My Drug of Choice


On one hand I was shocked, but at the same time I was not surprised.

I had been playing Grand Turismo 5 (a car racing game for all those that are gaming challenged) on my Sony PS3 game console for much longer than a man of my age should that day.

My fingers were throbbing and aching from smashing the buttons on the game controller.

My voice was hoarse from screaming out in frustration because I could not beat one of the cars in the race.

Everything in the room was blurry except for the television screen I had been fixated on for the past few hours.

My mind and body was consumed by digital play.

Then my cell phone shrieked out; its voice  jolted me to attention. My fantasy world was abruptly invaded by reality.

The ring was a beacon of life thrown out letting me know it was time to at the very least take a break. Maybe even address the hunger pains I had been ignoring. Sad thing is that I probably would have gone on a lot longer had it not been for my caller. I grabbed the phone and answered it not even looking to see who it was.

“Hello!” I spit out so sharply that my friend asked if I was OK.

“Yeah, I’m fine, what’s up?”

“That’s really terrible about Whitney isn’t it?”

“What’s terrible? What happened?” Now, I focused on the conversation and not how I was going to beat that damn car in the game.

“She’s dead… where have you been?” he inquisitively asked.  Feeling slightly embarrassed about what I had really been doing for most of the day, I just said I had been working on my book, and had not turned the television or radio on, which is what I do when I write.

It was then, hours after most of the world had found out, that I became aware of Whitney Houston’s death.

On one hand I was shocked. On the other, I was not surprised at all.

Most people would say that anyone passing away at the age of 48 has left the world far too soon, myself included.  But because of the all the alleged substance abuse that plagued the singer/actress, I did not completely feel that her untimely death came out of nowhere.

Still, as I sat there thinking about what happened to Houston, the reality of how drug usage has had an impact on my life flashed through my thoughts.

I have never experimented with drugs a day in my life. Not even smoked pot once. Hell, I don’t even drink alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on some sanctimonious high horse here by saying that, it’s just a fact of life for me. Most of my friends are social drinkers; some smoke pot. All of them are responsible people that have their shit together.

But a few do much more, and life is a struggle of combating addiction.

When it comes to the friends that you hang around, it is totally your choice to associate with a particular person or group. When it comes to family, the connection goes much deeper than that and we are forever bonded with people we may not necessarily like. Those relationships can be riddled with emotional confliction.

In my case, I love the person but hate the life that has befallen them.

It was only twenty dollars my brother asked to borrow. Simple enough, I had the cash and did not even mind taking it to him clear on the other side of town. It’s my brother and he is family.

That is just what you do if you can.

When he came down to meet me in the lobby of his apartment building, I will never forget what I saw.

His eyes were glassed over and his clothes looked as if they had been worn and slept in for a number of days. As he walked up to me, his path was slightly irregular, slowly swaying left and right from a direct approach. His hair was long, and pulled to the back in a haphazard pony tail. His lips looked dry and chapped, as if he had not had water in days. He strained to smile at me and give off the appearance that everything was ok as the white ashy hue on his lips begun to crack. When he was close enough to me to take the $20 dollar bill, I could smell an odor that reminded me of dirty clothes that had been piled into a laundry basket possibly for weeks.

This was the moment almost 20 years ago I discovered that my sibling had a drug addiction problem.

Through the subsequent years, I watched as my brother’s battle with drug usage has been peppered with great victories and soiled with staggering defeats. My family and I have been there in every capacity possible, but have ultimately come to terms with one thing.

It is not our battle to fight.

The most you can do for someone that has a drug addiction is leave a candle in the window for that person and hopefully they can find their way home at the darkest of times. Have we… have I…given up on my brother?

Absolutely not.

But there is complete truth to the saying that you cannot help a person that can’t help themselves. You can’t be with them 24 hours a day; you can’t fight their temptation to delve into the random thoughts of falling back into the life of addiction; you can’t take away the feeling that they have experienced when using.

The most you can do is tell that person you love then unconditionally, and that you will be there for them in their corner through their battle. You hope that at some point they remember that when they need it the most.

But be aware, there is a fine line between being supportive and being an enabler.

I don’t even begin to pretend to say that how I have handled my brother’s addiction is correct. I am no expert and who knows, I even wonder if I have contributed somehow negatively. But what I do know is that I will always be here for him when he calls out for help to straighten out his life. Until then, I will escape this world from time to time with my drug of choice…my Sony PS3.

I love you little brother.