I remember cheap hotels and dark empty highways. Somewhere in the crevices of a little girl’s memories are terrifying nights and shattered glasses and brokenness. There is screaming and uncertainty and never knowing what she was coming home from school to. Stench of whiskey or beer, depending on how enraged he wanted to be that night. Headlights in the drive that induced a breathless fear like no other I have ever known since. Bruises on my mother’s skin. She was a stone wall built to last through storm after treacherous storm.
Those flashbacks don’t cross my mind too often anymore. But eleven years later, I know a trigger when I feel it coming on. Shaking hands. An anger so unbearable I want to break the first thing I see. Sudden crying. Rage. Pacing the floor like I am waiting on those damn headlights. Buildup of anxiety in spite of not being an anxious person.
I am watching my brother repeat the cycle, spinning circles endlessly and not even realizing the damage he is doing. After years of drugs and alcohol, he is spiralling and there is nothing anyone can do about it. He got into a fight with his girlfriend on our mother’s front lawn yesterday and later called our mom a dumb bitch when she confronted him on his escalating behaviour. After years of her doing everything for him, he is 32, jobless, lives between Mom and his girlfriend, and for some reason thinks the world owes him something, and often treats our mom like she too owes him everything.
If anyone remembers my rant about Mike Huckabee’s comments degrading single mothers a few years ago, you will know that I am incredibly protective of my mother. And if I got angry over some comments from an irrelevant old man, imagine my rage when I learned about my sibling’s behaviour. It was both infuriating and triggering. Conversations from over the years come to mind, in which I said multiple times that he has only been getting worse instead of better.
Domestic violence is called a cycle for a reason. It circles the stormy skies like vultures awaiting the kill. Even when it’s over, it reaches down into the next generation and poisons the children it impacted. Some choose to be better in spite of the toxic injection into their lives and some don’t. There comes a point where you have to stand up and ask for help and be better, do better. I had my moment almost six years ago in the midst of a suicidal episode while coming to grips with the sexual abuse I’d experienced as a kid. My brother was impacted in different yet equally as damaging ways and has been at this cross roads for a few years now. No matter what anyone does for him, he would rather pretend he doesn’t need help than admit he has been wrong. He goes through jobs faster than he goes through girls, though he has girls much more often than he does a job.
It took a few minutes after hearing about yesterday’s events to process what I felt. Slight irritation turned to familiar anger rather quickly. It has been a long time since I let a trigger get the best of me, but I did. Hands shaking. That destructive feeling I let take over. I grabbed the first glass within reach and threw it angrily at the kitchen floor. Sometimes the sound of shattering is satisfying, as much as I hate it. Then the crying started. Pacing the floor. Anxiety. Being so irate that the abuser could still reach into my life like this and still make me feel so helpless. And sad at the tragic mess my brother has become. Disappointment that the cycle isn’t over yet. Sometimes I sit back and wonder if it ever will be. Abuse and addiction has been tangled into my family for generations. It’s like it has become hereditary in the men.
But with a deep breath, I take a reminder that nothing lasts forever. At least that’s what I tell myself. It hurts to watch him spiral. He doesn’t see it like everyone else does. Until he does, there is no helping him. If he continues on this road, my brother will end up like my alcoholic uncle: alone, drunk all the time, and no one around because he damaged his entire family and pushed them all away.
In spite of standing up for him in the past and trying to be supportive and caring, I have had to do something I don’t like doing. I had to cut ties. We rarely talk as it is because he is toxic to be around. This is the same kid I used to play hockey on the creek with, spending hours out in the dirt piles playing, and the one who used to stand up to mom’s ex when things got bad. I don’t recognize him anymore. This is not who he is but this is what he has chosen.
And I choose to not have that in my life. Never again.