by Cassandra Stedham
Addiction. What thoughts and images does this word evoke? Sunken eyes, pallid complexion, grinding teeth, fingernails gnawed down to the quick? The bland uniformity of a hospital waiting room? Spoons, flames, lines, tinfoil, smoke, needles. Junkies on their hands and knees searching frantically for an infinitesimal piece of black tar. An uncompromisingly vicious cycle of abuse, regret, and attempts to climb back up out of a dark well with no ladder.
For me, it is all of these. But more notably, it is my brother, born 22 months before me, withered in a hospital bed with tubes and needles growing out of his fragile frame. It is the image of my father resuscitating his blue-faced son, whose heart has stopped beating. It is my mother’s face and voice as she comes running upstairs to wake up my little sister and I, saying in a desperate voice, “We have to go. Something’s wrong.” It is my brother sitting in a jail cell as I dislodge glass shards with my bare, bleeding hands from a sticky pool of Heineken on his girlfriend’s kitchen floor, while she takes care of the baby. It is years of disappointment followed by hope followed by disappointment and so on.