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The night my brother overdosed on heroin is one I’ll never forget. I can still recall every detail: the thud of his body hitting the floor, my parents’ yells, the terror, the confusion, and the hopelessness that sank in when I realized we were back to square one with his seemingly never-ending battle with addiction.
When my brother didn’t respond, I actually surprised myself. Despite the chaos around me, an unnatural inner strength came over me that enabled me to help my parents get my brother stable. I held his stiff gray hands and spoke slowly to him as he stared back with dull eyes. Though I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, I was surprisingly calm as we waited for him to come to. I realized later that this timely calmness was the Lord’s sustaining power.
After he was stabilized and taken to be treated at a hospital, the reality of the situation struck me. My momentary heaven-sent strength ran out, and I collapsed with grief. My heart broke. My chest ached as I lay curled on my bed, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t sob hard enough to keep up with my emotions. “How is this my life?” I thought. “He’s never going to beat this! I can’t do this anymore!”
In that moment when I collapsed with grief, I felt like I had been lifted into the air by an unseen force—a gale-force wind that slammed me to the cold, dark ground of rock bottom—a place reserved not just for addicts but for those who love them, a place I’m becoming all too familiar with.
A Relentless Hurricane
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction is almost unbearable. Addiction feeds lies, secrecy, deceit, and betrayal, which breeds defensiveness, shame, and distrust—all of which damage relationships with others and cause each of us to question our grasp on reality. I can’t tell you how many times my parents, siblings, and I have each been faced with the crushing weight of “what ifs?” and “if onlys.”
Not every family that is affected by addiction has the same experience, but in my family’s case, my brother’s addiction has caused disagreements about how to handle his situation.
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