I remember answering way too many phone calls from the police station, asking for my Mom to pick up my brother. Speeding. Theft. Vandalism. Throwing bricks at moving cars on the highway-cracking windshields and causing accidents, but no deaths yet. Possession of drugs and drug Pairs of Fenala (I had to look up paraphernalia in the dictionary). My Mom searching his room after one of these phone calls, and tears coming steadily down her face, and gathering all kinds of strange items, like pipes and vases (bongs) and bags of powder and grass from under his bed and in his closet. I would always just watch silently, trying to figure out what was happening in my house, but no one ever talked to me. Except to tell me not to tell anyone about anything.
Then one day, my Mom started packing my brother’s clothes into a suitcase and put it in the trunk of her car. Then she waited for my brother to come home and told him we were going out for tacos – something my brother still can’t resist. But we passed up Taco Bell. She said she wanted to try a new place, that we all needed a change. My brother said “whatever”. But he didn’t know about the suitcase in the trunk. I was so confused, but again, just stayed quiet. We pulled up to what looked like a hospital. Then she said to my brother, “They are expecting you. We want to help you. If you walk in there willingly, they won’t send you to jail. Please. Just walk in. There are guards that will catch you if you run. I don’t want you to get hurt.” I saw two huge men dressed all in white, but holding handcuffs. My brother turned around and looked at me in the back seat, a long, ghostly, searching look – but I had no answers for him. Then he looked at my Mom, and just got out and quietly entered the building. The two men grabbed his arms and escorted him away. My brother never looked back. Another man came out for his suitcase, and asked my Mom to sign some papers, but told her it was better if she just left. My mom took one last look at the door my brother entered and got back in the car to take me home. I hated her. I loved my brother. How could she give him away?
On the way home, we talked very little. We both cried – mine of out fear from not knowing, and her from fear of knowing her son had a drug problem. But all she said to me was, “Your brother needs help. They can help him here. We’ll come to visit him soon.”
The next day at school, my teacher asked me if I was OK. I was angry and embarrassed that she thought I wasn’t. Apparently my Mom had called her and explained that I needed to go to an intervention today and then will need to go every Wednesday to attend family counseling at the drug rehab center. I heard this from my teacher – not my parents. This teacher had taught my brother years ago and was “not surprised at all”.
I had no idea what an intervention was, but I was fairly excited to get to leave school. Although I was a perfect student, school was a long, tortuous, boring ordeal. My mom picked me up, and we drove, in silence, to that building where we abandoned my brother. This time we parked and went inside. My Dad was inside with my other brothers. We were all taken to a quiet room, and given instructions. We were supposed to convince my brother he had a drug problem, and to do this, we were supposed to list out everything he had done wrong recently. Things that were harmful, hurtful, or out of character for him. I didn’t want to get my brother in trouble, and I didn’t want to tell this stranger anything. The counselor handed out papers and pencils to write out the events, then left the room for a while. When he returned, he brought someone who looked like my brother, but seemed like only his outline, or his physical form. It seemed that his spirit had been removed. His eyes were cold and blank. He looked around the room at his family as if we were all strangers, and sat down in silence in the chair in the front of the room, facing the rest of us.
Then the counselor asked us to start reading our complaints. One after one, we all took turns listing his wrongs. Each comment made him flinch, like we were throwing knives at him, but stared stonily at the floor. My mom said “You stole money from my purse”. Flinch. My Dad said “You are failing your classes”. Flinch. My oldest brother said, “You kissed my girlfriend”. Flinch. I didn’t want to read mine. I didn’t want to throw another knife. This seemed way too cruel. The counselor took my paper and read mine aloud. “You kicked our dog” That one was not just a knife, not just a flinch, it was like all his bones had been removed and he no longer had any structure in his body. He went limp and looked me in the eye with the deepest sorrow I have ever seen, and then looked away to blink away his tears. When he looked back at us again, the sorrow was gone. It was like he was gone. He listened to the rest without flinching at all. When all of our lists were complete, the counselor asked if my brother had anything he wanted to say back to us. He looked right at me, and whispered, “I’m sorry”. But he did not look at anyone else, just hung his head in shameful silence. The counselor thanked us for coming in, and escorted my brother back to his room. I watched him walk away, and saw the guard buzz the locked doors open for them to enter the residential hall. The counselor returned with a Doctor, saying they will start the detox tonight. That they will attempt to keep him comfortable and monitored for safety during withdrawals, and that the worst should be over in 3 days, but that they would keep him for a few weeks. Weeks – I was stunned. And then they handed Mom a bag with his belt and shoelaces, to prevent any suicide attempts.
I was in 5th grade. My brother was junior in high school. I asked my Mom how he would make up all that school work? She just shushed me. No one told me anything, and no one answered my questions. No google back then, so I went back to the dictionary to look up everything I heard the doctor say. I went to the library and learned about drugs and detox. I was already in the habit of looking up my asthma medications and side effects, so I knew exactly where to go. I learned that detox was very dangerous, and that my brother’s heart could stop, and that it would be very painful for him to detox. That he would sweat and shake and throw up for hours. But I kept my knowledge to myself, as my mom read People magazine and pretended everything was fine. I prayed for my brother that night, prayed that he would survive the detox, that he wouldn’t be in so much pain, and that one day I would see him smile again.