We’ve been receiving a number of phone calls from Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The caller holds on until the time period for leaving a message ends before hanging up. None of us pick up, since we figure it’s likely my brother, Joe, who should be nearing the end of his time in another facility in the state that treats people with mental illness who are also struggling with addiction.
I so often feel like a hypocrite. My friendship with Edwina has shown me that people with the odds stacked against them deserve a second chance. Once diagnosed with breast cancer, Edwina left crack behind. She’s certainly not kicked all of her bad habits, but neither have I or anyone else I know. Edwina messes up, and I forgive her. I mess up, and she does the same. It’s a friendship like any other.
Maybe it’s because my history with Edwina is shorter that I feel differently about her intentions when she calls. After all, I never knew Edwina when she was on crack, so I haven’t experienced that side of my friend. And while Edwina sometimes lies to me to get what she wants–and isn’t much better at hiding the truth than Joe–she seems sincerely sorry.
I count on those who love me to forgive me when I screw up–which happens more than I care to admit–but I also work hard not to repeat my mistakes. I don’t want my friends and family to regret giving me a second chance. Joe, though, seems to apologize only when there’s something in it for him: money to buy more drugs or another opportunity to move in and destroy trust.
I have to assume that Joe will end up back on the street, surviving on handouts and the occasional night’s sleep in a men’s shelter. It makes me sadder than I can say, but it’s a sadness that I’ve gotten used to.