My oldest brother, Robert, died 5 years ago. He never “got” recovery. But no one supported me more than he did.
Addicts are not deficient people.
I would love to assume that statement is unnecessary, but unfortunately many addicts are viewed as weak, lacking self-control, uncaring, immature, and failures.
But this simply is not true. (At least, no more true than with any other group of people.)
I said in a previous post that addicts are not problems to be solved, they are people to be loved. When a story hits that another celebrity has died of an overdose, I always feel grief. I wonder what their journey with addiction and sobriety has been.
And then I feel anger. Anger at the people who suggest the person “got what they deserved.” Anger at people who say, “That’s what you get when you give people a lot of money.” Anger at the people who feel as if the person who died was some moral failure so let’s not waste any time shedding a tear for them.
When people make choices, they have to be ready to face the consequences of those choices. And sometimes, those consequences are fatal.
And you may want to think the person failed at life. But I don’t believe that is true. I believe they struggled and felt they had nowhere else to turn.
One of the difficulties many addicts face is the shame associated with being an addict. Even when everyone knows the person is addicted to something, that person struggles to say the words out loud. What is too often viewed as failure, or immaturity, is in actuality suffering.
And too often, it is suffering in silence.
My brother was never able to maintain sobriety. He tried many times. For a variety of reasons, it never stuck. Ultimately, it was his addiction and its consequences that took his life at a young age.
But I will not allow you to call my brother a failure.
My brother worked hard. My brother loved hard. My brother, to quote the cliché, never met a stranger. At his funeral, Brother #4 (there are 5 of us!) acknowledged that Bob did not do a good job taking care of himself. Part of the reason for that was his view that everyone else was more important.
Bob was kind. He was funny. He was intelligent. He had his flaws. He made his mistakes. He caused his fair share of pain. He was human.
And he called me every year on my sobriety anniversary. He told me how proud he was of me. He told me he was praying for me.
He told me he looked up to me.
I hate what alcohol did to my brother. I hate the internal struggle that he dealt with that I was unable to resolve—even knowing it was not my responsibility to do so. I hate that someone so loving and funny and smart was not able to see in himself what others saw.
But he was not a failure. He was an addict. He was a Christian walking through life the best way he knew how. He was a human being with human shortcomings.
He was everybody’s friend.