*Disclaimer: I would not have posted it if things continued now to be the way they were, nor if my brother has not publicly written about this himself.*
I wrote this… during a rougher time.
Substance abuse and addiction have had a negative affect on my life in many ways, including the loss of family members and friends. When my brother began using in a way that was dangerous, that radically altered his previously loving personality, and isolated him from our family and trustworthy friends, I began a debilitating struggle with constant nightmares and high levels of anxiety for several months straight. The lack of sleep exacerbated my feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, fear, and despair.
My brother is my heart- although ultimately I learned it is important to accept that sometimes there is only so much you can do to maintain a relationship that is healthy without the participation of the other person. On your own, you must go on with your life, regardless of what others choose to do. As a practicing therapist, this is advice I often give to my clients. This experience gave me a renewed appreciation of the challenges my clients experience when trying to utilize this advice.
This experience made that advice sound trite, when coming from others and directed at me.
This is an experiance which humbles as person, no matter how sophisticated, how loving, how intelligent, how committed- loving someone who struggles with substance abuse can bring one, anyone, to their knees. I have written this piece about that precise moment.
Some people experience the moment as panic attacks during the day, but for me it almost always came at night. In fact, I welcomed being awake and at work, because I love my work and would become so immersed in it that I was able to forget my own situation. Gandhi was right, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
But at night I would toss and turn, often eventually conceding that getting up was the only way to escape the nightmares, some of which inspired the piece below.
Not sure if my brother will ever read this, as our relationship is still on it’s way back and he is not as present in my life as I would wish. But I maintain hope that we are on our way back to the closeness and honesty that we have historically had.
If you are reading this, brother, know that I love you.
I’ve missed you.
I believe in you.
I need you.
And I am always here for you.
Searching for Sleep
For weeks now the sleep comes in sharp
Twenty minute shards.
When I wake up, I try
Picking pieces from my mind
Sometimes I fall back to sleep
This night, most nights, I can’t.
I’ve tiptoed, but now
I prefer the lesser of two evils,
Of eggshells cracking, under my
feet against my fists bang
my forehead against them
The latest dream came sweltering and you were small
A tired child and needing.
Coming back from dream errands, I carried you up
the steps towards our cool apartment
to rest, to rest
The smoke met us in the hall
Then the double doors that lead to home
And you, as you are now,
Tall, too thin, with your face turned away,
raced down them, raced past us.
I tried to call you, then to grab you,
I tried to ask you
Where’s the smoke coming from?
(And I can hear my voice rising.
I can feel the weight of the child in my arms
I can sense the shell
I hate, I hate
The terror and panic I hear in
and the honesty-
I know you hear it too
I know you hate it too.)
You smile that smile that says you’re done
And you say “Sister, there’s no fire.”
No rest for the worried, egg on my face
In waking life-
“I’ll stop trying!
I accept your running away,
and I won’t ask anymore.”
In dreams though, I know,
My mind, my heart (without my permission)
will still seek
all dark corners.
Will ceaselessly stretch out to search
For the whole of you. For the whole of me.
For eyes meeting,
But back in reality
it’s four am.
And again, like grey light,
like smoke I can’t hold
I sense now:
We got broken. We got burned.
We are lost.