story by Gracie Estep | art by McKenna Lewis

This is a personal open letter from the writer addressing her aunt.

The white tile and flashing police lights mix together making the room spin. Seeing your sister lay there, unconscious and unaware of your actions. Not knowing that, in a few short weeks, we would be mourning over her for real this time. The paddles charge, feeling like a dream bringing her back to life, but my memories are still flooded with her lifeless body. 

Addiction is the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. No one ever wants to talk about it. It’s the elephant in the room, everyone knows about it, but doesn’t say anything. It tears families apart and ruins everything in sight, taking down everything in the path of its winding road to destruction. The first time is a choice, but each time after is a compulsive action.

Watching from the outside is a blessing and a curse, hearing the horror stories from others around until it becomes a reality. The cold sweats, relapses, and withdrawals become a second nature. Seeing the effect on myself and my family makes me wonder why you did this, but we will never know. This is not about us, it is about helping you. 

I want to see you succeed, we all do. It wasn’t meant to be like this. It could’ve been a one-time thing at a party that turned into an addictive habit or even a prescription; either way we are here now. 

The first step would be to stop pushing your loved ones away. We only want the best for you, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. Dropping you off at the same rehab doors multiple times a year affects all of our actions. The “I’ll get betters” start to go in one ear and out the other. Answering any and every unknown number knowing it could be the worst news: the drugs won.

I want you to realize what you are doing. Everyone around you loves you and it is hurting us almost more than it’s hurting you. You have a family, kids, nieces, and parents. Having to grow up too fast because we now have to take care of you, when it should be the other way around. The 911 operator already knowing the reason for the call and the whole street knowing the reason for the sirens is embarrassing, not for me but for you. 

Do you know how many times you have flatlined? Imagine if I wouldn’t have found you. Laying on the freezing bathroom floor not knowing what is next has to be scary. Trying to escape the reality that is called life. Stop numbing the pain, get up and be there for your kids, not your useless belt and needles. 

Set boundaries, walk out of rehab knowing it’s your last time. The repetitive trips to get clean have to be annoying. When you watched your sister die, did it even affect the way you look at drugs and dealers? Going through this over and over should be making you stronger. It will be hard, but everyone is with you every step of the way. Watching you do this time and time again defeats the purpose. 

Stay away from the temptations and the devil on your shoulder trying to lead you in to the dark again. Show your kids that beating this addiction is possible, they need their mom back. Your parents, sisters and nieces need you; we are tired of picking up your broken pieces and the glue running out. Stop lying to yourself and others because it is making everything harder. Find new friends because we do not want to see you down again. Always ask for help, asking does not make you weak, it makes you strong. The scars may take time to heal, but it is better for everyone.

You don’t have to tell me the what or why, just please listen to where I am coming from. I can’t watch you do this to yourself anymore. It is tearing us apart. I miss the old days when we could hangout without having to guess what I am walking into. Please take into consideration the feelings around you, I only want the best for you, along with so many others. Thank you for all of the lessons of what not to do, but now is the time to stop. Recovery can happen and you need to know you are much stronger than you realize. 

You aren’t alone.

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