One Giant Learning Experience

16 Jul

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Recently I just read a little bit of a book by another Greenwood Alumni, Austin Coats about his struggle witih addiction and recovery. The opening of the book recalls the time when it all started, after an injury in a high school football game. The thing is I remember that day clearly, as I was on the sidelines as an equipment manager. I also remember the days and weeks after that of seeing Austin in a sling. Up until a few months ago when the book came out, I had no idea what events would follow and change the course of Austin’s life forever.

The thing that caught me the most about his book is, that it jarred the memories of growing up in a nice Chicago suburb called Round Lake Park. I have never became an narcotics or alcohol addict, but I did grow up as the son of a Heroin addict and an alcoholic. So where do I begin, ahh yes 1994. I was helping my father clean out his 1980 Caprice wagon that mom had been driving due to her Nissan being in the shop or repo’d. I mean after twenty years you tend to forget things…..am I right Paula Deen. While cleaning out the cavernous backseat of that car, we came across a spoon that had been burned on the bottom. I had seen enough of those “don’t do drugs” ads during Saturday morning cartoons, to know that some drugs are cooked on a spoon, just what I don’t know. Dad took the spoon from me and did something with it, I still don’t know, maybe he showed it to mom. After that mom had become more distant. She was working two jobs to try and make bills and life happen, she had a horse, mom had a lot on her plate. I have never asked my mom what started the downward spiral, maybe now would be a good time to ask. So I did.

I sat down with my mom and had a candid conversation about the events leading up to us finding out. Back then mom was in a lot of pain in the stomach area. She tried several things but they never worked. She tried alcohol which dulled it for a bit, but when she would come home intoxicated dad would be upset. Ironically, dad would come home in the same fashion, then wake me up to make him some dinner. At the time I never thought twice about it because hey I’m spending time with my dad. While this was going on mom had a career as a home health nurse. Most of the medications would be dropped off at the house and put in the garage, readily accessible for when she was leaving to make a house call. One day my future step-dad had asked my mom if “she had any extra bags” (morphine). She said yes thinking it was for work. She saw something that made her question what they were for and he told her, and asked if she had ever tried. He told her it helps take the pain away, and being as she was in pain heck why not. As the opiate entered the blood stream, mom said it made everything worse. Then all of the sudden the drugs effects came over her and the pain went away. Now she’s hooked. It started out as stomach shots than evolved into shooting up. The at home Morphine delivery worked great till she was busted at a nurse’s station for using.

In the summer of 1995 dad would take us out on Thursday nights. Usually it consisted of going to McDonalds or Wendy’s and then going to the Library and checking out books. One of those days in particular I will remember for ever is June 15. As we came to the stop light at Hainsville Rd and Rollins Rd, dad says to my sisters and I, “I’ve got something very important to tell you”. I listened intently because dad never told us anything that was important, well atleast when your at the age of 12 you don’t think it is. “Your mother is addicted to drugs, and she’s been arrested” Holy cow what a bomb shell. Here I’m trying to decide if I want a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets and he drops this on us. Allison was all beside herself, Meghan well was Meghan. See, back then Meghan thought she was this gangsta at the age of 11, so nothing affected her. Or so she thought. Dad went on to say that he was in process to get her help and try to make the situation the best he could for us.

In between June and December it was decided that my Aunt Wendy and Uncle John would take us in. Only downside was that we would have to move to Arkansas. In begininng of September, we came home too no one in the house. Dad was at work and we assumed mom was at work. One evening I decided I wanted to make  barbecue chicken on the grill, dad helped me with it, which was great. After dinner my sisters went off to their rooms and dad and I sat on the porch mainly talking about racing. Trust me not much has changed as far as that goes. As dad stood at the railing overlooking the driveway, he looked at me and said “Ross, your moms in jail again, and there’s nothing I can do this time”. I swallowed hard and asked the usual question “Why?”. Dad looked toward Round Lake and replied “There’s no money and your mom needs to learn the consequences of her actions.” Now before you dive far into this story and think “Wow his dad is awesome”, dad was far from perfect. Dad has a checkerd history of bad descions mind you. So back to porch. It started to sink in that our family structure was going down faster than the Titanic.

September 6th

September 6th, 1995 is a day I will never soon forget. I got home from school about 3:45 in the afternoon and before I could turn on “Ducktales” the phone rang on the other end a voice said “You have a collect call from the Cook County Jail from Lynn, do you accept the charges?” How else could I say no? The call was switched to this tear filled voice of my mom wishing me a happy birthday. Usually when I tell the story of how we moved down here, I tend to skip over that part. For some reason it always tends to sting a bit. My mom stayed in jail for what seemed like forever. When dad went to get her, we did not go with. On second thought I’m not sure when he got her. After she got home obviously we had several questions about what happened. The story goes something like this. Her and my future step-dad Jim, were an an ally shooting up. The cops were called and when they busted them my mom overdosed. Word around the dinner table is that they had recesitated her. Mom would tell us stories about sleeping under a stair case in the jail. While there mom had met a woman who was there for drugs. Soon after that mom had the connections she needed to feed her addiction.

My Aunt Wendy and Uncle John, came up from Arkansas on a couple of occasions and several exstensive phone calls, to try and right the ship. Several times intervention was suggested, but dad was worried that mom would be mad at him. Finally there was a push from mom to get us to move to Arkansas. Actually I’ve several variations of that story, Dad claimed responsibility. Mom did also, as well as John and Wendy. Either way we were coming down here.

In November, a couple things happened that to this day I’m confused about. Coming home from Middle School I came up to the crosswalk that took me to the sidewalk that led me to the house. When I got there two kids from the High School asked me if I was Allisons brother. I said ya, they shouted at me “your sister is fucking retarded” then punched me twice in the head. As I stood up from being knocked down, they pushed me down again and told me to tell her “Quit looking nasty and stop being retarded”. I re-bent my glasses and rode my bike home wondering what the hell did I do. The next week the weight of being bullied and my families situation, became to much to bear in my mind. At the same crosswalk I had gotten punched, a Chrysler K-car was spinning it’s tires. Seeing as an opportunity to end what was plaguing me mentally I rode my bike faster. As I got in front of the car it caught traction and launched. The bike bounced up and slid to the right. Damn, it didn’t work. A passer-by saw what had happened and helped me re-bend the left pedal arm. The driver was distraught thinking he was at fault. I told him no, it was mine, but I surely wasn’t going to say why I did what did.

December 15th

On December 15th 1995, Christmas break was starting as soon as the final bell rang at McGhee Junior High. I was going around to my friends explaining that I was going to be moving to Arkansas, but it should only be temporary. I said my goodbyes and rode my bike home one last time, from there. Mom was home packing some of our things, we seriously believed it was temporary and only packed very little. Dad came home from work with a Altima from the Nissan dealer he worked at, after convincing them he was sending his kids off and wanted us to ride in something nice. We made it to my other Aunt’s apartment where her and my uncle were waiting to load us up in the van and drive all night. While we waited outside on a crisp December evening under the orange glow of Chicago street lights, I heard my voice over the radio from the opening of the overnight show on a local country station. Ya weird I know I used to listen to country. It actually shocked me because it was from a night, months before, when I called in to request a Garth Brooks song. My bestest friend in the whole wide world Greg Money was screaming in the background and the DJ asked “who is that” I replied “That’s my buddy”. And there it is on the radio. It was really cool. We once again said our goodbyes to mom and dad, then were on our way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. We had once spent a summer in Arkansas, so in my mind I treated it as such. Get through this little bit, dad get’s you back, lifes back to normal.

From there on out

My first couple days at Wells Junior High were tough to adjust to, such a slower pace of life and learning that EVERYONE knew who the Fujibayashi’s were. Most of all, how behind I was in my education coming from the suburban Chicago school to a suburban Fort Smith school. When I left Round Lake we were working on fractions, I get to Greenwood and get slammed with Pre-Algebra. Seems a bit backwards really, given southern stereotypes and such. For months I held on to the thought that everything was temporary, that at any moment dad would swoop in and save us. Of course it didn’t help that’s what was being said to us. Dad and mom would come to visit separately,  off and on several times. And each time our behavior would change, from being totally content with the Arkansas lifestyle, to total all out resentment to everything. I said things to John and Wendy that I truly regret, because I didn’t know how to deal with what was going on in my life. 9th grade came and I joined the football team. I figured heck if my cousin Brandon can so could I. Ya wrong thought process. I was horrible, absolutely horrendous. I had no skills at all and for some reason didn’t want to learn. In high school I learned how to deal with the situation better because of those who were around me. I became the Equipment Manager for the High School team and things got so much better. Thanks to people like Coach Peacock, Jimbo and Barbara Howard, and a slew of Coaches like Coach Elmore, Bolding, Vitale, and Walker. They shaped my outlook on how much better life could be. My history teacher Mr. Garvey, and the way he taught class changed my whole outlook as far as a career went. I wanted to be a US history teacher and Coach. I wanted to be for kids what those who had changed me were to me.

I graduated high school with the goal to be a coach/teacher. My mom and dad came down, dad brought his significant other and in my mind I thought all was well. Ya I was wrong. As I found out at a Christmas party in 2000 my mom had asked my cousins were she could score some Heroin. Things in that part of my life hadn’t changed. I did one year of college, when the money ran out. I started at Arkansas Tech University in the fall semester of 2000. I was “recruited” to be an equipment manager for the Wonderboys, ya let that soak in a minute. And I wasn’t the only one either, current Vilonia Jr High girls track coach Casey Craun was too that year. I couldn’t get the paperwork together in time for financial aid even after Coach Mullins went to the F.A. office on my behalf. I transferred back to UAFS, finished up the classes I didn’t do well on at Tech, even almost had one of my reports on Arkola sand and gravel published. Then I quit. I regret that decsion to this day.

For a couple years I didn’t talk to my mom, I assumed she had died and I was never going to know. It was odd that I had accepted that as fact and a way of life, but I did. In 2003 my first bundle of joy Kameko was born. I myself, still hadn’t matured as much as I had thought. A year and five days later Elyse was born. Even than I still didn’t have a grip on reality, looking back I was making the same choices my parent were just not with the drugs and alcohol. On thanksgiving in 2006 at Meghans house my mom had called and my world was thrown for a loop. Suddenly my mom was sober and all was good again. woohoo. Then a couple weeks later, reality gave me a gut check, when Justin had passed. It was then I decided that drugs and alcohol, did nothing but ruin my life and other lives. Rebuilding my relationship with my mom has been a long road of understanding and re trusting things that had failed. It wasn’t easy, but I’m confident in saying all is well. In 2011 my dad moved down from Chicago to be closer to his Grandkids. Mom, after taking in my older sister Allison’s son Michael, moved here with Jim to live with Meghan and her daughter Zuri.

With all that had happened in the past things for me turned out very well. When I tell this story I hope others can learn from it, and see the effects negative decisions have on not only their own kids but the future as they know it.

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