Once Found, Twice Lost
A few years ago, shortly after my cousin Alex had graduated from high school, something happened. Alex and his twin sister Jenny are the only members of my family even remotely close to my age. They were born when I was 3. I can remember being the bastardly older kid who could read and therefore cheated in boardgames. I remember Alex and I ganging up and pounding Jenny with pillows (never actually hurting her). I can remember watching them grow. I hope to god I wasn’t their role model.
When I came out here for college, Alex and would get together and hang out. We smoked pot together. He was there the first and only time I tried shrooms (they weren’t any good). We were close, almost like siblings to me.
Alex was set to go to CSU for his freshman year, but at the last minute, he withdrew. After a few weeks, I found out that he was in rehab for drug abuse, namely crack. At first I was shocked. Here’s a kid I hung out with relatively regularly, who had done softer drugs with me, and who I was completely open with about my thoughts on the matter.
I’ve never tried crack, cocaine or heroine and I never will, but somehow, he had fallen in with that crowd. As it dawned on me that this was a serious problem, I immediately wondered if it was in part my fault. I’m very much pro-legalization of marijuana, and I believe strongly in the decriminalization of most drugs. He had come up and spent time at my house, where I had a large glass bong out in plain view. I easily could’ve been a huge influence, perhaps in the wrong way.
What I feel has kept me from becoming an addict to anything, besides not having an addictive personality, is my experience with my Mom.
My mother’s an alcoholic. She’s been in and out of AA since I was born. I never knew until I was fourteen. Something changed and she started drinking rather heavily. When she became a little irate, it was noticeable.
At first, I tried removing the open bottles of wine from the fridge and moving them elsewhere, but she would just find another when she wanted some. Then I tried confronting her, telling her that her drinking was bothering me. It didn’t do any good.
One evening I found her passed out on the landing and had to help my father drag her to bed. She apologized to me for that, but her drinking didn’t stop. When Passover rolled around that year, we joined my Dad’s old friend Ralph at his house for the first night seder, as we did nearly every year. Both my parents had been drinking, but I could see it in my mother.
When we went to leave, I refused to get in the car unless she let my Dad drive. She yelled at me for my stubbornness but eventually caved. The next day she started back on the road to AA. While she has drank between then and now, she’s been completely dry for over two years now, and I’m extremely proud of her.
When I was in boarding school, I drank, smoked pot and cigarettes, tried acid, and a myriad of other things. For an uptight boarding school, I certainly broadened my horizons.
When I realized my mom was an alcoholic, I basically went straight edge for the remainder of high school. I wouldn’t drink within 24 hours of seeing my mom for fear of setting a bad example. When I did drink, I was always uptight and never relaxed because I feared that I too would be an alcoholic.
My mom and I have sat down and discussed her drinking, the reasons behind it, the way it feels, and it’s comforting to me that she’s fine with talking about it. She’s explained that she can’t have one drink because she just wants more after. After that, I’ve been comfortable drinking around her. I still don’t do it often, but my substance use isn’t substance abuse, and I know that if I do do it around her, she’s one person I can depend on to tell me if I’m going overboard. I haven’t yet and I hope I never do, and regardless, I know I’ll always have my mother’s support and she’ll always have mine.
When I finally spoke to Alex while he was in rehab, I gave my complete support to him, telling him how proud I was that he had faced his problems. He told me he was off drugs, that he had met a wonderful woman while in rehab and that he had kicked his habit. I hung out with him, not drinking the day before seeing him, much like I had with my mother. He was clean. He had this wisdom in his eyes that I could tell made a difference in his life. His look was far older than his body, and the experience was worn as a badge of honor and of shame. He smoked cigarettes incessantly now, but it wasn’t as stigmatizing as other addictions. The woman he was with was much older, in her early 30s, but they seemed very much in love, and I do think they were good for each other. Eventually, he went off to live with her in Boston where she was a doctor.
I wish that things had worked for them, that Alex had stayed with her, happily, but no relationship, especially one born out of rehab, is guaranteed to work. After several months, he moved into my room at my parents house and stayed with them. Eventually he returned to Colorado and moved back in with his parents. He took up a job and seemed to be doing fine, but then again, things aren’t always what they seem.
Last week, Alex, Bruce (his father) and I were supposed to go to a Red Sox-Rockies game, but Bruce told me Alex couldn’t make it and was in some sort of trouble. He didn’t stay for the game. I, of course, had some suspicions what kind of trouble he was in, but I figured he’d get through it like he did before. Two days later, my mother told me that Alex had stolen some money from his employer, run off with a friend in a pick-up truck, and it had something to do with drugs. She told me not to give him money and not to let him stay with me if he came to see me.
I can’t do that. I won’t do that.
I’m not stupid enough to give him money, but if he needs a place to stay, I’ll let him. I’m not going to leave him there, since I’m bastardly enough to suspect he might steal and fence some of my or my roommate’s stuff, but I’ll let him stay. He’s not only family, but a friend. That’s more than I can say for my grandparents, whom I don’t really care for. If Alex shows up at my door looking for help, I will kick the shit out of him, lock him in a closet and call his parents. Far better that then turning him away or letting him run off again.
I’m completely flummoxed as to what to do. On one hand, I want to try and track him down and bring him back. On the other, I know I can’t really do anything and it’s too difficult to just up and leave work, school and friends, especially right now. I’m at a loss, and all I can do is hope he’s ok.