Addiction had been a secondhand occurrence in my world until a couple of years ago. I had seen news stories and watched movies about the destructive consequences addictions could have on a family, but I never had any experiences of my own in dealing with it until Christmas break during my freshman year of college. That 26th of December would alter the dynamics of my family and would be a moment I kept with me forever.
It began as most days usually do in my house with my dad, mom and I waking up fairly early while my brother and sister continued to sleep. I remember coming downstairs to a somewhat chaotic scene of my parents bustling around with stern looks on their faces. I had no clue as to what was happening but knew it was something serious because of how they were acting. It was the day after Christmas and instead of a joyful, spirited day, we were in for quite the opposite of that. It was that morning of the 26th that my parents found my brother’s stash of weed and to say they were furious is a major understatement. They had had no idea he was doing any of this despite the slipping grades and his tendency to withdraw from most family functions. He had always struggled a bit with school, so the grades were not necessarily anything new. This discovery was just the beginning of what was to be a long road of struggles. It was a bit later that things truly escalated after my mom found out he was also taking Xanax on a fairly regular basis. This time in my life was one of the worst because of my absence from home while away at college. I had no daily, in-person interaction with either my mom or dad and so could not truly judge how serious things were. His drug habits were discovered early on in my Christmas break and so I was lucky to be able to spend at least a month with my parents while all of this was going on. But what I saw is something that will stay with me forever. My mom, whom I feared for the most, was greatly affected mentally and physically by his actions. She never seemed to be happy and lost a large amount of weight. She would barely eat for lack of hunger because of how ill she felt about the habits my brother had developed.
Fast forward two years and I still worry about how he is coping with all of the things that seventeen-year-olds must deal with. He is thinking about what he is going to do after graduation and about finishing up high school, which are both stressful things for anyone. I go day by day worrying about if he will again pick up his drug habit and again abuse those things that do so much harm to one’s body and one’s relationships. He has obliterated my parent’s trust of him, and my family walks on eggshells at times because of what we have been through. It is not easy to be around my brother even still because he is often moody and does not want to talk to or spend time with me or the rest of my family. Family dinners are often just the four of us because he is in his room. Some of this behavior can be attributed to his age as a teenage boy, but a lot of it is because of his drug addiction. He has struggled with substance or alcohol abuse since he was 14 or 15 and it has taken a toll on my family. It is often difficult to be around him because you never know if he is going to wake up and be out of it or if he will be lucid that day.
The hardest part of this entire ordeal for me is seeing how it affects my mom and then in turn affects the whole family. My mom loves him to death and his behavior pains her to the utmost degree. I can immediately tell when something with my brother has happened because she gets this look on her face and often withdraws to her room or spends time alone. This in turn affects my experience because I then worry about her and what she is thinking and feeling. I long to help her but often feel at a loss to do anything that could remedy the situation. The most I feel I can give her is the opportunity to talk and for me to listen because that sometimes can be freeing and give someone a sense that they are being heard and aren’t alone in what they are going through. My brother’s journey through his drug and alcohol abuse has taught me that things are not always as they seem. Addiction is something that affects the entire family and can cause the destruction of bonds between family members. It is still a process, but we are working through things day by day and giving him space to figure out what it is that he wants.
Edited by Morgan Mitchell