A Face of the Epidemic


by Ebonie Warren

 First place winner, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020

I remember walking home from school by myself on one of the rare occasions that I went. My mother had not showed up and I was 6.

I can see the house up ahead. Maybe she’s not home as usual but as I approach I somehow know that something is wrong.

See I took care of her and my sisters and I hated at 6 that I couldn’t stop the insanity that was my life.

When I walked into the basement which was part shooting gallery and part our living space, I immediately start looking for my twin sisters and when I find them in a corner rocking back and forth I know that today will change my life.

Then I heard a man’s voice and I followed it to the back and there on her knees was my mother and 3 men standing in front of her and one of them had a gun.

I knew in that moment I could deny her nothing.

I took care of her when she was drunk or when she nodded out with a needle in her arm. I pulled it out.

So when she looked at me and said “Mommy needs a big favor” I somehow knew that my needs didn’t matter. Everyone else came first and sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the survival of everyone involved even at the expense of your very existence.

So that day I traded my innocence for her life while she held my hand through it all. See I’ve lived in an epidemic long before the world acknowledged it.

I am a 5th generation addict. Addicts are beautiful, misunderstood people who just want a break sometimes because life can be cruel. We assume our realities are all consuming and our feelings will strangle us.

Jail gave me the opportunity to be clear headed long enough to see that my life can change. I don’t have to die a statistic and my mother’s life was not a prophecy for my future.

I almost turned it into one and only I can do that. I am not evil, evil was just done to me. I am not my mother, I just came from her and life is bearable.

Being in recovery is only one dimension of the many that make up me. I am an intergration of all my experiences, failures, and successes. I am a mother, a sister, a good friend and a fragile women. I mess up sometimes, but that only makes me human.

Get to know the stories behind this epidemic because that’s where the healing starts. Every one of us has a story to tell.

We are more than numbers in statistics.

We want help managing our disease.