To top
5 Mar

so, I have a brother

whenever I talk about my family, I only ever speak of my parents, grandparents and my sister. but, I actually have an older brother named David, who is 34 years old.

now, let me back up. there are a few reasons why I wanted to open up about this to you all. first, I always hope my content helps someone else out there struggling with the same thing. second, I’ve never openly discussed my brother and I hoped it would be therapeutic and after I wrote this post, I was right: it was. lastly, social media and blogging is truly just a highlight reel, and I think it’s important to open up about the tough parts of our lives. bloggers put our lives out there for others to watch, but we often avoid sharing the more sensitive topics or not-so-glamorous bits.

I recently received a DM on Instagram where someone said, “you just have the perfect family! #lifegoals!” While this is a totally sweet thing to say, I immediately thought of my brother and how perhaps sharing my story about his part in my family will bring me closer to all of you, show you that every family has its issues and hardships.

growing up with david

my brother David suffers from Bipolar Disorder, which is a type of depression characterized by extreme lows and highs. one week (or day, month, year, etc) he’s going to conquer the world and the next week he’s contemplating suicide. it’s a horrible mental disorder and I’ve seen him struggle with it for my entire life. he refuses to take medication for it (but he’s tried most of the anti depressant medications after his diagnosis.)

growing up in middle and high school, Dave was your classic “trouble maker.” he got in fights at school, he got arrested, refused to acknowledge laws and rules, and he would disrespect my parents by doing things like coming home in the middle of the night drunk with friends and starting chaos. he refused to get out of bed to go to school. he smoked pot, drank underage, did typical rebellious teenage stuff.

he went through a big punk stage at one point, a very “thug” phase (these are his words), and many other “phases” where he was clearly just trying to find his way. and his mental disorder made that hard.

he ended up going to an alternative high school, because he needed special attention and to be in a different environment. he graduated from high school and never went to college. after high school, he continued struggling to find his path. he worked odd jobs, tried working for my father (a disastrous combination), and found sketchy ways to make ends meet.

the only thing he’s ever kept consistent on is his musical gift: guitar playing. he is UNBELIEVABLE at the guitar. he can play any song after just hearing it a couple of times, he rips through Jimmy Hendrix and blues music so well you’d think you were at a blues club. he’s very, very talented – and has been playing the guitar for about 20 years. and you can tell that when he plays, he’s genuinely happy. it’s beautiful to see.

 

turn for the worse

finally, he decided to use all of the money he had saved up and buy a house in a very bad part of the west coast of Florida where drug use was prevalent (he did not know this at the time). this is where his life took a bad turn and he hasn’t pulled himself out of it yet. he became a product of his environment and this is when his severe drug addiction began. which led to other bad behavior leading to a criminal record and scary close encounters. from steroids to heroin to pills, he’s been in and out of drug addiction for the past few years. he’s been to rehab, he’s done detoxes, and he can’t pull himself out of it.

there have definitely been certain periods of time when we’re hopeful that he’ll turn his life around, but for the most part, we worry about him. we worry he might hurt himself intentionally or accidentally.

Dave and the family

it’s so sad to see Dave like this, because he is an extremely intelligent, sensitive, and loving person. I know he wants out, but he keeps getting in his own way. my mother offers him all the help in the world, but he continues to not accept it. my mother and my brother talk very often, sometimes every day (especially when he’s in a very low point in his depression.) he comes to her with everything.

my sister and I barely ever talk to him, because when we do reach out, we never get a response. after a few years of this, we gave up on trying to maintain a relationship with him. of course, if he needed our help to get sober and turn his life around, we’d be there for him. sadly, the only person he communicates with in our family is my mother, because she’s his lifeline. she bails him out of jail, she lends him money when things are really bad, and she listens to him.

otherwise, he has pushed away all of his family. he didn’t come to either of our weddings, he never even sent me a text message to congratulate me on having a baby. but my sister and I keep telling ourselves that it’s his mental illness, not him as a person. we know he loves us and wants to be part of the family, he just can’t get out of his own way. and that’s part the depression and part the addiction to drugs.

during middle and high school, I really resented Dave. I resented him because he was crumbling my parents marriage. the stress that David put on my parents was something I hope I never have to experience with my children. they fought and fought and fought and fought. they weren’t happy for a very, very long time. once David left the house, things got a lot better, but it was scary – my sister used to run into my room because they’d be screaming at each other so loudly that she would get frightened. he used to get in fist fights with my father.

so, for a very long time, I really, really resented Dave. now, with his drug addiction, the way he treats us (and especially my mother) is so disrespectful, inconsiderate and hurtful, that I can’t talk about it. I don’t talk about it, because when I do, I get really worked up about it and I just feel bad for my mother, that she has to deal with this. and no one knows how to deal with it.

dave’s influence on me

in middle and high school, my mother used to always say to me, “you keep me sane.” now, that’s a lot of pressure for a child, but I lived up to it. I wanted so badly to be NOTHING like my brother, that I became the exact opposite of him. I wanted my parents to be proud of me.

I excelled in school, getting straight As, volunteering, signing up for every extracurricular activity, playing sports and captaining, not having a sip of alcohol all throughout high school, and in general, being a straight laced kid. I’ve smoked pot but have never tried any other drug and have no desire to, ever.

 

now and the future

I saw Dave for the first time in several years a couple of weeks ago while I was in St. Petersburg for HSN. he moved to St. Petersburg in an effort to get away from the area he was living in (the temptation to do drugs was just too hard) and unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to escape it.

it was of course good to see him (and he was sober) and it broke my heart when he met Luca for the first time. Luca gave him a smile, held his hand, and I could see how much it meant to Dave.

he really seems to want to get his life back on track and my mother is trying to help him find an apartment near her and my dad so they can help him. so, we’ll see. this happens all the time and it never ends up panning out, but we never lose hope. it’s hard to keep up the faith with Dave, but I know we have to, because if we don’t have hope, how can he have it?

my hope for Dave is that he deals with his demons, his depression, gets off drugs for good and starts fresh. his family is here and we’re all ready to help him when he’s finally willing to accept the help. hopefully that will happen.

I hope you enjoyed this post – it was cathartic to write, and I encourage other people out there struggling to talk openly about it. the more open we are and the more we share, the more we can help others. thank you for taking the time to read this!

  • Marianna Bolanos

    Love this! Thank you for opening up to your readers! You really are such a beautiful & strong woman inside and out! Luca is so blessed to have you as a mommy!!

    Mon March 5 at 6:21 pm Reply
  • Mel

    Love and hugs Ali.

    Mon March 5 at 6:23 pm Reply
  • Kate

    Thank you so Much for sharing this. Sending you love and hugs. Continue not to let him harden your heart. I hope he gets help soon-he is worth it.

    Mon March 5 at 6:28 pm Reply
  • Maureen

    This is an amazing post and I would encourage you to check out the great work a friend of mine is doing with an organization she founded called This is My Brave – it’s all about battling the stigma of mental illness through storytelling – just like what you’ve done here today. https://thisismybrave.org/

    Mon March 5 at 6:29 pm Reply
  • Ashley

    Thank you for sharing; I know it couldn’t have been easy. Blessings to you and your family!

    Mon March 5 at 6:34 pm Reply
  • Courtney

    " a very "thug" phase (he acted like he was from the hood)"
    please consider how ignorant, disrespectful, and offensive this kind of labeling and language is in 2018.

    While I applaud you for always being open and honest and sharing with your followers, did your brother approve of this? It’s his story you’re sharing with the world, his picture, his recovery, his demons. As a person whose multiple family members have struggled with drug addiction, I would not post their journeys for the world to see without their consent.

    Mon March 5 at 6:35 pm Reply
    • Becca

      I agree to a point- but at the same time, it is HER story and HER experience living like this.

      Mon March 5 at 6:42 pm Reply
    • Ali Maffucci

      I am sorry you found this offensive, it’s the way he’d describe himself, so I’m only sharing it from a personal perspective.

      Mon March 5 at 7:57 pm Reply
  • Pam

    He has to realize he deserves love and a good life. Once he believes in himself, he will begin to know his worth. So many people are struggling with mental illness and addictions. My daily prayer is that they find their light and know they are worth it and loved. Now i have another person to keep in my prayers. Hugs to you all! Hold on to that hope!!

    Mon March 5 at 6:36 pm Reply
  • Clara

    Xoxo Ali, thanks for sharping!

    Mon March 5 at 6:40 pm Reply
  • Patricia

    I have a older sister with the same problem. Unfortunately it is continuing for her, as it is for your brother. It causes a tremendous strain on my parents especially my mother. I also do not have a relationship with my sister.

    Mon March 5 at 6:40 pm Reply
  • Jennifer h

    This made me cry, so heart breaking to say the least. But as a mental health professional thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing This! Everyone always thinks it’s someone else’s problem and would never happen to them or someone in their family but it does!! None of us are immune. I love your blog and that you do share so much, making yourself vulnerable with the hope of helping others, even just one person. ❤

    Mon March 5 at 6:46 pm Reply
  • Jenny

    Thank you for being so candid. There is power in sharing your story. In fact, your story is similar to many of our own stories. I have an older sister and a younger brother. My brother has battled alcoholism for roughly the last 10 years and his disease has resulted in the loss of his job, family, and identify. He is the father of three beautiful children that we have stepped up to help parent. There is no shame in this because life has a way of taking care of itself and the resilience in his kids will make them stronger as it will for you and your family. My brother is currently in treatment and we are praying for deliverance from depression and alcoholism. I am a firm believer that your story is not to be wasted and that is must be shared in order to help and comfort others. I believe love conquers all and that it is important to focus on separating the disease from the individual. My brother is a light, and a glimpse of the beauty God created. When he is under the influence, he may be overtaken temporarily, but inside, his soul and spirit are intact. Keep hope alive!

    Mon March 5 at 6:47 pm Reply
  • Krista

    Thank you for sharing! You are always so honest, and I think most people try to understand there’s more behind the camera than we see on Instagram. Wishing you and your family the best, I can’t imagine how hard it is on all of you.

    Mon March 5 at 6:48 pm Reply
  • Brooke Sauer

    Thank you so much for sharing! It truly is so fresh to see such an honest and open depiction of life — all the good and all the bad!

    Mon March 5 at 6:48 pm Reply
  • Joey S

    You are so brave for sharing this and I know it will help many of us. It’s hard to put your heart on the line like this and I’m happy to hear it was good for you to write. I teared up thinking of your family’s pain and memories of my own brother who struggled for decades. Thank you for reminding us that the perfection we see on social media is not real life. These types of stories are.

    Mon March 5 at 6:51 pm Reply
  • C hutch

    I appreciate the post because it shows those who think you have a perfect life that no one does and like you said, social media is a well-curated highlight reel. We wish Dave the best and the same to your family. Everyone is fighting a battle you can’t see…

    Mon March 5 at 6:51 pm Reply
  • Jessica Pantoja

    ❌⭕❌⭕ Ali!!!! Thank you for sharing your story!!! ❤

    Mon March 5 at 6:53 pm Reply
  • Crystal

    I can relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing and reminding me that I’m not the only one with a situation like this. I really do hope your brother betters his life the same way I hope my brother does the same for himself. Only they have the power to do it. All we can do is be there to support them. Wishing you and your family the best.

    Mon March 5 at 6:54 pm Reply
  • Tia

    Thanks for sharing this story with us. I’m praying for you and your family.

    Mon March 5 at 6:57 pm Reply
  • BB

    I relate so much to this post. My brother is in a similar situation, struggling with addiction, and causing a strain on our family. My mother is also the one who tends to bail him out, and is endlessly there for him, and as a result gets the brunt of the hardship. It is so unfortunate, but just like your brother, it really seems to be just the way they were born, being highly susceptible to drug addiction. It’s really heartbreaking that addiction causes the victim to be so abusive to their loved ones, and manipulate them to get what they want. But like you said, it’s so important to hold on to hope. Because when they are sober, and most themselves, they’re the lovable brother that they truly are. What works for me is being there for him and helping him when he’s sober, but not allowing myself to be used when he is clearly high. Good luck to you and your family!!

    Mon March 5 at 6:59 pm Reply
  • Erica

    Drug addiction and mental illness alone are such sensitive subjects to talk about. It’s only harder when your own flesh and blood are the ones experiencing it. As someone who lost their brother to mental illness and drug addiction 4 years ago at the tender age of 18 I can wholeheartedly relate… especially the part where my mom got the brunt of it. I appreciate you being so raw and honest. As it was therapeutic for you to write about, it was therapeutic for me to read. My thoughts and prayers for your brother and family that things can finally turn around. ❤️

    Mon March 5 at 7:00 pm Reply
  • Molly

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My brother in law struggled for many years with bipolar disorder, which facilitated his eventual addiction to heroin. He died of an overdose this past November. It was crushing – not just because of the obvious but because our relationships with him were so strained. It is reassuring to know other "normal" people are struggling with the heartache that comes when mental illness and drug addiction become intertwined. Your honesty means so much.

    Mon March 5 at 7:01 pm Reply
  • Anila

    Wow. Thank you.

    Mon March 5 at 7:02 pm Reply
  • YaYa

    Oh, I am so sorry – for all of you.
    You are very brave to process this- and offer community to those who are ealkingthe same path.
    I worked in a residential drug rehab for women and their children…
    There are so many exponential elements to your dear brothers’ issues.
    The main thing is that he does know he has a problem, and he does know help us available… best experiential advice I can give Is to not enable any of his behaviors. That includes giving him money, food, etc.
    …And I am a mother so I know how unbelievably difficult and painful that can be.

    I am also a person of faith- I’m
    Going to pray for your brother… and your entire family.
    For wisdom… and strength… and peace.
    God bless you.

    Just as an afterthought, it has been proven that faith based Jogo rehab programs have a five till one success right over those that do not. That said- I understand that can be a quantum leap for some

    Mon March 5 at 7:06 pm Reply
  • Debbie

    Thank you for sharing. My family has been there as well! We have to remember, it is up to them to take that step to get clean and sober! We are there to help and support them once they take that step! ❤️

    Mon March 5 at 7:07 pm Reply
  • Krysten Gossard

    It is very easy for people to look at social media and say “your family is so perfect.” I think posts like this are especially important because the “highlights” we share are just that – highlights . They shouldn’t be used as a measuring stick for “normal” by everyone else. Everyone has family issues and some are very serious . I think it helps so much to just be real about it and open. It’s a lot of pressure to keep up “appearances” knowing that you are dealing with a lot. Thank you for sharing. Hopefully people will see they are not alone.

    Mon March 5 at 7:08 pm Reply
  • Lauren

    Thinking of you and your family. Thank you for your honesty. You will touch so many hearts by sharingthese thoughts and experiences.

    Mon March 5 at 7:08 pm Reply
  • Swathi

    Ali,
    I’m a long-time blog follower, big fan of yours! I’m also a new mother with a 14 month old. Lastly, I’m a psychiatrist. Dealing with mental illness is very difficult and this post just reflects the maturity you have. I am sending you prayers. Everything you have seen and gone through will make you not only a better daughter, but also a better mother and wife. I send you all my love. If you ever need to talk please reach out!

    Mon March 5 at 7:11 pm Reply
  • Hillary Gras

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us and for being willing to be so honest with your readers. Everyone has problems and I guess I’m almost glad that you shared yours because it makes you seem more down to earth? Sorry if that sounds weird.. just helps to know that all of us have our struggles and family challenges. Your family is still amazing, as is, and I’m so impressed by by your family’s commitment to getting him well and never giving up.

    Mon March 5 at 7:14 pm Reply
  • Emily

    Sending much love. ????

    Mon March 5 at 7:17 pm Reply
  • Sarah Wilson

    Very brave. Best wishes to your whole family. I hope one day there’s contentment. X

    Mon March 5 at 7:18 pm Reply
  • A

    I have a younger brother who is also a drug addict. He’s sober now and it’s been about a year! He suffers from depression but I couldn’t imagine how much more complicated it gets having bipolar disorder. I get exactly where you’re coming from about resenting him. My parents are divorced so it hasn’t been an issue for their marriage but watching them go through the same heartache as your parents have is awful. I have always put pressure on myself to be the "good kid" and to always take care of them since hes not around. My mother was the same was yours. It took her a very long time to establish a boundary with him. She started going to AA meetings which really helped her. She met a lot of parents that were going through the same thing. That would be a good suggestion for your parents if they’re not already doing that. I hope for you, your family and your brother that he gets sober. All the best!

    Mon March 5 at 7:26 pm Reply
  • Jessica S

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I could barely get through reading it because I can relate so much. My younger 17 year old brother also struggles with mental illness and drug abuse and it is heartbreaking and devastating to our family. My mom takes most of the abuse and it puts a huge strain on my parents reationship and the relationship between all of the siblings since we all cope with the situation in such different ways. We thought getting him help would be a lot easier since he is only 17 however that has proven to be far from reality. I live in fear that the worst will happen while wishing so badly for him to get help to end his suffering. All of what you wrote is so raw and so real it’s like you took the words right out of my mouth. Again thank you for sharing something so personal that so many people can relate to.

    Mon March 5 at 7:30 pm Reply
  • seestarrs

    Thank you for sharing this so openly. Where I do not have a family member suffering from this, my best friend since childhood did. I learned how addiction and bipolar go almost hand in hand. It’s heart breaking and such a hopeless feeling. What you said about “how can Dave not give up hope, if we give up hope” is such a hard truth and a struggle. Sending best wishes to you and yours.

    Mon March 5 at 7:32 pm Reply
  • Joanne Clark

    Awww…I hope your brother gets the help that he needs to turn his life around. My heart goes out to your Mom as you’re only ever really as happy as your least happy child ???? Maybe meeting baby Luca will be the thing that pushes your brother to reach out. Mental illness and drug addictions are so hard on the person going through it and also for the people that surround them. Sending love ????

    Mon March 5 at 7:34 pm Reply
  • Jo

    Ali,

    I just stared tearing up while out on my lunch break readomg your first two paragraphs. My older brother also suffers from Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism, he just turned 30 yesterday. I think about him every.single.day. Although I do have a relationship with him it can almost hurt more because I constantly know what’s going on. The highs and the lows and Unfortunately there are too many lows. I’ll still never understand it no matter how much I try. I appreciate your honestly and realness. I wish you and your family the best and all I can say is never give up on him. ❤️

    J

    Mon March 5 at 7:37 pm Reply
  • Sandy Ryan

    Although I did not enjoy this post, I completely understand it. Mental health issues are real! Bipolar, addiction are both dieases that the person with them needs to want to get help with. My prayers and positive thoughts are with your family. Your mom is a rock star for trying and I hope is also taking care of herself and getting help understanding addiction and boundaries. Only positive thoughts coming your and your families way…

    Mon March 5 at 7:39 pm Reply
  • a

    ali! such a great post, and one that really struck a nerve with me. i obviously don’t know your family or situation personally, but i can relate: my father struggles with similar issues. have you all ever considered an intervention? i think the hardest part about them is getting every family member and friend to agree to cut off all ties to the addict if he/she doesn’t get into therapy. that is obviously a huge ask of any sibling or parent. but addicts need tough love to get themselves help — otherwise they just keep going back to their enablers. totally unsolicited advice but it comes from a place of love. thanks for being real with us.

    Mon March 5 at 7:41 pm Reply
  • Emily Capella

    Such a heartfelt post. I admire your courage. By stepping outside of yourself and opening up about this difficult issue you are inviting your followers to do the same. Thank you for being brave.

    Mon March 5 at 7:53 pm Reply
  • Tracy Sharbaugh

    As a psychiatric social worker I think your post was more powerful than you imagine. Mental health and drug addiction has an unbelievable stigma that is one of biggest barriers to patients recovery and our worlds support of those struggling. Having people with a platform such as yourself raise awareness that it can happen to anyone and any family no matter what socioeconomic, ethnic or religious background hopefully will pave the way for more conversations and ultimately more funding for treatment and research. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and may your brother find recovery soon. Xoxo

    Mon March 5 at 8:17 pm Reply
  • Jordin

    Thank you for sharing your story, that takes courage.. I have a similar one with my brother so it’s nice to hear I’m not alone. most of the time, I just tell people I’m an only child because it’s easier than going down that path and all the backstory. I hope the best for your brother and your family❤️

    Mon March 5 at 8:19 pm Reply
  • Rocio Armendariz

    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. You did t have to do it but you did. That shows a lot of courage. I have a brother that is in he same exact situation as yours. I understand your feelings. I love my brother but at this point. I have to love him from far.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    Mon March 5 at 8:20 pm Reply
  • Stacey

    Thank you for sharing. I am a vocational counselor and work with those who have mental illness and drug addiction. It is such a terrible illness and people don’t understand that we need resources to deal with these illnesses.

    Mon March 5 at 8:39 pm Reply
  • Zinda

    Your continued openness and honesty and transparency inspire me, Ali – and I’m a 65 year-old woman! Love your mother (and I know you DO!) for she’s an angel on earth. There is NO love like that of a mother for her child… I am keeping Dave (and his family) in my thoughts and prayers.

    Mon March 5 at 8:55 pm Reply
  • Nita

    Hi Ali, thanks so much for sharing this. My daughter is 14 and was diagnosed with Bipolar about two years ago. She has been on and off medications and was even hospitalized a few times But she still acts out! I really feel that there need to be improvements made on the medication and treatments for bipolar that are available. A lot of them are ineffective and the meds can have bad side effects. This has taken a toll on my marriage and on my other children as well. Its a very difficult thing to deal with and talk about. Only my closest family know about that we are going through this. It was extremely brave of you to share your brothers story with us. Let’s continue to pray for our loved ones that are dealing with mental illness and addiction. Your brother obviously has his family’s love and support,I hope he finds the motivation he needs to get better. ❤️

    Mon March 5 at 9:30 pm Reply
  • Suzanne

    Alli, it is so hard to watch a sibling who you believe in your heart wants to get better but just can’t. Without going through my whole story, I was very similar to you with a sister who could not get away from addiction and lying, took from everyone, especially my Mother, and sadly left this earth with 3 girls who are now also troubled. It pains me every day and I ask myself how it could be so different for the two of us. You are right that it’s the illness that runs his life. Don’t ever stop telling him you love him but understand there is grace for those who deal with this type of illness in families. I’m only now starting to talk more about my sister, who was a loving person, talented in many areas, loved and supported by many, but never escaped her demons. I so wish she had found the right help. Anyway, just see what you’ve done to share, I’m sure you’re flooded with love. Count me in. Suzanne Cross

    Mon March 5 at 9:32 pm Reply
  • Angela P

    Same situation with my middle brother. Bipolar & drugs. I was telling my mom today how sad I am that he won’t be at my wedding in 10 days! Thank you for sharing your story. It really helped me!

    Mon March 5 at 9:34 pm Reply
  • Lisa

    Wow, that is rough. Thanks for sharing. You’re so right, its easy to feel like no one else has issues to deal with. Are you familiar with Kelly Brogan? She does amazing work in NYC, uncovering the link between nutrition and mental health. I loved her book, A Mind of Your Own. Given your interest in wellness as well as your brother’s issues, you might find it an interesting read.

    Mon March 5 at 9:40 pm Reply
  • Natalie Barnes

    Dear Ali,
    I echo every supportive, grateful comment shared with you today. We MUST talk about mental illness, drug addiction and their effects on every single person who loves the sufferer. This IS your story as much as your brother’s because you share their consequences.
    I thank you from a knowing place deep in my heart for your courage and honesty. No family is perfect; we all have sorrows and tragedies and joys. Your mother is an incredible role model for us all. A true Woman of Valor, as are you.
    Much love to you and your family. May you all find lasting peace.

    Mon March 5 at 9:46 pm Reply
  • Amanda

    No family is perfect, looking beyond the superficial and scratch beneath the surface and we are all going through stuff in varying degrees, great that you highlighted this. Beautifully written Ali, and clearly this is very difficult for you all, I hope your brother gets the help he needs and finds the strength to get his life back on track.

    Mon March 5 at 10:18 pm Reply
  • Annie

    Amazing post Ali, very raw and honest. This is what social media is about, not selfies and likes ( well a few selfies). But still sharing real life makes others realise the grass isn’t greener it’s just a different shade of green.

    Mon March 5 at 10:21 pm Reply
  • Shastina

    Ali,
    Thank you for sharing this. You never fail to speak from the heart and share so many personal experiences we can all relate to. It amazes me how many of us, including myself, can relate to your story but never talk about it much. Thank you for taking this step to make people more comfortable with opening up because how else are we going to overcome these obstacles as a family/community? My uncle has been involved in drugs for the last 35 years and although we may truly hate him for what he has done to my grandma and our family, we will always love him and have open arms for him when he is ready. Give your mom a big hug and continue to give her the love and support and encouragement she needs. She’s doing a great job.
    S

    Mon March 5 at 10:22 pm Reply
  • Anne

    Wow, I can really, really sympathize and understand how you feel. Much of what you said describes me. I have something similar in my family, except it is my younger step-brother and my dad. Unfortunately, my step-brother will never be able to live on his own, so my dad doesn’t have any time to himself, like EVER. Sometimes I have to just avoid talking and thinking about it, because I will loose sleep and focus, and it will put me in such sadness. It’s too painful. It is so heartbreaking to see our parents hurt by their kids repeatedly, and so scary. I can say what I think until I am blue in the face, and it won’t make any difference. And, then as a parent, I can understand that need to help at all costs, because I know I would do anything for my daughter. It’s a natural instinct.

    Mon March 5 at 10:51 pm Reply
  • Imguevaraquezada@gmail.com

    Your fans will truly appreciate you sharing this personal story. Wishing you, your family and most especially your brother much HOPE and STRENGTH. This cannot be easy for any of you, yet you’ve continued to be a loving family. What a blessing!

    Mon March 5 at 11:40 pm Reply
  • Danielle

    Ali – I’m yet another reader who can sadly relate. I have an older half brother whose story is so similar. I love what you said about us needing to have hope so they can have hope. Addiction and bipolar are devastating illnesses and you are right that there is a part of your brother that wants to get better. I hope that he and everyone struggling with these awful illnesses can get better someday.

    Mon March 5 at 11:58 pm Reply
  • Laurie

    My brother deals with drug addiction too. It is a roller coaster and can be very challenging. Here’s hoping recovery is in both of their futures!

    Tue March 6 at 12:09 am Reply
  • Danielle

    This.is.me. EXCEPT it was both my older brother AND sister. I did the opposite of them. I got a social work degree and opened my own mental health practice. IF you read this, check out the Plymouth House in New Hampshire. It saved both of my siblings. Thank you for sharing!

    Tue March 6 at 12:28 am Reply
  • Kimberly

    I think it’s great you are sharing this! I have a similar relationship with my sister, though not as intense but still some same difficulties and it’s hard to separate the illness from personal feelings.
    Thanks again for sharing and letting us know more about you ❤️

    Tue March 6 at 12:46 am Reply
  • Kara

    I have a brother who has really struggled in adulthood and while he is better, the worry never stops and the hurt for the hard years remains. I really admire that you shared this – thank you.

    Tue March 6 at 12:57 am Reply
  • Jennifer

    Ali – thank you so much for sharing something raw. My family has a similar situation with one of my siblings showing strong characteristics bipolar disorder, similar to my mom’s Mom who has it and has lived in a mental institution for years. My sister was out of the picture for 6 years, missed one of my brothers wedding, dropped out of school, missed the first few years of our nephews life, didn’t reach out to my grandpa in the 6mos leading to his death, and has caused endless pain for my Mom especially. This was comforting to read as i don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who has a family member that’s not really part of the family. I hope something finally clicks with Dave and it brings peace to your family.

    Tue March 6 at 1:20 am Reply
  • Jessie

    In addition to being a social worker who works with people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues, on a very personal level I can relate to the emotions, thoughts, experiences, and family dynamics you’ve presented here. And yet reading it left me feeling conflicted and now – hours after I read it – I can’t stop thinking about it. By posting here, I’m hoping you might consider some of the things I have to say – which I say with both appreciation and concern.

    Although I always love how real you are in your posts and how much you share about yourself, I think what you did here fell short of your goal. And I can’t help but think that this was not your story to share – not in this way, and not without his consent. You used his name and his photo and many details about his life and the struggles he is still dealing with.

    Although you’ve said it’s been cathartic and helpful for you, I’m concerned that you’ve risked putting him in a position to feel even more pain and shame about himself. You would clearly never intentionally do that, but I wonder if you realize the harm you could unintentionally cause?

    While you don’t have much direct contact with your brother, it would be very easy for him to follow your work. Or get word of your work from someone, as you have a platform and large following. It’s important to remember that once we put our story – or someone else’s – out there, we have to accept the fact that we cannot control how it is interpreted.

    As someone who has experienced pain from my loved one with a mental illness, I know it impacts me, too. I’ve wrote pages about it that I never published, spoken with friends and other family, and processed it with a therapist in a confidential space. All of which has at times been helpful and at times fallen short of what I so desperately wanted – the power to make him better so that we could have a relationship.

    I can imagine myself doing what you have done here – saying impressively similar things. And as much as I, too, desperately want to stop the stigma around mental illness and show people that I am far from perfect, I worry that your post has done more to perpetuate the idea that the harm that people with mental illness cause other people is greater than the harm their illness causes them. It’s true that your family has been harmed as a result of your brother’s illness, but so has he, and no one will be able to completely heal without every person at the table.

    Aside from the chance that this post could jeopardize your brother’s life, I also worry that by centering yourself in this post you could be destroying any chance you had left to have a relationship with your brother.

    I hope you’ll lean into the discomfort and defensiveness that usually pops up when we get confronted with something like this, and at least consider making some changes to this post or doing a follow up post – or better yet, letting this all marinate and doing whatever you do when you’re feeling vulnerable. And when you’re done whatever it is you’ll do after reading this novel I’ve written, I would love to hear the harder stories to tell here: about how imperfect of a sister you’ve been to your brother or how imperfect your own mental health might be or how imperfect our society is to compound such suffering.

    With love,

    Jessie

    Tue March 6 at 1:21 am Reply
    • Amanda

      Thank you Jessie, you articulated what I couldn’t do very eloquently. I can’t help but wonder if he was aware of his story, photos, etc being shared so publicly. Trust is something desperately needed in their journey back to a more stable and safe life. I can only imagine that if they don’t feel that they have it within their own family that the desire and belief that they can become healthier has to be so discouraging. How can this empower him when so many strangers now know him and this one sided view? Has he written anything diving into his story?

      Tue March 6 at 3:31 am Reply
  • Lisa.quinn843@gmail.com

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful heartfelt blog. I give you so much respect. No one is perfect. You have such a beautiful family.

    Tue March 6 at 2:36 am Reply
  • Mallory Nicole

    Thank you for sharing. I dealt with this and my uncle for a long time. He unfortunately lost his battle with addiction. Two days prior to his death he cried to my mothed that he wanted to get sober and stay sober, but he never let us get him the proper help. No greater heartbreak than losing the ones you love to these senseless drugs.

    Tue March 6 at 3:53 am Reply
  • Andrea Schwebel

    This is a really brave post to share, thank you for your honesty! Social media really does only show the best and brightest pieces of life that it is easy for viewers and fans to think that you have the perfect life with a great job, adorable baby and husband but we are all human and struggling with our own stuff… thanks for breaking down the fourth wall of instagram

    Tue March 6 at 3:59 am Reply
  • Kendra

    I understand the struggle with bi polar my 18 year old son was diagnosed with a lesser form of bipolar(cyclothymia) at age 13, it carries the highs and lows of depression, he deals with OCD as well. I could tell he was a different kind of kid by preschool- he had extreme anxiety but was smart as a whip. To this day he is so smart, but he couldnt do a regular high school so he’s been at an alternative hs for the last 2 years. It’s been the best thing for him though, he can still graduate, has personalized attention from his teachers without being cold called in front of the other kids.
    It’s hard to explain what our lives have been like with a kid dealing with this disorder, he’s up up up sometimes like he can conquer the world and in a quick minute he’s low low low yelling at everyone in the family and unable to reason with. Finding the right balance of meds and a schedule has helped him, but now that he’s graduating I just don’t know how to help him on his next life path. He’s a computer wiz kid who can code websites, is on a design team for a major online video game and buys and sells high end clothing by using bots he’s programmed. He’s interested in a design school in a big city with no live on campus. He’s been living at my parents house for the last 2 years because he doesn’t want to live by my house rules. I guess I don’t know where I’m going with this post but o just wanted to say I understand, it’s hard to live with and hard to explain to others what it’s like. I just want what’s best for him, to succeed in life and find his way. I told my daughter who’s 16 if anything ever happened to me (I’m a single mom to 2 kids) that she would have to be Jos cheerleader in life and help him out. I loved the real ness of your post and just wanted to say thank you.

    Tue March 6 at 5:21 am Reply
  • Patricia Grochowski

    Thank you.
    Mental illness has been a shame to families for far too long. No one speaks of it. If more people did tell our family story, then those people stuck in the dark in the trenches with a family member with mental illness could find solidarity.
    Solidarity not shame. Acceptance not isolation.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Tue March 6 at 5:42 am Reply
  • C Mari

    This was very therapeutic to read, I grew up with similar experiences. Thank you for sharing your struggle and family dynamic- it is hardly spoken of when you are making the effort to be a source of healing. Lots of love and blessings

    Tue March 6 at 7:14 am Reply
  • Angela P

    My wedding is in 9 days and my middle brother isn’t attending for the very same reasons. It’s hard. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Tue March 6 at 11:11 am Reply
  • Mameco52@gmail.com

    Thank for sharing your history Ali. Lots of love for you

    Tue March 6 at 2:07 pm Reply
  • Larissa

    <3 thabks for sharing

    Tue March 6 at 3:11 pm Reply
  • Melissa Kin

    I try to remind myself, my kids, and just about anyone that will listen that you NEVER know some of the things people are going through under the surface. I applaud you for sharing this very personal and deeply emotional part of your life and glad to hear it was cathartic for you. You are very inspiring and seem like such a kind person. I will keep you, your family and your brother in my prayers.

    Tue March 6 at 3:16 pm Reply
  • Mari

    Sorry For you and your family. Hooray for you being transparent which in turn will help others. If only he would be willing to just try some meds. It just might give him some relief and allow him to work on recovery, etc. but younknow this I am sure. Good for you sharing that this IS a real issue and not just someone being lazy and/or responsible. Mental illness is an illness and there is so much shame and such a stigma. I think people feel that’s it not “real” if not visible by X-ray or blood labs, etc.!

    Tue March 6 at 4:17 pm Reply
  • Mallory

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Tue March 6 at 4:32 pm Reply
  • ALLISON

    My father dealt with schizophrenia and self medicated with alcohol; ultimately succombing to alcoholic hepatitis when I was 6 months pregnant with my nugget. The decades of managing, distancing, and trying to cope to lose him was and continues to be awful, to say the least. I 100% understand your pain. Thank you for sharing, as your life does seem pretty glamorous at times; we all have struggles.

    Tue March 6 at 5:08 pm Reply
  • Joan LoDuca

    Thank you for sharing and know this will help others. You are a champion

    Tue March 6 at 6:22 pm Reply
  • Linda

    Oh sweet Ali, thank you for opening up your heart and for being transparent with all of us out here who love and support you. I will keep you and your family in my prayers as I know that bipolar is a terrible disease. I’ve seen how bad it is with a neighbor, a close friend’s daughter and others in my circle of friends and neighbors. I know that God made each of us special and that He has a plan for each of our lives, as in Jeremiah 29:11 where He says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Many blessings on you and your family, Ali!!

    Tue March 6 at 6:27 pm Reply
  • Barbara

    Thank you for sharing this. Mental illness has a terrible stigma that will only be erased by people sharing their stories, and letting families know that they are not the only ones dealing with it.

    Tue March 6 at 6:31 pm Reply
  • Sherry

    My daughter is a clinical psychologist who works every day with the mentally ill and drug addicted. She did a stint in a jail as a release coordinator helping them to find support services as they came out of jail. She told me nearly 90% of the jail population is mentally ill, we have no good options for support and when families get overwhelmed by the lack of support services and options most times the only option is to wait for their family member to do something that puts them in jail. It’s a sad cycle and many of them abuse drugs and alcohol in some attempt to alleviate their pain. Most either don’t like the way prescribed meds make them feel or they take drugs while on their meds which makes things worse not better. After a friend was dealing with this with her adopted son, she got a good therapist who basically explained that there is no cure for someone with bi-polar disorder and the meds can only have limited/varying rates of success. Basically for many it would bring someone from where they are to where you and I would consider our low, that becomes their high. It’s so difficult and exhausting and most people don’t talk about it because society sees it as a dirty little secret. During the Reagan era cutbacks on mental health policies this country lost care facilities and funding for research and programs. So many were tossed out into the street and there are large segments of the population that are homeless dealing with mental illness. There are no easy answers, it’s a travesty that there isn’t more support for not only those that are mentally ill but also the families living with it. There’s often violence and pain and of course resentment for everyone involved. My daughter is good at what she does and it takes a toll every day as she fights for funding for programs, works in mental health and drug court and still sees so many struggling and losing ground.. All anyone can do is their best, no one can ask for more than that.. I’m sure it’s a topic fraught with emotion, pain, resentment and fear for your family. Thank you for sharing..

    Tue March 6 at 6:38 pm Reply
  • Judy

    ❤️

    Tue March 6 at 7:22 pm Reply
  • lisa

    Thank you so much for sharing. I know this must have been extremely hard for you to write but I think it will make you and the blog readers that much closer! 🙂

    Tue March 6 at 8:19 pm Reply
  • Ann

    Wow, Ali! This hits home (at least the first part). I have a brother named David who also was diagnosed with bipolar the summer after I graduated from high school. I felt resentment towards him too. He took the attention off of me when I was getting ready to go to college. He went through rehab and is on medication for the rest of his life. He is stable though and doing well. I love my brother to pieces. He is married with a stepson and his own daughter. They live in the same neighborhood as my parents, so they keep an eye on him a bit. We had a rough couple years though. He took time off from college, but ended up going back and finishing (still finished before I did – he is 3 years older than me). I’m thankful he is well.

    And I am hopeful that your David will find his purpose and get well! Thinking of you.

    Tue March 6 at 9:44 pm Reply
  • Donna R

    This was an incredibly brave thing for you to write, and I hope it helped you in whatever way you need. I think you’re an awesome role model and just want to say sometimes you just can’t help. My youngest brother committed suicide right before his 40th birthday and no matter how many times I (and my family) helped him, it was never enough. I too hope others take heart from your story and it helps them if they need it.

    Tue March 6 at 9:46 pm Reply
  • Maria

    Ali, many blessings and hugs to you and your entire family. And bless you for opening your heart to your readers. I have watched several of my loved ones struggle with various addictions, and it really impacts our lives. However, I wanted to share with you that attending Al Anon meetings has helped me tremendously! It provides perspective and tools about ourselves and how to cope, how to forgive, how to accept… It is far better than traditional, expensive therapy (at least it was for me). Although Al Anon is set up for those whose loved ones suffer from alcoholism, the concepts apply to anyone who has struggled with loved ones suffering from any kind of addiction or mental illness. If you and your family haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it to help you cope with any struggles. Wishing you and all your family the best, truly.

    Tue March 6 at 10:57 pm Reply
  • Denise

    Ali I am a therapist who knows the toll mental illness and drug addiction have on a family. I am glad you wrote for yourself and to let other people that follow you and look up to you know that even you have your challenges and life is not always what it seems. So thank you from someone who knows that stories like yours need to be shared so others don’t feel all alone. Hope is vital and priceless for you and your whole family.

    Wed March 7 at 12:30 am Reply
  • Tricia

    Ali,
    I know how hard this was for you and I hope that it gave you some peace. There is no such thing as a perfect family and we all have struggles that aren’t apparent to others. I am touched that you trust myself and all of your Inspiralized family enough and just know that every single one of us struggles with difficulties, whatever they happen to be. My heart was in my throat while I was reading your post, I was waiting for the worst, incarceration or possibly death. Thankfully, that was not the case and it sounds like your brother could be at a turning point in his life. I truly do wish this for him, you and your family. What a strong marriage your parents must have now after so much heartache. Love is hard to hang onto in the middle of turmoil but they did it! Please remember this, it’s what my dad always says. Where there is life, there is hope. Stay hopeful. 🙂

    Wed March 7 at 12:59 am Reply
  • Michelle

    Thank you for sharing! It shows how much you love your brother in the end, because family is still family and there’s nothing you can exchange for that. While I haven’t had any experience with these type of situations personally, I was able to sit in an open group during a weekend leadership workshop with people from all walks of life (entrepreneurs, senior citizens, professionals, students, people who came out, drug addicts, ex-convicts, etc.) and found it very helpful for just life in general from loving oneself and knowing you matter to changing your mindset on life and also seeing your blind spots (what’s holding you back from what you want to achieve). It just shows that no matter where you come from or what stories you have, it’s all about loving, mattering, and taking control of your life to get the results you want. I highly recommend Synergy education in nyc midtown! I’ve seen my fellow group members turn their life around on drug addiction. Wishing the best for you and your family 🙂

    Wed March 7 at 2:39 am Reply
  • Emily

    Ali- you remind me so much of my mom. Her brother (my uncle) suffers from a couple mental illnesses & will self medicate with alcohol and drugs. Sometimes we think he sells his prescription meds instead of taking them for himself.

    My mom is the middle child, peace maker in the family. Straight A’s, type-A, can do anything she sets her mind to do. (She is my role model & Wonder Woman!) And my grandparents fought until the day(s) they passed away over my Uncle and how to help him. My grandfather gave up years ago on pretty much everything but financial support. My grandma though would answer the call at any hour of the day to talk to him. I truly believe that a mother cannot give up on her child, no matter how much their child hurts them. With my grandparents now both passed on, the emotional support of my uncle falls mostly on my mom. It’s a huge job to take on.

    I don’t think my Uncle will ever be able to take control of his life, but I will say my prayers that your brother can turn his life around!!! There are so many more resources for him than there ever were for my Uncle. And while we are still in the dark ages with our understanding of mental illness, we are making progress and your brother stands a fighting chance!!!

    Thank you for sharing! Hope you find some strength and peace in knowing that you’re not alone.

    Wed March 7 at 3:44 am Reply
  • Holly

    Wow, thank you for the brave post. My sister and I live with our brother who has schizophrenia. Its hard to see someone you love struggle with mental illness. And its difficult to explain to others if they don’t already have experience with it. I’m always inspired by your positive outlook.????????

    Thu March 8 at 2:13 am Reply
  • Dani C

    Ali – Thank you for sharing this post. My brother also suffered from mental illness and took his life due to the illness. Mental illness is not only reserved for the poor, elderly, homeless, etc. My brother was a very high level executive, this can impact anybody.

    I have a question for you — have you ever considered joining organizations to help stop the stigma of mental illness? I’ve been looking into organizations, as I would like mental illness to be my platform. If just one other family can avoid what has happened to ours, my mission is completed.

    Thank you again for sharing – D

    Thu March 8 at 2:38 pm Reply
  • Lindsey

    This gave me all the feels.. I come from a family of addicts and like you I became complete opposite and find it ohh so hard not to resent them. My mother being the biggest pill addict of them all.. I try to accept her for her illness but it always end up hurting me again and again. Wishing there was a happy medium of letting them live their own lives, accepting it and letting it not influence my happiness.

    Thu March 8 at 10:13 pm Reply
  • Holli

    My absolutely perfect child succumbed to drugs her 3rd year of college (on the dean’s list, I might add). She spiraled in and out of addiction for 10 years. I last spoke to her on a Saturday at 2 while she was on her way to work. She called to tell me that Everything was going well and she and her boyfriend had made some concrete plans for success. She was so positive and sounded confident. She died that night of an accidental overdose. She got something laced with fentanyl. That was 1.5 years ago. Horrible illness/disease/choice/addiction

    Fri March 9 at 2:02 pm Reply
    • Kim Jones

      So sorry for your loss.

      Fri March 9 at 3:39 pm Reply
  • Kim Jones

    I have been dealing with a similar person in my family. I married my husband 30 years ago. He had three teenage sons. The youngest and oldest were wonderful. The middle was terrible. The high school years were very similar to yours. He had to attend a continuation school too. He hot wired and took the car, took money from us, damaged property, disrespectful. He would come home high on crystal meth. He came back to live with us several times in his 20’s. Arrested several times even into his early 40’s.

    He is selfish and doesn’t care about the affect he has on the family. He completely has my husband wrapped around his finger and uses him as an ATM machine. His mother took out a loan on a house. He was supposed to pay the mortgage, he did not and it was foreclosed upon. It hurt his mother financially. After that we even bought a house so he and his daughter had a place to live. (the child’s mother is now in prison) We built a big workshop so he could start a welding business. He was supposed to pay rent and never has. I said where’s the rent payment? My husband said that he did not have to pay rent because he did not make much money. He is 45 now and doing much better than in the past.

    It has been very difficult all these years to be in a marriage with a man that supports his behavior. He bails him out of everything, makes excuses. It’s sickening. We have barely made it through the marriage.

    Wishing your family the very best. I feel for you. I know it is really, really tough on everyone.

    Fri March 9 at 4:00 pm Reply
  • Julia

    Sweet girl Alexandra ,
    I I’m already an old woman who have followed your blogs with great joy and respect and admiration

    I was blessed by your description of getting to know inDesign, because that’s what I’m trying to do to help a friend write a book. You can! teach an old dog new tricks! And then I built this website for my little brother who is one year younger than I am so he’s an old dog too, but for 40 years he was a deeply addicted alcoholic. All the same stories that you told me or his story two, and we all stopped talking to him, because he only ever wanted money. And then one day he fell and hurt himself badly and he said I can’t do this anymore and he stopped drinking in that moment he told God he couldn’t do it by myself and so God helped him and he doesn’t drink anymore now he’s like a nine-year-old it’s been Nine years since he quit drinking, and he’s like a little boy, the same scared little boy that I remember. But he’s a joyful boy, and he’s building bird houses and he and his wife are very happy together and he drives Lyft. And he talks to people, and they love the story and he helps them

    Thank you for sharing and for your wonderful example to the world, lovingly, Julia fairchild@swanuniversity.com

    Fri March 9 at 5:54 pm Reply
  • jane

    Hey Ali, why don’t you comment on any of these deeply heartfelt posts?

    Wed March 28 at 3:26 am Reply

Leave a reply