"We feel like our lives have become worthwhile," a middle-aged woman I had never met before said. There was a patter of claps as she caught her breath and sat down.
I turned my attention to my sketchbook as I tuned out the rest of the meeting. All the judge and my sponsor cared about was that I was attending the meetings. What I was doing, or not doing, in them was none of their business, and I certainly was not going to sit around and listen to this false hope. The message was all the same anyway, "We are powerless over our behaviors, but we are powerful over our actions." It was all a contradictory mess anyway.
I was thirty minutes sober; I had thirty more minutes before I was free again. I sketched in my pad the random nothingness that bounced around my head and counted the seconds that ticked away. My muscles were screaming for another hit, and my mind was roaring in pain. I resented everybody in these rooms. I resented everybody in my life, especially my mother, even as she lied in the hospital bed.
It had been two and a half months that she has been in a coma. She and her new boyfriend, Frank, went out for drinks one evening. Three casualties and six hours later, she was pried from the twisted metal of the car and rushed to the hospital where she fell into a coma shortly thereafter. Frank hobbled away with a twisted ankle. I hadn't heard from him since, and I preferred it that way. He was a lowlife drunk anyway. My mom, though faulted herself, deserved more than that trash.
I debated whether or not to go to the hospital after the meeting. The ankle brace I sported flashed a flurry of yellow, and I knew it was time to go. The judge decided that I had to be at home by 9pm. He figured that if I had a curfew, my drug use would stop -- as if there weren't anybody awake in the morning to supply me. I retrieved my signed court slip and left the meeting. Good riddance anyway. I saw an older woman make a slight move toward me, but I quickened my pace and she sat back down.
I drove aimlessly for a few minutes, relishing the last minutes of freedom I had before impulsively turning away from home. I made a beeline to the hospital knowing full well that somebody was monitoring my activity. I didn't care; I needed my mother right now.
I was greeted by the familiar nurses who waved me through without question. My mother laid frail and still on the bed, the breathing machine pumping oxygen through her lungs and a feeding tube hanging in her mouth. I hated seeing her like this. It took me a few minutes before I noticed the cane on the opposite side of the room coupled with a large flowered handbag I didn't recognize.
I heard scuffles in the hallway and I swung around to see my grandparents. I lost contact with them when I started my daily using, and I wasn't sure why they were here. The hospital was two hours away from their house.
"Annie, dear, you made it. We were worried you weren't coming." I hated being called Annie, and only my mother was allowed to call me that. It became a term of endearment between us.
"Well, I wasn't about to, but I felt like seeing her after my meeting. I'm not staying long. I planned a lunch with her tomorrow." They stared at me disbelieving.
"Well, sweetie, maybe you forgot. We're pulling the plug in a little bit. Remember we told you over the phone a month ago?" my grandma Rose said. Grandpa Joe just stood in the background picking at invisible lint on his shirt.
Flashbacks of the phone call rushed me, and I only recalled snippets. I wasn't sober at the time, and I regretted it.
"We'll let you say your goodbyes now, Annie." My grandma kissed the crown of my head, and they both left me alone with my mother.
I had so much to say but nothing came out. I thought about my life with her and after the accident. I changed so much, and I knew she wouldn't be proud of the daughter she had raised. I was a failure in every sense of the world, and society deemed me a failure too. I looked down at her pale face. Tubes ran in and out of her body, and it looked like a maze. At that moment, I realized there were no second chances. This was it. I silently vowed to her and myself my decision to stay sober as I whispered, "I love you, mom," and smiled. I saw a flicker of a smile, but I couldn't be sure if it was real or not.
First line from the Narcotics Anonymous Sixth Edition Basic Text.