Quandries

He was lost long ago, and could not be called back.  Some switch inside flipped in the direction of irretrievable, angry and anti-social, with cravings of living on the edge his candy of choice .  He entered a world completely foreign and unfamiliar to me, and my understanding of this world’s bondage went only as far as the lyrics in Hotel California.

And so this brilliant mind slowly disintegrated into something that is now unrecognizable.  Something that over time cost him his family and turned a future of no boundaries into a future of nothing less than a living hell. Something that broke the hearts of those who loved him.

He doesn’t see it this way.  I don’t know that addicts and ASPD’s ever see the plight of those who love them.  He sees the world as a place against him.  He sees very little of his own culpability in the events of his life.  He is lost, and he will never know how much it grieves my heart with an ache so big it matches the one for my father’s death because he prefers to believe that I never cared.  For him, caring means enabling.  He can’t see that the way he has chosen to live his life is painful for those who love him.  A child incapable of learning the lessons of childhood.

He is a stranger to me now.  I’m only acquainted with bits and pieces of his life through my dad.  My mother stopped correspondence long before I did.

Then came a letter to my dad 2 years ago.  It was a vile, contemptuous letter whose sole intent was meant to wound deeply.  The one sole person who had never given up on him.  The only person who had continued to give support in spite of his lifestyle, in spite of the arrests, in spite of a heinous charge sheet and in spite of things that would surely kill any father to hear about their son.  Someone who had done everything within his capacity to not abandon.  My dad called one afternoon, voice strained and full of emotion, his words short and clipped.

“I’m sorry I ruined your life,” he says without preamble, a sob escaping him.

I’m stunned.  “Sorry?  Ruined?  You didn’t ruin my life dad.  What are you talking about?”

Out it comes in a tumble of frustration and despair.  How my brother had written him a letter full of hate and venom, proclaiming that his whole life was my dad’s fault.  That he, my brother would be normal, have a normal life if my dad had not divorced my mom.  In that instant, my heart broke.  The grief I heard over the line left me with little compassion for the happy, blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy that I remembered from my childhood.

“Dad!”  I say as sharply as I can while fighting back my emotion.  “You did not ruin my life.  Nor his.  When does he take responsibility for his actions?  How many people grow up in truly horrific circumstances and make something of themselves?  It’s an excuse, and a reason to blame yet again, and not take responsibility for his actions.”

My dad told my brother that he would not speak to him for a year.  He marked it on his calendar, because that’s the kind of guy he was.  This happened in January of 2010.  My brother continued to call my dad, who refused to answer the phone.  In December when my brother’s birthday rolled around, my dad, feeling soft at the moment decided he should call him on his birthday.  I gathered it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.  Then in the spring of 2011, their relationship began to deteriorate.  My brother made unkind references toward me, but my dad would have none of it.  The last conversation he had my dad said, “I love you.  You are my son.  But you will never change.”  And without waiting for a response, he hung up.

He did not talk to my brother again before he died.  The day my dad was found, the local police called me late in the evening.  They said that my brother had left a message on the answering machine that hadn’t been listened to.  In the message he apologized and said he wanted to make things right.  My heart was as cold as stone.  My response to the officer when he said, “He sounded really sincere,” was cold fury.

“Yes, well he’s good a that.  He’s done it his whole life.  Alienated people, then is always sorry.”  I proceeded to tell him about the letter.  I don’t know why I did that, other than I was just angry and upset.

Eventually I had to speak to my brother.  When I heard the depth of despair in his voice, my heart softened, and I began to forgive him.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to lose a parent, being in his position and never having the chance to say you were sorry.

The passing of time however has shown me that I am wrong.  He is still the same person he’s been and has no desire to be clean and sober, let alone take responsibility and bear the consequences of his actions, past or present.  He views me as a spoiled child and criticizes me for not having “walked a mile in his shoes”.  And therein lies the problem.  He can’t make the connection between someone who chooses a life of making safe choices and a life of poor choices.  I am at fault because I didn’t choose the same life that he did.

He is angry and bitter.  He told me recently he didn’t want to go to AA because it feels bad to sit around and discuss your problems.  I told him you have to walk through the fire to conquer your problems.  And if you have addiction, that means going to AA and feeling like shit until it gets better.  There is no easy fix.

He is 50 years old.  I think my dad was right.  He will not change because he cannot change.  I pray for him every day, that God would somehow change his heart.  As for me, I am done.  I just wish I could not care.

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42 Responses to Quandries

  1. jmgoyder says:

    OMG – I have to go out now but can’t wait to come home and read this properly and respond properly. I am so moved Arnel!

  2. terry1954 says:

    that is so sad. my heart aches for you. i will also pray for your brother. it is hard for me to understand your brother’s thinking as i have never been involved in this kind of living. i will continue to pray my friend that he drops to a point that he has no choice but to go to God. Bless you!

  3. Lara Lacombe says:

    Oh, Arnel. I wish I had some magic words to help you heal. Sending you virtual (((hugs))) from far away.

  4. Barneysday says:

    You are doing the right thing by not letting him manipulate you. This is painful and difficult. My thoughts go out to you.

  5. asignoflife says:

    My dad told me something several years ago and it has more or less become my mantra when dealing with others: “People don’t change their spots.” He said that they can better themselves, but they won’t change.
    I’m sorry things are going this way for you — My well-wishings go out to you.

    • Thanks so much. Your dad was right–I’ve heard that as well. I just wish I could talk to my dad. He really had a grasp on my brother, so I feel like I need advice, and there is no one to ask. :-(

  6. jmgoyder says:

    I have finally got back to this post and read it properly and am crying, not because I can relate to it exactly (different circumstances), but because I can relate totally to the sense of loss and frustration and grief.
    Your story here makes me wonder why, why, why? But someone once said to me that why is a useless question and that what is a better one – ie. what, what, what?
    There is nothing your dad or you could have done any better than you did – nothing!
    I salute you and your dad and I hope this response is not presumptuous.

    • Thank you Jules. No it is not presumptuous and I appreciate your response. I don’t know if you are familiar with ASPD, but it is very telling. It turned my stomach to read about it–because it fit so well. I just need to move on and try to heal. Why? “Ours is not to question…”. I can make guesses, but I will never really know why. It is a pointless question, although I think it could be useful in avoiding such fares if we could understand the mechanism that caused it. Thank you for reading Jules, and responding.

      • jmgoyder says:

        No, I know nothing about ASPD – can you enlighten my thick skull?

      • It is anti social personality disorder. I believe it is a polite way of saying sociopath. THey are charming, sly, parasitic individuals who will have you believing that everything is your fault. They are manipulative, and could talk a snake into selling their scales (my aunts analogy, not mine-but true enough–or maybe she said charm a snake out of his scales either way scary). They can be violent (which he is), and can cross over to being a psychopath, having no remorse for their actions.

  7. Wow, this is so powerful!! I have learned something over the years having gone through a similar situation. There is one like this in every family, believe me there is, and if you have tried over and over to encourage this person to seek change and they won’t, you just have to pull back before it destroys you and your family too. I have a sister who I haven’t spoken to in a couple of years. I firmly believe that she has serious mental issues but as is often the case she believes it is everyone else. I know this sounds mean, but she was always like a poison eating away at our family unit and causing fights and general discord. I tried to talk to her and her husband about getting her help, but I usually ended up getting bitten in the ass when I tried, so I had to break ties for the health of my own family. I know it’s a shame and sometimes I wonder if things could change, but all I know is that he rest of us get along just fine now. I hope she finds happiness too! Just remember that you tried to help and that you are to alone!! :)

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! It is comforting to hear other people have dealt with this, though I would not wish it on anyone. And I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I feel mostly sad for these individuals, who never know true happiness, but live their lives as tormented individuals. I’m glad your family has found peace. I will too, eventually.

      • You will find peace, but that’s not to say it won’t come to your mind now and again because it is family after all. You just have to remind yourself that you did your best. Sometimes I feel almost embarrassed when I tell people I don’t talk to my sister, and sometimes I feel guilty, but I do find it really helps when I hear about other people going through a similar situation because then I know for sure that I’m not alone :). Any time you want to talk about it, I’m here!!

      • I used to, but not haven’t in a long time (felt bad that I don’t talk to my brother). Now when the subject is broached, I think my tone of voice makes it clear that there’s no “discussion” of it, for those who would like to convince me it couldn’t be that bad. But I don’t feel bad about it any more. Thanks for the comment. It does help to know others have the same thing going on!

  8. Such a strong piece Arnel, engaging and heartfelt. You captured my attention with your hook and it flowed just like water to the end. Excellent writing. Some of our best work comes from our pain. I’m shown that over and over again. Keep writing. You have messages for those who do not have the words. –tw

  9. deniz says:

    {{hugs}} to you Arnel. I can’t imagine the strength it takes to not fall into that cycle yourself, out of guilt or misplaced loyalty or what-have-you.

    • Thank you Deniz, I think I developed really good radar early on because of him, and so I shy away from anything that looks remotely like this. It’s really unsettling to be around.

  10. Wow – this is heavy. Well written. The pain is clear. Sad in many ways.

  11. Lynne Ayers says:

    Your post moved me to tears Arnel. Tears from a parent’s view of a child lost and unreachable because I had a daughter lost but who has returned and blossomed for which I am so so grateful. Tears from a siblings view of a brother you can’t reach and who continues to hurt. It’s amazing that you are able to see this so clearly, and I think, correctly. An incredible post.

    • Lynne, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing. I’m so glad you got your daughter back. I don’t think my brother is coming back. He would have to want to take medication and go to therapy and AA, and he just isn’t willing, and that, breaks my heart.

  12. robincoyle says:

    So, so sad. What a story. Phew. I am exhausted. Be strong!

  13. Alcohol and other addictions destroy so much of what should be beautiful especially relationships..Alcohol was a detriment to several in my family…my father in particular…he had 10 children and my oldest sister and first born (I was the last) told me that he never told any one of them that he loved them nor just held them …He was gone by the time I was born…by gone I meant restrained from coming to our home…so my mother just carried on as she had been doing anyway ….without him and raised us by herself..Some of my siblings also had a problem but never stopped loving in spite of the alcohol…..Diane

    • Weird how it’s like that. You’d think it would drive all caring away, but it doesn’t. Peace is hard to come by sometimes. I just have to be strong in my convictions. I’m sorry you never knew your dad. Things like that always leave a bit of a hole, even if you are well adjusted, it has a lasting impression, I think. Are you close to your siblings?

      • I was and I am…I am a senior now and 7 have passed away..5 with cancer…my mother was an amazing woman and loved enough to enable us to do the same. I wasn’t well adjusted for a lot of my life but with God’s grace made it though many years of depression and have begun to live without it……I’m sorry about your brother but there is always hope…The last brother that passed away was an alcoholic..and lived a very unhappy life ….but the past 10 years of his life he was a recovered alcoholic . He had tried AA meetings but said they weren’t for him…One day he decided he’d had enough and poured the last of a bottle down the drain and just didn’t drink again…so keep praying for your brother as I did mine and maybe he will do the same…Diane

      • Yes, I read your about page, and wondered about the depression. I have struggled with depression as well, but in the last few years have decided I wasn’t going to let it rule my life, and have since tried to be very positive. I imagine that one of the most difficult processes of life is to see those around you pass on. I am beginning to see that now in my life. And you being the youngest of ten, well that couldn’t be easy. I truly don’t know how my brother is still alive, with some of the stuff he’s done. Maybe he will change, but at this point I’m not holding my breath. Thanks for responding and for sharing. I enjoy your blog very much.

  14. peters154 says:

    I had started reading this when you first posted it but couldn’t finish since it was somewhat familiar story for me. My older brother has not spoken to our Dad since 1996. There are reasons for this, but there is also no reason , and time just flies by.

  15. I recently met an 50-year-old who went through some of what your brother did – from high to rock bottom and right now he’s working his way up again. I still see a tendency to blame the world and now I understand it a bit more. I’m hoping he succeeds, but I can see how easy it would be to go back down the other road. Recovery is a battle and one you have to want to make. You’ll always care, he’s family after all. But you’ve also done everything in your heart to help him. It’s his turn now.

    • Thank you for stopping by! Loved your pics on your blog! You are right of course. I don’t think he wants to change, because the life he has is what he knows. I can’t help him, and the knowledge of that is very painful. All I can do is pray for him.

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