I’m not one to really be the cliche type, but I can’t lie when I said this book literally jumped out at me from the shelf. I haven’t read a book in years, mostly keeping myself busy with comic books as of late. But, I was drawn to Kathleen Glasgow’s You’d Be Home Now by the cover; I know, ironic due to the saying ‘you should never judge a book by its cover,’ but hey, here we are. I turned it over and read: “The quiet, the obedient, the reliable one” – not strong willed like her sister or in rehab like her brother.” Now I have two older brothers. One struggles with addiction and the other ran so fast from our home in Ireland to the land of Australia never looking back. For those of us who didn’t make it out? Well it’s the reason I decided to write about this book, not particularly a review because if I’m honest, I’d be rather biassed considering it’s a target mark for my personal experiences.
Emmy is the youngest of three siblings. A lot of pressure comes with being any age, but when you’ve two siblings before you, your parents kind of expect you to come out better than the others; almost like: “well, we’ve raised two beforehand surely this one will be okay, now that we’ve finally got it right.”
Emmy’s brother, Joey, suffers from addiction and is sent to rehab. When he returns; Emmy feels off, like something is missing from her brother, a shell of what used to be. This book is like my situation only unfortunately, for my brother; he developed schizophrenia due to substance abuse. Apparently mental diseases such as schizophrenia are like cancer – where everybody can have it, only sometimes it takes an extra bump to activate the superpowers.
My brother has hallucinations, visual and auditory, making each day, for him, a mountain to climb. I remember him coming in late at all hours or leaving when our parents went to bed or scaring the shit out of me while I was out at night having a joint. He’d fall over the back wall, stumbling, whispering “don’t tell Ma.” – and I wouldn’t. I’d stay quiet, because he’s not really doing anything wrong, right? I’d hear him talk to himself through the walls (our bedrooms are next door to each other). I’d hear sniffing and exhales and thought: “It’s fine, he has it under control.” I came home from work on the weekends and his pupils were dilated like sharks, but he’d insist, he’s all good. The push over I am, I allowed it to happen and lied when our parents came home, as if twelve people hadn’t taken fat lines off the table we were then having dinner on.
All was okay until my mam was collecting me from work one night and she got a call from my step-dad: “You need to get home, something is not right.”
I came home to the screams of my brother, running laps around the house, claiming someone was inside and trying to harm us. He screamed at me to stay away from the door: “Please, please please, get away from the door, they’re going to hurt you!” I was so confused and worried for him all I kept chanting was okayokayokayokay. Like how Joey in You’d Be Home Now chants when his mother is getting on his nerves. My brother is small framed, but has enough muscle mass to throw a punch. That with super sonic drugs didn’t go well; resulting in two police officers and three of my neighbours holding him down to sedate him, twice. Even after that, he lurched up in the gurney on the way to the hospital. I tell you, drugs make you inhuman.
The hospital was a blur of white noise and doctors pushing the words manic, unstable, psychosis around the room. My mother’s face was gaunt, disassociated, disappointed. My brother stayed in the hospital less than 12 hours, with no support or plan on how to battle his addiction and now, schizophrenia. Part of me felt responsible and guilty for not ratting him out sooner. Maybe I could have prevented all of this. The car ride home felt like years. Painful silence the entire way. My brother and I; two liars in a car. Anyone who did speak got drowned out by the motorway. All of us were coming down from the adrenaline. My brother and I went for a smoke and it was not the same. Parts of him have been picked away, hardly anything left on a surviving shell.
I’ve always been like Emmy, quiet, afraid to talk back to my mother or she’d give me the look. My relationship isn’t as close with my brother as Emmy and Joey’s is; but the principals are still there. At the time I said I was tired of all the screaming and fighting in my house, when really I was scared to be left alone with him. What could I do if he had another manic episode? I wouldn’t have the ability to help him and keep him safe. I felt guilty about enjoying the peace when he was sent to live with my grandmother. “Away from temptation” my mother said.
Younger siblings are constantly reminded not to be like the older ones. As soon as that night happened my mam cracked down on everything. “You shouldn’t smoke weed, it’s a gateway drug. You could turn out like your brother.” As Glasgow says in the book: “That’s what happens when your brother is addicted to drugs: your mom gets so paranoid you might turn out the same way. My mother sends my brother to rehab but she can’t sleep without a pill.” My mam takes sleepers but will lecture me and my brother. Of course, she wants what’s best for us, but it’s hard to take the “get your life together” speech seriously when she’s slurring her words over a glass of wine.
I’d like to thank Kathleen Glasgow for giving all of the Joeys’ and Emmys’ voices. It’s a lonely life when you’re the one no one expects to worry about, you spend a lot of time by yourself in the kitchen, scraping your dinner away because you’re not hungry. You feel pressure to remain perfect, to not disappoint anyone.You worry you’re not a stable enough environment for your recovering addict relatives. This is the first time I’ve read a story about the other end of battle. The ones observing it all from the sidelines, too afraid to speak up. It made me feel less alone and allowed me to not feel guilty about being affected by the events. Being invisible is nice, until you feel completely see-through. I don’t talk unless spoken to, I don’t go unless invited, because I’ve been waved off so many times before. Invisible is where I feel safe, but painfully alone at the same time. It’s bittersweet. I can only imagine how addicts feel. We take it day by day, step by step, but you can guarantee I’ll have more of a spine in the future.
You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow is available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.