I'm kind of reeling. We learned on Sunday night that a member of our extended family to whom we are very close is currently in jail, having had his third DUI arrest on St. Patrick's Day. I'm not mentioning a name to protect the privacy of his close family members, but it is someone I care a lot about and know well. I know that he is an alcoholic and I know that the addiction has him totally consumed. This development isn't surprising at all -- so, I keep asking myself, why do I feel like my heart is breaking?
As I understand Ohio law, this is almost certain to result in an extended stay in jail. A full year seems likely. And in many ways, I can see that this is a good thing. Certainly he isn't out there putting himself and the innocent driving public at risk for that time. Moreover, I would think that he will have no choice but to get sober and stay that way for the duration of his term. If so, I know that will be his longest period of sobriety in many years. And since his alcoholism has made it hard for him to work steadily, ruined his credit and generally made him poor, a year in jail means a year of a guaranteed roof over his head and three square meals a day. I can see that these are all positive things.
But I am full of fear for him. I am fearful that he will attempt suicide as he sobers up and realizes the enormity of his situation. (He has never tried it before, but there have been times when the family has feared he would -- he showed signs.) And I am fearful about how vulnerable he will be in jail. I think that for him, getting sober is going to leave his psyche and self-esteem really, really fragile. I am tremendously worried about him just holding it together. And assuming that he does pull himself together and gets through his incarceration, I am very frightened about how it will be when he gets out. He has always felt unworthy -- it seems to be at the root of his addiction -- and I could see him turning away from his loving family because he couldn't accept how much we love him and want the best for him, couldn't believe that we welcome him back with open arms.
I just can't get him out of my mind. I keep imagining the agony of detox that he must be going through right now, and trying to imagine what it feels like to be locked in a cell and to know that this is no joke, this isn't temporary, but that this is your new reality. I want to send him some kind of a care package, but don't yet know what he is allowed to receive. So all I can do, so far, is to pray. No small thing, I agree, but right now it feels pretty impotent. I know in my heart, though, that prayer is NOT impotent -- in fact, I know that it is powerful. I just have to believe that.
If you are reading this, and you are a person who prays, I ask you to add this loved one to your prayers, too. He is a family member who has messed up big time. He doesn't especially deserve a break -- in fact, he has brought on most of his own problems. But I believe that there but for the grace of God go all of us. Maybe if we all lift him up to God, somehow God will be able to channel our good wishes to him and provide him some kind of comfort. Not the comfort he has earned, but the comfort he deserves as a child of God. Maybe he will be able to feel the love so much that when he finally comes out, he will have the strength to follow a new path.
Hopeless optimism? Most likely. But that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!