Yesterday, my brother Ricky was arrested. I'm not surprised. Something with him just wasn't right. Ricky has been in and out of recovery for almost seven years, but lately he hasn't been himself. Ironically, worrying about Ricky is one of the things I seek recovery from, so now the question is when crisis hits, can I really practice the principles of recovery in ALL of my affairs?
Why Am I So Worried About Ricky's Business?
By the time I was seven, I was regularly in charge of taking care of Ricky. In my parents absence, I had supreme authority to make him mind and keep him out of trouble. This is too much power for a seven year old.
As we got older, my burden of responsibility never eased. I drove him to school, cooked meals for him, picked him up from practice, and even took him to the dentist. I did everything in my power to keep him safe and raise him to be a responsible young man. Yet I was his sister. We should have been equals. This often happens to children of alcoholics; they become over-responsible. Once Ricky started drinking, I was the one who drove him home when he had too much to drink.
When What You're Worrying About Actually Happens
Before recovery, my fears ran wild. I was afraid Ricky would die, kill himself, or kill someone else. I obsessed over every situation and spent many sleepless nights begging God to keep Ricky safe. Living one day at a time has taught me to stay in the present. This really helped shut down the endless cycle of improbable fears.
When I found out Ricky was in jail, my old, unhealthy instincts kicked in. I wanted to:
- Blame anyone and everyone involved except Ricky
- Search his room for illegal substances (Ricky lives with our parents.)
- Send him a sermon I found online
- Consult with a lawyer on his behalf
- Blame my Mom and Dad for letting this happen (He does, after all, live in their house.)
- Organize an intervention
- Sort out who did what and find out where his life went off track
- Educate my Mom and Dad on how to respond to an opioid overdose (My worst fears are working overtime.)
- Get a dose (or two) of Narcan to keep in their medicine cabinet
- Search for treatment centers that could help him detox
Notice I said, I wanted to. In a crisis, I have to decide: Will I use my recovery tools or fall back on my programmed responses? I didn't do any of these things, but it took considerable strength to not respond the way I used to. Instead, I called my sponsor. She asked me what I thought. Here's what I know for a fact:
- None of the responses above have EVER worked. They won't work now. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. (I learned that from Ricky the first time he went to rehab.)
- Ricky does not want my opinion. If so, he would have asked.
- My parents don't want my opinion. If so, they would have asked.
- I can't change Ricky. I can't make him want anything different. Nor can I hold him captive in my house and keep him safe.
My sponsor suggested I wait to do anything. I hate this situation. My heart is breaking and my mind is racing, but I must remember NO ONE has asked me for help.
I'm honestly worried for Ricky's life, but I am not in charge of him. Worrying won't keep him safe. Lecturing him won't entice him to make different choices. Trying to control him won't save him. Most days, I have significant trouble making my own decisions. How could I possibly know what Ricky should do in this situation that I've never been in?
What I Can Do
I'm going to my home meeting tonight, and I will try to go to a few other Al-Anon meetings this week. (Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else's drinking. I'm actually thinking of attending 90 meetings in 90 days.) Maybe after more meetings, I'll have more answers.
In meantime, I'm turning Ricky over to my Higher Power. I trust that my Higher Power is bigger and stronger than Ricky. It sounds small and minor, but it's the most powerful thing I can do. I'm also making a list of hopeless times when my Higher Power has saved the day, and I'm trying to enjoy the small things in each day. I spent time in my garden and a few hours coloring, and I took myself to the mall.
I hope Ricky will call me, but I'm leaving that up to my Higher Power too. In times like these, I specifically ask my Higher Power what I should do, then I wait for an answer. I'm still waiting for an answer, so I'm still not doing anything. I'm also taking time to feel my feelings and write them down in a journal. Finally, I'm re-reading my book on Boundaries (By Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend) and entertaining any idea I haven't tried before because nothing changes if nothing changes.