It was 2 am when I got the call about my oldest brother.
He’d been shot at six times during a drug deal. Luckily the guy behind the gun had bad aim. And my brother survived the two bullets that tore through his stomach and intestines.
Long before my brother got shot, I lived in fear of him dying. And even though I was sick of living in that fear I didn’t know how to stop it.
Sometimes I’d get so angry with him that I’d wish for it to happen.
Sometimes my worrying got so intense that I’d actually Google his name to see if a death report or obituary popped up.
Sure, it’s totally healthy to worry about someone we love but when that worry becomes chronic and our lives become unmanageable as a result – well that my friend, is a problem.
If you’re ready to get off the emotional roller coaster and stop living in constant fear that your loved one is going to die, then today’s post is for you.
We’re looking at 4 Lessons I Learned After My Brother Got Shot.
Yep, this is a heavy topic and it’s not one I take lightly.
Believe me, after losing an aunt to a car accident with a drunk driver, three uncles that died from alcoholism and a cousin that overdosed on heroin, not to mention my oldest brother getting shot and my other brother getting jumped by a bunch of guys with lead pipes, I know that substance abuse deaths and near-deaths are very real.
And at the same time I know that living in constant fear of that one phone call or what might happen tomorrow is no way to live.
After you read through today’s post, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. Tell me how you deal with that fear. Tell me all about what trips you up the most.
My goal is to create the safest and most supportive, global online community for loved ones of addicts and alcoholics. And I can’t do that without you.
Your experiences, insights and opinions matter – don’t ever forget that. This community needs your voice!
Until Next Tuesday.
P.S. For more on the night my brother got shot, check out this post.
#1 You Can’t Change Someone To Safety
Let’s kick this one off with one of my favorite quotes,
“The only time you can change someone is when they’re in diapers.” Kris Carr
Intellectually you probably know this. You know that you can’t control or dictate what someone else does or doesn’t do.
But do you really BELIEVE it?
Or do you have that little, nagging impulse inside of you that believes you can keep your father, brother, sister or mother safe from harm?
When I was little and my brother came home from rehab I thought I knew exactly what he needed to stay safe and sober.
I’d decided he needed to get his GED and find a girlfriend. So, I tried to set him up with our neighbor Lauren (who loved horses) and I followed him around the house with his GED prep books piled under my arms.
As it turned out, my brother never got sober and within a few months he was back out on the street and back in the game.
But I still held on to the idea that if I could just get him to sit down and study and ride horses with Lauren that I could keep him safe.
And if he was safe then I wouldn’t have to worry about him dying on the streets.
But I couldn’t change him. And I didn’t really get that until some 18 years later.
If you want to stop living in constant fear that the addict or alcoholic might die you’ve got to make peace with the fact that you can’t change them.
You can’t choose sobriety or sanity for someone. They’ve got to choose that path themselves.
#2 Take Advantage Of The One Thing You Can Control
Making up worst-case scenarios in my head is something I excel at.
And it’s incredibly easy to do especially if you love an addict or alcoholic.
Because addicts and alcoholics are masters at keeping things interesting and kicking up the drama.
That’s why you must take advantage of the one thing you can control and that’s your mind.
Don’t allow those vibrant “what if” scenarios cloud your head.
Take them down. Shut them off. Reserve your energy for if and when the real drama shows up at your door.
Your mind your rules.
Believe me this is advice I need to take as well. So, when I find myself spinning one way that I take back control of my mind is by asking myself this one simple question,
#3 Am I Okay Right Now?
In the heat of the moment. When my mind goes for a spin, I make an effort to stop and ask myself, “Am I okay right now?”
And if there’s still a roof over my head, I’m breathing and I’ve got warm clothes on my back then I know that I’m okay and I can handle whatever is in front of me in that moment.
With this one simple question, I’m able to shift my focus from what I’m afraid might happen to what is actually happening.
With this one question, I’m can relieve myself of the burden of worry. I can put that heavy load down, catch my breath and affirm that I’m okay. Even if I don’t know what the future holds.
I first learned this trick way back in the day when I was prone to panic attacks.
I met a friend for coffee and before I’d even ordered, I started rattling off a list of all the bad things that were about to happen in my life to my friend.
After my ramble, she took one look at me and asked, “But are you okay right now?”
It was a question I’d never even considered before but as I thought about it, I realized that I was more than okay. My rent was paid. My cat was healthy and safe. I was employed and in that moment all that I really had to be worried about was my coffee order.
Sure, I couldn’t say for sure if my oldest brother was strung out and homeless, if my mom was still drinking a case of Budweiser a day or if my other brother was still alive in jail.
But what I did know was that in that moment, sitting across from my friend in that coffee shop, I was indeed okay.
#4 Give It Up. And Then Give It Up Again
After my stepmom left my dad for her Internet lover, I was afraid that my dad was going to kill himself.
I would panic every time my phone rang because I was sure that the person on the other end was calling to tell me that he was gone.
I shared my fear with an Al-Anon friend after a meeting one night. And her advice to me was simple.
She said, “Give it up to God.” And I responded, “I already did that. But I’m still obsessing about my dad.”
And without missing a beat she turned to me and said, “Well then give it up again.”
Just like my friend at the coffee shop, my Al-Anon friend’s advice was something that I’d never considered before.
So, from that point forward, whenever I’d catch myself obsessing about what my dad might do, I gave the worry up. And I kept giving it up. Over and over again.
And wouldn’t you know it, eventually my obsession stopped.
Now. It doesn’t matter if you give it up to God, a High Power, Buddha, The Universe or whatever. Just give it up. And then give it up as often and as many times as needed.