Monday, October 18, 2004

Pinch Me, I'm Stunned.

My sister-in-law spent the night with us last night, and while my husband was at the video store, she launched into a conversation that went something like this:

"You know Jill...Steve and I are finally growing up. I'll be 40 this year so it's about time! But we're ready to see family again and be part of the holidays. It's going to be 7 months since I've been clean and off drugs."

"Shelly, that's great," I reply....while thinking to myself, "Did she say drugs? When did she start taking drugs? I thought she was an alcoholic. Keep smiling and nodding. Did she say drugs?"

"Yeah, well, it was the toughest thing I've ever done besides quitting smoking. Steve is doing really well. I don't think he's done anything lately, but everyone has to make a choice and if he did, it would be when he was by himself. He's been really addicted."

"Shelly, what drug?"


The silence was deafening. So I say the first thing that comes to my mind. "Speed. Those are pills, right?"

Shelly then peeled off a big, wet raspberry and replied, "Nooo Jill. Speed is the poor man's cocaine." She then laughed at me and walked out of the room. And there I sat, all by myself...stunned and wondering, "How could this be? How did I miss it?"

Steve and Shelly have 3 daughters and I love ever square inch of them. I have unofficially "adopted" my nieces because they are darling and tender hearted. My hub and I have always known about Steve and Shelly's ongoing financial struggles...their inability to buy food or clothes. Steve apparently went to Alaska several years ago and made a lump of money from fishing. He then spent it all (about $75,000) in less than 3 months on drinking and parties and friends. When it came time to pay Uncle Sam, the money was long gone. The IRS went after him so he went Underground. Steve and his family moved to the mountains and he worked for cash. He couldn't support his family so all of his brothers chipped in to pay off his tax bill, which included gobs of interest. (So we have been very involved in seeing that the kids have coats and shoes and adequate clothing to wear to school every year. This is what my Aunti Hazel did for me, and I feel strongly about passing that generosity on. It's one of my obligations for having been blessed with it as a child myself.) Steve has been able to work legally for several years now...but he hasn't held a steady job. He was fired from his last position because he showed up late to work and then yelled at his boss to Get Off His Back.

I always knew about the drinking problem. The kids would tell me how their parents passed out and they had to make their own dinner...breakfast...etc. Several times, the kids sat terrified at home for hours because Steve passed out and hit his head on the coffee table on the way down. We have tried some intervention but our attempts to help were denied. "It's my business how I live my life. Please stay out of it."

About 4 years ago, I noticed that Steve and Shelly were drinking beer as they drove down to visit. They had a mini-cooler that stayed on the floorboard. I was furious and was thisclose to calling protective services to report them. Everyone I spoke to advised me not to do it - they felt the kids would end up in foster care and they would be hurt more deeply in the long run. In the meantime, I was panicked that Steve or Shelly would kill them all in an auto wreck.

I didn't know what to do. Cause and Effect. Whatever path I chose could save them...or it could cause their demise.

I never made the call and I ultimately pulled away from interacting with Steve and Shelly. I have stayed close to the kids and they have always known that they have a warm, safe place right here with us if they ever need it.

I'm glad my sister-in-law has kicked her addiction to methamphetamine. I hope my brother-in-law has been able to do the same. But more than that, I hope my sweet kids are safe...and learning a very big life lesson from all of this: It's extremely easy to become your own worst enemy. The choices we make every day can help us or hurt us. Cause and Effect. Think about where your actions may take you.