Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's all relative.

I love my family. There's no question about it. Without a doubt, I would kill or maime for damn near any one of my relatives.
But sometimes I don't like them very much. The cousin closest to my age in our family has been in drug rehab for the last 2+ years. We grew up only 6 months apart, with me being the older one. When we were younger, we were close. We were the only cousins who were anywhere near eachothers' age, spent a lot of time playing together. When we turned about 15 or so, he decided that I wasn't his "coolest" cousin anymore. He idolized my older sister who was interning at an "alternative" paper in my hometown. He thought this was the coolest thing ever, and so never really willingly talked to me again. As painful as this was, I figured it couldn't last forever, right? He'd eventually grow up enough to see that just because I don't talk about "the establishment" or lament how "mainstream" things are, I'm just as cool as the next person.
But it never really happened. He fell into drug abuse and the lifestyle that often follows, while I escaped into college.
It wasn't much of a surprise to me when he was arrested and convicted of drug charges. I had hoped a few months in jail might just scare him enough to straighten out. Apparently not. Turns out jail often just gives criminals a chance to collaborate and get better at their trades.

As the years went by, I'd see less and less of my cousin, and when I did see him, I wished I hadn't. Gone was my handsome cousin who made people laugh with his dry wit and often sarcastic tongue. Instead, there was a painfully skinny, ill-tempered person who looked like he couldn't wait to get out of wherever he was. We all tried to talk to him, but he denied anything was going on. And as we all know, we can't do much to help those who don't want help.
I just hoped he'd get it together before anything worse happened to him. It's hard to see a 20 year old fall that quickly.

Eventually, he got it together. And worked hard to get into a fantastic rehab clinic. An amazing track record, and all at no cost to the client or the community. He busted his ass and got in. I visited him last year back in July, and was overwhelmed with the difference I saw. He looked strong, and healthy, so different from the strung out junkie I remembered. I only got to see him for a few minutes, but I got to hug him and tell him that I loved him and I was proud of him.

This last weekend, he made his first visit home. Since no one in my immediate family had seen him in over two years, of course they were ecstatic. We all trouped up to his mom's house. And within seconds, I realized that even though he's clean, not much had changed. I'm still the cousin he doesn't think is cool enough to talk to. There was so much foul language even I was uncomfortable with it. I can't imagine how my mother was feeling.

I felt badly doing it, but within 10 minutes of being there I made my excuses and left. I love my family, but sometimes I don't like them a whole lot.

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