By Kailey Coen – Collegiate Staff
I always thought having an older brother meant I would have someone to look up to. Growing up, my brother Josh and I were very close. Considering we were only two and a half years apart, we were interested in a lot of the same stuff. As we grew older we slowly started drifting apart, becoming interested in different things, and hanging out with friends more than each other.
When I started high school, Josh was a senior. At 18, Josh was going out often and I hardly saw him, even though we lived in the same house. Not surprisingly, he started going out with his friends, drinking, smoking, doing things some people in high school start experiencing. In 2011, Josh graduated and enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College. He had a part-time job and seemed to be doing well.
A year later Josh and his friends went to a party in downtown Grand Rapids and when it seemed to be getting out of hand they decided to leave. On their way home they got pulled over. Being underage and knowing they had alcohol and marijuana in the car, they began to worry. The officer came up to the window and questioned them. Fortunately, Josh was not driving, but was still charged with a minor in possession for alcohol and possession of marijuana.
“When the officer came to the window I was so nervous I thought I was going to pass out,” Josh said. “I had never been in that situation before.”
Josh stayed at a friend’s house that night and came home early in the morning to tell my parents and I what happened the night before. We were all extremely disappointed in Josh and his decisions, but that could have been the least of his worries. He was sentenced to one year of probation and counseling classes that cost him $400. My parents and I easily forgave Josh for his mistakes and helped him get through the counseling and probation.
Josh got off of probation six months early and couldn’t be more excited. Continuing school and his part-time job, he seemed to have learned his lesson and was making better decisions. He proved that thought wrong in 2013 when he was charged for possession of marijuana a second time.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Josh said, looking back on the event. “I should have learned my lesson the first time.”
When our parents found out they were beyond angry, and wondered why he would make the same mistake twice. My parents told me the news and I didn’t feel angry at all, I was sad. Sad that I could no longer look up to my big brother. I wondered if he would ever change, or continue on the wrong path he was on.
A few weeks later, Josh went to court and was sent to jail for five days.
Those five days were hard for me, but I felt terrible for him, even though this was his consequence for the decisions he made, I couldn’t help but think what it was like for him in jail for those five days. He didn’t belong there, he wasn’t a criminal in my mind.
After the long five days without him, my parents went to pick him up and bring him home.
“It was a huge relief to be home,” Josh said. “Jail is somewhere I would never want to go again.”
Once home, Josh told us that he would be on probation for two years, had his license taken away, would have to take more counseling classes, and somehow find a way to get downtown two to three times a week to take drug tests.
Without a license and no one to drive him, Josh had no way of getting to GRCC or his job. He slowly dropped out of all of his classes and had to quit his job. He seemed to be at an all-time low.
“Not being in school or having a job was probably the lowest point in my life,” Josh said. “Without a license I didn’t feel like I could do anything.”
Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, Josh was accused of a probation violation for “dilution of urine,” meaning there was too much water found in his urine during a drug test. Josh swore to our parents he was clean, and didn’t drink too much water to dilute his urine, he had nothing to hide. Our family paid for a lawyer that cost about $1,000. After a long fight, the lawyer got Josh out of going back to jail, but unfortunately he had to redo all of the counseling classes he had already finished.
It seemed like Josh couldn’t get out of the hole he dug himself in, and no one could really help at this point. Bills were piling up, he was unemployed and not moving forward with his education. I couldn’t help but think I needed to do something. It’s hard watching someone you once looked up to, fail.
At the time I worked at a restaurant a mile from our house. It was never easy telling anyone the situation my brother was in without them judging him instantly, but I had to try. I talked to my boss, and told her what was going on and that he desperately needed a job and this one was perfect since it was within walking distance, and he still had no license. She agreed to give him an interview to see if he would be good for the job. Words couldn’t describe how excited I was to go home and tell him.
The next day I drove Josh to his interview. We got there and I waited in the car for a total of 15 minutes, but it felt like two hours. He came back trying to hide a smile and I couldn’t wait to hear what happened.
“Well, I got the job,” Josh told me, with excitement in his voice.
It felt unbelievably good to be a “big” sister to my brother and help him get this job. Even if it was just a part-time job in a restaurant, it was something to get him back on his feet.
Less than a year after working as a server, Josh was promoted to manager while still on probation. He began to realize that hard work really does pay off.
After finally getting off probation, Josh received two more promotions at his job and is now in line to help open a new location of the restaurant next year.
Overall, Josh, now 23, has paid almost $8,000 in fines over a mistake he made while he was young. After going through everything, Josh finally realized he needed better friends. Friends who lifted him up, not brought him down. He now works full-time and is considering going back to GRCC to take classes.
Josh said a quote by Ayn Rand made him realize he needed to change and helped him through tough times, “You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”
Even after everything he went through, I’m extremely proud to call Josh my big brother and I continue to look up to him today. He showed me that no matter what mistakes someone makes, no matter the circumstances, it is never too late to turn your life around.