I always say that addiction runs in my family. I'm not sure if that is something that can be passed along between generations, and I'm not going to do the research, but I do know that one side of my family is chock full of addicts.
Many of my male relatives are alcoholics. Many have dabbled in drugs. My mother has tried to quit smoking so. many. times. and just can't. And last week, my cousin died after overdosing from meth.
JL was five years younger than me, and she lived in my grandparent's backyard. We lived in their front yard, basically, so we grew up together. Every school day my sisters and I would walk to her house and pick her up to go to the bus stop together. My aunt would make her eat breakfast before we could leave, so we spent a lot of time waiting at the door for JL to complain about it and then eventually choke down her poptart or bacon slice.
At that point, JL copied everything I did. Any team I liked, any celebrity I had a crush on. I was always annoyed by it. I remember when I got my middle school yearbook, I opened it up a few days into summer and saw that Jamie had gotten ahold of it and signed it. "Never change! Have a good summer! Love Jamie", it said, among all the autographs and messages from my classmates. Back then it annoyed me, but now it's kind of hilarious.
Everything kind of changed - her mom remarried, my parents both remarried, her mom and stepdad had two more kids. Both our families moved out of grandpa's yard. We weren't as close, and I started hearing things about her. She had hooked up with some guys from my class. She was smoking pot. She was drinking. At some point, she went to Omaha to live with her dad. I don't know what happened after that, but around that time is when her drug of choice changed to meth.
Everything has been a mess since then. She's had three kids - she was 22 when she had her first. When she delivered, she was high on meth. She disconnected herself at the hospital and left the baby. My aunt was able to rescue him and adopt him. He's 11 now and so smart and funny. And so, so confused about watching his birth mother die while his adopted mother (grandmother) sobbed and mourned. Her second child, a girl, lives with her dad. She is also so smart and so funny. And absolutely beautiful. Her third child lives in Texas with his dad. I've never met him, and I don't think I ever will.
Four years ago she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Everyone talked about how unlucky she was, and I wanted to shake them. This is because of drug abuse! She didn't just draw the short stick and get a bum heart. But I guess not dealing with that helped everyone accept the fact that JL's heart was failing her and she needed to remain sober if she wanted to live.
She didn't remain sober.
And my aunt had to cremate her oldest daughter.
I am struggling hard with my emotions. I am so, so angry about the choices she made and what it did to my family. I feel guilty that I should have done more. I had a lot of interactions with her as an adult. Maybe one of those times I could have changed the outcome of her life if I had tried a little harder, or put in a little more time.
Yet, every time I see a Facebook post about how she was taken too soon I get so mad. She was not taken. She gave in to her addiction.
My mom told me I have to forgive her. I am working on that.