It's about 9 o'clock in the morning and my semi-collective family (Johnny Boy, my mom, The Boy and I) are making our way over the hill and through the woods to Miss Led's house we go.
Miss Led is my little sister.
Miss Led has two daughters.
Miss Led currently lives in a residential rehab for women.
Alright, I'll just say it. Addiction is not uncommon in my family. It's actually quite the norm. Think steak and potatoes (or orange juice and vodka); it's like it was just meant to be. What's abnormal, is somebody in my family getting help. And she is.
So we are making this three hour drive to celebrate Christmas a week early. The car is packed with gifts for her daughters and things to make her life in the Anti-Shangri-La more comfortable (and therefore maybe less likely for her to leave?). Pillows, cigarettes, tampax, string cheese and a huge bowl of homemade spicy peanut chicken with a bag of lettuce cups to wrap it in. Because I know that if I were in rehab, I would want spicy peanut chicken wraps. Who wouldn't? I might also want a powerful sedative.
But enough about chicken, let's get back to the meat and potatoes. The undeniable truth is that addiction has infected every branch of this family tree. It's our root disease. It's made grandchildren steal from grandparents, fathers smoke crack with daughters and mothers pass out at the kitchen table while their jeans darken with the release of urine that their broken bodies can no longer hold. Our boys have gone to prison. Our girls have abused themselves.
If you follow the word of Miss Spoken, you might be under the impression that I'm a genius. That I would naturally be immune to this bacteria. But for the record, I am not the better sister wagging a finger at the poor choices the younger sister has made and tsk-tsking her behavior. Instead, I feel nothing but empathy, a sort of soul-symphony.
Trauma. Abuse. Neglect. Exploitation. All of these things pretend to be buried when you're high so you stay high. But the addict knows that in reality, drugs are just a lay-away plan. Recovery means cashing out and getting it all back with interest. Which is why I love my sister even more for taking these initial steps and doing the work that will give her back her identity, her confidence, her children and ultimately her life.
Two months down and many more to go before I can stop holding my breath for her. Until then, I'll keep her supplied with meat that doesn't need to be refrigerated, canned white potatoes and whatever my heart can afford.