"A HUG IN HELL" - SAM'S STORY
Updated: Apr 28
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my father hitting my older brother. I was 11 at the time; my brother was 17.
Through a child’s eyes, it seemed to me at first like my brother was finally being called on all the chaos, violence, aggression and drug abuse he had brought into our home. I had no idea that he was struggling with manic depression and self-medicating with substances; I didn’t even know about these concepts. I’m not excusing our father's violent outburst, but I don’t think he understood this either.
My brother was like a live wire that had been downed in a storm. Severed from connection, sparks flying wildly. Our father, beneath his outward rage, seemed truly terrified of him, of not knowing what to do. And my brother, beneath all the chaos, was terrified of not knowing what was happening to him, or how to ask for help. Today, I can see that my brother’s behavior was his way of crying out to be held, for the maelstrom swirling around him to be contained by his family’s embrace. It’s only now as an adult that I understand that if he had a voice at the time, he would have shouted, “I’m not bad, I’m sick!” Every day, I wish he had. He died at the age of 20.
I spent years trying to process my brother’s tragic end on my own. I even drifted through my own wild period, which thankfully came to an end when I met my wife and started a family. But it was only years later, when my own son started to act out in ways that echoed my brother’s manic swings and substance abuse, that I realized it was time for me to ask for help.
Friends of ours suggested Chabad Lifeline, where they had attended a parenting support group. When we brought in my son, my wife and I were surprised when Lifeline immediately offered us counselling as well. They told us that their philosophy was rooted in healing the entire family unit, not just treating the addiction in isolation. We started meeting with their parent coach right as my son started seeing a youth counsellor. I felt like I was being given the roadmap my father never had, learning to surround my son with the love and support he needs and, in his own way, was pleading for by acting out.
I miss my brother every day. But I feel that by investing time, love and care into my own family’s well-being, I am doing what I can to honor his memory and ensure that his tragedy was not in vain. And I’m immensely grateful to Lifeline for guiding me along the way.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Sam immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.