By Katie Walker
I don't want you to die thinking that I hate you, but I'm afraid it will happen. I don't want you in my life anymore, but I still love you. I’ll admit, there was a time when I didn't care if you lived or died--at least I told myself so--but I was really angry with you. It felt like you'd ruined everything and I really thought we were going to lose our nephew. Sometimes it's still really difficult not to blame you for Joel's mom leaving--you did have a meth-crazed affair together, after all. You did bring an armed drug dealer into our house who threatened to shoot all of us, including the baby. But, most of the time, I miss you. I miss you, not the addiction. I wonder where you end and where the addiction starts. Are you still the little boy who won the lead in the community play, singing "Reach for the Stars"?
Writing this, I realize it has been two years since I last spoke to you. You've tried to contact me. You still tell Mom to say hello to me. You still tell me you are proud of me through comments on Mom's Facebook page, even though you've gotten nothing in return. I'm sorry I'm still mad. I'm sorry I can't be there for you.
|Katie with her brother.|
Addiction is such a mess. Who are you? What actions were you and what actions were addiction? Who lives in your body now?
It's hard to believe the boy who tried teaching me to skateboard, who inspired me to try out for the theater, who shared such wonderful music with me is still inside of that body. It's hard to see that person when you steal from me and our parents, when you punch holes in walls in drunken rages, when you take advantage of our grandma's hospitality and unconditional love, taking her money and turning her home into your own personal drug house. I'll never forget it, and I don't know if I can forgive it.
I know you will read this and think I'm a monster, a selfish person who abandoned a loved one who needed me. Sometimes, that's how I feel, but I would not give up the life I lead now. I love that, without you poisoning my life, without fearing to come home, I can be there for people who want help, and help myself. Did you know I felt like I had to hide my depression and suicidal thoughts because Mom and Dad were preoccupied with trying to keep you and your girlfriend clean? That was a fun birthday. My 21st. Mom and I were on our way to Red Lobster to chow down on crab legs, as was our ritual. I told her then. I couldn't stop wanting to die. I couldn't stop wanting to escape. No, don't worry. It wasn't just you, but your violent outbursts certainly didn't help. Seeing my hero fall certainly didn't give me hope.
Two months later, I had an escape plan. I wouldn't be trapped in that house with you anymore. I'd get out, by just any means necessary. Even living in a house with no appliances and no heat in the middle of winter. Living with you was terrible. Having no heat was better, for the time being.
Yet, still I tried to be your friend. I remember visiting you a few months later in your three-quarter house. We went to see a concert, and I was excited to have a night of clean fun with you and your friends. I was happy to bring people who you used to love to come see you. Maybe that was a mistake. Old habits die hard, I guess.
I know it's been hard for you. I've watched you go through withdrawal, and lied for you to family friends, hiding what was happening because everything was still so fresh. I've gone to meetings with you. I lived with you for a time during your recovery and I've seen you cycle through stages of determination and depression. I did everything I thought I could to distract you from your symptoms. You taught me guitar; we planned art projects; we did whatever we could do that didn't involve substances. It hurt to find out that you'd been sneaking liquor, beer, and heroin the entire time. I thought we were doing well, but then you kept nodding off. I guess you weren't ready. I needed you to be ready.
|Katie and her brother as young siblings.|
I know we don't talk, and I know it's my fault, but I hope you know it pleases me that you are proud of me. I'll admit, I try not to hear about you, but when I catch wind of you holding down a job for over a month, I feel pride too. I know what you're going through isn't easy, and it's hard for both of us not to want to be selfish. I'm sorry for being selfish. I think I'll come back to you, one day, when I feel less fragile.
For now, I'm glad I get to live my life for me. I'm glad I can succeed in college without distraction and without worrying about having a safe place to study when I get home. You had me captivated when we were young, and I did everything I could to be just like you, no matter how damaging it was. I miss you, but it's a good thing you have no hold on me anymore. I am my own person.
Still, it'd be a lie to say none of my actions are influenced by you. You taught me to be my own advocate with your unfailingly strong-willed demeanor. I use that now to help myself and others get what they need. Although our political views have gone in drastically different directions, I still owe my courage to you. I still use your strength, bravado, and generosity to help those who need a shoulder, a hand, or a voice. Now, I know I can do these things, and it's a good thing too, because I can't imagine doing any other kind of work. I will always strive to be a servant to the little guy, or a hand for the downtrodden.
I know it will help me find my way back to you.
|Katie working at an LGBTQ event.|