9. Frightening Memory

9. Frightening Memory

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Frightening Memory

Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.

~Helen Keller

A frightening memory of my son Jimmy’s drug addiction tries to push its way into my thoughts. It’s early morning and already the humidity is making me sticky. I take a seat outside on my daughter Allison’s patio chair. The shade from her apartment building and a slight breeze give me some relief. Blooming pink flowers sway in the flowerbed while Allison’s dog, Rocky, lies at my feet.

Few cars pass on the street in front me in this congested area — early morning hours do not fit into the schedule of most people on a Saturday. It’s been fun visiting the city, to stay at my daughter’s apartment until we get electricity back at our home. The storm last night left many people in the dark. We are lucky Allison still has power and a cool place for us to sleep. But to live in this city every day is not for me; I’ll be glad to get back to my little country town.

An hour passes and the line of traffic at the stoplight grows longer. A few people walk by on the sidewalk. I wonder what they’re thinking. Are they making plans for the day? Worried about finances? Pushing frightening memories away like I am?

But I can’t push the memory away any longer; it comes into my thoughts like a hurricane crashing through a window. I mentally relive the day when we kicked Jimmy out of this apartment. He was living here with Allison. What a horrible experience it was to force our son out into the streets, to live homeless with the other drug addicts. That day he had gone out to get drugs with money stolen from Allison. When he returned, it was on this patio where he stood asking us to let him in, or at least give him the gun in his room. His father held a crowbar ready to fight.

As an addict, Jimmy had stolen from all of us too many times; it was time to take a stand. His dad gripped the crowbar tightly with one hand, bouncing it up and down in the other as he said to Jimmy, “You can wait right here if you like; you are not coming in. I’ve called the police and we will see if they give you the gun, if someone on probation is even allowed to have a gun.”

Jimmy had been in jail, rehab, and homeless. Now he was about to be homeless again. I did not know when or how this would ever end. All I could think about was Jimmy lying dead from a drug overdose if we kicked him out. Tough love is horrible for everyone in the family, but there was a greater risk of him dying if we didn’t do this. Jimmy left the premises with his girlfriend, also addicted to drugs, before the police arrived. It was like tearing my heart into pieces, a slice of it disappearing with my son.

Then I heard sirens. Many police cars raced into the parking lot, blocking other cars from getting out, blocking the entire street. Policemen in bulletproof vests with guns aimed at the patio ran toward us, all of them screaming, “Where is the gun?” They entered the apartment quickly, searched Jimmy’s room and found empty bags of illegal drugs with many syringes. His dad led them to our car, where he had hidden the gun in case a fight erupted. Police confiscated the gun because neither Jimmy nor his girlfriend was allowed to own one; it was a violation of their probation.

It’s okay to think about these things today because now Jimmy is clean, sleeping peacefully in Allison’s apartment, the illegal drugs out of his blood. Living homeless helped him to reach bottom. Jimmy turned his life around and now works in a job he has kept for four years. He is learning taekwondo and attending college to become an addiction counselor.

Last week I watched him in a white martial arts uniform performing for the entire class, Master Kim saying, “Jimmy is really good!” I sat with the other parents in the observation area of the classroom with tears in my eyes. Did they wonder what I was thinking? If they had asked, I would have said with a big smile and lots of pride, “That is my son!”

~Susan Randall

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