Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not in My Family

For the last year, my sister has shown all the classic signs and symptoms of heroin addiction. My entire family has been in denial. Even though I worked for several years as a paramedic and have seen more than a few addicts; it has been almost impossible for me to comprehend that my own sister is an addict. We grew up in an ordinary middle class know the kind that doesn't experience this type of dirty drama..or so society and my family would like to think. It's a nightmare that is all too real, and all too unreal to touch my family. It is the impossible reality.
I have lost my pretty sister and I am now "related" to a girl so caught in the grip of drugs that I don't recognize her. She is not pretty anymore. Her skin has has undertones of yellow and there are dark circles under her eyes. Her arms and legs are scarred by angry red tracks that mark the frequency of her heroin escape. Instead of her cute edgy style and perfect precision haircut, she now hides herself in oversize hoodies and a dirty ponytail. My heart hurts for her. And I am angry with her. I love her and I hate her.
My sister was arrested one week ago today and I have thought of little else. I'm consumed by worries, fear for her, fear for my self, my mother, my family. I am consumed by the daily tasks I must now undertake to confront the situation. I function well day to day. I stay busy and do my job, conduct my life as I always have, but in those moments alone in the car, or with nothing pertinent to distract gut aches and I feel such a great heaviness. When I dwell on the image of my sister sitting in a cold, lonely jail cell, crying, remorseful, missing the addict boyfriend who became her lifeline, being forced to face the truth of her own destructiveness... the heaviness of it all threatens to crush me. How painful it must be for her to look at herself and see that she has become a shell of who she was. Does she even see herself as different when she looks in the mirror?
I think of the destruction she has caused her family..and I rage. Tonight, as I was driving home from work...all the screaming, crying rage flooded out of me and I felt 100 pounds of pressure lift from my chest. A few moments of relief, from pain I know will return each time I learn of a new betrayal by my sister.
Heroin addiction doesn't just destroy the user, it shreds the addict's family and friends into little pieces too. My sister's arrest has finally exposed to our mother..the selfish drive that erases and replaces the user's conscience. My sister, the daughter, took care of our frail mother, taking her to doctor's appointments, buying her groceries, keeping her company. My sister the user took my mother for everything she had. My mother's large inheretance...gone. The reverse morgage...taken to stay afloat when the inheretance disappeared...gone. My mother's car..that my sister so kindly borrowed to pick up her and the boyfriend's next fix...seized. My sister's boyfriend/ the hospital, days away from death had he not been forced by ME, the evil sister to leave my mother's house. Yep, they conducted their little two person smack celebration in my Mom's there after eviction from their own place.
I did the dirty deed of calling his family (after mighty dective work on my part...I did't even know his last name), forming a little army with two of his brothers-in-law and confronting him. I can only hope the severity of his condition will help him wake up and realize that the destruction many be irreversible. When he was admitted to the hospital (rehab won't take an addict in withdrawal until they obtain medical clearance) he learned that the infection of the injection sites on his arms were to the bone. He was septic and may lose one or both of his arms. His hemeglobin (the oxygen carrying component of the blood) was should be closer to 12. He is bleeding internally and the site of the bleed has not been found. He has Hepatitis, which probably means my sister has it too. When he arrived at the hospital, his kidneys were functioning at 100 percent. That was 6 days ago. Last night, his kidneys failed and he will now require dialysis. My sister, sitting in jail, desparate for him does not know this yet. I am bound to confidence by his sister, and right now, I feel more allegance to her than to my own sister. She and I, who have never met, have formed a coalition to protect our respective siblings from themselves and each other by keeping them apart. We are supporting one another through a war. We are protecting our mothers who just cannot fathom that the precious babies they gave birth to, loved and nurtured, have destroyed everyting in their path..all in the pursuit or euphoria or escape.
When my sister was arrested, my family finally had to digest the truth...that addicts are selfish beyond comprehension. That users will lie to anyone, say anything, manipulate everyone to get their next fix. Users live for the moment. In any given moment that an addict is compelled to use, they will use any means to fulfill that urge.
My sister does not want to be in jail. She says she wants to get out, get clean, get a job and pay back what she has taken. I doubt she can ever repay all the money she has injected into her veins, let alone repay the dignity, trust and love that she had stolen from us. She wants to reunite with her nearly dead boyfriend. She is obsessed with him. He introduced her to heroin, and they are bonded by their addiction, their destruction. They are addicted to one another and to the drug. My sister, her boyfriend and heroin are a family of three, a trinity that may be indestructible. The odds are against them recovering alone; together their prognosis is terminal. Heroine will keep them together and kill them together.
Their once beautiful and healthy bodies are now scarred and ugly..and I wonder if they still look at one another and see the a true reflection of who they have become. Does he look at her and think "she is beautiful"? Does she look at him and think "he is so hot"?
Sometimes I think my sister's life is over. I wonder if whe will ever be able to break away from the steel trap of addiction. Will she ever be able to break free of the boyfriend who loved her so much he thought he would share the joy of heroin with her? Will he recover his health to destroy it again?
My family has been scarred for life. My mother is now sentenced to live the last decade (if she has that long) of her life struggling to makes ends meet. This is not how she should have to spend the final years of her life. She should not have to live her last years asking herself what she did wrong, worrying about my sister, and feeling obligated to offer her a place to live should she be released from jail.
I wish my pleas to face the fact that my sis is an addict would have been accepted by my family, but it was just too much for them to believe. I wish that time could be reversed and she could have a do-over. I wish my sis could see the video of her life as she sits in her jail cell and feel true remorse for all the people she has hurt. I wish she could see the reflection of who she could have been. She was smart and pretty and a talented gymnast. I wish she would feel half the pain she has caused others. But she can't. She can only feel the pain of being caught. She is only remorseful because she has been caught. She is a stranger who happens to be my sister.


  1. What a tough, tough post to read. i want to give you a hug.

  2. Thank you, Terri. It was a harrowing experience. My sister is out of jail now and living in a recovery home. She has a job but has not sent one penny to my mother to repay her. I just don't think she wants to change. I don't want to give up on her...but I don't know if she will ever really see the true devastation she has caused.
    I am very fortunate that I am a strong person!


"When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect"--Mark Twain