The Shame of Addiction
My brother is a heroin addict. I am not ashamed of this. I do not hide from it and I speak openly about it. I write a different blog that talks about the effects his addiction has on my life, my husband's life, and my family's life. Even though I speak about his addiction, many do not. Many people are ashamed of the addict in their family. Many people hide the fact that addiction has affected them in some way. I don't. I am not ashamed. I did nothing to make my brother an addict. My parents did nothing to make him an addict. He choose his path and we pay.
My brother grew up in a middle to upper class household. He went to private grade school and an all boys preparatory high school. He was handsome, funny, a great soccer player, and super smart. While I was insecure, he was confident. Even though I was four years older than him, I always wished I could be like him. There was just something about him. A kind of charm that few people are blessed with. He was special. As I went off to college, I watched as my dad and brother began their own journey, that as father and son.
They co-existed and even formed a special relationship during that time. I remember coming home from college and being so jealous of how close they had gotten. It was like they had their own secret guy language and now that I, the only girl in the house was gone, they had each other more than ever.
I went on with my life. I fought my own addiction fueled issues and somehow made my way out of the muck. Around the time when my life was cleaning up, my brother's life was spinning out of control. A shoulder injury was the front door to his heroin addiction. The doctor had prescribed him Oxycontin for the pain. When the prescription ran out, the doctor prescribed it again, and again. Three prescriptions later and my brother was an opiate addict. When his doctor stopped the prescription, my brother found Oxycontin at his college. He started buying it to feed his habit. When he ran out of money, his friend introduced him to a cheaper version of Oxycontin, powdered heroin.
Seven years later and the brother I once laughed with is gone. A paranoid, sometimes there, sometimes not, shell of a human being has replaced him. His handsome defined face is now hardened and permanently grey. His laughter, a falsetto of what used to make my smile huge, now makes me cringe. The brother I once loved is gone, replaced by the hurricane of heroin.
Addiction is like a hurricane. It doesn't destroy based on wealth, class, or social status. It doesn't pick it's victims based on what their home life is. Addiction spares no one when it lays down it's mighty wrath. Addiction begins at one moment of choice. One choice that forever defines the future of so many lives.
For me, addiction has not only destroyed my brother, but has also taken a piece of my dad. He blames himself for the path my brother chose. He is ashamed. Ashamed that he cannot save my brother from his horrible fate. It is an embarrassment that I don't understand because the addiction has not taken over my son. It has taken over his. The son he watched grow up, the son he loved every single day of his life, the son he always wanted, has somehow chosen to destroy his own life. My father has 100 PERCENT convinced himself that my brother's heroin addiction is 100 PERCENT his failure as a father. He truly believes that had he been a better father, a better provider, a better man, my brother wouldn't have stuck that needle in his arm.
I CALL BULLSHIT.
Why you ask? Why bullshit?
I AM the proof he was a good father. Anyone who may judge him for my brother's addiction need only look at me. I am the fucking American dream that so many people still believe in. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a successful business owner. I own a house. I have two cars and put fresh whole foods on the table daily. I have two healthy amazing kids. I am madly in love with the man I married. I speak my mind. I stand up for the less fortunate. I treat people with respect. I define my own beliefs and I stand up for them.
My father is the MAIN reason for this. He helped mold me into what I am today. He instilled the same values in me that he did my brother. He taught me about work ethic, passion, and family. I listened to him whilst my brother put a needle in his arm.
I believe there are TWO MAJOR PROBLEMS with addiction in this country. First is the drug addiction itself. Drugs are fucking bad. We all know this. Some are worse than others. Some people use and make it out just fine, some people use and become lifelong addicts. It's a fucking crap shoot that has plagued our country for a very, very, very long time and I have no idea how this can be fixed.
The second problem is a much easier fix to me. The judging and shame that goes along with the addiction needs to be eradicated. I can pretty much guarantee that one of you reading this has an addict or substance abuser in the family. I can also guarantee that most of you reading this are normal, law abiding citizens who love their families. You probably live in a house, have a job, and treat people well. The majority of addicts have families like ours. Yet no one talks about it. Everyone hides their addict in the corner, dealing with the problem all by themselves. The addicts fight the battle, some live, some die, and most people stay quiet. We wouldn't want The Joneses to know little Timmy is a meth head now would we?
The war on drugs is the longest losing war that our country has battles. Our perception of addiction needs to change for any movement in this stagnant war. Parents need to start talking about their kids with problems. In public. Out in the open. The shame of addiction must be eliminated for any change in this disease that is silently, slowly killing our country.
Starting today, starting now, starting with you and me, the shame of addiction can be stopped. All it takes is for us to open our mouths and speak up. Let's stop the judging of each other and work together to find a solution to this devastating hurricane of a disease.