Today I mourn the loss of my brother. He didn't die physically, but in reality he's been dying for many years. When he was only a 12 year old boy he started using drugs. Today he is a 40 year old man, with two small children, sitting in a jail cell, awaiting a prison sentence. I remember watching the movie "Blow" a number of years ago, and being filled with a profound sadness at the end, knowing that is where the life of my brother was heading, and here it is. He had fun and always had a beautiful girl at his side, and plenty of friends to cheer him on, but now here he is, left with nothing, but two heart-broken children.
The first time I realized my brother was "bad" was in kindergarten when I proudly announced that I was his sister and the teacher's reaction was vastly different than the one my best friend got when she announced who her sister was. If I had any doubts, my high school principal made it perfectly clear when he made me stand up in front of the entire freshman class and asked how I was related to (my brother). He certainly put me in my place. My brother is 6 years older than me and I grew up living not only with these things happening at school (there were many good teachers who did NOT do this), but at home I dealt with the rage and hatred a drug addict carries, and he seemed to especially like to release his emotions on me. For whatever reason, he did not like me. All I ever wanted was for him to give me an approving nod, or acknowledge me as his little sister in the way all of my friends' older siblings did. Perhaps it was for this reason that I grew up torn between being "good" enough to prove I wasn't him, to teachers, and "bad" enough to prove that I was cool, to him. I never succeeded at either. My good grades and accomplishments in school earned me names like "puke" and "suck-up" at home, and my rebellious high school years of drinking and never missing a party only led to moments I now regret with all of my heart and soul, and no matter how hard I tried, there were always a few teachers, and especially the principal, there to remind me of who I was, and my attempts at rebellion only proved their point. People often wondered why I usually dated the "bad" boys. It's easy. In the rougher crowd my brother was an asset. I didn't have to be embarrassed about who I was. Eventually, I got tired of getting hurt and prayed that God would lead me to someone who would treat me well. My husband and I were both seaping in mortal sin when I prayed that prayer, but our marriage is a testimony to the fact that God truly does meet us where ever we are.
I don't have a relationship with my brother. As you can see from above he has never been very fond of me and the abuse has caused a great deal of resentment in me (although I think inside a part of me is still that little girl looking for his approval). I have done plenty of forgiving though, and I love him with all my heart. My prayers for him must be powerful, because they are the kind that make your heart ache. In the past 16 years he has had a couple of periods where he cleaned up. During those times I see him a bit more and he has allowed me on several occassions to pray over him and use a few sacramentals, such as blessed oil, salt, and holy water. These moments give me hope that his heart is not fully closed to God's saving grace. Most often though, when we are in the same room, awkwardness fills the air, and no one speaks, or we speak through the children.
This enslavement to drugs has wrecked his entire life. God gave him so many gifts. He is very personable (well not to me), smart, and talented, especially in the arts. After all of these years his mind has been preserved, and he did HARD drugs. Physically, he hasn't lost any teeth, etc. He almost lost his life and his arm, but really that is small when you put it into perspective that he has used for so long. I have seen pictures of people who use meth for a year and lose all their teeth. God has His hand on him, right there waiting for him to grasp on. It is frustrating, because I KNOW the only one who can save him is Jesus Christ, and He wants to. I do trust that he will convert and allow God's grace to work in his soul before his death, but it is taking him (my brother) a long time to recognize the need for that grace.
Each time he cleans up, the next fall is a little bit harder. Each time, my parents (and him) say, "Oh, he really learned his lesson this time." But they don't get it. He can "learn" the lesson a million times, but he is still in bondage to the sin and the ONLY one who can set him free from that bondage is Jesus. Satan is just toying with him when he allows him to clean up for these short periods of time. Satan lets him off the hook and sits back and watches as the pathetic soul sitting at rock bottom, begs for help and his soul moves to trusting in God. He watches as God helps him back up and gives him the will power and strength to resist temptation. He waits and doesn't tempt much, so it gets to the point that the soul starts to think, "Hey, I did this...I'm clean. I don't need the help of God. I'm good now. I'm strong enough to do this on MY OWN." BOOM! The devil sits back and laughs. He's now got him right where he wants him. Pride has set in. The soul is no longer seeking God's help. The soul is full of pride thinking HE had the power to defeat the addiction. Soon it will be time to strike, but not just yet. After awhile longer as the confidence begins to build, the addict thinks he is doing so well, that going out and partying would probably be something he can handle, and he'll just be there...he won't partake. Again, the devil sits back, smiling, waiting. He doesn't tempt. He makes it easy. The soul slowly begins to immerse himself in the "old" lifestyle, dabbling here and there, until one day he opens his eyes to see that he has thrown himself into the pits of hell once again. THEN, Satan steps up and brings on the temptations once more, in full force, harder than before. Until my brother realizes the game he is playing, he will never be free. For this reason, today I weep.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for drug addicts. Bl. Matt Talbot, pray for addicts.