Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Addiction: Conversations with my brother and an interesting read.

I have never dodged the fact that my brother is a recovering heroin addict.  He is.  He is also bipolar.  I believe that being bipolar has led him to self-medication.  He found solace in heroin-- what he terms simply as, "An old man drug."

My brother was in the full throes of a very major drug addiction for about 9 years.  Over the past 4 years, he has worked to stay clean.  I always know that when he drops off the radar with me that he's into using again.  He won't tell me.  He'll distance himself from me.

About a year and a half ago, my nephew was living with my parents and going to my brother on the weekends.  My mother was helping my nephew get rolling with school.  He came to her at the beginning of third grade with the knowledge of a beginning of first grade student.  By the end of third grade, the teacher and my mother brought him up to the beginning of third grade learning level.  Now, he started fourth grade technically a year behind, but at least it wasn't two.  In the midst of my mom having my nephew, my brother would call or stop by and be belligerent, nasty and foul-mouthed to my mother who, not a saint by any means, was doing her best to try to help him get his son on track with school.  Considering that we had all left the house many years previous, my mom hadn't been pitched into the elementary school set for quite some time.  Still I couldn't take my brother's treatment of my mom anymore.  I simply texted, "Please stop yelling at Mom."  He called and left some big diatribe on my voice mail about how I know how Mom can be and that I'm never to call him again.

So I didn't.

I called his bluff.  If he was that miserable with life and didn't want to hear from me, fine.  It was hard.  Beastly hard.  I love my brother very much.  I have been very close to him.  Both of my brothers took turns going to the university and hanging out with me while I did my thing in the studio and in classes.  The professors knew them, asked after them and one of my professors even made a special point to make certain that my brother Billy was invited to their show opening.  He was 14 and over the moon that Kate, the former Miss Iowa, had invited him to be a part of the occasion.

It was hard to pull away because I know that when I don't hear from my brother, very bad things are going on and I wish that I could fix it.  I also had to make a very important choice.

At that point, I had to put my family first.

When my brother was first trying to kick the heroin habit, my mother phoned me at work and said something to the effect that he was stopping drugs and needed a place to go and she dropped him off at my house.

Pardon me?  I knew nothing about drying out a heroin addict.  We opened our house to him because, as was so plainly figured out, there was nothing in the surrounding distance around us that would offer him anything by way of drugs.  We are in the area of town where they have the highest concentration of city service workers, police and fire.  The well was dry over here.  No heroin to be had.

He hung with us for two days, then made the sojourn to my sister's house.  She helped him through the terribly rough time of withdraw.  He didn't want to do that here.  My sister, after all, had demons that she had fought herself.  She knew where he was at-- in a sense.  I live in a land of the blissfully naive.  Or at least, the land of more naive than I am now.

We pulled him up, dusted him off and for a time that I can't even tell you (probably at least a year), my mom, my sister and I kept daily track of my brother.  We referred to him as "The Eagle" and would ask if he showed up.  I know that I've said it before and I'll say it again-- I went and searched for my brother and beat on doors of houses and apartments, called and drove up and down roads looking for him in an upright or collapsed condition.  I went into places to hunt for him that I should have never been in.  It is by the grace of God alone that I was kept safe.

It is here where I insert that my husband has been on a big Megadeth kick.  A few weeks ago, he went to Gigantour in Youngstown.  Gigantour is Dave Mustaine's project and if you know anything about him or the band Megadeth, you'll know that they were sex, drugs and rock and roll.  After Hubs went and had the time of his life, he wanted me to download the book that Dave Mustaine wrote onto my Kindle.  We could borrow it for free from the library.  (The finances thank him.)  This is where for the FIRST time in our 16 1/2 year marriage, I saw my husband sit down and read a book cover to cover.  (Or the equivalent on the Kindle.)  Since he isn't a reader and read through the whole thing in a week and a half, I decided to take a crack at it.

As of this moment, I am at 67% on my Kindle.  I have read until 1 AM.  To read the book, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, I have some explanations into my brother's erratic and self-centered attitude.

Hello heroin!

Dave writes the book in the voice that he speaks.  It is not PG by any stretch.  The window that it provides into what my brother has gone through is one that I've never had.  I have never taken an illicit drug.  I was offered pot on many occasions.  It isn't my thing.  I drank a bit for a few years in college.  It's not to say that I didn't co-smoke a cigarette from time to time.  However, once drinking was legal (sorry) it was no longer fun.  Hubs and I got married when I was 23 and outside of purchasing alcohol once in our entire marriage and I admit that I finally gave away because we never did consume it.  Hubs and I sat with a reality that my brother and sister didn't look at or fully take into account-- we had family history of addiction.  Hubs' family has addiction history not within the confines of his immediate family, but within the branches of the family tree.  I have them in an up close and personal view kind of way.  Knowing that, we decided not to drink.  Hubs' one and only drink was when he was 16.  The last drink I had was just over 10 years ago. I don't state this making us sound like prudes, we just know that the outer ugliness of addiction looks like.  (My biological father is an alcoholic and I saw how he treated us or better said, had nearly zero involvement in our lives whatsoever.)

I don't want that for my family and Hubs doesn't either.

But back to my brother. He has fallen off the wagon and landed at my sister's house very "dope sick."  She worked him through it and the last time she did, it was downright ugly.

The other day, when we were on the boat and trying to wait out the storm that had us surrounded, I texted my brother about the time the same thing happened to him and Hubs.  He texted me back.  Then he called me later.  That's a big move since this is the first time that my brother talked to me as he always had in a very long time.

My brother had called to regale me with the recent antics of his ex-wife and different details about things in his life.  When he mentioned that he has "an open membership to the Country Club" I about choked.  "Look at you.  4 years ago, you were a hood rat and now you have a membership to a country club and I have to guess that there is a polo shirt hanging in your closet."  There was a laugh and he said, "Yes I do.  That would be Liz's doing."

I told him that if he looks at his ex-wife and sees where she is at, she's gone no where despite the education that she received.  She went to school for medical assisting and was very good at it.  She was offered a wonderful job.  She declined.  She could make more on welfare and so she wouldn't do it.  She has remained an addict, doing what it is that addicts do to acquire the goods that they need to "get well."  (As Dave Mustaine said that his drummer would say when needing to get more drugs to combat the effects of withdraw.)  Drugs have taken over her and she's not fighting it.

I told my brother that I know that he will always have demons follow him (heroin and alcohol) and that not every day would be full of sunshine (bipolar), but that I was proud of him for working hard and getting himself clean.  I say this in not an arrogant way, but I think that to my brother, my saying that I'm proud of him means more to him than my mom saying it.  He'd rather call my mom to admit his transgressions rather than me.  He knows that we try to live clean lives and he knows that I'm not being judgmental, but I've stood in front of him and cried for him.

I got a text yesterday morning.  It was from my brother.  Pardon the profanity.
My brother.  He's fighting it.  It isn't going to be a perfect fight, but he's determined not to go back on Seroquel for the bipolar disorder, because it makes him tired and mean.  He's working with his doctor (Hubs' primary care doctor, by my brother's suggestion) to do different blood testing and to not just treat the bipolar, but him as a person.  He has been completely honest with his doctor about his addiction issues.

He is also being honest with himself.

It isn't going to always be easy for him, but I'll take it as we can get it.  I'm all for positive reinforcement.  That text message?  It made me cry.

ETA:  Before it went POOF! and away from the Kindle, I did get to finish reading Dave Mustaine's book.  I told my brother about what I was reading.  "Does it make an even bigger impact that I straightened myself out myself?"  "Since Dave has done rehab 17 times, yes.  I can see where it is not an easy thing at all."


Rach said...

I'm crying. That text had me crying. Holy sh!t indeed. I'm proud of him. Addiction is killer and he's made it, and continues to struggle and make you. You have every right to be proud of him. I'm proud of him and I've never met him.

The Castro Family said...

You are amazing. The works of God shining through you so clearly through all of this!
Congrats to both of you! You guys will be in my prayers for continued strength!