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.