Friday, February 22, 2013

Letting go

Last week, my dad fired my brother from his job. He deserved to be fired. He chooses to drink rather than show up at work. He chooses to wallow in alcoholism, rather than go to A.A. meetings, even when I offer to drive him to A.A. meetings. He chose to leave a perfectly good halfway house, to return to living in motels months ago, and being drunk and homeless. For the past week, with no money for a motel, he has been on the streets..

This is the day I told him was coming. I told him for the past four years. I said, "If you don't stop now, you're going to end up on the streets, or dead." He didn't listen to me. He didn't want my advice. I can't claim to understand alcoholism, or to know what it's like to be an alcoholic, so I don't have the answers. But I saw this coming from four years away. And now it is here.

So, of course, having been kicked out of every other place, he came to knock on my door one night. I let him sleep on my couch but tried to convince him to go to the crisis mental health center, because he has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the past, and even though he does not believe he has Bipolar, and he will not take medication for it, I knew that he needed help of some kind. He said he wanted to think about it. I tried to convince him to go to the detox center nearby and he did not want to go there either. The next day he didn't come back. He took his last few dollars and went and stayed in a motel, getting drunk again.

I drove to the courthouse, while I was supposed to be in Spanish class, and filed for an Ex Parte Baker Act. This is an involuntary commitment order to put someone in a mental health facility. I told them about my brother and the state he was in. He was a danger to himself, and I said so. I got the call a couple hours later, the judge had signed off on it. The police would pick him up whenever we figured out where he was. Just then, I also got an email from my brother, saying he was at the library downtown and he wanted help. He said he was walking to my apartment. I drove to the library searching for him but he wasn't there. I called the police back. I told them I knew where he was and I could take him to the crisis unit myself. They said they had to take him there.

He finally showed up at my apartment, dirty, drunk, tired, skinny as a rail. He was, as usual, not making much sense. And he was defeated. He said, "I give up". I explained that I was going to help him get help. I told him that - for his own good - the police were coming to take him. He had already gotten out of my mom's car on a busy road earlier this week, I couldn't risk him doing that with me. I said I was only doing this to help him.. He was mad. Really mad. But the police came, and they took him, in handcuffs, to the crisis center.

All my neighbors came outside to gawk at my brother being led away from the cops. One of them asked me if I knew him. Yes, I said. He is my brother. And he needs help.

The next day, within less than 24 hours after his arrival at the crisis unit, he was discharged. Perhaps because he had been sleeping in homeless shelters and they thought he was just a vagrant, perhaps because he had no insurance, perhaps because he refused to take medication, perhaps because the crisis unit recently got bought out by a corporation and they seem to be releasing a lot of people from there right now, for whatever reason, they sent him back to the streets.

That night at 11 PM he arrived at my door. That was last night. I did not \know what to do. I did not want to call the police again. I was tired. I wanted to go to bed so I could get up in time for work today. I have to think of my own mental health as well here. I told him I was going to bed and he could sleep on the couch. He said he wanted to go to detox. I gave him my phone and told him to call them and arrange to go there.

This morning I woke him up at 7 AM and told him to call the detox facility again. They did an intake with him on the phone. On my way to work, so I wouldn't be late, I dropped him off at an intersection, and gave him money for busfare to go the rest of the way there. He promised he was going. He had their address and phone number, and he had looked at the map to getting there on my computer. He had a card from the homeless shelter proving his homeless state, so he could go in as an indigent person as he has no money and no job. That was the last I or anyone saw or heard from him.

I don't know where he is now. I'm tired. Tired of worrying about my brother. Tired of waiting for another dreaded knock on my door at night. Tired of having parents who don't even know how to help me deal with this situation when he is their own son. Tired of alcohol, and alcoholism destroying my family and people I care about and love.

I'm tired.

That is all.

I am letting my brother go.


  1. I know that this is hard, but I honestly think you did the best thing. I hope he gets the help he needs, but like you said, you have to put your own recovery first.

  2. Speaking from experience, the thing about alcohol use, or abuse, or addiction (and it seems your brother may be truly addicted), is that it's often a (negative) coping mechanism for mental illness. It's a VERY short-term solution that has devastating long-term consequences. But when people overdrink, they do it for a reason. Examining that reason is key to getting well. Alcoholism is not a motor control problem: your brother chooses to pick up the bottle. I'm not criticizing. I'm just saying, as you already know, the Bipolar is a large part of what's going on with him.

    I think it's amazing you've offered him so much help. My sister's solution to my mental illness is to cut me out of her life without letting me know (I found out from her partner). I would love to have a sibling who cared about me. I hope if I did I would return the offers of help with respect.

    Good for you for taking care of yourself first. That is also admirable, and necessary.


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