Hey friends! So I haven’t posted midweek this week like I usually do, and for good reason. The last five days I’ve been in Tampa with my family. My mom, my dad, and I flew down earlier this week to spend a few days with my brother, who lives 2 hours from Tampa.
The reason we went down there was to celebrate my brother’s date of being one year clean of drugs and alcohol. We all had an awesome time together, visiting Busch Gardens and exercising and eating all the good food and laughing. If you had seen this family a few years ago, and saw us these past few days, you wouldn’t believe the difference.
It’s been a long time coming, but the positive family dynamic and all-around happiness has been well-deserved. My parents are saints for things that they’ve put up with, from both of their kids. And my brother finally seems to be in a great place, mentally and physically.
I’m going to delve into some things tonight that are super personal. And super emotional. But they need to be written about. There’s still such a stigma about addiction, it’s such a tough subject to talk about. People usually ask me why my brother moved to Florida and I’m typically pretty hesitant to tell someone I’m not close to, because I’m scared of how they’ll judge- judge him, judge me, judge my family.
All of this content has been gone over with my brother, Jordan, prior to posting. He wants to share his story. He wants to help others. If people can see how such a great outcome can come from such dark times, I hope it can give them the hope they need to get through their own personal tough times.
Jordan was a bad kid, from the beginning. Being shipped off to military school at a young age, stealing my car before he has a license, stealing money, hanging out with a bad crew. At my high school, a lot of kids had started taking prescription pills at parties… it was the thing to do. So, I wasn’t surprised when I learned he had fell into this. At age 17, he crashed one of my cars in the neighborhood and when it was found he was using pills, he was court ordered to rehab. He got “better” for the most part, graduated high school, and started college at Kutztown. Obviously not seeing him as much, it was hard to keep an eye on him and see what he was up to. But myself and my parents had our suspicions.
Jordan and I had never got along. It was hard for me to trust him and even be nice to him after I had to get a new car TWICE because of him. So one day we were headed out to dinner to my aunt’s house, my parents were in the car and calling for Jordan and I to get in the car. I ran upstairs because I had forgotten something in my room, and I caught him trying to take money out of my purse. Of course, I freaked out, ran down and told my parents. I was so f*cking angry, especially because he was lying saying it wasn’t true. He lied about everything back then. My parents ended up dropping him back off at school on the way to my aunt’s before dinner because none of us could stand to be around him. At this point, I realized I had to start hiding my money, and I think our relationship ultimately took a turn for the worse.
Jordan ended up transferring home from Kutztown, to go to University of Delaware. I was not happy about this, because he was now living at home. I tried to avoid him most of the time. We had opposite schedules so we barely talked or saw each other.
Jordan was first arrested probably at the age of 19 or 20, for a DUI and drug possession coming home from Philly. This was the first time myself, my mom, and my dad found out he was using heroin. I still remember the way I felt when I heard my mom say it. That word. Heroin. It still gives me chills and makes my eyes fill up even today. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My baby brother, who at first was just partying and drinking and getting high because that’s what everyone else was doing… but this? Nodding out while driving, and getting pulled over with a ridiculous amount of heroin on him?
He got sent off to rehab, somewhere near Atlantic City. Good riddance, I had thought. I wished they had sent him farther. I wanted nothing to do with him, wanted him to get out of all our lives forever, to stop costing my parents so much money, so much sadness, so much pain. It wasn’t fair, they never deserved any of it. My mom would cry to me about what she could have done to prevented this, how she could help him just get better. It is such an awful thing to see your mother hurt in that way. I made it worse, I would yell at her to stop being so nice to him, to put her foot down, to stop caring so much about him because he clearly didn’t care about us. She could never understand how I could be so heartless and angry and refuse to show any compassion for my only brother. We had no idea how much worse it would get before it got better.
When he came home from that rehab he had to go to court for the previous DUI. He was put on probation and 30 days house arrest. I always thought they were too lenient on him. I couldn’t wait for the day they would just lock him up already. Him and my mom had a fight one night, and the next thing you know, he disappeared. Waited until nobody was home.. took his TV, Xbox, my dad’s tablet and bunch of other things to pawn for money. Through the location on his phone, we figured out he was in Philly, buying heroin we assumed. We were unable to find him but he ended up turning himself in.
The next two years consisted of different rehab stints, getting kicked out, coming home, going to rehab again, getting “better”– things being fine for a few weeks at a time. Then things would start to change. My mom said she could always tell when he would come home high, she could see it in his eyes, she could hear it in his voice. But, he always lied. And she knew that. So then they would fight. And he would disappear again for a few days, doing God knows what.
There was about a year, maybe more, where Jordan was “clean”…but I wouldn’t say in full recovery because he had started taking up drinking again. At this point our relationship had started to mend a little bit. I felt bad for him, all his friends were going out to the bars, of course he wanted to go and partake in the drinking as well. He wasn’t doing drugs, he wasn’t stealing money, he had kept a job and was working his ass off. We were able to have a decent conversation from time to time.
Things eventually got out of hand, as I’m sure you might have assumed that they would. We suspected he was doing drugs again. One night I came home from work, it was like 11pm or close to midnight. I went upstairs, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and walked past Jordan’s room to get to mine, like I did every night. I heard this weird sound coming from his room, it sounded like snoring. I didn’t think anything of it. So I laid down to go to bed, I was so exhausted… as I was about to fall asleep I thought to myself: “I’ve slept in the bedroom next to Jordan’s for the last 23 years… and I have never heard him snore.” So I went to his room and knocked on the door. No answer. I opened the door, and I swear it was like something out of a movie. He was laying on his back on the bed, wheezing… unlike any sound I had ever heard. His face was black and blue. He legitimately looked like a vampire from a movie. I couldn’t even touch him or try to sit him up I was so horrified. I immediately screamed for my mom and dad and ran out of the room, hysterical. I called 911 and told them my brother was overdosed in his bed.
My mom was totally calm. She had seen him like this before, at this point it didn’t phase her. But it phased me. I still remember exactly what it looked like and I don’t think I’ll ever forget. When the police arrived, 10 minutes later, they gave him whatever shot it is that reverses an overdose. He slowly came back to somewhat normal, at least breathing normally again. But he looked like he couldn’t form words and definitely didn’t remember what had happened.They took him out of the house on a stretcher. I told the police what had happened, how I was seconds away from going to sleep. The officer told me if I hadn’t found him at the time that I did, he would have been dead by the morning.
I know what you’re thinking– this was Jordan’s rock bottom. But it wasn’t. There were many more benders. One day, in October 2016, Jordan went missing, and called my mom from a hospital in Philly six days later. This time, my mom finally put her foot down. She was buying him a one-way to ticket to Florida, or he was going to not have a home anymore.
Fast forward to today, Jordan is one year clean and sober. He’s living in Florida, has a serving job, is doing Crossfit, yoga, and regularly running. He’s living in a sober home with other boys, and he’s the manager of the house. He’s just recently enrolled in online school.
There were so many years I spent thinking, as awful as it sounds, “my brother is already dead.” So many nights I was scared that phone call was coming. I always wondered where I would be. At work? Out with my friends? Would my parents wait until I came home to tell me? How was it going to happen? On accident? Or him finally having enough, and doing it on purpose?
I realize now how deeply depressed and sick my brother was. He doesn’t have a drug problem. He has an addiction problem. I was always that person who said “addiction isn’t a disease. That person knew the consequences the first time they took that drug.” How wrong I was.
I spent so much time being angry and resentful towards him, and letting that cause problems with my mom and dad as well. I never tried to understand it. I never read any of the books, like my mom did. I never went to any therapy sessions with him. I only sent him kind words when he was away because my mom had bugged me to and guilt-ed me into it. But I never meant it. There truly was a time when I thought this family would be better off without him.
Just typing that sentence now really pains me. My brother is now one of my best friends. How could I ever have thought that way? Jordan is such an intelligent, caring, funny, positive human being. I’m so proud to be his sister. I think why I was always so angry with him is because he has so much potential, and I hated to watch him throw his life away.
To any one out there struggling with addiction, there is always, always hope. There is always someone who cares about you and wants you to do well. There is always another life waiting for you at what seems to be the end of yours.
And to anyone who loves someone who is addicted, there is always a way to be a little more understanding, to change your outlook, to help them. I know it’s hard, believe me. Being angry is the easiest way to go. Love them. That’s all they need.