Monday, January 3, 2011

Drug Addict in the Family

It had been almost a year since DH had last heard from his little brother - who is actually not little at all, and is turning 31 soon, but generally behaves more like a teen so no one who has known him any length of time can quite believe he is truly a Grown Ass Adult. Last time we saw him, he was at a party at my parents' house in the middle of a blizzard, where one of my best friends and her husband overheard him making a phony phone call pretending to have lost his credit card - so that DH would loan him some money, which he did. Did I mention this party was actually our baby daughter's baptism, and that DH's brother was her godfather? Yeah.

So you can see from miles away where all of this is going.

Tonight, his brother emailed DH and both of their (divorced, now remarried) parents to reveal that in fact he is a coke and marijuana addict who is depressed, is an insomniac, was fired from his job, thinks he will probably be in legal trouble with regard to the circumstances of his firing, has no friends, has told more lies in the last 12 years than he can remember, has no identification, no documentation to be able to obtain identification, has no friends, and that his life basically sucks, and he is ashamed, sorry, and doesn't know what to do.

At this time, DH and I are trying to figure out if he is a threat to himself or to others. And what the best course of action is. Would DH hopping on a plane help matters? We live 2 time zones away but we have close friends in the city in which his brother lives in who work in psychological services, and can hopefully make some helpful suggestions/referrals.

Immediately after receiving the email, DH called his brother; they spoke for only a few minutes, then after they hung up DH just started sobbing. DH has felt a lot of what he calls survivor's guilt for having escaped their horrible family of origin, and built a healthy life for himself. DH had to fight back the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to call each of his parents (who BTW are each batshit crazy and Not Good People, but I suppose the good news is we all live on opposite coasts) because he really wants to let them know that he holds them responsible for having been such shitty parents to him, and even moreso to his brother.

As for me, I'm just sad, and I'm trying to be a good active listener, and to support DH the best I can. I suggested he set up an appointment with our therapist to process all of this. In a way, it is a real shock. The drug addiction piece does come as a surprise on the one hand, and yet on the other hand it certainly explains a lot of the behavior we've witnessed over the years but had chalked up to depression and personality disorders and general effed-up-edness.

It just feels really crazy tonight. And I feel so awful for DH.


Maria said...

I'm so sorry you and your husband are going through this. May I be the first to *highly recommend* Al-Anon, which is for friends and families of addicts of all kinds, and which will give you and especially your husband a support system full of people who really really understand what it's like.

Hang in there!

mom2boy said...

Very sorry for you both. Seconding Al-Anon. I have a crazy Not Good parent and some survivor guilt of my own. The only I know for sure is that other (adult) people's action are not my responsibility, no matter who they are or how much I love them. His brother is an adult and if he truly wants to change his life it be his choice to make, and his work to do. Nothing your husband does or has done up to this point is what will make or break the situation. I think what you are doing is just right. Hugs to you all.

Claudia said...

I wrote a post earlier, but it vanished. Anyway, ditto what they say (Hi Maria!)
Try not to get too caught up in the crazy spiral. It's just right that you play the active listener. No more.

I apologize for not finding a suitable place to swear in this post. I'll make up for it in a future comment.

Cloud said...

Oh, ouch.

But you know, in a way, it is a good that the brother is 'fessing up to his problems. You can't fix something if you won't acknowledge that it is broken. But it must be really overwhelming to look at your life and see it so very broken. But.... 31 is young. This could be the decade where he turns it around, right?

I don't know whether your DH should hop on a plane or not. What does his gut tell him to do? What do his friends working in the psychological services say will be most helpful? I think your idea of having him talk to your counselor is excellent. This is a lot to process!

Melba said...

Aw shit hush this sucks. I think you're doing the right things though... just being a listener, suggesting DH talk to his therapist. I don't know if he should jump on a plane... maybe if he and his bro are very close, but otherwise, I would hesitate.

People with addictions and general effed-up-edness can fall into that trap of doing whatever they have to do, no matter what the emotional cost to those they love, to fuel their addictions and effed-up-ness. If DH goes there, he may come back with a thinner wallet and the unpleasant addition of guilt for fueling the problem.

Now I may be making some assumptions about DH's brother and the extent of his problems, but if they're bad problems... DH will get hurt if he goes there to try to help. But maybe its worth it to try. I don't know. But be prepared for that. It won't be easy.

Gah. Suckage. Hugs to you.

Jac. said...

I swear we live in parallel universes. I've mentioned before that my MIL is bat-shit crazy. The fallout for some of my husband's siblings has been craptaculer. DH feels really badly about this because, like your DH, he is remarkably normal. What I've learned in 12 years of dealing with his family crap is that you can love people without saving them, and sometimes it is important to show your love by NOT saving them and by treating them like responsible adults who can make better choices and help themselves. Of course, I'm not talking about intervening if a life is threatened (and thank goodness I've never had to deal with that). I would probably let the brother know you were here to help him when he was ready for help, but help would have to come with conditions and a plan (i.e. what would be your husband's goal if he hopped on a plane?).

Also, blame is fun but it never helps. My DH cut his mother out of our lives completely. Rather than blame her, he just focussed on himself and did what he thought he had to do to protect himself. A lot of people in crappy parenting situations (myself included) keep hoping/waiting/trying for an approved relationship with the parent - keep giving the parents a chance to redeem themselves and be the parent we want them to be. It never happens and then we get disappointed and hurt all over again. Yelling at your in-laws might make your DH feel momentarily good, but it's doubtful they will react the way your DH wants them to and that will probably make him even angrier and more resentful. Why give them another opportunity to disappoint?

Thinking of you. Family crap is the worse. It's insidious and it keeps popping up over and over a lifetime.

hush said...

Appreciate all of the sage advice and support! By way of an update: brother and DH have talked on the phone this week a little more than I think I am comfortable with and the result of that has been a lot of noticeable anxiety in DH, that he fully acknowledges. I'm concerned that if DH and I don't fully process this that DH will take his feelings of misplaced guilt about his family and submerge them and they will come out in a negative way in our marriage - like the stuff we already went through in marriage counseling where DH was devaluing some of my work at home (I also work externally from home), and it took our therapist basically telling him he was projecting bad feelings about his mother's untreated depression and personality disorders on to me. We eventually resolved it, but it came at a price to our relationship that we had only recently bounced back from. Don't wish to travel down that unpleasant road again!

@Maria - Thanks for the rec of Al-Anon, we are going to be checking it out early next week!

@mom2boy - Thank you for reminding me that nothing DH does/has done will have any real impact on his brother's situation. I'm glad DH agrees!

@Claudia - Amen to "trying not to get caught up in the crazy spiral." This will be all about having & maintaining good boundaries.

@Cloud - Yes, I agree that naming the problem is the right first step. DH decided to stay put and to not give his brother a dime no matter what, and I respect those decisions. Our friends in psych serv. say his brother should drop in to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and that DH should process this with his therapist, and I agree.

@Melba - I agree 100% that "DH will get hurt if he goes there to try to help."

blue said...

Well, looks like I missed this one, but I just thought I'd add:

Ugh! How can you possibly know what is best in a situation like this? My biological father was (is?) a serious drug abuser and, along with a very long list of complicated issues with which this has come, I will say, on most days, I generally feel better off without this person in my life. It is so hard to know how to trust a person who is in one breath your flesh and blood and is also a lying, cheating addict.

I am glad to hear that he chose to communicate over the phone with some physical distance between him and his brother. You DH seems to be entangled in the issue more than he realized. It might eventually be good for him that this came up so he is forced to continue facing his past.

Although it sounds as if there will be more to this story for DH, his brother and you, I wish you all the best possible outcome.

Becky said...

Dealing with a family member's drug addiction can be so stressful! I am so sorry! May I suggest a great book titled, "Soaring Above Co-Addiction" by Lisa Espich. The book shares countless tips, tools, and resources, that families dealing with addiction need. I sure have found it to be helpful - my husband and I are currently going a similar thing with my mother-in-law who is addicted to prescription drugs. Good luck to you both!

hush said...

@blue - Thanks for the well wishes. I also believe some good may come of it in terms of DH making peace with his family of origin issues.

@Becky - Welcome, and thank you so much for the boom recommendation!

hush said...

@Jac - I just found your above comment in my spam - don't know why that happened! Thank you for that, and may I say it is eerily comforting to know that we are living parallel existences. ;)