An Unconventional Childhood: Part 6
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.
The dorms known as Towers, located on the Evansdale campus of West Virginia University, were four squat, industrial looking slabs of brick and concrete. They looked more like inner-city projects than majestic, scholarly halls of academia. The buildings were unremarkable at best and down right ugly at worst. However, to me, they were more grand than the Taj Mahal. To me, they were beacons of stability, normalcy and freedom all rolled into one.
As soon as I hugged my gran and mom goodbye I ran into the lobby of my dorm and just breathed it all in. Actually, it took every bit of will power I had to not twirl around ala Mary Tyler Moore. From those first moments, I loved everything about college.
Furthermore, after standing in the financial aid line for hours on my first day on campus, I got dizzy when the financial aid officer told me that they would be giving me money, almost $1,000, for living expenses and that I would get approximately the same amount the following semester.
The only catch to this terrific news was that my mom was standing right beside me when they told me. She hugged me. She was happy for me, but she was also happy for her. She took a few hundred dollars of the grand. She said it was for safe keeping so that I wouldnt blow through it all. We both knew this was a lie.
However, I knew it was pointless to argue. Plus, I knew the quicker I handed over the money, the quicker she would be gone.
I made great friends and we quickly started partying - hard. I did a lot more partying than studying my freshman year. In high school, I had gotten use to putting forth very little effort and still get good, if not great, grades. Furthermore, I have always thought I was much smarter than I actually am.
My first semester grades were abysmal. I received a kindly-worded warning letter from the scholarship committee stating that they knew adjusting to college life could be hard, but that they would like to see an improvement. This put a mild fear in me, but still I continued partying a lot and studying a little. My grades improved - marginally. The scholarship committee was not impressed. This time I was summoned to the chairs office. I was told that since there had been an improvement that they were giving me one more chance. However, if there was not a marked improvement the first semester of my sophomore year that my scholarship would be revoked.
I broke out in a cold sweat thinking of the possibility of not coming back to my beloved WVU. I vowed that I was going to be the student I was meant to be.
Throughout the school year I had only visited my hometown a scant number of times. My mom was in a downward spiral. My guilt about leaving my brother and sister in such a mess was overwhelming at times, but I truly felt that it was the only way I would survive. She asked me for money every time she called or I went home. One or any combination of the phone, electricity or water were cut off at any given time. I desperately did not want to go home for the summer.
But, I was in love.
My now husband of 11 years and I met, or I guess I should say, met again during my freshman year. We first met in Kindergarten. Tony and I lived in a very small town, Welch, WV. Therefore, our families knew each other. Well, everyone knew Tony's families. His dad's family owned H.C. Lewis Oil Company and the Lewis name was plastered all over huge oil tankers that chugged through the mountainous roads surrounding Welch. His mom's family owned Marino Insurance and everyone in town had their policies through Tony's granddad.
There was a perception throughout the community that these families lit their fires with hundred dollar bills and filled their indoor pools with liquid gold. Tony had to endure the "rich kid" label most of his young life. It still makes him bristle.
My grandmother's joking (well, kinda) line was, hang on to that one, and get that oil.
Tony was attending another college right outside of my hometown and he had secured a great job for the summer. I wanted to be closer to him. So, I went home. Plus, I knew that I could work at my old after-school job at Little Caesars pizza through the summer to save some money - or at least that was my plan.
Ill never regret that decision. However, my relationship with my mom changed forever. Before the summer of 1996 - I had always forgiven her. Until that point I craved her, longed for her. Although my mom was often a raging addict who caused me several lifetimes of heartache before I could vote, I loved her deep in my soul and when she was clean, she was, well, she was amazing.
Although I never stopped loving her, that summer I knew that I had to break away - for good. During that summer, I found out that she had taken a credit card out in my name. She maxed it out. Granted, it was only about $1000.00, but it still took me years to pay off.
After the credit card was cut off, she forced me to call her first husbands parents and ask them for money. Despite the turmoil surrounding our relationship, they had always been very kind to me. I visited them often, went on vacation with them, and considered them my grandparents in every way. Furthermore, they sent me $50.00 a month when I was in college...they called it my walking around money.
I protested, I yelled, I screamed and I refused to do it. However, my mom then played her trump card and told me, in front of my brother and sister, that she would pawn their bikes and Nintendo if I didnt do it. They sobbed. I dialed.
My mother gave me a script to follow when I called my grandparents...something about some unplanned college bill that had to be paid immediately. I stuck to the script, but I sobbed the whole time I talked to my grandmother.
She told me that it was not a big deal at all and that I knew that she and granddaddy were happy to help. My grandmother said she would put a check in the mail that day, but that was not good enough for my mom. She told me to tell her that I didnt have time to wait for the mail and that she would drive me, in her beat-up, piece-meal car, the two hours to their house to get it. Of course, my grandparents knew that this money was not for an unforeseen college expense. Nonetheless, my grandmother gave me an envelope of cash and then slipped a $50.00 in my pocket and simply pressed her index finger to her lip.
I just flung the envelope in my moms lap, slouched down in my seat, and silently cried for the entirety of the return trip.
I thought that there was no way my depths of humiliation could get any deeper. Until it did. Toward the end of summer, I spent a weekend at Tonys parents. Tony is the oldest of four. His parents house was always abuzz with loud, talkative, loving people. I loved being there (I still do).
Mom arrived to pick me up in the same beat-up, multi-colored car that had carried me to my grandparents a month or so before. The car was embarrassing enough. I scurried down to the car with the hopes that we could make a quick getaway. However, mom had other plans. She said that she going to say hi to Tonys mom, Mary. Granted, they had known each other since they were very young, but they werent exactly chummy, and mom usually stayed far away from people who knew her before her life became filled with drugs and despair. Red flags all around.
Shortly after the hellos and general niceties, mom asked Mary if she could speak to her privately. Catching my moms glance, I silently pleaded with her to not do what I knew was inevitable. I listened at the door as she spun a tale of hungry children and being unemployed due to a bad back. My mom worked up a couple of tears and asked if it would it be possible to borrow $100?
My body filled with rage, dread and utter embarrassment. Normally, I did not confront my mom as I knew that it would not end well for me. Not this time, every bit of good sense and self-preservation left me when she cashed the check Mary had given her.
I screamed, How could you do that to me? How am I suppose to face them again? Do you not understand that you have already given me enough to live to down?
She pushed me up against the paneled walls of the ever-deteriorating small house that she and my dad had purchased after the lawsuit settlement, slapped me across the face, and hissed, Do you think your rich boyfriends perfect little family will ever accept damaged goods like you?
I left for school. I never went home again.
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.
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