On his birthday

My brother has always been the funnier one. He is hilarious. He uses his whole body to tell a story and does a spot on impression of our mom. He is also the smarter one. He scored significantly higher than me on the SATs and has consistently had a larger vocabulary.

Two years ago, I was getting ready to board a flight to my home state to get married. My mom called, “Your brother is in the hospital.” I assumed he’d overdosed. You see, my brother’s brilliance, that over active mind, has led him down the path of addiction. I don’t know if my brother overdosed that day. I don’t know why he was in the hospital. He kept the whole ordeal shrouded in secrecy.

Today we are nearly two years to the day and a text message from my mom pops onto my phone with the same message. My brother is in the hospital on his birthday. I thought about my mom sitting there in a hospital 33 years after the day he was born watching as his body keeps breaking down under the weight of drugs. I wonder what she is thinking. She calls. He is getting released. But is he? Isn’t he still tightly bound by addiction? He is living in a purgatory – not exactly alive but not dead. Our whole family is there with him.

His body is only 33 years old but over a decade of abuse is taking its toll. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say. I feel sobs in my throat. But why cry? What good will crying do? How long does he have? Who is he now? Without drugs, I don’t know. What will tomorrow bring? Why doesn’t he fucking care? Will he ever? How will my parents survive this?

I love him so much. When I was four I used to call him my tiny, little super guy. He still is. But I don’t even know how to be a part of his life. I don’t know how to watch the destruction and maintain my sanity. They say you can’t help an addict until they are ready to help themselves. What if that day never comes? What do I hold onto then?

I’m not telling you this story as a cautionary tale. I’m not writing to shine light on addiction so that someone else doesn’t find themselves in it. Because guess what, my brother and I watched two of our cousins fall deep into addiction. We watched as they rotted away and disappeared into shaky selves and that did not stop my brother. I’m writing because families don’t talk about this. We say, “Don’t tell anyone,” and “he is doing better.” We don’t look this ugly disease in the face and say I see you. And I can’t live like that anymore.


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