One benefit of growing up in a house that can best be described as chaotic is that your family provides an enormous amount of material to cover in your writing. Another is that sometimes news stories that may cause others to simply chuckle or shake their heads will actually bring you back to a family incident.
For me, this happened when I came across a recent story about “Weed Man” and “Beer Man” getting into a scuffle in Times Square. My memory? The night a few years ago when I found out that my brother had gotten shot.
It was about 2 am when I got off the subway at 163rd and Amsterdam and felt my cell phone buzzing in my coat pocket. My first thought was, “Shit! What did I leave at the restaurant this time? It better not be my keys.” I frantically punched in my pass code and heard the following message:
“Um…Dawn, can you call me back when you get this? It’s about your brother. He’s okay, I mean he is alive, but you need to call me back.”
My mind went fuzzy and I spaced out for a few seconds. When I came to, it hit me that I just got one of “those” phone calls—the kind that wake you up out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night and cause your heart to bum rush your throat. It’s the kind of call that friends and family members of addicts dread.
When I got inside my building, I returned the call.
“Hello? What’s going on?”
“Well, your brother is alive so don’t worry about that, but he is in the hospital right now. He’s been shot.”
“Wait, what…what do you mean? Where?”
“In the stomach.”
I sunk down into the steps of my hallway and stared blankly ahead. The details of my brother’s latest incident stacked at my feet like wood for a smoldering fire.
The story, apparently, was that he’d sold meth to a guy that was short on cash. When Meth Man failed to satisfy his end of the deal, my brother attempted to collect the debt with his fists and Meth Man’s response included a pistol and six silver bullets. While five of them aborted the mission, one of them—all it takes is one—cut right through my brother’s stomach and exploded in his intestines.
Not only was my brother on the wrong end of the gun that night he was also consistently on the wrong end of life. And as his sister, I felt like I often had no choice but to be right there with him. Despite the fact that I’d always been pretty straight-laced and normal, I’d gotten fairly accustomed to my life resembling an episode of Cops now and again.
Now, Weed Man and Beer Man’s episode wasn’t as serious as the one my brother had with Meth Man. Apparently, Weed Man (who’s earned his name by carrying a sign that reads “Help! I Need Money for Weed”) had a falling out with “Beer Man” (whose sign reads “I Need Beer”) which first got sloppy after Weed Man spat in Beer Man’s face. What started out as an argument over their respective territories quickly escalated into a fist-jabbing and face-stabbing horror.
Of course my brother would surely have chosen a pen in the face over a bullet in the gut but my family story and this news one about the wacky folks in Times Square are similar in that they each focus on two addicts who seem willing to do whatever’s necessary to keep their habits alive. Obviously a pistol packs a heavier punch than a pen or a fist but if they are being employed for a similar reason, then really what’s the difference?
You see, it doesn’t matter if what an addict or alcoholic wants in their cup is vodka or beer. It makes no difference if what they’re after is marijuana or just a fun night out with their new friend “Molly.” If an addict has reached the point where “by any means necessary” is being employed, anything can happen—and usually will.
Amazingly, my brother’s now sober but perhaps more amazingly, I’ve learned that I do actually have a choice about whether or not I have to be right there alongside the addicts in my family when they’re circling the bottom of the drain. In other words, I’ve discovered a way to put my “Savior Woman” sign down.
[Photo courtesy of MSN.]
Dawn Clancy is the creator of Growing Up Chaotic, a blog and radio program for those determined to survive and thrive despite growing up in toxicity. Her goal is to create a community hell bent on breaking, cracking and demolishing the cycle of dysfunction.
Categories: Addicted Loved Ones