Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Brother's Keeper

This is an intensely personal post but I need to share it and I think you fine folks are the right ones with whom to share it. It has nothing to do with fly fishing or saving wild salmon but this blog is also about life. I am not using my brother's real name
My brother Steven was always everything I wanted to be in life. He was charming, handsome, popular with girls and good in sports...I idolized him.
Steve served his country with distinction in Vietnam and was decorated for his actions for heroism under fire. He came back in 1970 and in my eyes was almost god like. It's typical for a younger brother to feel this way and Steven was my hero.
Our mother was not a good mother. She seemed to resent us and never missed a chance to tell us what burdens we were. Mom hounded Steve all through high school and did not let up after his return from Vietnam so he made himself scarce around our home in Southern California and I longed to be around him.
When our father died in 1973 things really didn't change much with mom and when Steve moved away she concentrated her scorn on me.
From his return from war in 1970 until last year I rarely saw Steve. Sometimes we would go years without seeing each other. When mom passed away in 2003 Steve came up to Oregon for her funeral. It was good to see him and spend time with him. He was still my hero and I figured he always would be. I told him that I was always proud of him and was glad to be his kid brother.
In 2007 Steve's world crashed down on him. He lost the job that he had held for almost 15 years and then in early 2008 contracted severe pneumonia that lead to surgery and developed into a lung infection. Steve called and asked if I would come down to South Lake Tahoe and help him with his recovery. I was on the first plane out.
He was helpless and I did what any brother would do and helped him gain strength. I cried as I left to come home as he still seemed so helpless. Thing looked up for Steve later that year as he got a new job doing what he did best.
Unfortunately, it lasted only 9 months and once again Steve was unemployed with no prospects. I knew that my brother was always fond of alcohol and, in fact, I was pretty sure he was an alcoholic but never knew to what extent his alcoholism gripped him. Occasionally, he would call me in a very intoxicated state but at other times he would be quite sober. We talked about his moving to Oregon to start life over because the Lake Tahoe winters were so severe.
Finally, in 2010, Steve's options ran out and the decision was made that I would fly down to help him move up here and live in my home. He would rent a moving van and I would drive it back since Steve had lost his license due to a DUI conviction. I later learned he had accumulated three DUI convictions.
The day came and off to Reno I flew to "save" my brother. He assured me everything would be packed up and ready to go when I got there.
When I arrived, I discovered he hadn't packed anything. When I got out of the cab at his apartment it was apparent he had been on a drinking binge and was still very drunk. I was livid and entertained the idea of getting right back into the cab and coming home. He was a drunken wreck. It was all I could do to keep my temper while I packed Steve's belongings for the move to Oregon. The thing was, my big brother, my hero, turned out to be a pathetic and disgusting drunk.
I hoped things would change once I got him into a new environment. We had agreed that if he were to move into my house that he could not drink there. My wife made that very clear and I was in complete agreement. If Steve was going to drink he would have to do it elsewhere. As time progressed, he would go on monthly monumental drinking binges and towards the end of his stay in our home he began sneaking booze into the house, holing up in his room for days at a time, not even coming out of his room to shower.
In the nine months Steve lived with us he drifted deeper into depression fueled by alcoholic binges involving cheap vodka and even cheaper wine. It was one thing to deal with Steve about his drinking but to make things even worse, he stole from me.
Unfortunately I had to do the one thing I would have never believed I would have to do with my brother and that was to kick him out of my home. I had had enough with his broken promise about not drinking in our home and the disrespect he showed me. It troubles me deeply that it all came to this but I had to think of my wife and daughter and my own health. I didn’t know what was next for my brother but I knew I could not just stand by and allow him to drink himself to death in my home.
He had to relive all the things he experienced during his tour of Vietnam in order to get veterans benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder and that was tough on him but he used it as further justification for returning to the alcoholism that ruled his life. Steve was no longer my ideal. He was just a sorry drunk that would not and could not control his drinking.
I learned a very hard lesson in all of this: I should never put anyone too high on a pedestal because when they fall, as they often will, the one who gets hurt most is me.
I still love my brother, he is blood and blood means something. I want him to go to rehab but he refuses to do so and I am at an end as far as helping him unless he does. I offered to attend AA meetings with him and support him in any way I could but he still resists. Did I do the right thing? I am struggling with feelings of doubt and betrayal and of course second guessing myself but I did not know what else to do.
Sadly, I feel like I have lost him forever and will never get him back.

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