The Other Epidemic

I'm a fifth-generation addict. I'm more than a statistic.
My Life Illustration

Getty Images / illustration by Laura Goode.

This article contains explicit and disturbing accounts. Reader discretion is advised.

I remember walking home from school by myself on one of the rare occasions that I actually went. My mother had not shown up to get me. I was 6.

I could see the house up ahead. Maybe she’s not home, as usual, I thought. But as I approached, I could sense that something was wrong.

When I walked into the basement—which was part shooting gallery and partly our living space—I immediately started looking for my twin sisters. When I found them in a corner, rocking back and forth, I knew this day would change my life.

Then I heard a man’s voice. I followed it to the back and there, on her knees, was my mother with three men standing in front of her. One of them had a gun. I realized in that moment I could deny her nothing.

I had taken care of her when she was drunk. When she nodded out with a needle in her arm, I pulled it out.
So when she looked at me that day and said, “Mommy needs a big favor,” I somehow knew that my needs didn’t matter. Everyone else came first, and sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the survival of everyone involved, even at the expense of your very existence.

I traded my innocence for her life that day while she held my hand through it all.

I was living through an epidemic long before the world acknowledged it. I’m not talking about Covid-19. I am a fifth-generation addict.

Addicts are beautiful, misunderstood people who just want a break sometimes, because life can be cruel. We assume our realities are all-consuming and our feelings will strangle us.

Jail has given me the opportunity to be clearheaded long enough to see that my life can change. My mother’s life was not a prophecy for my future. I don’t have to die a statistic. I almost turned into one, but only I can change that.
I am not evil. Evil was just done to me. I am not my mother. I just came from her. Life is bearable.

Being in recovery is only one dimension of the many that make up me. I am an integration of all my experiences, failures and successes. I am a mother, a sister, a good friend and a fragile woman. I mess up sometimes, but that only makes me human.

Get to know the stories behind this epidemic. That’s where the healing starts. Every one of us has a story to tell. We are more than numbers and statistics. We want help managing our disease.

Ebonie Warren is the 2020 “Best Essay” winner in the ACDF/Heard/OAR Creative Writing Competition, an annual literary contest organized by the Arlington County Detention Facility in partnership with the restorative justice nonprofit OAR and Heard, a nonprofit program of the Del Ray Community Partnership that brings creative arts to marginalized adults. Click here to read more of this year’s winning entries.

Categories: People