Either way, it promised oblivion. I think my brother was willing to take the risk.
He told me once that the moment he tried meth, he knew he would never feel happiness like that again. He was right. Crystal meth, his drug of choice, robs its users of their dopamine receptors, meaning that their ability to experience joy is diminished or even destroyed. He was clean then but there was no disguising the longing in his voice.
It was difficult, but I returned his smile when he finished speaking. He had been sober for nearly two years. Looking back, that moment seems like the point in a horror movie when you think the monster is dead just before it rears back up to eat you.
“So, um, I wanted to talk to you guys,” he said.
He was leaning on the counter casually but I heard something in his voice I didn’t like.
“I had a drink last night. It was an experiment.”
My heart sank. That was five years ago. Over that period, he lost everything and then he died.
For years, I tried to help my brother. It mattered so much to me that he was safe. First, I wanted him to be a good husband to his wife and a good father to his three children. When his marriage ended, I focused on getting him to a place of mental and financial stability.
Once, I stayed up all night by his bedside in an emergency room when I was seven months pregnant. Another time, I brought my second child, then 2, into a large hospital, searching from open curtained bed to open curtained bed to find my brother. I would later learn that it was a ward for patients with multiple complicating issues like my brother who was battling addiction, mental illness and a traumatic brain injury from his most recent overdose.
It wasn’t a pleasant place. There were people who didn’t blink or swallow as they stared at us with a machine shoved down their throat. They lay on the beds without moving, as if the undertaker had forgotten to get them dressed for their own service.