My older brother is finally getting sober after years struggling with alcohol and occasional pill abuse. That’s great. What’s less awesome is that his “making amends” step has led to a few revelations of things I didn’t even know he did. When the stereo got stolen out of my car a few years back, I assumed it was a random break-in. NOPE! It was my big brother. He also apparently stole money out of my wallet several times when I was in high school and home from college, and–this is the big one–he apparently hooked up with my senior-year girlfriend when he was wasted (neither of them ever told me until now). I want to support him in his recovery, but I’m pissed and hurt. 

-Still his brother, maybe not his bro

You have every right to be pissed and hurt. And you don’t have to forgive him. At least not right away.

Addiction is an awful disease, and it can drive people to do things they regret deeply, things that hurt the people around them.

But just because the disease is implicated in the bad behavior, that doesn’t automatically excuse it. Just because your brother is ready to admit the things he did wrong doesn’t mean that, because they were wrong things while he was an addict, you have to give him a blanket pardon.

Think about it this way: if someone had Norovirus and threw up in your car, you wouldn’t say the person was trying to vomit-attack you. But you wouldn’t say there was no vomit, either. The evidence is right in front of you.

Your hurt is like the puke: it may not have been his intention to hurt you, and it may be something that was, in large part, out of his control, but it’s still very real. And it’s coating your interior.

That said, you probably know, deep down, that his recovery is more important than your hurt feelings. That doesn’t mean you should be dishonest–that’s not going to help him in the long run anyway, since he needs to learn how to be sober even when people aren’t thrilled with him–it just means you should be gentle, and keep an open mind.

Tell him the truth: “what you did hurt me pretty deeply, and it’s going to take some time for me to learn how to trust you again. But I’m here to support you, and I want you to get better.”

You don’t have to say anything more than that. It’s something he should be prepared to hear, and prepared to work on, if he’s serious about his recovery.