I wasn’t born when my brother began to have problems. At least noticeable problems. There are 14 years between me and my twin sister and him. Only 4 years between our older sister and him. My brother and oldest sister have a different dad. I think of their dad like a dad to me, too. He has some pretty great qualities and always remembers us on birthdays and Christmas. My mom and he are divorced yet still do things together. She says he is her best friend.
I wish I knew my brother as a little boy. He was beautiful, and I mean beautiful even if he is a boy. The local photography studio had pictures of him in their window for years. I guess they were trying to sell his beauty to earn money for themselves if you want to look at it that way. He was used a lot that way later in his life.
I would have been about 1 at the time my brother began drinking Robitussin to get high. I guess it gives one a high like LSD would. My mom told me that she asked him to get me out of my car seat as she got my twin sister out to carry into the house. He opened the car door, closed the car door, and thought he was holding me. My mom realized there was a problem and later searched his room and found all the empty bottles of cold medication.
That was just the beginning. If you lived with stories of addiction in the family, the stories are basically the same. The addict begins to steal from you (my Power Wheels car, my sisters PS Vita) and then deny it. If you are lucky enough to live in a small town where everyone knows you, you might get your jewelry back that was pawned like my mom. Mostly, though, things just disappear and you might not even know it for a while.
The addict’s life becomes yours because you have to live with it every day. Even if the drug addict no longer lives with you, other drug addicts think they do and show up at your house demanding money. One guy was on our front porch after my mom picked me up from school. He was sound asleep and had a tattoo on his eyelids that said, “Your Next.” Yeah, I don’t think he realized it wasn’t even spelled correctly. The police told us to stay away from him and that he was a really bad guy. They came and got him.
There are so many more stories but I want to stick to the topic. Besides, it isn’t fun to remember them all. It hurts my gut to think about it which is another effect of living in someone else’s world.
I think as a nation, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to start when it comes to drug addictions. Should we have seen signs earlier? Were there signs? We can look at the economical structure of families but there isn’t much we can do about that. My brother comes from a very wealthy, prominent family so being poor wasn’t an indicator for him. He was smart as well, winning poetry contests and doing well initially in school. Of course, drugs and school don’t mesh well together so he ended up a dropout.
My brother was teased back in the 1990s for being gay. He was spit on, stared at and one guy he didn’t even know tried to run him over for being gay. A teacher once let students run to the window when he walked by to “see the gay kid.” Emotionally, he had a tough time. Not only was he picked on for coming from a wealthy family but for being gay as well. He won’t tell
his dad or our mom. Emotionally, I believe, he was a mess and he was self-medicating to make himself feel better. My mom took him to counseling when he was younger because of what he was going through. She defended him at school when a teacher said, “There is nothing good about Bryce,” when she was trying to get him help through an IEP. Even after getting him help, he ended up being groomed by his special education teacher to make porno films. My mom and Bryce’s dad got that teacher’s license taken away but guess what? If you get your teaching license taken away in Washington state, you can go to another state to teach. Counseling didn’t help him either and the road to destruction continued for him.
Our oldest sister became a local sports star like their father and that didn’t help Bryce’s self-esteem either. No one knew what else they could do. That is probably the biggest issue. What do you do?
As a nation, we have tried programs to catch kids early such as The DARE program only to find out later on it wasn’t very successful. We have even tried giving drugs to addicts such as Suboxone, but people get mad if you have that in their neighborhoods.
As a nation, we are trying but many addicts are trying harder. Addicts may be poor, depressed, lost souls in need of anything to escape the harsh realities of their world. They may be hiding from themselves, unable to emotionally cope with their world. There are so many reasons someone becomes a drug addict that there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that will work. Quite frankly, as a nation, we don’t know what we don’t know. We honestly don’t know the root cause of all addictions so we can’t “fix” it because what will work for one addict won’t work for the next.
Too many people are willing to throw addicts to the wind. They don’t want to deal with it in their towns. They want it to be swept away, under a rug, and ignored; until it affects them and their families.
The ultimate consequence is death. I’ve heard my mom talking and she said she has tried to prepare herself for the day they tell her Bryce has died of an overdose. She says it isn’t if, it’s when. That breaks her heart and she feels helpless. We all do.
Today is Bryce’s birthday. He is 31 today and I am writing this in honor of his birthday. I haven’t seen him for a while but when I saw him this afternoon, he had sores all over. He talks about making it to his sister’s wedding next summer in Lake Tahoe. Deep down, we know he won’t make it. He can’t. When he is using, all he is thinking about is the next fix. He can’t plan to go to a wedding. We all agree he will have fun and he says he is looking forward to it but it’s just a dance we do to pretend everyone is normal. We aren’t. We are a drug-affected family and I was born right into it.
To remedy the crisis for the individual and society, I think we first have to acknowledge it. Really acknowledge it. Instead of jails, put people into programs. When they are out of programs, put them into jobs. When they have jobs, help them with slides back into drugs. Create a cycle of success instead of failure. Use rewards instead of punishment. Come together as a community, a nation to fight drugs coming into our cities. Provide for people who are trying to leave that lifestyle. Give people a reason to get up and face the world each day. All of these ideas are proactive instead of reactive.
When I look through a kaleidoscope, I see brilliant colors and shapes. Not everyone sees what I see. Some are struck by images of sharp edges and contrasting colors. It’s the
same image but we all see it differently. Each individual view into that kaleidoscope is seen in terms of experiences in life they have had. We have to begin to realize that is how everyone not only views the kaleidoscope, but life overall. It’s different for absolutely everyone. When a child holds up that kaleidoscope for the first time, we don’t know what he sees. We can only compare it to what we see. We may never know. We can, however, focus on the individual’s description of what he says he viewed. By working on each person individually, we can try to understand what (s)he sees and worth with that.
If we, as a nation and society, have to start somewhere, let’s start at the beginning and work together. Let’s create solutions that are proactive and positive. Second chances aren’t always a bad thing. I love my brother and hope he finds one as well.