This piece was first published on 9/19/15 by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group at Daily Kos.
Individuals and families have internalized calendars of dates that aren’t always written down even if they are known. In my family, the dates, for good or for bad, often have something to do with drug addiction. For us, national drug policy is a matter of great interest, and even survival.
Today would have been Aunt Gloria’s (my mother’s half-sister) birthday, had she not lost her battle with drug addiction (OxyContin/heroin in the final years, before that cocaine). She’d be on Social Security by now if she’d lived. Instead she died alone, date uncertain. Her body was found days later in her apartment.
A couple of years before Gloria died, eight years ago next month, on a day I’ll always be thankful for, my brother and I were able to put the money together to pay for our little sister’s expensive treatment for drug addiction (OxyContin/heroin as the drug “of choice,” with cocaine and other hard drugs also in the mix) and to support her some financially during the first year post-treatment as she gradually rebuilt her life. We learned that getting detoxed and counseled for 28 days at an expensive high quality facility was just the start.
Because we were able to find some additional cash to do so, we could help her not only with initial treatment but also with the costs of room and board for a year at a special place for recovering women addicts. That way she was able to get a fresh start away from people and places with bad associations. Over time, she also came to realize the depth to which she was a victim of PTSD, which is not limited to victims of foreign wars.
So, in our family, we were able to pay the financial costs of another human being having a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it is still her life and her struggle, and to me, an ongoing miracle, and I take nothing for granted. When tough times come, as they always do, and she deals with them without using, I feel that another increment of a miracle has occurred.
We are so proud of her and thankful to have her. The little girl we grew up playing basketball with every day always had a big and loving heart. As a teenager she turned to hard drugs to cope with the stress of being a lesbian growing up hiding who she was in a dysfunctional fundamentalist household with a schizophrenic mother, of having dyslexia, and of being an untreated victim of sexual violence occurring both when she was in elementary school and again when she was in high school.
Our little sister is a wonderful human being who now is able to pass on much love and support to others, including our still living parents. My dad, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, now accepting of my sister’s sexuality and that of her loving partner, gets a smile on his old wrinkled face, and mist comes to his puffy old eyes, when he thinks about how thankful he is to have my little sister back. So, in my immediate family, one who was so lost has now been found. 🙂
But not every family has the resources to go down this privately-financed path to recovery, and indeed, other members of our extended family have not been so lucky and are now dead. Drug recovery should not be for the chosen few.