“Well, so how did you feel about that?” A friend asked me recently about my brother’s health and his choices along the winding road to recovery—as if I have any control or input.
“Hmmmm,” I replied slowly. “That’s hard.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s that as the sibling of an addict, I never know with certainty how I feel about the rollercoaster of events that we careen through on this addiction journey with him. One day, I’m terrified. The next, I’m devastated or cautious or angry or loving or sweet or empathetic. The month later, I’m may be hopeful when things seem triumphant and the following week, I could be furious if things come crashing down.
What other disease causes that kind of spectrum of equally intense, yet opposite and ricocheting emotions? What disease can make you blame and even hate the person who’s sick, while you simultaneously beg God for a miracle when the reality of finally losing them is something you just cannot possibly fathom or see beyond?
Because here’s the thing, my brother is still my precious brother. He’s still in there, fighting through relapse and mental illness and trying, and for that, there’s hope. But with hope comes the ever-present fear of being let down, the fear of addiction winning, the fear of this thing taking him from us.
But that’s the nature of the beast, the big, hairy, snarling, saber-toothed beast of addiction. My mom compares it to a hate group known for pure evil that regularly walks through our front door.
As one-fifth of a fiercely loving family suffering under the weight of the monster, I constantly question my wide and ever-changing range of emotions and the responses that come after them.
So when someone asks me a seemingly simple question like my friend did, I need to take a minute.
I acknowledged the tentative dichotomy of thoughts and potential scenarios I needed to mire through in order to confidently answer his question. But I also realized that my answer might still be wrong, foolish, and incorrect—hopes dashed, fears confirmed, cynicism justified. Man, do I hate being possibly wrong, foolish, or incorrect! And yet, there was no one right answer to the question posed.
I may not have had the answer, but I did have a choice: optimism, hope, the best-case scenario, faith, and risk my foolishness, if incorrect OR pessimism, sarcasm, eye-rolling, and being able to say “I told ya so!”, if correct.
It was a 50/50 shot, a heads-or-tails coin toss difference lay between the options I had been given to frame my opinion of what had transpired and formulate my experience of it. Two plausible perspectives lay in front of me, and I had to pick one.
Is my glass half full or half empty?
After pausing to think through and then verbalize some of the above, I chose the former. I chose hope. I chose optimism. I chose faith. And I risked foolishness.
Because my glass was neither half full nor half empty, it was overflowing.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:5-6)
More on that later.
The Square Peg
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’m going to be writing about my family’s experience of addiction and mental illness, as well as my own skirmishes with anxiety.
Also, I’ve accepted the challenge to rappel down a 16-story building as part of Shatterproof’s Challenge Rappel in June to raise awareness and funding for addiction and recovery services. But, I can’t do it without your help! Please consider donating and together we can end the stigma and change the conversation about addiction.