All my life is circular, I think. I look at situations and think ‘I’ve been here before, almost’. My massage instructor suggested that time is circular as well as linear- sort of a spiral stretched out on a line. That makes absolute sense to me. Like I have to check the lessons I’ve learned, then go back and check what else can be gleaned from the situation (or a similar one). Maybe check back once or twice over the course of 10 or so years, in case I’ve missed anything. I was looking at old pictures a bit today. They’re from when my brother was 4 or 5 and I had just got a camera so I was taking pictures of everything (remember that? The magick of point and shoot and capture that fuzzy moment forever?) He was playing in our little pool on the concrete driveway, grinning. In others he’s looking furious- these are group shots of all of us at Graceland, my graduation, other family group shots. Always standing apart, or glowering, or both. My little brother.
He’s in jail at this moment. Clean and sober, not by choice but by circumstance. He writes to me: ‘Sissy, I can think so clearly now without the drugs in my body.’ ‘Sis, I can’t believe I got so bad. I’m scared to get out. How will I live?’
My brother is a heroin addict. So is my sister.
I tell people this regularly. Not to gain sympathy or notoriety or anything else, but because this needs discussion. It needs to be heard and spoken and acknowledged. People need to understand that even if you have all your shit together it doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by heroin. Or cocaine (that was my birth mother). Or prescription drugs (my aunt). Or alcoholism (the list is too long). The thing is, I’m the only sibling who learned anything from having an addict raise us. I’m apparently the only one who got lucky enough to break the traditions. And it was luck, make no mistake. I was well on my way to pickling myself while I went tripping every weekend when one night I just…. didn’t want it.
Luck. Or maybe the Universe tapping my soul? Maybe it was my soul’s plan to be the sober support person this time around? I’d like to offer you all the suggestion that being the clean, clear-sighted one is plenty frustrating. I get to watch my family go down in flames, offering helpful suggestions the whole time. I love my family, and I can’t fix them.
I’ve come to terms with all this (most days). What I still struggle with is this: the birth mother? That we all share? Saw it all coming down. Allowed them to shoot up in her home. And did nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. I don’t even have words for how this makes me feel. Fury. Heartbreak. Tired. Disappointed. Sad. Is there a single word to convey all that and everything else I have trouble naming? I haven’t spoken with her in something like 7 years, since she told me to get out of her life (I was ever the obedient one). Funny though, we only live 3 blocks apart. She could have sent a message by carrier pigeon or neighbour or in the everloving POST for chrissakes letting me know what was going on. How does a mother just sit back and watch her youngest children destroy themselves and their lives?
Nevermind. It’s a rhetorical question. I know the answer (in this case). It’s because she has her own demons. Because she’s lost too. And I can’t help her either. So I stay away. Protect my tiny family. Try to model healthy behaviour for Monkey (who will be driving soon). Try to teach him to be strong and safe and sensible before he heads out into the world on his own. Try to offer good advice to my brother in our weekly letters. I tell him I love him in each one. I try to remind him that he is more than his addiction and mistakes. That he can plan to do better and follow through. That he can be a better father to his kids. That he has to take care of himself.
All these things I’ve told myself in the past, at other moments. All this ground that I’ve almost already covered.
Life is a spiral, stretching forward and back. Allowing us to touch multiple moments in time with one hand. Sometimes it’s just so damn hard.