I have vague and distant memories of my sister before her disease progressed to the point of not knowing or recognizing her anymore.?
In her 42 years here on this earth she was a daughter, sister, mother and friend.? She never had much, but up until the end, she was the most generous person I knew.? ?
Colleen?was four years older than me.? I have pictures of the two of us, and she always looked so protective and mothering of me.? When she was young she was so full of life and wonder.? My mother?told stories of how she would get into things because she was so curious and adventurous.? She was also very beautiful.? She has long brown hair and sparkling brown eyes.? I remember how I used to look up to her.? We took painting classes when we were young, and her paintings were so good.? She?had a great sense of humor too.? And she was?generous -- too generous really.? I think that is what got her into trouble,?especially when she started?hanging out with the wrong crowd who took advantage of this trait.? She seemed too good for this world.? Too naive, and too trusting.
My sister's troubles started in high school when she?was hanging around the wrong people.? She dropped out of high school to follow some of her friends to Arizona.? My mother?spent many hours trying to work with my sister.? She took her to counseling and visits with various professionals.? But,?my mother?was a?single-parent and she had three other children and a full-time job. She was also finishing her college education.?
Our?parents had divorced?when my sister was around 16 years of age.? I know that the divorce took a toll on Colleen, as did a date rape situation with a boy who lived in the next town.? She also suffered from mental illness so she naturally didn't feel right, and everything going on around her only made it worse.
My sister lived in the Phoenix, Arizona-area for 20+ years.? She married a drug-addict and they gave birth to a son who just recently turned 18.? My sister was sober throughout the pregnancy and having her son meant so much to her.? She wanted desperately to be a good mother.? Unfortunately the pressures of parenting, slim resources, and lack of support raising her son got to her and she went back to using again.? Gradually at first, but it continued to progress.
She lost custody of her son when he was about?12 which was a devastating blow.? She continued to decline.? Her husband died of an overdose one evening while she was there.? I think that was the last straw for her.? She lived on the streets in the end, and found unsavory ways to fund her drug habit.? When she died (October 14, 2001) she had darted out onto a street and was hit by a car.
My mother and I went to identify the body, and although she was bloated and bruised from the accident, she was at peace at last.? Her son was brought to the funeral home in handcuffs because he was under police custody.? My heart broke when her son walked up to her casket in his police clothing to pay his last respects.?
The disease of drug and alcohol addiction has such a profound impact on everyone in that addicted person's life.? If the cycle is not broken, it will continue.? My nephew is using now and is heading down the wrong path himself.? I can't imagine the pain and loneliness he must experience having lost both of his parents at such a young age.
In my sister's memory I will be there for my nephew and I will work hard to do my small part in breaking this vicious cycle.? It is gut-wrenching how it destroys lives generation after generation.? It must not be a secret that we are afraid to look at and openly discuss because only then can we own all of our roles in it.
My sister is at peace, but those of us still living must do everything we can to protect the next generation.
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