Meredith’s Musings: My Sister is a Junkie
article by Meredith McKinnie
I used to love my baby sister. I loved her energy, her spirit, her patience, her wit. We were never especially close; we didn’t hang out much outside the house, but given that we were four years apart, experiencing different stages of life, I didn’t think too much about it. But I loved her; she was always there, and perhaps I took that for granted. Perhaps as the older sibling it was my responsibility to reach out, build a stronger bond. I carry around guilt for that, something I just noticed recently. We attracted different types of people. She would call me an elitist, saying I turned my nose up at her friends, that I thought I was better than them. The truth is, she was right. I did. I could see the path they were traveling and wanted no part of it. She, on the other hand, seeks out the weak; she thinks she can help them. She’s one of the most empathetic persons I’ve ever known. I envy that about her, but not her life as a result of making those kinds of friendships.
I’ll spare you the details of how her addiction came about. Most of those stories are the same. But she was what the drug counselor referred to as “far gone.” I knew her behavior was erratic. I knew her temperament was off. I had an idea of what she was doing, but not to that extent, not that she would inject her groin with meth several times a day, or steal money from my parents, or do the unthinkable for a fix. I couldn’t comprehend that. Like my parents, I just didn’t want to. Much like those wives who know their husbands cheat and turn a blind eye, I was ignoring the signs, simplifying the situation, cleaning up her messes instead of confronting the issue. My mom, my sweet, oftentimes naïve mother, through tears once said to me, “How did I end up with one daughter who is a professor and one who’s a junkie? What did I do wrong? I treated you both the same, didn’t I?” I had no words. I just hugged her. She needed a hug more than an answer.
Once it became evident how far gone she was, when she no longer hid it, but flaunted her behavior, the hate began to set in. I despised her. I hated her for what she was doing to herself, to our family, to my parent’s otherwise solid marriage, to me, to our family name and particularly the hurt she was causing the people I love, the people I like to see smile. I saw her as selfish. I told her once, “Kill yourself! Release the rest of us!” I meant it at the time. I meant it with every ounce of hatred I had acquired. I wanted to hurt her, as she was hurting all of us, particularly Mom. I don’t usually allow anyone to hurt my mother. I shield her as best I can. I feel it’s my responsibility, even though I know she could handle herself. She’s strong, so strong, but when she breaks, she literally crumbles. And my sister was breaking her. And to make it worse, through it all, Mom just loved her, and told her over and over again how much she loved her. My sister would scream, “I HATE YOU.” And Mom’s response was always, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” And she did. Perhaps it was the mother/daughter dynamic, but I remember envying her ability to still love and hope in all those cycles of hellish haze. I just wanted to escape, but still shelter my mother at the same time. I was torn.
My sister has been in rehab, her second stint, now for 3 months. I spoke to her for the first time on Monday, my birthday. When I said hello, she broke down, barely able to speak through her tears. She kept apologizing, and unlike Mom, I didn’t cut her off and tell her it was all okay. She needed to get it out, and I needed to hear it. So I let her beg forgiveness, acknowledge her wrongdoing, and ask us to come see her. I agreed. I have decided I will do what I can for her recovery, but I will no longer let her actions consume me. I will no longer hang on to hatred. I will try to rebuild our relationship when it feels right and natural. I can separate my sister from the addict now. They’re two different people. I have to think that way for my own peace of mind; it’s just easier to let go of the hatred. I still hate the addict, but I want my sister back.
To be continued next month…
*Note: This was written over a year ago. There are many more words to the story to be shared soon. This is not meant to embarrass my sister or my family, but to serve more as a testimony. We often hide our problems, put on pretty faces, but when we begin to share, we begin to feel free. To combat addiction, we have to discuss it, inform others, share our truths. This is my humble attempt to share my version of my sister’s addiction. And if it helps one person, my sister and I believe it’s worth the risk.