Written by Sosha Lewis
We can choose many things in life, but our families aren't one of them. As a child of drug addicts, local blogger Sosha Lewis has turned a childhood filled with addiction, uncertainty and loss into a series of uplifting and inspiring stories of healing and growth. From being a child to having a child, join Lewis on her journey in this guest blog.
My family and I moved into a tiny, bleak one bedroom apartment in a newly built complex in Oceana, WV, a small strip of a town nestled down in the Appalachian Mountains. We had a scratchy army green couch, a set of plastic TV trays, a small TV and two mattresses that rested directly on the bedroom floor. The government funding of these projects attracted my parents.
Basically, they were paid to live there.
Until this move, my life and living arrangements had been unconventional, but, for the most part, I had been comfortable. In many ways, I was even spoiled.
My grandfather owned a small bar in my hometown of Welch, WV. However, it was no secret that he was the town bookie. We had nice furniture, a new car every four years, we took Florida vacations and at six years old I had accounts at many of the main street stores and restaurants. This meant I could treat myself to ice creams, cherry Cokes and hot dogs anytime I liked.
My granddads bar was officially called the Sports Center, but it was affectionately referred to as The Place. I spent a lot of time in his bar wiping off the counters, emptying the ashtrays, and cleaning up the bottles and cans.
I was a six year old pig-tailed, front teeth missing, pink bike riding barkeep - a good one. I was tipped heartily. Eventually, I had well over $100.00, mostly in singles, that I bound with a thick rubber band and secured in a toy safe. It was not the life of your average first grader, but it was a good life.
This all changed when I moved with my parents.
My parents had no money and neither of them had full-time jobs. Soon all that remained in my coveted safe was the thick rubber band that once held all of my earnings. We started receiving food stamps. At my new school, I got free lunch. This was a humiliating experience because they separated the free lunch kids and the paying kids into two different lines.
After a short stint in the barren one bedroom, we were awarded a third floor, two bedroom apartment. I was so happy because I would have my own bedroom.
However, my favorite part of our new living quarters was the bathroom. The tub was housed in separate room from the sink and toilet. I considered this fancy. Considering my family saw nothing wrong with barging in on you when you were practicing your latest Michael Jackson moves in the shower the separation came as a huge blessing.
It was in this bathroom, the shower area, that I have my first vivid memory of my mom being proud of me.
One night I stumbled upon a thin white line of powder. I knew that this was the stuff that made my mom act funny and sleepy. I had watched my parents dump the contents of the red capsules that they procured from a local doctor that they referred to as Cuz, take my library card and neatly line the powder up, roll up a dollar bill and clear the line in one long swoop. They would always bang their heads back, sniff and smile.
It made them happy - until it didnt.
I stared at the line as the steam filled the room. I thought about washing it down the drain, but was deathly afraid that my parents would remember that they left it there. When they realized that I was responsible for destroying that powder line the punishment would have been swift and harsh. Therefore, I wrapped a towel around me, walked into the living room and asked my mom if she would come back with me. She did.
I pointed at the line. She ran out of the bathroom, returned with a small straw and sucked it right up. When she got up she was smiling and she gave me a big hug. She yelled to my dad, She will always be my girl. You see who she told about. She's my girl. They laughed and laughed.
Although I knew drugs were wrong, I couldn't help but smile and give myself a little hug. I stepped in the shower, but I didnt feel like practicing my dance moves that night.
When my mom became pregnant, we moved to a three-bedroom apartment. I was less than thrilled about the arrival of my little sister. I had been an only child and an only grandchild for nine years. Plus, even at my young age, I knew that she would just add to the unsteadiness of our rocky family dynamic.
The stress of a newborn coupled with not having enough money for the basic necessities of life served as a trigger for an even heavier reliance on pills.
And, when there was a shortage of their drug of choice, Tylox, my parents withdrawal often culminated with overturned furniture, screaming matches, and my mom bruised and battered.
I blamed my dad for the drugs, the crying baby, the fighting - every bad thing that happened in our lives.
When my mom became pregnant for the second time in three years, we moved again. This time to another town, Bluefield, WV. As tumultuous as my life had been in Oceana, I had made friends and gained a certain level of comfort. I did not want to move...until, I found that my grandmother would be moving with us to help my mom with my sister and new little brother.
I loved living with my grandmother again. Plus, my father, whom I had always tried to avoid as much as possible, started working on a more regular basis.
His job, like most everything in our life, was not normal. Steve had been born and raised in mountainous, landlocked West Virginia. However, he found work as a commercial scallop fisher.
He was gone for weeks on end and would either come back completely flush with cash or if the trip had been a bust he could barely cover his Greyhound ticket home from Norfolk, VA. The paycheck was unpredictable, but the vomit-inducing wretch of his clothes was always a sure bet.
It was in the middle of one his trips that my mom appeared in the cafeteria of my elementary school. Instantly, I knew she was upset. She informed me that something had happened to my dad and that I needed to collect my coat and book bag and to meet her in the car; I had been signed out for the day. I secretly hoped that he had been killed. I felt if he would just go away we would be happy again.
He was not dead, but he had sustained a grave injury.
His right hand been caught in a wench and mangled to the point of uselessness. It was the moment after my mom told me about his hand that my history of inappropriate responses to stressful situations began; I asked her if he would have a hook. I laughed hysterically, but my mother didnt really appreciate my joke.
Steve elected to keep his crushed hand rather than to have it completely cut off and replaced with a prosthetic. He underwent several surgeries at Duke University with the hopes of retaining some mobility in it. He never did. It creeped me out. It still does.
There was a lawsuit. Im still not exactly sure who was sued: The boat company? The wench manufacturer? God?
Eventually, the lawsuit was settled and my parents cleared almost $800,000.00. They immediately bought a Mustang 5.0, a pick-up truck, and a small bungalow in the swanky area of Bluefield. They also used their new-found wealth and my fathers hand to travel to doctors outside our home area to score prescriptions.
They were investing in the powerful narcotic Dilaudid, drugstore heroin.
Sosha Lewis is a former buttoned-down corporate executive turned running shorts and t-shirts wearing stay-at-home mom. She and her husband, Tony, whom she has known since Kindergarten, are the happy, albeit tired, parents to a talkative, energetic, extroverted four year old, Conley. Between playing the "bad guy" to Conley's Batman and answering approximately 4,756 questions a day, Lewis maintains a blog, Its Not Sasha, and volunteers for Promising Pages. Her writing has been featured in Charlotte Magazine and the anthology Robocup Compendium 2013.Its Not Sasha is a blog about overcoming. Sosha has turned a childhood filled with addiction, uncertainty and loss into a series of uplifting and inspiring stories of healing and growth. By shining light on the darkness that comes from addiction, Sosha throws out the shame and offers up hope. Sometimes funny, other times gritty the stories on It's Not Sasha are filled with honesty, forgiveness, and most of all, love.