Home Sweet Home
Home is many things. It's a physical address, a structure that provides security and protection, keeping the stresses of the world at bay. It's where we feel loved and valued, where we rest our feet and recharge our souls. But GPS coordinates do not fill our hearts. Hardwood floors and marble counters do not help us grow, make us laugh, or dry our tears. No physical structure will ever bring us true joy unless we are happy with the life lived inside its walls.
Photo © Reclamation Sisters
This picture (circa 1977) of my sister and me represents some of my earliest memories of home. I remember that Christmas pretty clearly. The Holly Hobbie house, the doll bassinet and high chair, the plastic shopping cart, the tiny ironing board: everything we needed to play house. We played house in a loving home. I was happy with the life we lived inside our house.
So how can one home produce two daughters, so close in age, whose lives go in such drastically different directions? How can the same rules, the same love, the same experiences create such different adults? My sister and I will dig into this issue in some of our video talks. (Check us out on YouTube.)
When I was 26, I bought my first home, a townhouse in Cary, NC. I was so proud of my career success that had allowed me to purchase a home on my own. While I was busy cultivating a life I was proud of, in a home that offered me comfort and security, my sister was spiraling through the chaos of cocaine addiction, which began when she was 26.
...my sister was spiraling through the chaos of cocaine addiction...
My sister's tenuous stability fell prey to her addiction and she lost her job. She needed a home. So after about a year on my own in my first home, my addicted sister moved in with me. It was rough, for sure, but I didn't know the extent of her addiction at the time. As predicted, this living situation did not last long. After a few months, she moved out and my home was once again a source of comfort for me.
When I was 28, I got married. While my husband and I were on our honeymoon, my sister stayed at the townhouse to take care of our three animals. I was definitely nervous about the arrangement, but my sister assured me that she would take care of everything. Imagine coming home to find a spotless house, a "welcome home" banner on the door, a freshly laundered bed, dogs already walked. I imagined that, too! So when we returned to find our home ravaged by addiction, I was both disappointed and mad. I mean, super mad. But she was too high to notice. My home, in this case, could not protect me...not from the demons that had abducted my sister.
My home, in this case, could not protect me...not from the demons that had abducted my sister.
A few months later, my husband and I moved to my hometown in Pennsylvania. Hometown, what an awesome notion. I had been gone for ten years, but this place was still my home. Still the place I felt safe and valued, comfortable and secure. My husband and I gutted and restored a historic house over the next year, our first home purchase as a married couple. We had two amazing baby boys in that home. Though my sister had moved back to our hometown by this point, I did not welcome her home and she never acknowledged our home. I built a fortress around my boys to protect them from the madness of her addiction. She was living with our parents, next door to my own home...my home where she was not welcome.
A few years later, my husband and I bought a new home in the same town. On our moving day, my parents decided to give my sister a chance to prove her trustworthiness. After months on "lock down" in our parents' house, my sister was to allowed to help my family move into our new home. She drove my parents' car and delivered boxes from my old house to my new house, with explicit directions to drive only from one house to the other with no stops or detours. I remember it clearly. She had made four trips, dropping off the boxes on our new front porch. Each time she left our house, I had to call my mom to report the time, so my parents could make sure my sister was driving straight home with no stops. And when she left our old house, my parents called to let me know she was on her way. It was great. My sister was helping us. She was participating in our lives again. A moment of hope. But after her fourth trip to my house, my sister never made it back to my parents' that day. I don't remember the specifics of where she went that time, because there had been too many times. Too many disappointments and too much hurt.
I resented her for that incident for years. Was it my fault? Did our purchase of another home send her running back to coke? Was it too much for her to move our boxes of stuff when she only had baggage? Was it too much for her to see us moving into another home, when she was again without one of her own? And was I supposed to feel guilty about it? Was I supposed to feel bad about living a grown-up life and offering my family a stable and loving home? I hated that I even had to consider these questions. I took one of those boxes and packed up my feelings for my sister.
A few years later, my sister found an important home in a long-term recovery program. That home saved her life. Eventually, she found her way back to our hometown. And now, twenty years after she moved into my townhouse, my sister found her own home. Her little cottage offers her security and protection. She rests her feet by the bonfire, with my boys, and she feeds the neighborhood forest critters to recharge her soul. Her physical home now brings her joy because she is finally happy with the life lived inside its walls.
Written by Laura B. Demers, © 2020 Reclamation Sisters