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April 21, 2008 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Brother, Where Art Thou?

Don’t read this if you were expecting any humor today…come back next week.

I don’t talk about my brother much.  I guess it’s because I never have anything to say.  We haven’t gotten along since we were little kids.  Long story.  However, I thought maybe all of that would change now that my brother is the much-adored “Uncle Mike” to my kiddos.  I hope it still will change.

I was an adoring older sister.  I really was.  I don’t know that he remembers, and I don’t know that my parents even remember.  I do.  I liked to impart my childhood genius onto him by pretending to be the professor and making him be the student.  I even assembled “books” of notebook paper and markers together and assigned him homework.  Of course I then became the tutor, teaching him about primary and secondary colors, and what a googolplex was (I was super nerdy).

In third grade, I used up every last Monopoly dollar I had earned in Mr. William’s endless spelling bees and math challenges at the end of year Toy Auction to win a prize for my brother – the snap-together racetrack that every boy in class had been drooling over throughout the year.   (Tough luck boys…you never came close to amassing the quantities of Monopoly money that I did…mwah ha!)  I proudly took the racetrack home and was happy to see my little blond brother’s eyes light up at the enormous toy that I had won for him. 

My brother had a girlfriend for many years.  They dated for like, eight years or some ridiculous crap like that…and she really screwed him over.  I’m talking worse than an episode of Desperate Housewives screwed.  She’s paying for it now…popping out kid after kid with a meth addict loser who already had a football team of his own…and I say he dodged a bullet.  But it took him a long time to get over that major screwage, and I’m not sure if he ever did.  One of the many things that “she drove him to do” was to get a DUI at age 20.

My brother really should have been some sort of model.  He’s a good looking guy.  The kind of guy that has swarms of women throwing (and I mean literally throwing) themselves at him.  It’s pathetic.  But he doesn’t trust any of them, and the places that he’s meeting them don’t exactly foster trust from the get go.  I don’t think he knows how to handle it all.  Who would?  However he’s been spending a lot of time with a particular girl lately.  Said girl just took a job in Casper, Wyoming. 

Since he’s currently living at home with his (our) mother, she of course noticed that he didn’t come home.  He didn’t bother to let his dog out into the yard like he usually does in the morning.   That was the first sign.  He never leaves the dog locked up in the house all day.  My mom goes to work at 4 in the morning, and when she got home at 3 the poor dog was still locked inside, whining to be let out.  He didn’t have a change of clothes with him and his contact lens case was untouched in the bathroom.  He always takes his contacts out in the morning.  It’s the only case he has.  After being missing for a few days, my mom really started to freak out.  He wasn’t answering his cell phone, though it was ringing instead of going straight to voicemail. 

She went out on a drive to search for his truck, but it wasn’t parked at the bar he normally goes to.  He goes out on weekends and leaves his truck parked in front of the bar, where he bums a ride the next day to pick it up.  He’s gone to the same bar for several years without fail.

Remember how I had that conversation with my brother last week?  During that car ride, he asked me to take him to his truck when we got back to town.  I dropped him off at a bar that I didn’t know he went to.  Had he not asked me to take him to his truck at the new bar, we may never have found his truck.  My poor mom very well may have finished herself off with a heart attack just wondering where he had gone.  I told her to drive by the new bar to see if it was there.

It was.  Except the windshield was busted in.  And who knows how long it had been sitting there.

Now everyone was freaking out.  Last December there was a young man murdered in Butte and dumped in his pickup truck after a drunken party went wrong.  My mom knows the family of the murder victim quite well…she also works with all of the people who were accused of the murder.  She’s been watching them all go to trial one by one.  When I was a waitress, I used to wait on the victims mom and dad every single day.  It was their only son.  So my mom is very familiar with some shady areas of the “youth culture” in Butte…and suddenly her son was missing and had a bashed up windshield.  Minds tend to run wild when all these factors come into play.  She called everyone that she knew he knew…none of them had seen him for days. 

I got really worried because of some of the things he had told me during our conversation.  Things that made it even more questionable as to his location or well-being.  I was never going to tell Mom about these things, because they aren’t things you’d even want to know as a mom.  But suddenly they were totally relevant so I had to spill, so she could tell the fuzz.  This did not help the freak out quotioent.

She visited the emergency room.  Was anyone brought in beat up?  Shot?  In a wreck?  It was about to dump two feet of snow on the region.  Where was her son?  Was he okay?  Was he hurt?  Did he need help?  Was he lying there in a ravine, unable to call for help?   

She went to the police station.  She filed a report.  The police went to take pictures of the truck and start the impound/investigation process.  He’d been missing quite a while at this point and under suspicious circumstances. 

I won’t bore you with any more of the details or near-stroke inducing stress that my mom went through.  I was worried too.  I thought of my little blond brother from my youth…not the wild and seemingly reckless brother he became over the years…and was scared.  I got in my car and though the news was saying not to drive if you didn’t have to due to the storm, I kissed my kids goodbye and headed for Butte…if anything, to help my mom calm down.  Her son was missing.  If my son was missing I would call the freaking National Guard and start shouting orders.  My dad was on his way into town to assist with what he could.  However he had spent most of the evening at the bar and now he was talking about going into the bar where his truck was found and getting some answers.  I was speeding toward Butte hoping I could keep everyone out of jail and/or the cardiac ward. 

Eventually he was found.  Safe and sou…well, just safe.  He was found at another bar, where he had been continually drinking, presumably since this girl announced she was moving to Casper.  Though he had told me he really “didn’t like her anyway” and that “she wasn’t the one for him” he decided to use it as an excuse to go get plastered.  Butte plastered, that is…and that kind of drunk is way more intense than I’ve seen anywhere else in America…except for maybe Camp Lejeune during the Marine Corps birthday. 

Which reminds me: every time I came home on leave while I was in the military, my brother would use my presence as an excuse to go out and get drunk.  Apparently my return home was always too much for him to handle, so the only answer was to go pickle his brain.  I’ve had lots of people I went to school with report this to me…he would sit and give the girls sob stories on how hard it was to be him.  What choice did he have but to go drink his troubles away?  I’m totally over that, but it was no fun at all to watch my mom worry about him over the years.  The things he’s done transcend normal worry levels.  I think this past weekend took the cake for her.  The reason I was coming into town was not to look for my brother but to keep my mom calm.  I was worried for him…but I’ll never be as worried about him as my parents will, of course.  I’m pretty numb to certain things, and here is why:

A long time ago I came to realize that half of my immediate family as I knew them are dead.  Not physically dead yet, but dead.  Impostors have taken their places.  Alcoholics have no idea of the pain they cause to everyone around them.  The basic definition of an alcoholic is someone “whose drinking causes trouble for themselves or for those around them.”  There is an entire extended definition that my brother and his dad fit to a tee, which I won’t get into.  I won’t get into how it’s a disease and poor them and get help because guess what?  When you have to see it all the time, it’s pretty hard to have any sympathy.  Neither one of them will ever acknowledge the problems they caused over the years.  Sadly, I have noticed that just their thinking of the problems they caused cause them to go drink their troubles away. 

Anyway, when my dad found my brother, he assured the police that he’d take care of him and take him home.  Whew.  I headed back home.   I called my dad on the way home to tell him to be careful on his drive back to his cabin.  He was still with my brother, there at a bar, and announced that he was going to stay there and “have a beer with his son.”  I guess they decided to stay and celebrate Mike’s discovered safety by continuing to drink to oblivion.  Neither one of them went home that night either.  Never mind that my mom was driving home from a night of hospitals and police stations, sick with fear.  Never mind the fact that everyone was worried and had to spring into action to help find him.  I guess he was too woeful to even care that my brother needed a new change of clothes and was most likely in dire need of a shower.  No harm, right?  Just a couple more drinks.  My mom, waiting for him to come home even then, finally ran out of tears.  When it comes to my dad and brother, I ran out of those a long time ago. 

I should be a better sister, or a more appropriate family member, and refrain from posting the family drama on the internet.  But something has to be done, so this is my way of throwing it to the universe.  When you want something changed it’s a good idea to just throw it out there.  If they decide to read any of it, fantastic.  I’ll go ahead an apologize in advance.  An apology to you is much more than I ever got from having to put up with the behavior my entire life.

I’m sick of the drinking in my family. 

I’m sick of calling them out on it, only to be laughed at, like I’m the one who’s not normal. 

I’m sick of hearing “you gotta die of something.” 

I’m sick that there is a very real possibility that my children will only have memories of their Uncle Mike, because he either died in a car accident, went to jail, or got murdered because he pissed off the wrong fellow drunk. 

I’m sick that my dad will probably die a painful death stemming from his liver.  I’m sick that the dad I will always remember is long gone and has been for years.

I’m sick that so many things could have been different for our family.  I’m glad that I have my own now, and that I can do things differently.  I do do things differently.  My consolation prize is this.  My children will never have to live it or see it, at least not from their parents.  I will make sure of it. 

Maybe someone else out there in a similar situation will read this and do something about their choices before it’s too late.

I’m sick of excuses. 



Leave a Comment
  1. Eileen / May 3 2008 11:40 am

    Wow, I am REALLY sorry to hear about your brother. I’ve seen a few people who never get over romances, or other similar problems that have caused them emotional hurt. But not all of them become alcoholics.

    OK, I don’t know, but my life experience of many years tells me that if these two girls hadn’t been in your brothers’ life, he might still be an alcohlic, but he would probably just be giving a different reason for it.

    I’m sorry for you and your family with this situation. Some people are just not ready to take responsibility for their own lives, and until they are, there is not much anyone else can do about it. I wish I could offer something more helpful.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Best regards,
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)

  2. sandladyvb / Apr 22 2008 8:33 am

    I appreciate your share and can relate to great concern for your brother.

    My experience is that sometimes the “detach with love slogan is preceded by “detach with an axe” kind of disengagement. By using what I was learning in Al-Anon, I came to understand that my brother has an illness. He is a periodic drinker and someone who abuses alcohol. Knowing that alcoholism is an illness, I became able to to separate the person from the behavior. The “with love” part came for me as the spiritual side. In otherwords, Al-Anon’s “detach with love” slogan is a physical, emotional, and spiritual process.

    My brother’s drinking is similar to my father’s controlled drinking. Right now, there is a three year lull. So, I am relieved for today but sooner or later, he will abuse alcohol.

    I thought being worried about my brother’s drinking would be back in control because he remarried. No more partying with the boys. But I know enough in Al-Anon to know that I can be serene in my recovery and focus on myself and my own life rather than living in fear about when my brother will drink again. He knows I go to Al-Anon and he knows what Al-Anon is. And, he knows there is an Alcoholics Anonymous. But as far as I can tell, he is still writing his story and thinks he is in control because his drinking only gets out of hand occasionally.

  3. Ian Thomas Healy / Apr 21 2008 5:09 pm

    Wow. That’s crazy. I come from a family of alcoholics myself. Fortunately it stopped with my dad, who’d seen enough of it destroy his own parents to never touch the stuff. I went through a brief dalliance with alcohol after college, but never got to the point of addiction. I’ve since stopped drinking entirely and haven’t for years.


  4. Cherikooka / Apr 21 2008 10:05 am

    I love you and I miss you and I want to punch your freaking brother in the face. He worried me like mad…although I had a very strong feeling he was holed up drunk in a bar. I agree with all you’ve said here, and I’ve gone through the same thing with my family. I was sick of excuses too. I told my sister (as I was taking her child from her) to either kill herself, or straighten her ass out, cause I was sick of her selfish bullshit. She straightened her ass out.

That's what she said!

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