Today we are going to deviate from the normal finance content that I usually publish. Don’t worry this story will still have a financial decision that had to be made, but instead of being optimized by the brain, it was instinctively made by the heart.
Remember this sites mission is: “To Humanize Finance, Build Wealth, and Reach Financial Freedom”
This means sometimes we have to skip all the rational math and go deep on something that is extremely EMOTIONAL and HUMAN.
Many of you on my email list have received a good back story of where I come from. Others that have found me through other blogs know more about me than some of my closest friends. But then, there are plenty of you that have no idea of where I come from.
Therefore, let’s do a little pre–wordsmithing for you, in order to give you a bit more context about the story I’m about to tell, we can call it the pre-story before the main story.
IT IS ABOUT TO GET DEEP AND IT MAY GET A LITTLE DARK!
Where I Come From
Note: when I refer to my brothers and I below, keep in mind that there are 4 of us boys.
We grew up in a low-income community, where our family and most other families were on welfare or some sort of government assistance. Growing up we slept on the hard-floor of our grandmother’s 2-bedroom apartment, while my grandmother and mom shared one room, and my uncle had the other.
Shit, we were so poor that my grandmother would use the oven to heat the apartment, not for cooking, but cracking the oven door while it was on with nothing in it. That could not have been safe! To this day I doubt if it was actually any cheaper to heat the apartment using the oven vs. the actual heating unit. Either way my grandmother believed it was the best and cheapest way to heat the house.
Our parents were pretty much the scum of the earth.
Both were addicts.
Neither had ever held down steady jobs.
Both had been behind bars multiple times.
They even scammed the government for welfare, by putting unknown for “father” on my birth certificate, which at the time allowed them to collect higher benefits.
To be honest, I don’t even know if either of them graduated from high school.
Meth, Cocaine, Marijuana, Crack, Acid, Heroin, Prescription Drugs…They did them all!!!
Oh, and for the best part, my father was in and out of prison for…wait for it…MANUFACTURING METH!!!
So, lets just agree our parents were really a pair of wasted opportunities, and basically useless in raising my brothers and I. So we raised ourselves, with some help along the way.
One Brother Took a Wrong Turn and Ended Up Addicted to Heroin
My youngest brother, Anthony, unbeknownst to me, had become addicted to heroin. Yes, I knew he smoked pot, and I knew he popped pills now and then. But I had no idea it was this bad. As his path took him towards drugs, I kind of turned a blind eye, and distanced myself.
At the time I had my own life to worry about. I was the oldest, and to be honest, I was tired of playing the dad. I just wanted to go do me. I had already helped one brother escape drugs and change the course of his life FOREVER. Wasn’t that enough, shouldn’t that brother help the next one, and then repeat the cycle?
This works in theory, until you realize all 3 of your brothers need YOU. They all need your HELP! That’s when a bond that is forged by blood kicks in and makes you realize you were made to be a leader…in every area that calls for you to lead. My brothers needed me to carry the torch to light the way.
They just needed a little guidance to get started down the right path.
So, that is what I’ve done, one brother at a time. I decided if I didn’t do it, they might not live up to the potential I saw in each of them.
This story is about my youngest brother, Anthony, whom I’m currently helping.
As I write this it’s 1/17/2017 and about 72 hours ago I got the following text from my brother Mike:
I was actually sitting in the sauna at the gym when I got the first text in this string. As you can see from my initial response, I wasn’t being very sympathetic. For many years, in order to distance myself, I had to convince myself that I didn’t care (but deep down, this was the furthest from the truth). It was the convenient lie I sold myself so that I could carry on with life without the extra emotional drag.
I know, I probably sound like a bit of an asshole, but it’s what I had to do. Until now, Anthony was not ready for my help. Remember, you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t force it to drink. I’ve learned over my short 30 years on this earth that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. Unfortunately, Anthony would have to find his own rock bottom before anyone could help him.
Luckily, his rock bottom didn’t arrive in the form of a pre-mature death, or a long sentence behind bars.
Getting back to the text message string. As you can tell, Mike was very concerned about Anthony. After a few texts of him pleading with me to call Anthony, I actually picked up the phone and called Mike first (I was home from the gym at this point).
I asked him what I was supposed to say to Anthony. I explained to him that he had never been honest with me in the past, so why would that change? I also started to get a little angry about the whole “inconvenience,” which was evident when I told Mike the following:
I am busy with my own life. I have a demanding job and I don’t need another FUCKING project!
I realized after the fact that this was my own defense mechanism kicking in. Life was trying to force me to deal with a reality I’d been ignoring for years. My brother continued to plead with me on the phone to call him, I agreed, but first Mike would have call Anthony and tell him that if there was any hope of getting help from me, he would have to be completely honest.
As I waited for Mike to text me that he had talked to Anthony, I started to remember a few events that had happened over the course of the past two months.
First, I met a gentleman on my flight back from New York to San Diego. We got to talking and somehow we were now talking about his daughter and how she had been addicted to Heroin. He then went on to explain the rehab facility that he checked her into in Southern California. He said this particular facility was the best in the country and that it saved his daughter’s life. She has been sober for more than 10 years and works for the organization.
Then the day before I got this text from my brother, I was on another flight home, from San Francisco this time, and I got to talking to the lady sitting next to me. This time we ended up talking about Anthony and how I hoped that one day he would wake up and get the help he needed to turn his life around.
Mike text me back and gave me the green light to call Anthony.
When I called, I had no intention of helping. Although I knew he had been using drugs, I had no idea he had become addicted to Heroin until he told me on the phone. He explained how he was trying to stop, but wasn’t able to go more than a couple days, it’s an evil drug.
Anthony opened up to me for the first time and just laid everything out on the table. That’s when my gut instinct told me he was ready for help (he didn’t even ask me). To make a long story short, I arranged travel for him that same day, got him on a bus to the airport (he was coming down from Northern California), my wife and I picked him up in Ontario (the one in Southern California, not Canada), and we dropped him off at one of the countries most successful rehab centers (at 2am in the morning).
During the first two weeks in the program he goes through a medical detox, from there he moves to a 30 acre ranch (near me), where he will go through months of continued treatment. The program has no time cap, they spend as much time as they need to with each individual and they have the highest success rate in the country. The average addict takes 6-months to go through the program, but some take longer and that’s okay.
After he completes the program, he has a chance to continue living there with free room and board, and get paid. They will also help with job placement. I spoke with my CEO and he would also allow me to give him a chance with our company if/when that time comes (there is still a long road ahead for Anthony).
This is the first time I have ever seen gratitude in Anthony. The first time (in a long time) that I’ve experienced his real, raw, and authentic self. The deepest part of my soul called me to do this. It’s interesting to look back on how this all played out. I met a guy on my way back from New York, and it was the story of his daughter that ultimately armed me with the facility I ultimately checked Anthony into.
I didn’t think about that conversation again until the Saturday these events unfolded. Then the night before there was the conversation with the lady sitting next to me, and somehow we got on the topic of Anthony and how I hoped and wished he would wake up one day and get the help he needs to change his life forever. Then, the universe came full circle…it was my turn to close the loop!
All I could think of in the moment was that with great success comes great responsibility. In the split second that I made the decision to help, I saw the entire thing play out in my head, and even got a flash of my late Grandfather with a nod of approval (as I know he would had done this without hesitation). I am confident that I just saved and changed Anthony’s life forever.
I USED A PIECE OF MY LIFE SAVINGS TO SAVE MY BROTHERS LIFE!!!
– Gen Y Finance Guy
p.s. The cost of the program was a fixed $33,000 (I promised you a financial decision that had to be made). Most financial decisions of this magnitude would not had been made in such a short period of time. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and my brother’s life counts as one of those exceptions.
Wow, that is incredible. I hope it works out for Anthony!
This is a great reminder for us logical, money conscious people. The power of stacking up money is so you can do things like this, take a month long vacation, or retire early. It’s easy to lose sight of that.
Your right, it is so easy to get caught up in the accumulation and milestones, that it’s easy to forget what it’s all for.
Thanks for sharing such a heart felt story, Dom. $33k is a tough choice, but not nearly a hard as digging past the hurt and tapping into your well of empathy. You are a genuinely good guy and fine example to others of how to live from the heart. :)
I appreciate the kind words Michael.
Awesome story Dom, I can relate to your anxiety about wanting to do your own thing and not being the parent since I’m also the oldest of 5.
You did an amazing thing. It’s amazing to think, but really, family is the only thing we consistently will have throughout our whole life. You never know, Anthony might be able to get his life together, secure a job, and become successful!
I’ll leave you with a powerful quote. I’m going to start volunteering and this sums up my mindset towards that.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Good point Erik!
Family is the one constant throughout our lives. I may not be close with certain people in my family for various lifestyle choices, but I really do want to have a solid relationship with my brothers. I also feel like they are still young enough to be impressionable. They have so much potential, and I will be sure they get a fair shot at realizing their potential.
Good on you for volunteering. Have you chosen anything in particular?
Love the quote by the way.
Sorry to hear about the family challenges. That’s awesome though that you stepped up to help out financially. You’re a great role model on handling finances with both responsibility and compassion. Money is a tool and when we have the tools to help fix something for someone else, it’s great when you can seriously explore that option.
Brad – my wife and I felt very fortunate to have the means to make such an impact on my brothers life. Your right that money is really just a tool. Its a great reminder for us all that money is a means and not the end.
You did an amazing thing and there is no better way to spend your money. I truly believe the purpose of wealth is to be able to provide for others and give back. It’s not for the luxurious things or the power that comes with it. Also, thanks for your honesty about your raw, initial reactions in hearing about your brother. This in no way compares to your situation but I can relate in some way in that sometimes I resent that I have to be the leader all the time, and shoulder the family.
My job is extremely stressful and it sucks to work that hard and then to feel like you can’t get as far ahead as you should be because you have to help everyone else out. At the same time, I’m glad to be able to help my family and it’s what drives me to save more money. I took this job so I could pay off my husband’s debt (done) and now my parent’s and my sister’s debt are next. I’d like to be able to pay for my parent’s retirement too. I’m considering moving back to the East Coast so I can help my family out in person as well. I feel so selfish chasing money in Silicon Valley but I’m doing it for them too. Good luck to your brother and thank you for sharing this with us.
Julie – thank you so much for the kind words and sharing your own situation. That’s amazing that you have not only crushed your debt, your husbands debt, but now you are on a mission to crush the debt of your parents and sister’s debt. That is a tall order to fill.
Sounds like we are traveling similar paths…as I have recently come to the realization that my goals stem from an overarching vision:
To make my financial world big enough in order to provide everything my wife and I could ever want, while simultaneously helping get what they want.
Zig Ziglar famously said “if you help enough people get what they want, you will always get what you want,” it’s kind of a universal law.
Wow. Really hope this works out for him. I’ve volunteered a bit in a rehab center in Redding, CA which does a similar program. They have a sister rehab center in Washington, another in the Midwest and a fourth somewhere on the East Coast.
To make the chances of success even higher, they don’t take their locals. Someone in CA who came to the CA rehab center would get sent to the Midwest or East Coast. That way, some buddy can’t drop by and tempt him. Best of luck.
I totally agree that the people with the highest probability of success are those that are removed from their familiar environments and circles of friends. That is why we brought him down from Northern California to Southern California.
That’s a very powerful story. These kinds of decisions can’t be made using black and white numbers. People, whether related to us or not, need our help.
I sent $2500 to a guy I don’t even know in November. With my help, he was able to pay back the title loan company and their ridiculous interest, sell the car, and move back with his family so he could start school. The impact I had on his life, and you had on your brother’s, will stay with them forever. Sure you don’t have $33k, but helping out another human being is worth far more than that. Thank you for helping him out!
Hey Gwen – as much as a spreadsheet junkie like me would like to optimize every financial decision in a spreadsheet, like you said, it just doesn’t work for every decision.
It’s amazing what you did to help out a total stranger with the $2,500. How did you find out he was in need?
Through a comment on Reddit, actually! It was in a thread about helping homeless people and he chimed in. He was forced to live in a storage unit and had taken out a high interest title loan on his car that he was having issues paying off.
I like that I was able to make a HUGE impact on someone’s life and that I got immediate feedback on how it helped him. You don’t really get that with donating to a charity organization.
Well worth the money! You can always earn more but you can’t get another brother.
Good for you!
I was thinking the exact same thing as ESI. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Hopefully this cost is something that he won’t need again – it is definitely an evil drug. I think your decision was a lot easier to make because you sensed he was ready. Had he started blaming others or balking at needing help – I think this would have ended differently.
Vicki – You hit the nail on the head. I only made the decision I did because I sensed a high probability of success due to his willingness and desire for help. An intervention would had been a gamble, where I view this as a calculated risk (there is a HUGE difference).
So true ESI Money!
I could live knowing I may never see that $33,000 again, but it would be devastating to lose my brother.
I’m very sorry to hear you all had to go through this. I’m happy to hear you’ve emerged successful on the other side. Living FIRE also means using your freedom to help others, and there’s nothing wrong with helping family who needs help. I really hope Tony can heal and take the time he needs to beat such a difficult disease. Thanks for sharing this; you rock, dude!
Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher!
I also hope that this will allow my brother to not only kick the addiction, but to also address the deeper issues that have led him to drugs in the first place. He still has a long road ahead, but his future looks bright from my vantage point.
Great job! You did a fantastic thing for your brother. I hope everything goes well for him in the future. It’s so good of you to help him like you did.
He is a couple weeks into the program and so far it is going well.
Kudos for doing this!
I hope your brother turns out fine.
Thank you Amber Tree.
Admirable. Greed & Hoarding are evil things too, so this will help you as well to keep your own balance. This is part of your Charity / Giving category, it will come back. Not all in money, but ultimately we are all after more than money…
I totally agree B!
This is HUGE! I get where you were coming from early on, and it’s sometimes easier to just want to turn your back…. Not quite to the same extent, but I’ve got a similar situation in my family and previously watched my brother turn his life around from drugs/alcohol.
It’s a hard road and especially for the type A elder sibling it’s easy to turn your back. I did the same thing for a few years, just like you.
I know you’ve made the right decision. Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s super important and the world needs more of this empathy for their family. As ESI said above, you can’t get another brother.
Nick – Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to hear that your brother has been able to turn his life around.
Great job helping your brother! Hope he STICKS with it after the program is done! What are the plans to make sure he stays on the path?
$33,000 is a lot, but compared to your income and your $10,000,000 net worth target, it’s not so much. Worth it!
Hey Sam – I hope he sticks with it as well. I did something similar for my brother Mike back in 2005/2006 time frame. The first thing I did was remove him from his normal environment and circle of friends. That meant moving him down to SoCal from NorCal like I did for Anthony. I also became his support group and made sure he knew I was there for him. Eventually I convinced him to go to the Navy, he spent 4 years in, 2 of which were in Italy (we are Italian, so this was huge for him), then another 2 years in the middle east. He is now using his GI bill to go to school.
So, for Anthony, I have already removed him from the toxic environment, and it will be important that he doesn’t go back there. My wife and I have already told him that we are here for him and will be his support group.
Context is everything, and your right, in the grand scheme of things $33,000 is a drop in the bucket based on where were headed.
Wow Dom! It was saddening and then heartening (towards the end) reading this post.. Thanks for sharing this and while it was a tough decision, I feel it was the “right” one
Good on you for helping out and all the best for him to get back on his feet..
I think it was the right decision as well. It’s the decision that I can live with for the rest of my life, turning my back may have eventually led to regret.
When it comes to a family member getting better, money doesn’t matter. My dad is going through some medical stuff and insurance will cover some of it, and he has invested wisely so I am not worried. But if him getting better means less inheritance that’s fine. I would 100% take extra time with him now than any amount of money later.
Totally agree Jacq!
“I sent my brother to rehab in Hawaii for drug addiction. It cost ($33K). But if you are in Hawaii, and you have ($33K), YOU DON’T HAVE A DRUG PROBLEM!” – Sam Kinison
Hey GYFG, hope that joke gave you a little smile. You are a gifted man, with a lot going for you. Like all the other commenters, your personal character and generosity impresses me, too. There are a bunch of red flags in the story (not the pre-story), and you are smart enough to get your guard back up now. Mike has opened a door now, and there is going to come a time when you must make a decision (finances will be the least of it!) on whether to allow it open, or to close it. As hard as your decision was on behalf on Anthony, you are going to face more hard decisions. Be ready. I speak from experience, and wish you and yours well.
JayCeezy – Levity is always welcome!
Yes, I know that the story is far from over, but I had to make an instinctive decision. My biggest fear that is now solved at least for the next 6 months was that I would turn my back and I would get a call that my brother was dead. The original title of the post was something to the effect of…”Because I didn’t want my little brother to die before me”
There were many times in the last 10 years that I could had tried to help out and didn’t, mostly because it was high probability of failure.
But like you said, there are lots of big/hard decisions ahead. Then again that has been the story of my life…it has turned me into the person I am today.
I appreciate the comment and the words of caution.
Cool, Buddy. You are a man-and-a-half. One more joke for the road ahead…
“I’ve been checked into rehab 17 times, now. At this point, I’m officially addicted to rehab!” Dave Mustaine
Wow, this was a powerful story. Thank you for sharing it. I’ve always found your life story to be truly incredible and what you’ve made of it is amazing. Best wishes to your brother in his battle.
It would be even worst to go 60 more years thinking what if…
As someone who grew up with a parent who suffered from addiction, and who now has four years of sobriety under her own belt, I wanted to chime in. I can certainly appreciate where the somewhat harsh words in this post came from, as dealing with an addict is no joke. The lying is just one part of the equation, it all quickly becomes tiresome, and letting go of the relationships is often easier than living in the cycle of abuse with them. But I also found this post offensive, in that it feels a bit like bragging, and I can’t imagine how he would feel if he ever read these words – or how any addict would feel if they read a similar post written about them.
It’s definitely great that you were in a position to help your brother, and I truly hope he gets clean, and moves on to live a happier and healthier life. But I would also like to add to the list of gentle reminders and say please remember he needs to get sober for himself – not for anyone else. Your investment gave him an opportunity he wouldn’t have had before, yes. But addiction is serious business, as you know, and he needs to find purpose/value in his own life first, before he can care about anyone else in his life. I’ll keep him in my thoughts, as I know it takes years to rebuild self-esteem and feel like someone who is worthy of anything good.
Hi Cait – Thanks for sharing your thoughts and congrats on your own sobriety.
I am curious if there are particular parts that you can point out that sounded like bragging as that certainly was not the purpose of this post. One of the many benefits of running a blog is that it allows me a no filter outlet to work through my own thoughts and feelings. It allows me to really provide a real, raw, and authentic voice.
Of course I don’t expect everyone to agree or even resonate with what I write. I will be the first to admit that I write for myself first and for whomever is kind enough and/or interested to follow along. To me this is a personal journal that I have made public; and in doing so I have remained anonymous due to the intimate details and thoughts that I share.
I can’t say whether Anthony will ever come across this blog or not. But if he did read it or if I ever did share it with him, it would be because he was ready to see it. The help I provided to Anthony was only because he was searching for help and hope for a better future (one different from our own parents). I don’t expect him to do this for me, this has to absolutely be for himself, which I am sure will be a large part of the program he is in…once he gets to that part.
I appreciate your comment and look forward to additional feedback.
Hey! I think what most struck a chord was specifically the last line re: that you used your money to save his life. I totally relate to using your blog as a space to work through your own thoughts/feelings, as mine is absolutely the same. So I would never say “you’re wrong”, as that’s an unfair statement. But that statement left me hoping you could see that his life hasn’t been saved yet… that part is up to him, and no amount of money can do the work for him. I hope that makes sense.
Thanks for the feedback and sharing your perspective Cait.
I remember trying to help my parents with their addictions when they weren’t ready to help themselves. I remember pleading with them, trying to get them to think of their kids, hoping my pleas would get them to change. No such luck. I would have done anything if they were ready, but they never were and that time has come and gone. I’ll be thinking of Anthony often. You’re a great brother!
I love how real that story is. The right decision obviously, but outlaying 30 large is a big ask. Best of luck to your brother.
Will you share the name of the rehab facility? You can send me a private email if you want to keep it confidential. I have a cousin who is really struggling with addiction and the place you described sounds perfect.
Thanks! And a great investment in your brother from my perspective. Share an update if able.
Hi J – The program is called Narconon and they have several facilities around the country. Here is their website: http://www.narconon.org/
Now that my brother is out of rehab, there is one thing I wish the program did, and that is helping with job placement and assimilation back into society. A lot of these folks that go through rehab come out with no support group and my brother has heard of several that went back to using and died. And others that, with no support group, found themselves hopeless and turned back to the drugs.
I highly recommend that if you do plan to put your cousin through rehab, that there is a plan afterward to provide the support he/she will need to get back to a normal life.
As for my brother, he graduated from the program in April and came to live with my wife and me for few months. We have since moved him into a place of his own (a room for rent; a stepping stone). Over the summer I helped him get up to Northern California to clear a bench warrant that was due to a DUI he got before I admitted him to rehab back in January. He is now taking the court mandated DUI classes and AA meetings, which should be done by early December. Additionally, he is now looking for a job.
There is still a long road ahead, but I am optimistic that with our support, he will remain clean and live up to the potential I see he has.
Thanks man. I really appreciate it. The epidemic of addiction in our country particularly to opiates is rising to epic proportions. Unfortunately, I don’t think it has peaked yet. Your brother is lucky to have you. Keep up the great work and support.