Mitch’s world is complex and violent and isolating, but rather than hiding it away, I’m trying to give others a window into it.
Original Source: goodhousekeeping.com
There are few certainties in this life. However, this I know: Water is wet. Ice is cold. And that small window between Halloween and Veterans Day? That’s when my brother, Mitch, stops taking his antipsychotic medication. My family’s holiday arguments don’t center around religion or politics. That would be too easy. Instead, we fight about whether it’s time to commit Mitch to a mental institution again.
It’s painful to see how the safe and comfortable environment in which I grew up turned upside down a decade later — when Mitch had his first psychotic break at 22 years old, my family’s trajectory changed forever.
In the gap between early childhood and the psychiatric hospital, Mitch was a strong, intelligent, capable and charismatic person. On his good days, he still is. Socially, he excels. With his Zac Efron-like looks, a quick wit, a large beaming smile, sparkles in his hazel eyes, and a richly empathetic soul, he could charm Stalin.
But throughout his teen years — the time the developing brain is most vulnerable — he used marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and alcohol heavily. And that’s just what I know of. When he was 18, I got a jarring phone call from my mom.
“Your brother is in jail!” she cried into the phone as I was driving up the highest paved road in North America, a 14,000-foot scenic byway in Colorado, where I’d recently moved. “He rented out a hotel room for three weeks and has been dealing drugs.” Good thing there were guardrails at that particular spot in the road.
My brother, who had been accepted to Colorado State, was no longer moving to my state — at least not right then and there. A night in jail preempted a year’s worth of endless meetings with lawyers, counselors and addiction support groups. His schedule filled quickly with a full load of classes at a Dallas-area community college and other alternative hobbies to keep his mind off drugs.
Credit to Mitch, he turned his act around. He entered Colorado State his sophomore year and pulled near-perfect grades. Having him within an hour’s drive of me tightened our bond. We carved up the mountains with our snowboards, coordinating our turns on the powder like two fighter pilots leaving dazzling contrails in the sky. We hiked into thin air, where his smoker’s lungs got the best of him, making it my prime opportunity to convince him to ditch the habit.
After graduation, Mitch moved to Dallas to live with our parents. But when he returned to the Big D, he reverted to the Mitch of old; the guy who was feeding his needs with drugs and toxic relationships.