Three Things My Brother Taught Me About How Hope Works

Inspiration for Your Journey

I was 19 years old. It feels like lifetime ago—another life, altogether. Some details have gone missing, but my emotional memory of that afternoon when I first reached out for help couldn't be more vivid: panic, fear, confusion and shame.

I found a pay phone and dialed the only person I could think of who might have some answers and who wouldn't judge or scold me. My older brother. I am forever thankful he answered my call and knew just what to say. He dropped what he was doing, told me to catch the next westbound 3A bus, and gave me directions to an address where he would be waiting for me. That's how I arrived at my first meeting.

My brother opened the door to a new life for me.

I knew he was in recovery, but I had no idea what that really meant. I'd been too deep in my addiction to ask or understand. But somehow I knew enough to call my brother even though I didn't have a clue about what I'd say other than, "I think I need help." Fortunately, that's all he needed to hear.

In that three-minute phone call, my brother became my lifeline. And now, as a person in long-term recovery, I get to be that lifeline for others. Is there anything more humbling or sacred we do in recovery than to be there for one another?

By being open, instructive and supportive, my brother started me on my new life in recovery. Ever since, I've tried to follow his example when people reach out to me for help or answers for themselves or a loved one.

  • Being Open—I was lucky to have someone I could ask for help without feeling completely embarrassed. It was difficult enough to make that phone call, but at least I wasn't worried about being judged or put down. I wasn't paralyzed by shame because I could count on my brother to treat me with dignity and listen with an open heart. Today, I try to be that person for others.
  • Being Instructive—I knew I needed help, but I had no idea what that entailed. My brother literally mapped out my next moves: Catch the 3A bus; get off at the intersection of Grand and Hamline; meet me a block away at the building entrance. That's how I found my way. I realize that every situation requires its own set of instructions, but I try to follow my brother's example by being as specific and practical as possible with next steps for folks. For example: Call this 800 number; it's free and confidential; they're going to ask you a series of questions.
  • Being Supportive—I was able to lean on my brother, literally, when I was lost and confused. Having him right there at my side meant the world to me. Offering that level of support isn't always possible or appropriate when someone reaches out to me, but I am always able to reassure them that they're not alone, that there is help, and there is hope.

For me, being there for others begins with remembering what it was like to feel alone and hopeless—and what it meant to hear my brother's voice at the other end of the line. It meant I mattered. It meant he believed in me. It meant there was hope for me, just as there is hope for anyone who reaches out for help.

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