My Brother Is My Biggest Fan

My oldest brother, Robert, died 5 years ago. He never “got” recovery. But no one supported me more than he did.

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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.

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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.

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He was everybody’s friend.

12 thoughts on “My Brother Is My Biggest Fan

  1. My sister is an alcoholic and an addict and I live in dread for the day I’ll get the call that something really bad has happened. I hate addiction and I hate what it has done to her life and how it has changed her. Thank you for being open and raw in your writing today, it has reminded me to not give up.

  2. Sorry to hear of your brother. Unfortunately, it’s hard for some people to see the person behind the addiction and so I appreciate you sharing this point of view! I have very close friends who are currently suffering watching loved ones suffer through addiction and jail time and loss of family because of it. It’s important to keep faith and support them as best as possible! Great article!

  3. I love this post so much. I agree with you about addicts. My late husband struggled with sobriety until eventually killing himself ten years ago. People didn’t want me to mourn him, felt he didn’t deserve my grief. I fight to this day to say what you are saying–addicts are suffering individuals who walk through a darkness that not many can understand, but that doesn’t take away their humanity or their goodness. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  4. Wow. Paul, thank you for sharing such a personal story. I’m so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a beautiful person. He may have been addicted to something but really, who isn’t? We all do. Whether it be social media, games, electronic devices, working out. The Devour uses all things to consume our time. But like you said, we are all strugglers, trying to live well. In this case, I’m blessed & thankful for Christ. For we cannot do anything on our own. We will always struggle, but God promises that Christ has already overcome them, gives me assurance, joy, peace, & hope for a new day with new beginnings!

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