old (2008), Uncategorized

same old song and dance

I’m not even in town for 24 hours and already my brother has blown me off because a hotel bar called his name before he remembered I was waiting, along with his friends, for him to swing by. This shouldn’t surprise me; as I mentioned to Tim a few minutes ago, whenever my brother and I are in the same city, he’s only present about 10 percent of the time — 70 percent of the time he is drunk (or in the process of getting drunk), and 20 percent of the time he is chasing after some girl, who is always “maybe The One” (meaning she’s attractive and falls for his smooth lines). In the past this would have angered me, or disappointed me, or perhaps even made me think he doesn’t love or care about me as much as he should. I’m his big sister and I came all this way to support him and he repays me by blowing me off?

This time around, though, what I say to Tim is, “he has a good heart,” because he does. I’ve taken — at times — to imagining people as they must have been at age six or seven, the time when they were old enough to know they needed love and young enough to feel disappointed (and wounded) when they didn’t get it. It forces me to feel deep compassion for people when I’d rather hold on to bitterness and superiority, both of which help my sobriety about as much as a shot of tequila.

With my brother, though, it’s not just imagining him as a small child; I was there, and I lived through that pain with him, and in many instances I remember things he has repressed. For example, I witnessed my father drop-kicking him across the room when he was seven and I was nine, but my brother only knows it happened because I’ve told him. It seems to me an odd thing to forget, your father treating you like a football, but we all have our safety mechanisms and that’s one of his.

And I get that my brother-as-a-boy is the root of who he is now, the seeds of why he drinks and disappoints and disappears. I know probably more than he wants to believe I do about the motivations for his behavior, but I also know something he does not: I don’t really care anymore.

Well, actually, I do care. After all, he’s my brother, and I see the same spiritual sickness in him that I suffer from myself. But what I don’t care about is the supposed impact it’s having on me — yeah, he’s blowing me off; yeah, he’s disappointing me; yeah, I came all this way and all I’ve done all day is hang out in a coffeeshop and read magazines and take a nap (and go to a meeting) because he’s been completely absent. But he knows every one of these things — it is not my place to remind him or lay a guilt trip on him or otherwise badger him. What is my role? To keep my own side of the street clean, as they say. To do the right things for my own sanity and sobriety. To show up for him, but to do so with clear boundaries that ensure I keep dignity and self-respect.

Right now I’m very sad for my brother. He needs help, and it’s the sort of help that only comes when he decides he’s had enough. I’m supposed to go out to a bar with him after his graduation tomorrow, and my family will be there, but I’ve mostly decided I won’t go, since he’s said he’ll be drinking up a storm. I don’t doubt that I’d be able to handle it — I am a strong person — but just because I know I can walk across hot coals doesn’t mean I should jump at every opportunity to do so. It doesn’t work that way.

Honestly, I don’t know what the morning will bring, other than additional opportunities to do the right things. I’m walking through fear, and all I can do is keep on going. Namaste.

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