Sister of Heroin

Life & Thoughts of a Heroin User's Sister

Recovery Ranch

The nights before my brother’s rehab admission were long and sleepless.  My brother was still maintaining his addiction schedule with prime activity hours being between 5 pm and 7 am.  Every time the door open and shut for my brother’s frequent cigarette breaks, I would wonder if he was coming back or if he’d try to make a run for it.  Ultimately he stayed and I could only hope that this meant that maybe this time would be different.

The rehab facility, located on a ranch, looked like a peaceful environment.  The rural landscape and the 70 degree temperatures made me almost want to go for a pleasant stroll.  Then I looked to the residential dorms and thought about the people housed inside.  This was anything but a peaceful place for the residents.  I was sure about that.  So many of the recovery ranch residents had to be experiencing such tremendous discomfort and unhappiness even at that very moment.  The atmosphere was clearly designed to evoke a sense a peace, but it brought me none and I’m sure that my brother felt the same way.

We had talked about his upcoming trip to rehab.

“I’ll fake it until I make it,” my brother had said to me when we talked about the 12-step programming.

My brother and I were raised under strict religious conditions as children.  Neither of us believe in God or adhere to any types of spiritual rituals, so needless to say, the 12-step program has not held much appeal to either of us as an effective method of treatment.

The bottom line was that my brother had to go to rehab to avoid having a felony heroin possession charge on his record.  As a result of the Affordable Care Act, substance abuse treatment is now covered by health insurance unlike ever before…but not for us.  Insurance companies generally will not fund court mandated rehab, they will not fund rehab for someone who has had a recent unsuccessful treatment (like my brother), and they will not fund rehab if it is not considered a medically necessary treatment.  Because my brother had not used heroin for more than sixty days and had not taken suboxone for more than thirty, there would be no detox and hence the insurance companies did not consider inpatient treatment to be medically necessary.

I say all that to get to the point that out-of-pocket rehab, with no assistance from any type of insurance coverage, is a huge expense and the non-twelve step programs are often only available at an even more premium rate.  When it came down to it, it was either pay ~$30K for three months of treatment or triple that for a non-twelve step treatment program.  Seeing as how we were already borrowing the money, it just didn’t make sense to us to pay a ridiculous rate for a non-twelve step program.  Twelve-step or not, most rehabs have a success rate around 15% so I personally could care less about which program we throw away our money on.

“Try to get something out of it,” I said to my brother as I hugged him goodbye.  He smiled and I continue to hope.


Needle with the Orange Cap

I found a needle in my house today.  My house which was once so clean feels tainted somehow.  I held the needle in my hand and uncapped it checking for blood.  No blood, but the needle had clearly been used.  The needle was in a backpack dirty with residue along with a lighter and a note from my brother’s estranged heroin user girlfriend.  “I hate to see you this way,” the note read.

It’s actually a bit more complicated than that.  My brother was recently released from jail with a chance to have no felony on his record on the condition that my family enroll him in an inpatient treatment program.  He came to live with me since I am the family member who has a career tied to substance abuse programming.

This afternoon my phone rang.  It was a call for my brother from a local agency that I had him contact months ago to get connected to their methadone clinic.  I took the phone to my brother’s room where he was sound asleep.  It was 1:00 p.m.  I woke him up and passed him the phone.  He spoke incoherently into the phone and was a bit giggly.  I hung up the phone.  “Are you fucking high?” I asked.  No coherent response.

My significant other volunteered to rouse my brother and take him to the store so I could check his room.  The search uncovered a phone message from my brother to his estranged girlfriend around 3:45 a.m. asking if she was still coming by.  This discovery was followed by the discovery of a hidden backpack and, of course, the needle.

Then came the confrontation and the denial.  The hungry look in his eyes when I presented the needle was so sickening.  He maintained that the findings were just a string of coincidences.  First he said that his girlfriend had never come and then hours later the story was that he and his girlfriend didn’t do anything when she came.  I had heard the lies and stories before.  I noticed his ADD medication laying on a windowsill untaken.  I thought about how he had asked for calamine lotion because he was itchy.  I realized that he hadn’t eaten anything all day.  So many of the symptoms were present.

Rehab intake is only days away.  Would a rehab report back to the court that my brother had to be detoxed?  Would such a report render the rehab useless in the eyes of the court?  Would we have to pay extra money out of pocket for detox services in addition to the $30K cost of the 90 day program?  Would it all be a waste yet again?

My significant other and I decided that the best course of action would be to administer a drug test.  If the test was clean, then great!  If the test was dirty, then there would be the calls to the lawyer and to family members to decide what to do next.

It was such a long five minutes. My brother, already depressed from his recent month in jail, sat slumped against a wall staring into space.  It pained me to see him that way.  Trusting in recovery is hard…wondering if your brother will forgive you for not trusting is even harder.

The test came out clean. I immediately apologized for not believing him, but the damage had been done. There is sadness in the house that can’t quite be shaken.  I guess I’ll approach it just like everything else in recovery…I’ll take things one day at a time.

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