Photo of child behind doorHow do I begin to forgive a self that so thoughtlessly threw away the gifts my beloved brother Phillip gave me? Once when we were young, my mother asked me to babysit him. I was fourteen, Phillip was ten. I resented having to babysit that night. When he came to my bedroom door, popcorn in hand (his white flag attempt), I slammed the door in his face.What happened some years later feels a lot like that. I slammed the door on a life he wanted for me. A life he was losing as he lay dying of AIDS in 1992.
Phillip worked hard until his death at age thirty-seven. I struggled throughout my youth with finding my place in the world. Insecure, addicted to alcohol, and an impulsive spender, I was in recovery when Phillip told me in 1986 that he was HIV positive. A part of me died then. Six years later when he died in the upstairs bedroom of his beautiful, completely paid for townhouse that was to be mine, I died a little more. I isolated myself. I soon fell into my old ways of spending money and drinking alcohol. I did anything I could to dull the pain. My recovery was gone. I could no longer say, “But at least I am sober.” I caved into a deep depression.Then the money was gone. I had run up a large debt on the house payment, and, in 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was my wake up call. I sold the townhouse to pay off my debt and took time off from work for my treatment. I bought a mobile home, which was already on site in a mobile home park. I began again in my recovery program and gained enough clarity to experience the full impact of just what I had done, what I had so recklessly thrown away, what I had lost. With this newfound clarity came much regret, much pain, and more depression.I sit here now writing this, ten years later, in my mobile home, just two blocks from the townhouse. I rarely drive in that direction and, if I must, I look straight ahead and speed by, never wanting, never able, to look at what could have still been mine. I pay the rent on my mobile home space and know that if Phillip is somewhere, anywhere, in the ethers of our vast Universe, if he is cognizant in any way, he has forgiven me ten times over. I am not quite as forgiving of myself. Yet sitting here today, I am grateful, sober, and conscious. I am aware of my many blessings.

I know that deep inside me there is a loving self, showering me with forgiveness, telling me, “You lost your brother, your best friend. You did the best you could with what you had. Phillip has forgiven you. I have forgiven you.” I sit in my home now, and listen for that voice. When the shame comes, the regret, the recriminations, I hold still and listen for those words, “I forgive you.” I can feel the peace and the serenity. As I think about this and realize that this is what Phillip had so long ago really wished for me in leaving me all he had, I am truly grateful.


This is just one of the inspirational stories in the book, The Heroic Path of Self-Forgiveness: Change Your Story, Change Your Life

*Pseudonyms have been used to protect the identity of the storyteller and her brother.