We are Family

All her brothers, sisters and me. That’s a great song, isn’t it? I know many of you are now humming it in your head. Me too. Family is important. Family is not just the blood-pumping through your veins relation, either. Family is so much more than that, and I have really learned that in this process. I saw one of those Facebook cards/saying/thingy that said “if you really want to know who your friends are tell them you are an addict” but that truth is if you want to know who will stand next you in the face of adversity tell them about a tragedy or other controversial issue in your life. When the smoke coming from the shoes of those that are running away clears, everyone that is left is your family. Blood or no.

The interesting part happens while the smoke has yet to clear. Everyone has a different reaction to addiction. My family is no stranger to addiction and addictive behavior, which in most situations is not great, but for me and for JoDee was a huge help. JoDee didn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining addiction or why she behaved poorly, stole, lied, etc. In fact, the opposite happened. When she told members of my family she was an addict, the reaction was more along the lines of, “Oh, that makes sense.” It sort of explained her behavior over the last few years. Of course, not everyone is going to respond like that. I can only speak for my family. And it isn’t perfect, that’s for sure. Even though my family is supportive there have been many times we haven’t agreed on what to do. Several times my father and I have not seen eye to eye on how I should handle something, but he is entitled to his opinion (sometimes he was right and then there were the other times that we won’t point out) and I am entitled to ignore it (insert smiley face, dad!).

I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect on and discuss, the siblings. I have mentioned before that sibling reaction is different and interesting. To do that, is to really dissect their individual personalities, because that is what it comes down too. Boys’ vs girls, blood vs step-ish siblings. Who is more forgiving? Who is hurt more? Who worries more? So, there is 5 of them in total. 3 are mine, 2 are his. Besides JoDee, there are my two boys (17 and 13) and his two girls (16 and 12). Yup. Plus his father. So 8 total. In our small, ranch-style house. We are either extremely crazy or really like each other. I won’t keep you in suspense… it’s a little of both. His dad doesn’t speak much English. He is super religious and prays for JoDee a lot. He tells me every day his god loves her. And me. And AC always says the same thing, he doesn’t know you. Very funny. Smart ass.

The boys definitely react differently than the girls. I’m not sure if that is because of gender or because the boys have known her their whole life. Jay J is basically absent. He will talk to JoDee if she initiates it. He will be honest with her if she asks a question. Actually, Jay J is pretty honest with everyone so don’t ask him something unless you either already know the answer or want the brutal truth. I wonder where he gets that? Hmmm. Anyway, Jay J has probably been around JoDee the most when she was high. Many times, unbeknownst to me, I would call her to tell her to give him a ride, or pick him up and she would be high. I would never knowingly let JoDee drive in that condition, and certainly not encourage her to put another child at risk as well. Does that play a part in his reaction to her? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think Jay J is just a realist. He sort of operates in life quietly, making calculated moves. I can honestly say he doesn’t say much but I think he takes it for face value. She is an addict. She can’t be trusted. She hasn’t pulled it together yet. He is just very straight forward. I do know, he never really wanted to visit her in treatment. In fact, I don’t believe he ever has visited her in treatment. Once, when she was at a treatment center in Danvers, that she subsequently was kicked out of for using (shocking, isn’t it?) I had to drop of cigarettes for her and he came with me for the ride. The only comment he made was, this place is creepy. And it was at night but I think that has more about location than the actual treatment center. I am hoping when JoDee finds herself in a better place, and Jay J matures a little bit that they will develop their own mutual respect to have a better relationship. Of course, JoDee needs to build or rebuild her relationships with everyone.

Where Jay J is silent and observant, Jared is a bull in a china factory. Having a seizure. You never have to guess what he is thinking. When JoDee relapsed in August, Jared’s first reaction was “that’s it I’m done with her” which I laughed at. I didn’t laugh at him, I laughed at the absurdity of that statement because we are family no matter what and Jared has very close ties to family. As Jay J never sees JoDee in treatment, Jared never misses a visit. JoDee and Jared fight so much in less than moments I want to put a bag over my head and seal it. But that is what siblings do. Jared complains about going to visit, he complains the whole car ride, he tells me how we have to be strict with her and not let her rule us by her addiction (think he has gone to his share of NA meetings??) but he would not miss the visit. He yells at her, she yells at him. They are so rude to each other and the minute he fights with someone else, her claws come out to protect him. And when she is in a bad place, he is pacing in the hallway like an expecting father, watching her to see if she is alright. It’s a strange dynamic but it’s their relationship. Overall, I think Jared looks up to JoDee. Having her struggle like this scares him because he worries about what that means for him. He has always seen JoDee as this amazingly strong person, so if she has gotten this far off track, what does that mean for him? I’m certain she has no idea how much he worries about her. Jared sleep walks. And sleep talks. Actually both of my boys sleep walk, though Jay J has grown out of it in recent years. Jared will wake up in the middle of the night yelling her name or searching for her, and we have to guide him back to bed. And by we, I do mean me, the cat and the dog because no one else wakes up unless a bomb goes off. I do think he is really angry at her. When he says things like he is done with her, I do believe he means it. He takes it personally, as we all do, when she relapses. As an adult it is hard for me to understand, I can’t imagine what his 13-year-old mind thinks about it.

It’s really difficult to see them at such odds now. I remember the days when the three of them would play together, laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. But alas, those days are gone. Jay J is surely and withdrawn, which is probably a result of his age. Jared is always yelling at someone, which is probably a result of, well, Jared. And when JoDee is home she barely interacts with Jay J and her and Jared scream at each other at level that makes me want to put them both in treatment-and then move and change my address. Which brings me to the girls. Maybe it’s because the girls have only known them a few years, or maybe it’s because girls interact differently than boys, or maybe it’s just because SC and OC are sisters, so they are used to sister behavior but whatever the reason, they are more accepting of JoDee’s mistakes, relapses and even down-right bitchy-ness. They all fight, the girls do, yelling at each other, calling each other names, and seriously two minutes later one will say to the other, can you curl my hair? And it’s like they never fought at all. When JoDee was running amuck in Arizona, the girls were worried beyond understanding. I think it’s harder for them in some respect because they go back and forth between the houses and don’t always get the information right when it happens. And again, some of it is personality. SC was born wise beyond her years. She is very methodical, very logical, and very sensible. She has had her own struggles, and she is growing so much as a person and a woman it’s hard to imagine that she is only 16. OC is also wise too, not in the same way as SC but she has definitely encountered her share of adversity. She still behaves age appropriately and she truly sees JoDee as her best friend, so JoDee’s struggles, cause her a profound amount of anxiety.

No matter the reaction, boys vs girls, love vs anger, the one I think I know I have learned is that siblings suffer as much as parents. I remember when a grade school friend of JoDee’s died I kept saying that mother must be so devastated and JoDee said to me that she couldn’t imagine how his brother and sister felt. Of course, I said, there is no love like a parent and she said mom it’s their brother-very incredulously. But now I get what she is saying. One love is not greater than another. In some ways, maybe it’s more painful because there is a level of regret in wondering if you could have changed something. To all the siblings playing the what-if game, let me tell you what you have probably heard a ton of time, there is nothing you can do. There is nothing I can do, and there is nothing my kids/his kids, can do to make JoDee change her behavior. Your pain is real, addiction is hard on you, and your sibling loves you, even if h/she can’t tell you. Just for today, give yourself a break.



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