Taking a parent to rehab
[ Non-fiction : Short Stories/ ]

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Growing up, I would write essays about my mom. I would write how she was my hero, how she was the strongest person I knew, how I wanted to be just like her, and how she worked hard to give us four kids a great life. Don't get me wrong—I still love and admire my mom. But growing up is a funny thing. When I was little, I didn't know what a joint looked like, so when they told me it was a "country cigarette" I believed them. I didn't know what cocaine was, so when they said it was powder I didn't question them. Once I learned that they were smoking weed, they could no longer tell me I was only smelling "herbal Pledge" that my mom had used to dust the living room. It's funny the things you learn when you grow up, or the things you have to make your parents do.

I'll never forget the day my mom was no longer the mom I remembered from when I was young. She wasn't the person I would write essays about. She wasn't strong or my hero. She was a drug addict, and I no longer wanted to be just like her.

It was a Sunday. I was 25 and lived with my sister in a house I bought the previous summer. I wasn't expecting my mom to visit, so it was a surprise when I saw her park in front of my house. She was a wreck. I immediately looked at my boyfriend, my eyes pleading, "Just leave. I don't want you to see this. You can't see this."

It was completely obvious that my mom was on something. To be more specific, she was totally high on meth. She and my dad had been doing the drug for years. What started as smoking a few joints to relax turned into taking and selling coke, then they moved on to meth. I had never been a drug user. I guess you could say I learned from the mistakes my parents made and just avoided the stuff.

When she showed up at my house, she was hysterical. She had been arguing with my dad. This was normal behavior when they were high, so I wasn't shocked. She had taken off in the car and stopped at a liquor store. She bought a fifth of Jack Daniels (her favorite) and passed out in a parking lot. Not before she called my dad and yelled at him some more, though. She told him she hated him. She had taken one of his guns and told him she was going to kill herself. He said go ahead. She told me she had put the gun to her head, but he had some sort of harness on the gun and she couldn't get it off, so it wouldn't fire. In her state of mind, she probably would have fired the gun just to make my dad feel guilty.

"He didn't even care! He didn't care I was really going to do it! He dared me to do it!" she screamed through her tears.

My parents were not your average druggies. We had almost been the perfect American family. Almost. We were all what most would consider attractive. Four kids who all attended the best private schools. We were athletes, scholars, and the "popular kids." My dad had a six-figure job at a large computer company. Well, until he quit after being awake for days on a meth binge. That was when the downward spiral started. After quitting his job, he withdrew every penny from his 401(k) and blew threw it in weeks. Cars started getting repossessed. Another car disappeared—most likely as a payment to a drug dealer. Computers (we had six in our home) started vanishing. My dad never came out of the basement. Security cameras went up all around the house. You couldn't talk to or question my parents because they would freak out. "Why are you looking at me like that? Why are you talking down to me? Don't judge me!"

When my mom showed up at my house that day, I knew I had to do something. If I didn't, I would end up losing her. Well, I had already lost her, so let me rephrase that: she would end up killing herself.

"Mom, we need to get you some help." I said with tears in my eyes. "You can't keep doing this to yourself, or to us kids."

She told me she had a headache. Her head was pounding. It had been for days.

"Have you been taking your blood pressure medication?" I asked. My mom has always had high blood pressure. I always had to be the parent, to take care of her, to remind her to take her medicine. That was always something I expected I would have to do as I got older, but not when my mom was 45.

Of course not, she replied. She had not filled the prescription in weeks. "What about your pain pills?" I asked, trying not to sound angry. She had arthritis and her doctor had been prescribing her pain pills to deal with the pain. She was up to at least six Percocets a day. Most of the time she couldn't remember if she had taken one or not, so she'd just take another dose. Pain pills, high blood pressure, and meth. What a lovely combination.

We talked for over an hour. I pleaded with her, cried, and begged her to get help. I told her I would take her to get help. I told her she had to do it, that I wanted her to be at my wedding, to see my children, and to be there for me and my siblings.

"Okay," she said. "But can I go into your bathroom and take one last hit?"

The tears started flowing again as I realized just how bad her addiction had become. "Mom...," I said, my voice trailing off. She started sobbing. "I can't believe I've got this low," she told me.

Sobbing, we both got into her car. With her splitting headache and history of high blood pressure, I assumed she was on the verge of a stroke, so I took her to the only place I could think would be open on a Sunday: the hospital emergency room. I called an after-hour emergency addiction number, and they said to take her there and then they would set up further treatment.

The drive to the hospital was by far one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. My mom was sobbing and as we got closer she started begging me to turn the car around. "I'll get better! Please! Please don't do this! I can't go away! Please just take me home!"

"No, mom," I said, barely able to see the road through my tears. "You just tried smoking meth IN MY BATHROOM. I HAVE to do this for you, mom. I have to do this. I have to."

I had to, mom.

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