I'm fighting a heroin addiction.

I'm fighting a heroin addiction and I've never stuck a needle in my arm, between my toes, or anywhere else on my body. You see, I am the sibling of an addict. You don't hear about me on the news. You don't read about me in the paper. And, quite frankly, I'm not quick to share with you because I'm consumed with so much shame that isn't mine to carry. You see, suddenly, the world is speaking of this addiction but I've been living the headlines for years. Before it was an epidemic, before it made its way onto the front page of your papers, it was the front page of my life. As a matter of fact, the headlines changed with the current events. From cigarettes, to beer, to marijuana, to prescription pills taken from cabinets, to drugs I am so unaware of that I cannot even list. My brother's heroin addiction is not my story to tell. But, what I've learned over the years, my story as a sister to an addict is equally important. I am worthy of telling my story.

Broken. Addicts are broken. We, addicts or not,  are all broken. Hurt people, hurt people. The wounds of living with a drug addict are deep. When I believe the wound has healed in my adulthood, my adult brother, in his disease, finds a way to tear the scab off in his desperation for the next high and  the infection seeps from the old wound. Far removed. Miles away. Years later. It still seeps. Counseling. Self-help books, self-coping, and every other avenue under the sun to cope....leaving me a at a place of realization that the only thing a sibling of an addict has the control to do is take control of myself.

I cannot force my hope for who I wish my brother would be on him in hopes that he will change. We passed that years ago. I cannot explain to my own children who are surprised to learn that I have a brother, why they do not know him.

I cannot reconcile the hurt, the pain, the disappointment and the infection that the disease of drug addiction has on the family of an addict.

I cannot pretend that this piece of my story doesn't exist any longer.

What I can say is that Christ wastes nothing and will work all things according to His purposes for those who love Him.  I do not know the future of my brother's soul.  But,  I do know the revelation the Holy Spirit has provided me in the midst of such pain, such misery, such suffering. I do know the freedom of breaking the bondage of shame by bringing it into the light and being vulnerable enough to say, "Yes! Hello! My name is Jenny and my brother is a convicted felon, a heroin addict and so broken it ripes my heart from my chest. Over, and over and over again."

That alone is only the tip of the iceberg. One cannot begin to know whats buried under the water, unless you yourself are connected to an addict.  In my very broken, imperfect journey to truly beginning a relationship with Christ, I made and still make many mistakes. I am so thankful being addicted to drugs is not one of them.

It's not that my brother cannot stop doing drugs, but that he has NOT stopped yet. He has hit below the rock bottom of our wildest imagination. But, yet somehow, the fear of sitting with his sober self is more terrifying than the life he lets feed his addiction. His soul is so broken that he is willing, at all costs, to feed his addiction.

In high school, I experienced first hand living under the same roof as my brother, the wreckage that follows the unforgiving storm of addiction that  can destroy everything in its path. At that point in my life I was so angry with God. I found comfort, a healthy distraction and some success in soccer. I began to pour my whole self into soccer. Soccer was my escape.  But, God's plan for my future looked different than my own. I was determined to get a scholarship to play at a college in Ohio so my parents could travel to my games.  After beginning to chase hard after this dream, at 15,  I tore my ACL and had reconstructive surgery on my left knee. After months of rehabilitating, so eager to compete again, in a meaningless indoor match, I tore my right ACL. I knew instantly when it happened. I chose to accept it, have surgery to repair the damaged cartilage but not the damaged ligament. I played my senior year with a torn ACL in hopes of fulfilling my dream to still have the chance to play college ball. By the end of my senior season, my dreams of playing in college were as shredded as the ligament inside my knee shown on the MRI. My knees were done. My hope was lost.

At 18 years old, through a divine interruption, God changed the course of my forever by literally picking me up and moving me 12 hours away from the shame I was carrying in a small town where everyone knew who my brother was and for all the wrong reasons. Little did I understand at the time that losing my ability to play soccer enabled me to expand my realm of possibilities for college and changed the course of my future.

Even though God had already set into motion his plans to deliver me from the weight of the burden I felt being affected daily by my brother's addiction, I was angry, lost and no longer a part of a team. I no longer had my escape, my peaceful place, my field of dreams.   So, now far from home where no one knew me, I no longer felt the need to be perfect. I no longer felt the immense pressure I put on myself to not bring any more shame upon my parents.  Not having a team, a dream to chase or soccer practice to keep me focused, I decided that the whole God thing wasn't really working for me anymore. I stopped seeking Him and starting searching for fun. Thankfully, God is gracious, patient, and relentlessly pursued me until I returned to Him my junior year of college. I am forever grateful for friends who loved me at my worst and wouldn't allow me to forget the God who was desperately chasing my heart.

I share this piece of my story because now with hindsight, I know God split the sea so I could walk right through it. He delivered me from my own Egypt. My own slavery of bondage to the chains and the shame of my brother's addiction in a small town where everyone knew. And, even when I lost myself in the process and turned my back on Christ, He never left me.

I have carried the burden, the regret, the shame, the brokenness, and the hurt of his addiction for 20 years. Very recently, I laid it down at the feet of Christ. I did not let it go. I laid it down. I surrendered. I cannot fix him. I cannot wish him into being the brother I hoped for. I cannot allow my hope for who I wish my brother was to cloud the reality of who my brother actually is in his addiction. So where does that leave me? How do I proceed as an adult now, when my brother is still stuck ?! My heart hurts for him but, I realize that His brokenness is not mine to mend. My heart hurts accepting that what I so desperately want to change, I cannot. His brokenness, truly, is no greater than mine. However, in our brokenness, our choices to seek righteousness are. It's one thing to be sober, it's another to be saved. In the midst of the intense, unimaginable grip of addiction is also the reality that one must be slightly insane to fuel a dark pit with such a great cost.

Rock bottom is often the catalyst for change. In his brokenness, my brother endured a pistol wiping, which I'm sure was drug related, so badly that he was in an ICU for 2 weeks and a nursing home for an entire YEAR. However, the trajectory of his path has not changed. Insanity settles when hope is lost but behavior does not change. How can one's soul choose such darkness over the painful rawness of sitting with a sober self?  I do not know. What I do know is that we are all broken. We all have our issues, our burdens, our fears,  and our hopes.  What I'm learning is that his shame is not my cross to carry. Jesus already paid it all for him should He choose to receive it. He is also not mine to fix or have anxiety and depression over. In my suffering of being the sibling of a heorin addict, Christ has shown me mercy in my own failures, my own sins and my own shame.

And, as I said, He has also shown me that just as my brother is not mine to fix,  AND He is no longer mine to judge. (He never was..but I happily assumed that role).  Christ  is showing me that in all of this, it is my responsibility to do my part to ensure that I am not allowing the cycle to continue. That I am not sitting around waiting for divine intervention to come while I sit in a pew with my arms crossed. I refuse to be like the man at the Pool of Bethesda. In John 5:3 we read, "In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity of thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in the condition a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered, "Sir I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take your bed and walk. And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked."

38 years lying besides a pool of healing and waiting for someone to MOVE wasn't working! Christ came and said, RISE! Get up! Take your mat and be healed.

In the text of the serenity prayer that most of us know is,

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
But, what many of us do not know is the rest of the prayer.....
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

So, in my own brokenness from living as a sibling of someone suffering from the disease of addiction, at 34 years old, I surrender. I cannot fix, change or redo the past. All I can do is have the courage to change my role in the future of my brother's life. It isn't easy, but we were never promised easy. I truly believe nothing is wasted, if you know Christ. 
My freedom from his heroin addiction doesn't begin with him. It begins with me. Is there pain? Yes. Will there be pain in breaking free? Yes! But, I now have the courage to change the things, in my control, that should be changed. Shame no longer has a grip on me. This is my story. Because he is a heroin addict, I'm fighting the addiction, too. Whether I like it or not, needles in my arm or not, this is the story I've been handed. But, it is up to me to choose the ending for my own self, not for him.  At 34 years old, I've finally realized the only thing I am able to do is take responsibility for what I can do. Surrender. Surrender all. The shame, the anger, the un-forgiveness, the brokenness, the regret, the embarrassment, the fault, the false hope, and the idea that I can will myself into fixing anyone.

So before stepping up to the plate of change, I kneel at the throne and receive restoration for myself, and the hope for my future because I know Christ's plans are good.

I see myself in the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda or like the paralyzed man in Matthew 9 that  Jesus spoke to. I hear him telling me true change can only come with faith AND action.  Matthew 9:4 says, "Which is easier: to say your sins are forgiven, or to say, "Get up and walk? ...So he said to the paralyzed man, Get up, take your mat and go home.Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe: and they praised God, who had given such authority to man."

Today I chose to share this story with you not so you can think highly of me or feel pity on me, but so that you can see the great GLORY of God in the midst of the mess. And, to know that if you too are walking through the awful grip of an addiction yourself, or a loved one, you too, can rise, pick up your mat and  receive the healing and forgiveness that can restore your wounded soul.