hope in the dark

April 19 was my little brother’s birthday. I haven’t talked to him in a couple months, but I tried to reach him every day during the week preceding his birthday to see if he wanted to watch the A-day game together or go out to dinner. He lives about an hour north of the city in the land of crystal meth and strip malls, but we try to stay close regardless.

But how do you “stay close” with someone like my brother?  How do you keep some semblance of normalcy to a relationship with someone whose phone is liable to be cut off at any moment or who never lives anywhere longer than a few months at a time or never keeps a job for more than a couple seasons?  How do you explain how upset it makes you to a 14, 3, and 1 year old when Uncle K comes over and is the last to leave the birthday party and talks really loudly and rambles too much before knocking over trash cans while backing out of the driveway, only to return an hour later, ringing the doorbell after everyone’s gone to bed, saying he forgot his lighter, but instead snakes a bottle of gin from the cabinet and tosses it into the bushes while his flavor-of-the month girlfriend uses the powder room, and then acts like he has no idea how a full bottle of Beefeater ended up by my front porch?

So I left a bunch of messages, asked my parents if they knew where he was, wrote on his Facebook wall to give me a call.  Then I got a message from one of his friends from home:  “do you really not know where he is?”  Well of course not…why would I leave “happy birthday…have been trying to reach you all week to no avail…call me” on his wall if I knew where he was?  He says “Ask your folks.”  Which, of course, I’ve done, but they are silent.

Then I called the cops in the last town in which I’d heard he’d been staying, and I learned he’s in jail.  Has been for several weeks; will be for a few more.  And I wrote my folks back to say “never mind, I know where he is until May 10,” knowing that they knew damned well where he was and chose not to let me know.

A day later, my mother wrote back to say I was kept in the dark on purpose, so I wouldn’t “write about it on Facebook” or “make fun of him” to my friends.  Cause apparently, my admonitions over the years and attempts to get him help are only to exploit and entertain.  The jobs I’ve set up for him.  The lodging with good roommates.  The DUI defense lawyers.  Thanks, mom.  Glad to know I’m not the good son, but instead, just the dick who exploits the hurting.

About the same time as the above events, a friend I met on a trip to Destin with my church nearly a decade ago found me on Linked-In, and we met for lunch to catch up; his name is Phil.  Phil quit alcoholism 20 years ago and has been to AA meetings every week ever since.  He asked if I’d given up hope on my brother, and I truthfully told him I had.  He told me people can tell when we give up on them and that I shouldn’t do that.  Sorry.  It’s been 15 years, I tell him.  I can’t hope any more.

But Phil doesn’t give up on hope.  Instead, Phil’s going to visit my brother this Sunday afternoon to see if he can be the first person to get his attention and his respect.  Phil thinks telling his story and offering to help my brother quit might actually work.  Phil thinks he can make a difference and is willing to give up several hours of his weekend to give me an attempt at the greatest gift any friend has ever given me:  my little brother back.

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  1. Dude.

    I’m gonna give you a big, mushy hug on Sunday.

    And I hope you get your little brother back soon.
    .-= Coal Miner’s Granddaughter´s last blog ..Of Migraines, Terry Tate, and Amazing Husbands =-.

  2. Hey, I didn’t know we were related…!

    I have been thru the ups and downs and wanting to believe my brother every time he’s doing ‘better’.

    He is 43. He just entered “Teen Challenge,” 8 days ago. It is a year long discipleship and drug rehab (free!). He says he’ll stick it out since there’s nowhere else for him.

    Hey did I mention ‘our’ sister was on life support for 3 days last year, from a prescription drug overdose?

    What’s up with our family? Good thing WE turned out okay!
    .-= jade´s last blog ..Almost Autistic =-.

  3. So sorry about your brother, and about your parents’ response. That part sounds familiar. Somehow the kids that are the most needy end up getting the most. I can’t whine and say “it’s not fair”, because they *are* needy, but it would be nice to be recognized for not being needy. Oh yea…the prodigal son story. I can identify with the ticked off brother who stayed home and helped out.
    Hope you get your brother back soon, and I hope your parents can express their pride in you.

  4. avatgardener

    Blogger’s brother (birthday boy, beset) bummed, burned, besotted. BFF braves bars (jail type) to befriend.

  5. avatgardener

    sure is easier to alliterate funny than tragic. here’s hoping your friend is able to effect some change, this a-ism is tuff. good luck to all of you.

  6. That’s a tough deal. My wife’s dealing with the same with her sister. She’s reached that same point of hopelessness. I think reading your story will help. Good thing God’s got a bunch of Phil’s running around out there. I hope the talk goes well. Prayers.
    .-= Clark Kent’s Lunchbox´s last blog ..Me Write Pretty One Day =-.

  7. I can’t believe your mother actually thought you might blog about your brother’s situation. You should send her a link to this post to show her how wrong she is.

    I say cut ties and don’t look back. I know that’s not the touchy feely good xtian message of never give up hope and all that cal, but your brother sounds like most of my family and they’ve done nothing but drag each other down their entire lives. After letting them screw with my life for years, I finally broke away and things have been much better for me ever since.
    .-= Grant´s last blog ..Happy Bunny Friday =-.

    • @grant, Yeah, I don’t know if my folks know I have this blog or not, but I doubt it. I
      have actually gone longer than I ever had without seeing him, but I hate to cut all ties completely. The last time he called, he was hammered, so I told him he needs to quit drinking and get his life in order. He got pissed and hasn’t called since.

  8. Miss Britt


    I’m so sorry. This has to hurt. In more ways than one.
    .-= Miss Britt´s last blog ..Be still, and know that I am God =-.

  9. Wow. Such a shitty situation on so many fronts. All you can do is what you think is best for your brother and yourself.
    .-= SciFi Dad´s last blog ..My Interview With Daddy Geek Boy =-.

  10. Hey, ‘Scrat. All this is none of my business. I’ve never met you, nor your family.

    But amid your anger, let a stranger give you a little dose of tough love. If I’m way out of line, you’ll just have to forgive me—or not, if you choose.

    Getting the alcoholic to quit is really only half the problem. At its core, as AA says, alcoholism is a family disease.

    The family of an alcoholic struggles with many things. One of them is learning the difference between helping, and enabling.

    While it is none of my business to judge them, your parents sound like enablers. Are they rescuing K, or simply helping him remain an alcoholic?

    Maybe as a drunk, he plays a useful role. Perhaps the drunk’s flawed character serves his loved ones, by concealing flaws of their own. Sometimes, that’s why enablers do what they do. Maybe you have been K’s enabler from time to time.

    If the alcoholic re-enters his circle of loved ones a sober man, his loved ones will need to change, too. The old roles don’t work: the drunk, the hero, the villain, the saint, the victim, the martyr, the scapegoat, the needy, the rescuer, the baby, the judge.

    Muskrat, whether your brother quits or not, I suggest you call into an Al-Anon meeting or two—Al-Anon is a sister programme of AA which serves those who are affected by another’s drinking. What you hear may surprise you. The emphasis is not on “fixing” the alcoholic, but changing one’s own patterns of behaviour—the ones that lock us in a little codependent dance with him.


    You can’t fix your brother. Phil can’t “give” him back to you. (After 20 years in AA, I feel sure that Phil would correct your turn of phrase; it’s not his gift, but rather your brother’s gift. First to himself, and then to those he loves.) The last thing that K needs is another rescuer; not Phil, not you, not your parents. AA has a name for this knight-in-shining-armour mindset: magical thinking.

    You may find that the “gift” is not the return of your “little brother”. But rather, the gift might be that you forge a relationship of equals; adult-to-adult, man-to-man. And that’s good, even if K doesn’t quit the sauce forever.

    Sorry, ‘Scrat. I didn’t mean to bust your balls, just when you’re upset and could probably use a bit of sympathy. But I urge you to take this as an opportunity to do a bit of soul-searching, yourself.

    I went through my own trials with a dry-drunk father. Believe me, once the alcoholic throws away the bottle, that’s when the hard work starts.
    .-= headbang8´s last blog ..Life After Death: Will There Be Cookies? =-.

    • @headbang8, You know what? You’re an asshole! Actually, a lot of what you’ve typed here is right. The folks have been enabling for years now. When we lived together in undergrad, I did, too, thinking it was what everyone did in undergrad. And no, I don’t know the right terminology on any of this stuff, and now that I’m a few days on the other side of it, I probably shouldn’t have written about it, but it’s all I thought about for 2 weeks, and BlogHer makes us post 1x/week or we get an email asking us why we’re not writing. So, I did.

      Phil went by, but my bro refused to come out and play. So, another try that failed.

      • Hey, ‘Scrat. Don’t beat yourself up over being frustrated and acting out. You’re only human, so forgive yourself.

        Maybe K needs to forgive himself a bit, too. Many alcoholics do. That might be the first step to him admitting he needs help. It’s a disease, not a moral weakness.

        If you want to email or chat about any of this, feel free to drop me a line.

        Take care, HB8
        .-= headbang8´s last blog ..English on the March. Cool. =-.

  11. Hang in there. While there is life, there is hope. I’m hanging on to hope with my mentally ill teenager, who I hope doesn’t end up on the Intervention TV show.

    It’s very kind that Phil has offered to help. But it’s totally up to your brother. And maybe he’s hit bottom this time and wants to crawl out. It hard, hard, hard though. Pray for him – and for yourself.

    We met at the Bossy thing at Manuel’s…
    .-= CrazyMomTats!´s last blog ..Thursday Stuff =-.

    • @crazymom tats, Hey, nice seeing you stopping by here! It is hard, and I used to pray a lot for him, and then I gave up. I should try to start again, but it’s like praying for the Cubs to win the World Series.

      • Keep praying – for both of you. You might try an Al-Anon meeting. Seriously. They can be helpful for families of alcoholics.

        My kid will be 18 on Saturday and is totally off his meds. He’s living in the backyard in a tent because he’s not trusted in the house. We’ve changed the locks.

        I know from hard.

        Hang tight
        .-= CrazyMomTats!´s last blog ..Tuesday =-.

        • @CMT, I’d like to, actually, and have thought about doing so for years, but it’s a time thing. I often work til 10 or 11. We’re about to have a new baby. The only TV I watch is Tide football 14 Saturdays a year. At some point, though, I probably need to just do it.

  12. I’ve got one of those as well. A sister, not a brother, but otherwise the same. I’m pretty pissed off at her these days, pretty much gave up on her a year or so ago. But maybe I need to give her a call. Or maybe not. Don’t know. But this is some good writing, I know that.
    .-= A Free Man´s last blog ..No I’m never, no I’m never, no I’m never gonna let you down now =-.

  13. The good Lord has heard my prayers for my own children, my prodigals, my rebels. I’ve learned to trust, to keep the faith, to not give up hope. My 24 YO has been steadily getting it together after her dip into a lifestyle I don’t like to think about. My 21 YO is also in a very different place than she might have been, given the life she was living a few years ago.

    It’s tough to walk the line, balancing the need to protect your current household from the one who’s “straying” with the need to pray and trust God to save the strayer. I’ve struggled with the need to protect my youngest (now 16) from the negative exposure brought on by his older siblings.
    .-= Fran´s last blog ..New Arrival =-.

    • @fran, I’m glad to hear that they sometimes turn things around…I’ve heard that they can/do, I just quit believing a few years ago. Thanks…

  14. Parents are so strange to me. The older I get the more I realize how they reward my brothers bad behaviour and basically disount the life I have created.

    When you said they kept you in the dark on purpose? Boy, that got me, my parents do that all the time.

    I hope things work out!
    .-= A Vapid Blonde´s last blog ..Why I have the Ultimate Shiv =-.

  15. My baby brother has been bi-polar alcoholic for way too long. I’ve helped him financially so many times that I could be living in a much nicer place right now and driving that BMW I covet with those thousands. But no more money for him. I used to call him on being drunk, but he’d say he had the flu, or a bad cold, or just woke up, or was on a new med, ad nauseam. All bullshit, of course.

    If he calls now, I’ll listen but only if he’s not slurring his words.

    A couple months ago he called to tell me that he has liver disease. His stomach is extended like a pregnant woman at nine months. He still drinks and still denies it. Apparently, the “bottom” they speak of is still far from my brother’s reach. I’d be scared shitless and doing everything the doctor says!

    But I can’t say “I’m done”, because he’s still there and still a giant SICK pain in the ass. What it really comes down to is that we WANT to have “it” or “him” or “her” go away, but until they do, it remains an ache we can’t permanently fix.

    The good comes from others in your life who need you, want you, have a great time with you, and otherwise help forget the “K’s”. I wish you plenty of them and that!

    As for your Tweet, I’m gonna throw some White Light at your whole damn family!!

    • @semky, Thanks for the White Light! So, could you have bought a 7 Series or just a 318i or something? ‘Cause there’s a difference there.

  16. Damn.

    Hope Phil can do it.

    Sorry for all of it.
    .-= Maggie, dammit´s last blog ..Connection =-.

  17. Involuntary sharp inhalation of breath when I read about your mom’s message. I have a younger brother who has been in and out of trouble – the same trouble, so no real lessons learned, despite everything he says. He had to go to court last year on my birthday. On my birthday, I got a lecture from my mother about how I’m an awful person and an unsupportive sister. I feel ya.

    Here’s hoping… well, here’s hoping.
    .-= Chibi Jeebs´s last blog ..Dumb ass moment of the day* =-.

  18. It sounds like you’ve gone above and beyond the call of family duty; he can be Phil’s problem for a while.

  19. Phil’s a good friend for wanting to help. I hope it works.

  20. ouch, sorry to hear.

    you’re a good brother- you’ve obviously gone above and beyond. i hope he’ll see that some day.

  21. Oh, damn. I’m sorry to hear about this. It’s extremely painful to watch someone go through that, and then, yikes, to feel like you’ve been judged for not reacting properly.

    Clinging on to hope is difficult, it leaves us vulnerable to disappointment and heartache… and often we don’t have room in our lives for that because we’re trying so hard to keep it together for the people who *do* respect themselves and our opinion of them… it would be good if you still hoped, but I don’t think you should beat yourself up if you don’t feel that it’s in you, right now.

    Prayers for you and your family.
    .-= Faiqa´s last blog ..Oh, The Places I’d Go =-.

  22. I truly hope you are able to repair your relationship with your brother. As the child of an alcoholic (my dad’s been sober for 8 years, but was a drunk for 30) I know how you feel: he’s got the problem, why do I have to work so hard to fix it? Until your brother realizes he has a problem and takes steps to get help, your situation will remain just as it is. Praying for the best outcome.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Dreams =-.

  23. Dude,

    I feel ya on this. I know he’s not my brother, but I feel the same way. I’ve always said, your brother is the “dumbest smart kid I know”. After allowing him to live with me multiple times and getting him two great jobs, I have gotten nothing in return but disappointment. He called me on the night of Nat’l Champ. game. I was at my aunt and uncles and invited him over. After everyone went to bed, which was at least 1:30ish, he stayed up and continued to drink. When I went down to wake him up in the morning, he had broken a very expensive pool stick (over his knee I found out later) and almost cleaned out the liquor cabinet. I know that I have enabled in the past, but there should be personal responsibility as well. I’ve never been able to get through to him. They say addicts have to hit rock bottom. Perhaps jail is his rock bottom. I hope so.

    • @kenny, I was hoping no one I know/ he knows would see this. Anyway, I appreciate your attempts over the years to try and help. I thought “rock bottom” was years ago but was wrong, so I have little hope this is it. But, I might be wrong for the first time.

  24. I’m the daughter of an alcoholic in denial and an enabler who refuses to leave him or attend al-anon. I’m well out of the house at 25, but my siblings are still children, the youngest being 12. Even writing this enrages me, because I think of the pain and trauma the alcoholism has brought. But, if I lose hope in healing, then I’ll lose hope that everything will eventually be okay for the rest of us.
    .-= Amber Lee´s last blog ..Things I Love =-.

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