Dare You to Move

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As I watched him on the mat, I saw him use every ounce of energy that he had, every last muscle in his body. With sweat dripping down his beaten-up face, he grimaced in agony while trying to overcome his opponent on the wrestling mat. He was pinned down to the ground, and every ounce of pain that he felt was completely visible. With tears pouring down my face, I watched my brother fight to win that intense wrestling match, but I was also watching him battle his way through the greatest struggle of both his life and mine.

My older brothers, Christian and Matthew, were my best friends since I was born. While I was the only girl and the princess of the family, I always managed to find a way to get in the same trouble that my two older brothers did (three, if you count my cousin who basically lived with us). They were my heroes, and I followed in their boyish, muddy footsteps, no matter where they took me. While I reveled in being considered “one of the boys,” I was also the baby of the family with those bouncing brown curls and big blue eyes whose room was baby pink, complete with ruffles and flowers as far as the eye could see (which, today, is a much more sophisticated bright pink). While I was perfectly content given just a Barbie doll to play with, I always had an inner urge that ordered me to “get outside! Get your knees dirty! Go be one of the boys!” It just seemed more fun that way, not knowing what kind of mischief we three could stir up.

While Matthew, my oldest brother, and I were similar in our outlandish goofiness, he was more of my protector growing up-- always making sure I was doing the proper and sensible thing. He was always that ridiculously smart, deep, intellectual kid, with straight A’s and enough sense for our whole family. Christian, on the other hand, was the Gandhi of the family-- the eternal peacemaker. I was always envious of his innate ability to get along with anyone so easily and to be able to live life in such an easygoing and worry-free way. But, who knows, it could have been his carefree qualities that led him straight into what would be the hardest time of both of our lives.

It all started about five years ago-- I was in eighth grade, and Christian was in his junior year of high school. He was extremely stressed that year, for he was starting on the Varsity wrestling team and trying to keep his weight down while balancing intense amounts of schoolwork. One night after a party, he and his friend came home, and they were both in a drunken stupor. As they breezily floated through the kitchen like two old drunkards, I watched as Christian lay beneath our colorful pool table to try to catch our dog. “Christian, what’s your problem?” I asked. I had seen him drunk before, but I’d never seen him like this. “Nothing- we just smoked some weed tonight,” he answered. As I tried my hardest to act like everything was cool, I could feel my throat instantly tighten. “Oh- alright,” I stammered. “I’m going upstairs.” While I’ve been classified as a goody-goody throughout the entire seventeen years of life, I could accept the fact that Christian illegally drank. I never would drink, but if he wanted to, fine. I couldn’t, however, pretend to be okay with drugs. “Okay,” I thought, “weed’s not that bad- there are definitely worse drugs he could be doing.” Consoling myself lasted for about five minutes before I gave into crying. Sensing my shock and extreme discomfort with the secret he had shared, Christian came in my room to explain to me that weed wasn’t that bad- most guys his age did it, anyway. “But, Christian, why do you need to do it? What do you want to escape from, why do you want to get high? If you get drug tested you could get kicked out of school,” I lectured, while more and more tears streamed down my face. “It’s not that big of a deal,” he said. “Just don’t tell mom.”

A couple of weeks later, I engaged in a conversation with Jessica, one of my brother’s friends. She suddenly and bluntly stated, “Yeah, your brother- he’s on crack.” My whole body immediately stiffened, and I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I tried to search her face for any trace of a joke, but there was none. When she’d seen how upset she’d made me, she pulled me into a hug and lightheartedly exclaimed, “I’m just kidding!” As much as I wanted to believe her, I struggled to understand why she was telling me this, even if it was a joke. That night, when I was on the phone with my eighth grade boyfriend, I decided to share my worries about Christian with him, completely oblivious to the fact that my mother was listening to every word that I said. The next night, while I was trying to drift off into sleep, my mother approached me about my secretive brother. I instantly came clean and broke like a glass cup falling to the floor, spilling everything that Christian had made me promise to keep a secret. The one secret that Christian trusted only ME with, the secret that he was certain wouldn’t get back to Mom, for he knew he could trust me. I was his sister, after all, and his friend. Breaking my brother’s trust was, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As we hugged and cried, my mom tried to reassure me that I was doing the right thing. “Laura,” she whispered, “You could be saving his life.” But instead of a hero, I felt like a traitor- no better than the dirt in my backyard.

My parents immediately took action and contacted Christian’s best friend (and my fourth brother), Nick, to try to see what other information they could glean about my brother’s drug problem. They met, and although I am not sure what happened during their talk, my mom told me that Nick had broken down into heaving sobs, trying to explain what had gone wrong with my struggling brother. Seeing that six-foot, seventeen year old boy crying about his best friend was heartbreaking, my mom had explained to me. My parents knew that they could wait no longer to finally confront Christian.

The next night, my parents and Christian locked themselves in my parents’ room, while I intensely prayed that everything would be okay. Hours later, they emerged from that room, red-faced and exhausted. Later, everything was explained to me. Christian’s initial reaction was defensive, but in a broken state, he let go of everything and decided to come clean- he was trapped like an animal in a cage, after all. The fact that he cried was a huge deal, because it was rare to see him (the macho, untouchable boy) cry. The part that troubled me the most was when I heard him heatedly exclaim through my parents’ door, “Who told you that? I promise I’m gonna find out who told, and I hate that person!” He was determined to pry it out of my mom to find out who had betrayed him, but she stayed quiet for both my and Nick’s sake.
That weekend, I went to one of Christian’s thousands of wrestling tournaments, and when it was his turn to step towards the middle of the mat to begin what would be one of the most difficult matches of his life, I heard the opening notes of Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” on my friend’s iPod. While Christian was brutally being thrown against the thin mat, I listened to the inspirational words that were telling him, “I dare you to move. I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor.” The song not only challenging him to pull himself away from the tight grip of his opponent’s body, but it was also urging him to draw himself away from the drugs that he had allow to control his life. In tears, I watched my older brother struggle throughout the entire match, knowing that he was battling his way through something much greater than just a wrestling match. As he used every last ounce of strength in his body, the pain that he felt was evident to all, and I felt as though I were feeling the same exact pain. He lost that match, although he would end up winning the internal battle that he was viciously trying to overcome.

I’m not sure to this day whether or not Christian knows I was the one who told his secret. I have a gut feeling, though, that he must’ve figured it out. Though as time passed, he’s come to realize that the people who told my parents about his drug problem were the ones who cared about him most. I’ve learned that sometimes in life it’s hard to choose to tell a secret at the expense of breaking a loved one’s trust, but sometimes these choices can end up saving a life.





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