and then


Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

He said, "I don't want to lie anymore." And then he returned with a notebook. And then he read us a list, 13 pages long, of the year, frequency, and manner of his drug and alcohol use. All of it. It sounded like the contents of a pharmacological and narcotic gift basket.  I wouldn't even know what to do with thse things if they were right in front of me. Smoke them? Chop them up and snort them? Swallow? He told us stories with each year, a series of undoings, tumbles down the rabbit hole. To look at him - even then, in the thick of it - you wouldn't have known. His body had not racked up the miles like it should have. He told us that doctors had said they couldn't believe he was still alive.

I remember the neurosurgeon who operated on my spine last year. He'd said something not too dissimilar. He - like the radiologist, and the emergency room doc, and others - were astonished I was still walking, what with an egg-sized tumor compressing my spinal cord. It was a thin ribbon of itself, almost invisible on the scan, obscured by the mass. I should have been paralyzed by now, he'd said, and incontinent. I wasn't. My body was fiercely determined to stay upright. I had gone running just a few days before.

Eventually, of course, the charade would have been up. Something would have failed, and likely failed beyond repair. I was incredibly lucky it hadn't already.

But I had to give in. Even my fierceness to stay upright couldn't erase the fact of a tumor. I had to accept that something else was in charge here. A collection of misbehaving cells. The doctor who would take them out. God. Everyone and everything but me. My job now, the only job I had, was to relinquish control of the belief that I could make anything go away.

As he read us his long pages, my brother's hands were shaking. I knew something was passing through him, and even if it was only just this moment, I felt gifted by the sight of it. The grip loosening, a surrender. A mask coming down, and the beautiful hard truth revealing itself at last.