I vividly remember my longing for a sibling when I was a young girl. At one point I wrote "I want a baby brother" on about twenty pieces of paper and taped it to my parents door in my childhood home. When I was six, my perfect brother was born. He had blonde bouncy curls and blue eyes. He could ride a bike before he was 3 and swim laps in our pool shortly after. He was a happy, wildly talented, handsome little boy, and I was so proud to be his sister. He was always going a mile a minute and loved building and creating things, he was MVP of his peewee football team, a talented mountain bike rider, fearless dirt biker, a great basketball player and a baseball catcher who was also passionate about hockey and snowboarding. He pretty much did it all and I bragged about him any chance I got.
My brother isn't sick in the normal sense of the word. He is a physically healthy 16 year old now. So people don't see the illness he struggles with every day. My brother has anxiety with a somatic component, oppositional defiant disorder, extreme hyper activity and above all, he is an addict. He has been in and out of the juvenile courts since he was 14 years old. My mom has had to report him as a missing person twice, once on Thanksgiving day. He has been put on suicide watch, and made threats to us. He is an addict. He lost interest in everything, his family, childhood friends, sports. He has broken all of our hearts and then broken them again.
And the very worst part of it all is listening to well intentioned people give advice on how to fix a "difficult" child. "Just make him go to school", "Just make him get up", "Just take away his things", "It's because he wasn't disciplined properly", "It's because he is spoiled". "Have you tried..." yes. Yes. I promise we have tried it all. Called the cops on him. Tried to ignore it and hope it passes. Taken his things away to the point where there was basically only a bed left in his room. Tried the loving understanding approach. Tried the harsh tough love approach. We have tried it all. There is no magic cocktail for parenting a perfectly healthy and happy child and certainly no magic cocktail for raising a child with the struggles of my brother.
My brother and I were given equal upbringings for the most part and given equal amounts of love and opportunity from our parents. Addiction is a disease that runs in our family and while I was spared the cruelties, my little brother has been running from his demons for a very long time now, trying to silence them with drugs. My mother has spent her time, a lot of her money and all of her energy trying to help her son. Taking him in for testing and arranging treatment programs, behavioral programs and advocating for him every step of the way. Never giving up on him and never losing hope. And I have watched as he took over every aspect of my family. Every dinner conversation revolved around him and his choices. My mother has read every codependency book written and she highlights articles that make her think of him and she goes to meetings so she can connect with other people who love an addict. And when it's all too much sometimes she calls me and cries, and that's okay.
The truth of it is that he has always been an addict, essentially since birth. First it was adrenaline, when he would take his tricycle down a ramp my dad attached to the roof of our house (yes. roof.) and his eyes would light up with such joy. And then he moved on to things with motors. Then it was just some Pot. Then some psychedelics. Then it was whatever he could get his hands on. Even if he never touches drugs again a day in his life he will always be an addict.
The first time he was locked up I thought my world was shattered. My perfect baby brother sleeping in a cell with no one that loves him down the hall. But now I am relieved when he is in one of the various "programs" or back in juvenile hall, because I can finally answer my phone without hesitating because I am worried that someone on the other side of the phone would tell me my little brother is dead.
I've watched other people's siblings grow and achieve goals and bond with one another while the gap between my brother and I has only widened over the years. I can't stand to think about high school football anymore because it makes me sick to my stomach thinking about how he won't be playing this year, or probably the next, and that the kids he played with when he was little will be filling out college applications soon and I just hope he will live to see his 18th birthday. I hate that the last decent photo we took together was over a year ago when he was at a behavior program far away from home with high fences and cameras around. I hate that every time he left the house and jumped into a car with older kids that I would try to remember what the car looked like just incase I heard of any accidents. I hate that our first instinct is to not trust him. I hate that I had to lock my bedroom door when I left because the kids he hung out with would steal my things. I hate that he can't just wake up one day and be alright.
I hope one day you find your way back to the little kid who loved building and creating, but if you can't then I'll remember you at your best, with your bike pointed towards the track and the sunshine on your face.