By Hannah Woods
Posted in Family Systems
Addiction is something that not only affects the individual struggling but in turn, affects the entire family system around that individual. This is true for the siblings of someone struggling with a substance use disorder. Seeing someone you grow up with, were raised by, or even helped raise yourself struggle with addiction can be an immense challenge. From not understanding what they’re going through, to being angry at the decisions they’ve made, these issues can tear relationships apart. However, these same struggles represent opportunities for growth, healing, and the forging of a new relationship built on a foundation of support and love. In the below blog post, OPG Marketing Intern Hannah Woods shares her own personal journey of building a relationship with her brother in early recovery.
My older brother is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Our age difference is eight years, so while he was going through these hard times in his life, I was too young to understand what was going on. All I knew is that he wasn’t around much. He and I didn’t even begin to build a relationship until he got sober almost nine years ago. Now, he is my best friend.
A big part of being able to open up and get close to him was forgiveness. I had to learn to forgive him for not being around while our parents got divorced, and while I entered my teenage years and started high school. When I went to his one-year anniversary meeting, my jaw nearly dropped to the floor as he told some of the stories from his past. Some of the things he did and went through really surprised me but helped me understand him more as a person. While I was home playing on the trampoline, he was out crashing golf carts; and while I was sleeping soundly in my bed at home, he was high and sleeping in the middle of the woods.
Part of forgiveness was learning to understand the disease. Watching him overcome his past and learn to forgive himself for the mistakes he made was inspiring. His recovery forced him to grow up in a short amount of time and he has accomplished so much throughout. Forgiving him for not being around when I was younger became easier when I started to build a relationship with him that I had never had and didn’t know I needed. Now, I don’t know what I would do without him. My brother isn’t perfect, but he’s become the person I look up to the most in this world.
A strong factor that helped fuel our relationship was when we worked together to help our mom who relapsed after being sober for 6 years. I was only 16 and living alone with her at the time and I didn’t know what I could do to help her. Around this time, my brother had started a sober living business with a friend. He worked as a sober companion, helping people who were newly sober stay sober. Since he was experienced, I went to him and we worked together to help our mom. Our mom relapsed a couple more times and each time we teamed up and got her to go to rehab. He has taught me so much about sobriety and how we can’t blame the person or ourselves for things that are said and actions that are taken against us. He is the reason I can forgive and move on without holding grudges.
We have gone through a lot together with our family and outside factors. With every bump in the road, our relationship grows stronger. I am so proud of my brother and everything he has accomplished. He’s a great son, brother, friend, and dad. I know he is always there for me, even if he is terrible at answering his phone!