In a few days I hope to receive the first of the journals that my son is writing while incarcerated. We have conceived of and taken on a project that we hope will reach and benefit a much larger audience than just the two of us as we each write candidly about our drug abuse and specifically about our addictive natures and how they have irreparably altered our respective sane destinies. This is my first public admission. It has perhaps been the most difficult step I have ever taken.
It wasn't the first time I had tried it or the last time I would regret it, but early in the winter of 1969 it became clear that regret would be taking a backseat to risk if I were to ever make it out of my teens alive.
So, when my boyfriend slipped that frail needle into the thin blue arc of my fourteen-year-old veins, I smiled with compliant trust and a virginal anticipation endemic only to children and the clinically lost.
At that fledgling age redundancy is unknowable and ignorance, unimaginable and in retropspect, the fact that any of us survived the repeated missteps of our youth at all is ample evidence of divine intervention.
Initially, you might assume that my addiction began right there, as a rebellious, self-loathing newcomer to autonomy caught in the volley between conscience and need. I was an impetuous, distractible, second-rate firstborn whose choices swayed decidedly to the far left of consequence and with a desire for external validation so insidious it was an addiction in and of itself.
But that would be a false assumption.
Addiction is not seeded in desire nor in its object but in their respective abuse, and I cannot remember a point in my life when the abuse of both has not been my reality.
However, the object of my desire has always been more accurately, an objective: escape; but until the winter that followed our family's relocation from New York to Kansas City, all means to that end had been ostensibly innocent, organic and internal.
Previously, escape had been facilitated by the vagrant chords of music and song that drowsed endlessly through my head from infancy. Music that would later speak directly to me throughout my childhood compelling me to rock back and forth on the floor or on the edge of my bed for hours as I ruminated over which of the four Beatles I would marry or how to best get the attention of the boy down the street.
The further away in thought I could get from the clumsy, unexceptional, pudding-faced, non-entity whose spirit felt trapped by circumstance and cursed by a conscious awareness of soul and self, the more graced I became with a forbearance to take her sad visage into the following day.
But the radical shifting that occurs in both personal and family dynamics after a long-distance move provides unusual opportunities for reinvention, and I took advantage of all that were available to me.
The non-entity was vanquished and in her place I planted the maddening rebel whose lack of respect for her host purged the odds of all restraints. There was little I would not do for attention or liberation from the cloddy and cumbersome introvert shackled to my past even if that entailed censoring my conscience as I navigated my present.
And so at fourteen years old I began an intimate and dependent relationship with hallucinogens, amphetamines, barbiturates and heroin that lasted well into my twenties.
Unfortunately, it is not over.
That deadly barge of desire and myopic obsession for quick passage to Anywhere But Here still yearns to sail every single waking moment of my life and although I have not yielded to its darkest cravings since the birth of my first child twenty-nine years ago; I have only to think of that child - now a man - to understand that the worst part of any addiction is that we never self-destruct before taking hostages.
Every single person who has ever loved us is an innocent victim of our deliberate indifference. I know this because as my son now suffers the retributive justice of succumbing to these same ruinous impulses from his small cell in a state prison, neither can I see any further than the mortar and brick that close him in.
If anyone doubts the genetic probability that constitutional discontent can be transferred from parent to child, think again.
It is from guilt, shame, separation and grief that I write and for liberation from the malignant assumption it may never be any better than this that I long.
Words have become my current addiction.
Writing, my rig.
Divine intervention may still be my best hope.
In the meantime, I write.