In a powerful, sad, insightful, anger-invoking and honest editorial younger sister Elizabeth Kadetsky admits, "My sister is a recovering heroin addict. I can't fix her, but she also can't fix herself."
It's a brutally honest statement. And as she shares her painful story of a life with a sister who struggled with so much, she realizes she something as simple as fixing it just isn't an available option.
Because that's just it: You cannot fix someone struggling with addiction. And many times they cannot fix themselves. Gone too far down the rabbit hole of addiction to remember what the light at the end of the tunnel even looks like anymore. To stay in the darkness, to be safe in what society has labeled them "addict" is where they are stuck. Without proper care and treatment, "fixing" is nothing more than wishful thinking.
Elizabeth's sister isn't a so-called junkie as so many would label her. She suffers from depression. And the drugs she used were how she self-medicated. Taking them, however, took their toll. They left her homeless. They left her suicidal. They left her alone. They left her in a broken system where, when she decided she wanted help she was taken advantage of or forced to endure conditions many wouldn't even subject their own dog to.
And all along the way, Elizabeth carried the guilt. Her hands tied. Should she help? How could she help? Should she run away? What kind of sister did that make her? Who was this person on the other end of the phone screaming at her? Why did she keep subjecting herself to this? Would it ever end?
"I'm walking a fine line between advocating for my sister and enabling her," Elizabeth admits.
With a mother who enabled her and a father who abandoned her, Elizabeth became all that Jill had when Jill chose to come around. And when she disappeared for weeks on end, Elizabeth wrote her off as dead, eventually finding her in homeless shelters here and there.
A broken system. A broken family. A broken heart.
One time, she asked for cash because she was in a "life or death" emergency. I didn't ask for details -I didn't want to know. Was there a dispute over drugs? Did she score a Xanax because it was all so stressful? I gave her the cash. Later she explained that she'd overslept that Saturday and missed the window for her weekend-long supply of methadone. She faced withdrawal and a reprise of her chronic back pain. She'd needed the money to score heroin. Now, was the H really necessary to ward away the withdrawal? Was there really no better solution? Should I have intervened further to create a better outcome? To what extent do I let her make mistakes on her own, or can I even prevent them?
The cycle of so many who find their way to drugs as a solution for whatever is plaguing them without finding proper help is always a sad tale. The story of the family members who choose to endure their cycle is often times a sadder tale, as they are the ones who see through the drug-fueled haze.
"Like little sisters everywhere, I'd admired my older sister and emulated her. Perhaps this is why I took her fall so hard, why I felt abandoned," she says.
Sadly, there is no happy ending to Jill and Elizabeth's story. Like so many others it's an ongoing battle within both. "What's most difficult for me is accepting that Jill can't fix things on her own either, that she has neither the tools nor the resourcefulness to take on the Sisyphean challenge before her. If I were in her situation I would act differently but she is not I."
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