Growing up, every family has their designated roles, writes *Stacey a north-east woman whose family is trapped in the never-ending cycle of drug abuse and recovery.
Somebody takes out the bins. Somebody walks the dog. Mine was to be the one to open the door of my drug-addicted brother’s bedroom first.
In the split second, between knocking the door and the inevitable silence in return, I’m re-enacting a well-rehearsed conversation with my mum where I have to break the news that he’s unconscious.
If I’m being honest, that’s a good day. I’ve also got a talk planned for how I tell her he’s dead. I just can’t bear the thought of my mum finding him.
Such is the unenviable agony of being someone who loves someone who’s unable to break free from drugs.
I’ve even got money saved for his funeral. True story. I’m told most people don’t have to think about such things.
What started with a joint with his mates was compounded by codeine when he hurt his back at work. When he added in a fellow substance misusing girlfriend… the result was devastating.
I once walked into his flat, because the door was ajar, to find him staggering between rooms ‘cleaning up’.
‘If it wasn’t for paramedics…his daughter wouldn’t have a father’
The needle stuck to his shoe and the crust around his mouth was a dead giveaway that he’d somehow survived yet another night consuming a cocktail of whatever he could get a hold of.
He now lives on his own and if it wasn’t for local paramedics administering roadside, bedside, parkside, lying-halfway-up-the-stairs-in-his-tower-side anti overdose medication, I’m confident his daughter wouldn’t have a father.
‘I heard the words and my heart sank’
Eight weeks ago my fireman friend shared a story about a rescue involving an unconscious man in a burning high-rise, and my heart sank.
No, that’s not accurate: it stopped.
Twelve hours earlier my brother had called me.
Chatty, excited about a frozen lasagne and chips he was about to make, he was on the phone to seek out approval from his big sister.
“Are you proud of me?” he was asking, “I haven’t had anything for three days.”
And while I assured him I was, and gushed about how we’d get a ferry to Norway one day and see the fjords like he’s always wanted to, everything in me was on heightened anxiety.
‘One hit in a clean body and I don’t have a brother’
See, what a lot of people don’t understand is that the clean days are the scariest.
One hit in a clean body and I don’t have a brother.
One bad ‘bag’ and I have to explain to my niece that Daddy won’t be coming to visit anymore.
But my brother isn’t even taking drugs because he wants to be high any more. He’s taking them because he can’t cope with the reality of the depressing life he’s got.
And so when my friend described the rescue of a man, unresponsive surrounded by a kitchen estimated to have been on fire for hours, I knew it was my brother.
‘I’m sorry sis’
The lasagne now charcoal and his body hammered again, I began ringing hospitals until sure enough, there he was.
“I’m sorry sis. It was just one time. I’m off it now. I was just that happy to have a nice dinner, I didn’t think it would do me any harm. It was half what I’d normally have.”
And that’s the reality. That’s his reality.
Elation in the form of a hot dinner and we’re back to square one.
But I remain grateful for those who believe the best in people like my brother – and who train to save them again and again – when the treadmill of it means those closest can’t any more.
- Scottish Families Affected By Alcohol and Drugs supports anyone concerned about someone else’s alcohol or drug use in Scotland. Call 08080 101011 or email email@example.com