By Rica Lewis
I caught you with drugs today. I picked up your little glass pipe, packed with remnants of dope. It felt like a bomb in my hand. Boom. My whole world exploded.
Not my kid—that was the phrase I swallowed like a sweet elixir whenever I heard about drugs, about the addiction epidemic: 20 million people in America ensnared in the cycle, their lives unraveling like the spirals of smoke from their pipes.
Puff puff. And worse yet—prick prick. Execution by their own hands, a slow death via poison-loaded needles.
But not my kid.
You are twelve years old when we watch the documentaries together on opposite ends of the couch, your face aglow from the television where scenes of addiction play out—the twisted face of a woman, pock-cheeked and muddied with old makeup.
She’s crying in her dirty white Honda, her car-house that is littered with greasy burger wrappers, heaps of clothing and cracked plastic cups. Dope sick, she trembles and sputters out the words, “I just want this to end.”
You look at me with your self-assured little face. “Drugs are for weak people,” you say. I do not disagree. I am drunk on my elixir, the notion that we are immune. We continue watching the cautionary tale to see if the poor young woman will find her rock bottom at last.
You stand next to the washer, shirtless with drugs in your fist.
“Calm down,” you plead. “Please stop screaming.” I see my hands flying at your chest, slapping, poking, prodding the boy I thought I knew to come out from behind the man who is 19 and holding drugs in the palm of his hand. I used to know that face—the half-smile could trigger my own, like a light switch sending beams to a bulb. I used to see beyond the dark veneer of those eyes. I used to.
But I don’t recognize you here in the garage, gripping your stash.
“Where did you get that?” I sob. Then I echo the words of the woman in the Honda. “I just want this to end.”
An hour later, I get on the treadmill and crank up the speed. I am running away from all this. Tears mingle with sweat and cascade down my face in salty waves.
Two hours later, I drive to meet a friend, a woman with a safe set of shoulders who offers to lend them to me. My face is hot and throbbing. I didn’t bother to brush my teeth, but hygiene is the least of my worries. I stop at a traffic light and notice a little boy in the back seat of a blue sedan, bouncing and squawking, waving a toy in his hand. His mother reaches up and massages her temple with two slow-moving fingers. I look away, choking back a lump of new grief and a sudden longing for the days when Band-Aids and long naps could fix anything.
I can’t sleep. It’s been 18 hours since our encounter and I don’t know how to reconcile the urges to both punch you and protect you. How can you hurt yourself? How DARE you hurt yourself?
My friend said it was no big deal—pot is tame, an herb, really. And hadn’t I smoked it as a teen? But this is not about your drug of choice; it’s about the fact that you chose drugs at all—you, the son I knew so well. I can’t stop worrying about what might come next. I lie on the couch in the living room because I can’t fathom ever sleeping again. I have gotten up six times to stand in the hall near your bedroom where a thread of light glows beneath your door. I listen to the click-clack of your gaming computer and inhale pointedly, like a drug dog sniffing for clues. Then I pace a few times and head back to the couch to lie in the dark and imagine three words bobbing in the whirling sea of my consciousness: Not my kid. I am half asleep or maybe just delirious when I envision a pipe-shaped shark cut through the blue water and open its jaws to spew out a new set of words: What now?
Rica Lewis is a senior magazine staff writer for a lifestyle magazine in Florida. Still reeling from the shock of finding that pot stash, she is penning a memoir about her journey through divorce and single motherhood with her ADHD and ODD-diagnosed child. Follow her online and via Twitter.
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