Growing up, my brother always took charge during our games of pretend. He would be the one to come up with the scenarios, and typically, he would cast himself as the hero. If we were playing cops and robbers, he would be the one to take me down and put me away. If we were playing doctor and patient, he would make the life-changing discovery. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I always wanted to be the hero, he just never let me.
When he started a long battle with addiction, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I could recognize that he needed help, but I couldn’t find the words. I struggled with my interactions with him. I wanted to become a hero for him, but I kept finding myself banging against walls and being trapped in boxes.
That is, until I started therapy. It was something I never thought I would do. It was always an “other” people thing. I didn’t need therapy; I was fine. I didn’t realize how much I needed to heal, and come to terms with what little control I had over my life, in order to assist my brother in his own road to recovery.
During my sessions, I would talk to my therapist about my childhood. That’s how all those memories of my brother came up. The therapist would ask me about our relationship, and I remembered all those times I felt helpless in our games of play. I couldn’t stand up to him because he was my older brother. He was the one in charge. But now that I’m older, I can recognize that I need to be the one to support him. I can see in myself that this fear of being in control stems from those childhood games, and I’m not helping him if I’m not helping myself.
I took small steps to overcome this fear of being assertive. I started voicing my opinion more at work, giving my girlfriend my suggestions for where to eat, and saying “no” to things in my life I didn’t want to do. It was small steps at first, but I was able to practice this skill and grow into a stronger man during the process. So when I eventually confronted my brother about his addiction, with a specific plan and resources in place, I was able to do so with confidence and respect. He was able to see me as an authority figure, and he was open to listening to what I had to say.
Ultimately, it was incredibly important for me to focus on myself before I could focus on my brother. How could I help him if I wasn’t able to help myself?
About The Author:
Dan is a loving brother who simply wants to inspire people to speak up. He thinks that there is no greater disservice than ignoring someone’s clear call for help or letting them suffer alone. Dan’s advise to those in a similar situation is, “Save the people you love from themselves, you will never regret it.”