaks my heart in two.
About 3 years ago, Josh became a different person. He moved back home after taking care of Annalise for a year and a half and he became distant. He was attending school and was doing great at work. But, all of that changed. I started seeing the signs early on. He would call less, didn’t Facetime as much with his niece, and stopped checking in. I knew something was wrong. You see, as a sister, we have a special bond with our sibling. We know when things aren’t right. I reached out to my parents and explained that I thought he may be taking drugs. Well, I was blown off immediately and continuously told, nope, there is no way Josh is on drugs, he is just having a tough time. He lives in our house, we would know if he was on drugs. Denial, for a very long time.
Even 1,200 miles away, I knew Josh needed help. He was getting in some trouble and wasn’t sure how to dig his way out of it. I went through a divorce in December of 2016 and as any daughter would, needed her parents support. Being far away from your family at a difficult time in your life isn’t easy, I needed my mom to visit. By this time, my parents were finally coming to terms with Josh and the changes they were observing. I didn’t realize how bad it was until my Mom came down to Texas in January of 2017. I thought this would be ‘our time,’ as I needed my mom. Little did I know, this would be a melt-down and all about Josh. During her visit, it was constant…Josh this, Josh that, Josh…Josh…Josh. I just couldn’t do it. I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘MOM, YOUR DAUGHTER IS RIGHT HERE! I NEED YOU!’ But, as much as I tried, I felt invisible. He was taking top priority and I was on the back burner. As it continued for the next few months.
I normally don’t go one day without calling my mom, but for the first time in my life, I went weeks without speaking to my her and my dad, except for the occasional text to my dad for a quick I love you. I didn’t care what was going on at this point. I was sick and tired of all focus on Josh and very little or none with me. Here I am working full-time, being a single parent, going to school for my master’s degree, while struggling financially. I felt like I was doing all the ‘right things’ a parent wants to see their child to do, but apparently it wasn’t good enough, or it surely never felt like it. But you see, I was selfish. During this time, Josh was stealing 100’s of dollars from my parents which they don’t have in the first place, stealing items to sell for money, and even selling his own personal belongings for cash only to use the money to shoot up his arm with heroin. At this point I didn’t even know he was doing heroin, I only knew of oxy, but my parents only told my minute details. I was trying to tell them for months that they needed to drug test him, but the denial continued until he finally came ‘clean’ about what drugs he was taking.
During this time, I lost complete trust for my brother. My parents continued to tell me horror stories about the things they would discover, the forgery, the stealing of money, the lies, betrayal, sneaking around, etc. I guess I have that type of ‘hard-love,’ and was angrier than anything. As a sister, I witnessed my parents supporting his habit. He would come up with lies and excuses and they would continue to provide him with the funding, even though they were struggling financially. As their daughter, I wish I could have helped, but all I could do was watch the family go down in turmoil. Mom and Dad were a mess, they were having to sleep with their wallets, change their pin for their debit cards, you name it, he was doing anything and everything to get money to shoot up his arm.
Finally, my parents were able to find a rehab facility for him to attend. Now, don’t forget, this entire time he had little communication with the little girl he once helped to raise. The one that would constantly ask for ‘Uncle Joshie’ every time I called home. As a mom, you can’t explain to a 4-year-old why she can’t talk to her uncle all of a sudden—but we came up with an idea. Uncle Joshie is at summer camp! No questions asked. Josh completed his rehab, came home, and looked great! I of course, continued to keep a distance because addiction isn’t something that goes away overnight. It has a continuous hold and never let’s go.
Fast forward to summer of 2018. For the first time in years, all four of us, five including Anna, got to spend a week together. I don’t know who was more excited, me, or Annalise. My brother looked great, but in the back of my mind I was still concerned. Mom and Dad would gloat about how many months clean he was and seemed so proud! I am still unsure as to why I wasn’t. I wanted to support him and be happy for him. But, I struggled. After all the pain and agony he put my parents through, it killed me to see them going through it. After the lies, deceit, and ignorance, I had troubles accepting my brother as anything but an addict. However, during this time, our family felt stronger than ever. Josh was in contact all the time with Annalise and me, I was calling home to talk to mom and dad daily, things were great.
But, communication is key, right? My mom does a good job at remembering to tell me about small details, you know, but happens to forget those big ones that really do matter. It took her over two weeks to tell me Josh wrecked his new car in October. Keep in mind, he got his first car taken away because he was missing payments because all of his money was going to heroin at the time. Now this? At this point, we thought Josh was 18 months clean, or so we thought – soon to find out he was under the influence. During our Thanksgiving visit, Josh broke down with the two of us in the room, and I held him while he cried. He told me he didn’t know what he was going to do about his car, how he was going to make money since there is only one car that both my parents share daily, and how he was going to pay his fines. I sadly cannot help him, and he has taken my parents for all they ever had. I explained that he can get through it and everything was going to be okay and it could only go up from here. Clearly, I was wrong, he was already doing heroin again.
One week into 2019, he checked himself in to three rehabs and walked out of all of them. In the last week, he forged three checks, attempted to steal my mom’s debit card after breaking into the house through the basement window, and even went missing for a few days. The addiction is back—in full force. I question myself daily. As his older sister I had one job, to protect him. Did I do something wrong to trigger it? Did I not support him enough because I was too focused on my life and my problems? Did I say something that made him feel inferior, stupid, or weak? What could I have done differently to help? I am finally beginning to realize there isn’t much I can do. Only Josh can save himself, when he is ready. My number one concern, what if he is never ready? Currently he is on a $10,000 unsecured bond on 3 accounts of forgery and 1 account of removal of personal property. The person pressing charges—our mom. If my mom wouldn’t have called the cops on my brother, I would have, without thinking twice. It was time to stop the enabling.
His arraignment is scheduled for February 1st and his punishment will be determined. This is probably the hardest thing I have ever seen my parents go through, and as their daughter, I wish I could take it all away. The tears that have been shed, the countless phone calls at all hours of the day and night, the amount of worry and concern for Josh’s safety, and the question of whether we will answer a phone call telling us that he has OD’d in the back of our minds. I ask myself every day, if I get that phone call, what am I going to tell my daughter? How do I tell her that Uncle Joshie is in heaven? I have prepared myself over and over for that conversation that could potentially occur at any moment. I am holding on by a thread of hope. I am trying to be strong and as supportive as I can. But, it is hard. This is my younger brother. He has made these decisions. Addiction has taken him over and ripped away my best friend, my brother, out of my life. All I can continue to do is pray that he finds his way and is provided with the strength he needs to overcome addiction. I love you, bud.”
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