What My Brother's Addiction Taught Me About The Road To Resilience

by Colleen Woodward
Madeville Pictures

Addiction is a concept that is not easy to comprehend when you're in elementary, middle and even sometimes high school. I was addicted to mac and cheese, candy and "SpongeBob SquarePants," while my brother was addicted to drugs.

Our worlds were miles apart.

For 17 years, I watched him bob and weave throughout my life.

I watched my mom cry, I watched her bail him out, I watched him deteriorate in front of my eyes, I watched family holidays crash and burn. But I also watched someone who had completely ruined his life bounce back twofold and defy all odds.

I anticipated attending a funeral for my best friend, but instead I was given the pleasure of being a part of his wedding. I anticipated never seeing my brother again, but instead we see each other every chance we get. I anticipated watching my family break to pieces, but instead I now get to sit with every member of my family and open Christmas presents together.

There are millions of people in the world struggling with addiction, but what you don't see are the families grappling with it behind closed doors. I never thought I would take anything positive away from my brother's addiction.

I hated him for it.

I hated watching my mom cry herself to sleep. I hated not having my family together for holidays. I hated that I had to visit my loved one in prison.

But, by some miracle called resilience, my brother, my best friend, came back. And here are the things I have learned because of it:

No matter what, you can always come back from any type of hardship.

If my brother can beat a nasty addiction that took a hold of his life for years, you can come back, too. Even if it means asking for help, you can get your life back.

Addiction does not define you.

When talking to me about my brother, many people only saw his addiction. They forgot about how caring, passionate, talented and hilarious he was. To those dealing with a loved one's addiction, don't ever forget about the person he or she is without it.

For the ones going through addiction, don't forget the person you are underneath it. Don't forget about the potential you have and the people rooting for you.

Addiction is like a bubble; you just need to find the strength to pop it.

You and only you have the power to get out of your addiction, and it is 100 percent possible to do. It is a bubble surrounding you, but you have the strength to pop it. Don't give up, and take your life back.

You can create a beautiful life after addiction.

Did I expect much from my brother besides watching him slip in and out of rehab? Honestly, no.

But now I know I was wrong, and it is possible to have the life you want once you give up your addiction. Get tough and spring back. You can have a career and a beautiful life, just like my brother does.

Forgiveness is possible.

Forgive your loved one for the person he or she was during the addiction.

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we as humans are asked to do. But if you understood the strength it takes for a person to pull him- or herself out of addiction, depression or whatever it is, you can find the strength to forgive.

Forgive your loved one, and watch the beauty that follows.

Addiction is no joke. I watched it rip my family a part for a long time.

Although those were some of the toughest years for our family, watching my brother not give up on himself or his family is something I will cherish forever. And that's the whole point; you don't give up.

You don't give up on yourself, on your family or the life you could have. Watching my loved one find the inner resilience he did is the one positive aspect from this experience I will forever be grateful for.

My brother became an addict, but he also became a role model to never ever give up on yourself.