Name: Rachael Hayter
From: Tucson, Arizona
The Truth Behind Addiction
The Truth Behind Addiction
Often in the media, we see the worst parts of addiction, people dying, the emotional torment these addicts go through. I never saw the extreme parts of addiction; I saw the subtle parts of addiction that slowly tore apart my relationship with my brother. My oldest brother, 25, had been smoking marijuana since he was 14. Of course, many people claim that marijuana isn’t an addictive substance, that they are not addicted, my brother said this often to my parents and me. I did not believe him. I saw how often he needed to smoke, and how often he felt the need to abandon sibling activities just so he could go outside and smoke. My brother is a complicated person, there was not a day when he was not angry at someone. My childhood was surrounded by anger, I watched my parents and my brother scream at each other because he would get in trouble at school for having marijuana. I never spoke on it, but inside, I always questioned why he continued to use a substance that was hurting others around him. He spent most of his time high, there were only a few instances where I can say he was sober. Throughout my brother’s life, he had family members, including my other brother, stop speaking to him because of how he acted. My brother chose marijuana, alcohol (another substance people rarely admit they are addicted to) and toxic relationships over his family.
I could never understand why my brothers stopped talking to each other, not until this year. My brother had moved back in with us around October 2020. My parents wanted to help him out, especially my mother, a woman who would never abandon her children. In all honesty, every time my brother had moved back in with us, which was about three times in total, my own mental health went downhill. I have had my own personal struggles with mental health, I was even committed to a hospital for how bad it got. So, I fully understand the mental stress of feeling as if nothing mattered anymore. When my brother moved back in, he cried often to me about how he felt like a burden to my parents and as if he failed them as a son. I told him none of this was true and that my parents would not have allowed him back into the house if they genuinely thought that. He did this often, he would confess to me all these dark feelings, I was only seventeen at the time, hearing a 25-year-old express to me that he felt like he was the worst person in the world. Everyone in my house had given my brother several chances to change, I gave him the most chances. My brother began drinking heavily, alcohol in my household had been something I had knowledge about since I was in middle school. I knew the effects of it, as I had seen it firsthand with my mother, my aunts, and even my father, who was one of the calmest men I have ever met. My brother would drink and smoke marijuana, which was never the greatest mix. I hated when he drank, the person he became when he did drink was someone, I wish I had never met. My brother, when he drank, became this extremely negative person. He would go out of his way to make commentary about things that were not true. I have never raised my voice at people often, I hated doing it, but the first time I had done it in years, was to scream at my drunken brother to leave me alone. There were plenty instances of this, where my brother would go overboard with his alcohol intake and mix marijuana in it too. This normally happened at night, when it was just him and I playing video games in the living room. He would leave alone after saying ‘be right back’ and come back about 20 minutes later from our garage stumbling around.
One of the most vivid memories of these scenarios was when he was drunk, and he could barely even stand up. I told him I was done, and I was going to bed, he did not understand what he did wrong of course, he was drunk. My brother could not even stay awake, falling asleep on the chair we had moved to the front of the TV so we could play a game. When my brother got drunk, I was the one who would take care of him. My parents would often already be asleep, and I was the only one there. To reiterate, I was seventeen, having to make sure a 25-year-old made it to the couch so he would not pass out on the bathroom floor. I was so angry and upset that night, I had to threaten to tell my parents that he got drunk again to get him off the bathroom floor. He kept telling me he was fine. I remember after he had finally gotten up and fell asleep on our couch, I cried for so long because I could not understand why my brother was doing this to himself. My brother was able to go to sleep and forget about everything that happened those nights when he was drunk, while I, his baby sister who he was supposed to care about, thought about it all night, and woke up the same morning as him, but remembered every detail.
I am eighteen now and attending college at the University of Arizona majoring in Psychology. I learned that addiction is a common struggle among people. With my own experience with mental health crises, I began to truly notice it in others. I am a firm believer in giving everyone the chance to heal and start new, which is why I stuck with my brother for so long. Addiction had harmed me in a way I did not even realize, and was often too afraid to admit, that my own brother was becoming another statistic. My brother is not an extreme case when it comes to addiction to alcohol or marijuana, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem.
Addiction is one of the most common problems we see. It often starts in younger years when it is just for fun. As a high schooler, I always saw people going to parties and drinking alcohol heavily. I hated it. My view on these substances was filled with bitterness. I watched my brother go through addiction, although he would never admit it unless it was to use it as a weapon against others. I watched my mother come home every day and go straight to the fridge for a beer, and I watched my father pour himself glasses of whiskey every night. Addiction is not always on the extreme levels that we see in day-to-day life. Addiction affects so many people, not just the addict themselves. We as a nation see so many stories of people dying from overdoses, but we often ignore the subtle addictions around us. Addiction stems from a place of pain and so many other complex emotions. I believe we should help these people, rather than cast them out on the streets or tell them they are a lost cause. We should also be acknowledging, as a society, addiction does not just come in the form of drugs or alcohol. It comes in the form of self-harm, gambling, eating disorders and so many other things.