My favorite memory with them was when I was little, maybe 6 or 7 years old. We were at the beach and I was standing where the waves broke in the sand, I was a little weary about going in by myself. Being that it was around four or five in the evening, the waves were calmer and the sky was a mixture of orange and yellow. Of course my mother was watching me like a hawk from her beach chair, but I was still nervous to go in alone. Then out of nowhere, my brother had one arm and my sister took the other. Before I knew it, I was airborne into the water with them right behind me. We were laughing and fooling around, and I remember feeling so lucky that I had two older siblings who were so cool. I wanted to be just like the both of them.
This was, of course, before the hell that welcomed us in. I use “us” because the worlds belonging to my parents and myself came crashing down alongside my brother and sister’s. My brother is about six years older than me; my sister is about four and a half. We were raised together in the same home, with the same morals, and cared for endlessly and equally by our extremely hard-working parents. I feel like whenever somebody falls to addiction, the first thought of blame goes directly towards the parents, caretakers or whoever raised that person.
People who don’t know us may point the blame towards my parents, but that isn’t the case here. My father worked 20 hour days when we were young, and my mother not only cared for us but she also worked, too. I used to think of them as my own personal superheroes (and I still do). There was not one Christmas where all of our wishes didn’t come true, not one birthday where we didn’t feel like the most important person in the world, and I can’t remember a time where both my mother and father didn’t love me unconditionally.
Anybody who loves an addict knows the frustration of not having anyone to blame all too well, and it’s something I have struggled with from the beginning of this journey. It doesn’t help when you have people surrounding you who do not fully understand the situation at hand. My sister used to be my other half; she completed a void inside me that only a sister could. Though I grew up with her wiping my tears, she has unfortunately become the cause of them for a long time. We shared a room for the first six years of my life, and I often slept in her room with her when we finally got our own rooms. I loved her to no end, and I watched her slip away from me firsthand.
I always looked up to my brother, mostly because he seemed so cool. He was on the football team, won the state championships, and he had an endless amount of friends who were always so sweet to me. Both my brother and sister had amazing personalities that were often contagious, and I truly loved them with all of my heart.
It has taken me eight years to come to the realization that when the person you love becomes an addict, they are no longer the person you love. You can spend your nights trying to understand addiction, and how somebody can transform into a person so horrific right before your own eyes, but there is no understanding to it. I’m not going to go into detail about the extent of pain the both of them have caused both my parents and our surrounding family members, because there is no point. I am not writing this to convince you that they are bad people, because they aren’t. They made choices that are unfortunately the reason they are both addicts to this day. You can transform your lack of understanding into anger by blaming everybody around the addict, but it won’t change anything; and you can trust me on that.
Nobody put the needle into my sister’s arm, and nobody swallowed the pills for my brother. I can’t count the amount of times they have hurt me on both hands, because it well exceeds the amount of fingers I have. You may or may not have heard about the current drug epidemic that is engulfing northern New Jersey, but for me, it has engulfed way more than just my hometown. It seems to me as if people do not truly understand how quickly addiction sets it’s seed in someone, and how quickly it can destroy not only one life but the surrounding lives around an addict. Regardless of whether or not you live in a nice neighborhood with a perfect life, addiction shows no mercy.
For my own mental health, I keep a distance from them until they are ready to be a positive part of my life. I truly believe that they will one day heal and come back, and I will welcome them with open arms. But until then, I can only pray and work towards having the life I’ve always wanted; even if it’s without the people I need by my side. The anger that I have accumulated from ruined birthdays, stolen possessions, and the constant destruction of trust has transformed into a peace of mind that my brother and sister are not who they used to be; and that’s okay.
The next time you read an article about an overdose, or see a news segment about it, please do me a favor and say a prayer for that person and their family. We are in this together, and we will get out of this together. I hope my perspective on a topic that is not widely talked about gives both addicts and the people surrounding them a peace of mind to know that they are not alone.